Mistaking Fear for Faith

The quote above from Rachel Held Evans deserves to circulate widely. Of related interest, see my posts ”The Opposite of Faith,” “Mind Changing as Religious Imperative”, ”Testing Faith,” and ”Fear of Doubt (Truth and Tribalism”.

"Nope. That's the straw man of my position - which again confirms my contention that ..."

What Does The Bible Literally Say?
"Unfortunately, my church is full of those who believe that anyone here in the US ..."

Review of Just Immigration
"James Warren said: "Propositional theology is not the way Jesus actually spoke. He used parables ..."

New Age Translation of the Lord’s ..."
"Propositional theology is not the way Jesus actually spoke. He used parables and arresting short ..."

New Age Translation of the Lord’s ..."

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Chuck Johnson

    A scientific view of the matter shows us that God is just a fictional character, just a human invention.
    Which is where the progressive style of Christianity eventually takes us.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      If you are referring to anthropomorphic depictions of God, then perhaps. If you are referring to God as transcendence, as ultimate reality, then you seem to have misunderstood both science and liberal Christianity.

      • Chuck Johnson

        Yes, I was referring to an anthropomorphic God.
        That’s the original way that gods are depicted.

        Your new and improved God is transcendence and ultimate reality.
        The words and the ideas of transcendence and ultimate reality are also human inventions.

        The new and improved God is also a human invention, just a collection of human ideas.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          You find it surprising or significant that human ideas are human ideas? Why?

          • Chuck Johnson

            No.
            I find it false that human ideas are attributed by religionists to a being better than human or outside of humanity.
            Humans invented God.
            The Genesis story got it wrong.

            God is a subset of humanity.
            Humanity is not a subset of God.

          • Al Cruise

            Who invented humans?

          • Chuck Johnson

            Our natural universe invented humans.
            But to use the word “invent” is not quite appropriate because it implies that the inventing was done by an intelligent being.

            The natural forces that led to life on Earth and to humans did not have intelligence.

          • Al Cruise

            I am not trying to be smart here, but where did the natural universe/natural forces come from ? I discuss with college students all the time.

          • John MacDonald

            It’s true that the material that made up The Big Bang had to come from some prior Cause, as per the Cosmological argument, but the fact that we are “nudged” to an infinite regress here without positing God is merely a God of the Gaps Fallacy (like the Greeks speculating Helios dragged the sun across the sky) by invoking God to explain a current Gap in scientific knowledge.

          • John MacDonald

            On the other hand, if by God you just mean some sort of ultimate reality underlying everything, then yes there must be a “theos” or “ground” of this sort. Where you run into paralogisms is when you try to characterize this “theos” or “ground” as “logos” or “nous” or whatever. In this regard there seems to be merit in Apophatic or Negative Theology.

          • arcseconds

            What is wrong with “I don’t know” as the answer to that question?

            There are various non-theological answers to that question envisaged by physicists, but AFAIK no consensus, so no one answer for us to just believe in.

            Even if we did have one answer, it would just raise another question like “where did that come from?” or “why is it like that?”.

            It’s not clear that a theological answer actually helps. Physical cosmogenies are a matter of extending known physics into a realm which they haven’t been extended to before, but this is not necessarily any different to extending a system that can explain the motion of the moon around the Earth to the motion of planets that haven’t yet been explained, i.e. it’s just normal physics, and the usual norms of what counts as successful science apply. It’s much less clear what counts as ‘successful theology’.

            Plus if one can ask “where did that come from?” with regards to the physical universe, can’t the same question be raised about God? On the other hand, if we’re just going to accept the existence of some vast entity as given without explanation, why can’t we accept the Universe as the given thing?

            On a more humdrum note, the world is full of objects that we frequently have little idea of the history of. Where did the weeds that invade my lawn come from? Where do my missing socks go? I don’t know, and we don’t usually invoke God as an explanation for such mysteries. Perhaps the Universe just needs to be treated as simply yet another object the history of which we’re not entirely certain.

          • Chuck Johnson

            I am scientist.
            When the available evidence is insufficient, then scientific explanations are not justified.

            Our universe and its natural forces is insufficiently understood to justify an explanation. Speculations may be justified, but not explanations.

            At this point in the history of science, more limited explanations are possible and practical. Being analytical helps scientific explanations to succeed.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

            Again, you seem to be stating some things that are obvious as though they are insightful or important, and then getting into a muddle about other things as a result. If God is the sum of all that is – one possible concept of God – then of course humanity is a subset thereof. You also seem to think that all “religionists” think the same way about things, which is quite bizarre.

          • John MacDonald

            James said “You also seem to think that all ‘religionists’ think the same way about things, which is quite bizarre.”

            I think this is reflective of the “destroy religion mentality” of The New Atheists like Sam Harris et al. It’s a much easier goal to overcome religionists if you think they all believe the same thing, since then all that is required is “one size fits all” arguments.

          • Chuck Johnson

            “If God is the sum of all that is – one possible concept of God – then of course humanity is a subset thereof.”

            Of course.
            But then why use the word “God”?
            Who would you be trying to impress by naming “all that is” as God?
            And who would you be trying to deceive?

            Superstitions need the use of deceit in order to keep the faithful believing.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

            This is a very ancient and widespread concept of the divine. Surely if you have read even a little about these sorts of subjects, you will be aware of the Sufi interpretation of the shahada as meaning that nothing but God exists, and how that led to fruitful dialogue with Hindu mystics who had a similar concept of ultimate reality – to mention but one example? Or are you one of these modern people who has had a particular experience of religiosity and cannot imagine that anyone else either in the present day or historically could have thought or acted differently?

          • Chuck Johnson

            Surely if you have read even a little about these sorts of subjects, you will be aware of the Sufi interpretation of the shahada as meaning that nothing but God exists, and how that led to fruitful dialogue with Hindu mystics who had a similar concept of ultimate reality – to mention but one example? -James

            No, I don’t study such topics.
            But what I know about semantics and logic explains the fruitful dialogues that you refer to.

            When it is understood that nothing but God exists, then God means all things that exist. We can all agree that all things that exist actually do exist.

            So an agreement and harmony have been achieved by the assertion of a tautology. I say that calling everything that exists “God” is dishonesty and obfuscation to harmonize modern religious thought with ancient religious thought.

            Saying things honestly and clearly is my style.
            God is only a thought, only a human invention.
            Therefore, God did not exist until humans invented him.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

            It is interesting that you claim to “be scientist” but also choose to pontificate about matters that you clearly know little about, although I do appreciate that you are at least willing to admit as much. Your assertion that one of the most ancient ideas of God that we know of – pantheism – is a dishonest attempt to harmonize something with modern religious thought is simply bizarre. And so how you can claim that any of this is either honest or clear is beyond me.

          • Chuck Johnson

            Your assertion that one of the most ancient ideas of God that we know
            of- pantheism – is a dishonest attempt to harmonize something with
            modern religious thought is simply bizarre.-James

            Stop being so dishonest, James.
            If you don’t understand what I am saying, then ask. Don’t make things up and attribute them to me.

            Using the word “God” to mean many diverse things is a dishonest attempt to pretend that all of these things called God are the same thing. This is a deceit called equivocation.

            If your God means “all that exists” then say “all that exists” instead of calling it God. That would be obfuscation.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

            I do not believe that I have misunderstood you, and so accusations of this sort seem entirely out of place. If you were even slightly informed about mattrs of religion and theology, then you would know that when many academic theologians (as opposed to what we find in popular thought in many instances) whether in the past or today talk about God, this is precisely what they mean. But even if this concept were a modern invention, that would still not make it obfuscation to speak in this way, unless you think it is wrong to use a word like science in the modern sense, given that a few hundred years ago it had quite different connotations.

          • Chuck Johnson

            “. . . unless you think it is wrong to use a word like science in the modern
            sense, given that a few hundred years ago it had quite different
            connotations.”

            I would certainly object if science from the past, including the ancient past, were being presently taught alongside modern science as being just as valid and true as modern science. In Christianity, a lot of that still happens.

            I would also object if science consisted largely of belief in the supernatural. Christianity does a lot of this.

          • Chuck Johnson

            “You also seem to think that all “religionists” think the same way about things, which is quite bizarre.”

            No.
            Since I know that a real, physical God does not exist, and that traditions assert a real, physical God, the result is a huge diversity of thinking about the characteristics of God by religionists.

            The simple and correct way of solving this confusion is to see God as simply being a fictional character.

            The actual, physical God of ancient times keeps on failing to be credible in modern times.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

            I think that, if you look into it, you will find that very few “religionists” envisage a physical God.

            You also seem to have trouble with the nuances of religious and theological thought, so that the notion that language about God might be symbolic, as opposed to literal description of a character who is either real or fictional, seems to have no place in the way you speak about these matters.

          • arcseconds
          • Chuck Johnson

            “You also seem to have trouble with the nuances of religious and
            theological thought, so that the notion that language about God might be
            symbolic, . . ”

            Yes, my concept of God is quite symbolic.
            There is no physical referent to the idea of God.
            He just consists of human thoughts.

          • arcseconds

            So, it’s fine for you, a non-religious person, to define the word ‘God’ in such a way the referent can’t exist (as anything other than a collection of ideas, perhaps), but not fine for a religious person to define it in such a way that it must exist?

            How convenient…

          • Chuck Johnson

            At the outset, a religious and a non-religious assertion can be made about the definition of “God”.

            God can exist “by definition”; lots of things can exist “by definition”.

            But science wants better understandings than that.
            When empiricism is applied, then to science, gods only exist by definition, by legend, by tradition, etc.

            Another way of saying this is that belief in gods is a form of politics, but not a form of scientific study.

            Studying gods only becomes a scientific pursuit when the gods in question are just ideas.

          • arcseconds

            Sorry, you still seem to me to be defining gods as ideas, and you haven’t justified this at all. You’ve just said “it must be so – for it is science!”.

            Are we to take it on faith that this the only scientific definition of gods?

            This doesn’t seem very empirical to me… you are defending your notion of god by dogmatic statements, without empirical justification, which just makes what you’re doing a form of religion doesn’t it?

            A very odd one, because gods do not exist according to the dogma, but theology just the same.

          • Chuck Johnson

            “Are we to take it on faith that this the only scientific definition of gods?”

            No, but we can take it on evidence.
            Scientists investigate things that physically exist.
            Examining God as a physical reality is mostly a wast of time.

            Occasionally, prayer experiments are done, and the results of the physical reality pf prayer are clear. Prayer doesn’t work in any kind of supernatural way.

            When people use prayer, the people who pray are affected and the people who know about the prayers are affected.
            These are psychological and social effects only.

          • arcseconds

            McGrath takes physical reality to be a subset of God. But you don’t think studying physical reality to be a waste of time, so by McGrath’s definition of God you think examining God as physical reality to be very important. This is just what science is, and you and he agree on this matter.

            You still haven’t justified why your definition is any better, so I don’t see why I should use your definition rather than his.

          • Chuck Johnson

            McGrath takes physical reality to be a subset of God. But you don’t think studying physical reality to be a waste of time, so by McGrath’s definition of God you think examining God as physical reality to be very important.-arcseconds

            Examining God as a physical reality is only important to the very naive.

            Spending time on the Loch Ness Monster, alien abductions and many other things is also a waste of time.

            Scientists spend time on those physical realities which are most likely to be true.

            You and McGrath believe in God for reasons which are not very scientific or empirical.

          • arcseconds

            It seems to me that you still are unable to really comprehend the fact that McGrath doesn’t define ‘God’ as you do. You are still arguing with a traditional theist, who thinks God is a seperate entity from the Universe, even though it has been explained to you that you are not.

            Examining God as a physical reality is only important to the very naive

            Substituting in McGrath’s definition in for ‘God’ we have:

            Examining all that exists as physical reality is only important to the very naive.

            Science is the examination of physical reality, so this seems to be saying that science is only important to the very naive!

            An interesting perspective, but not, I think, yours.

            And with

            McGrath believe[s] in God for reasons whihc are not very scientific or empirical

            we have

            McGrath believe[s] in all that exists for reasons which are not very scientific or empirical

            Which is another odd statement.

            I suppose it’s true that believing that things exist isn’t itself scientific or empirical, as it seems more basic than that. Small children and cultures that no nothing of science believe that things exist!

            But again, I don’t think this is what you were meaning to communicate.

            (I have redacted your statements, because you have no basis for saying this is my position. I have not said that it is, nor implied it.)

          • Chuck Johnson

            Now you have said that (to you) God is not a separate entity from the universe.
            That is certainly a progressive point of view.

            To a scientist, the universe at large has little in the way of intelligence or intention.

            To religionists, in general, God very much has intelligence and intentions. He is the source of all morality. He thinks things and he does things.

            What kind of God are you promoting ?

          • arcseconds

            Now you have said that (to you) God is not a separate entity from the universe.

            No, I have said no such thing. I have said that to McGrath God is not a seperate entity from the universe. Please read more carefully.

            I am trying to get you to engage with McGrath’s actual position, not the one you keep attributing to him. McGrath made his view fairly clear from the beginning of the discussion but you have had difficulty adjusting to the fact you are not in dialogue with a theist who believes in an anthropomorphic god.

            The notion that God is not a seperate entity from the universe but rather is identical with it or has the universe as a part is a progressive view in some senses, e.g. held by some (but by no means all) progressive (in the theological sense) Christians, but it is an old view that appears also in other religions.

            If you want to know whether McGrath thinks God has intelligence and intentions, you should ask him.

            Actually, asking more questions and giving less opinions would be a better option for you in general at this point, as you clearly do not know much about theology and the history of ideas. Which is fine, no-one is well-informed on everything.

            If you ask questions, you could learn something about these topics.

          • Chuck Johnson

            If you want to know whether McGrath thinks God has intelligence and intentions, you should ask him.-arcseconds

            McGrath certainly can jump in at any time and comment on this.
            But he seems reticent on this question.

            Arcseconds, do you think that your God has intelligence and intentions? Does he act on those intentions?

            Is your God identical with the universe?

          • arcseconds

            Where did you get the idea I have a God from?

          • Chuck Johnson

            Do you believe that God is just a fictional character, just a human invention?

          • arcseconds

            What God are we talking about here? I don’t believe that some Star Trek energy being descended in flames onto a mountain and then took up residence in a little box, but on the other hand I do think the Universe exists. But on Sundays I prefer to sleep in and eat bagels and read philosophy than get up early and turn up to some dingy church and sing insipid praise songs to the Universe.

            (I used to have sword practice on Sundays, but for various reasons I gave that up).

          • Chuck Johnson

            What God are we talking about here?

            I already told you.
            The fictional character.
            Your dishonesty is endless.

          • arcseconds

            Oh, right, that god.

            No, you’re right, the god that is defined as a fictional character, is, by definition a fictional character.

            I must have been talking about some other god. Sorry, my bad.

          • arcseconds

            McGrath might not be following the discussion. If you want to know his view, ask him a direct question. He’s likely to be more interested in answering you if he thinks you’re genuinely interested in his position, and aren’t just spoiling for a fight, which frankly is basically how you’re coming across throughout this conversation.

            From what I understand of it, he thinks that personal qualities (i.e. the qualities that we attribute to persons) like intelligence and intentions can only be attributed to God, i.e. All that Is, in a metaphorical sense.

          • Chuck Johnson

            “. . . and aren’t just spoiling for a fight, which frankly is basically how you’re coming across throughout this conversation.”

            I know people who have narcissistic personalities.
            They think and speak the way that you do.

          • arcseconds

            Is this the bit where we attribute mental conditions to each other?

            Sorry, wasn’t prepared for this. I’ll consult the DSM-V and get back to you.

          • Chuck Johnson

            No, this is the bit where it has become obvious that you are trolling.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

            Is the point at which a troll, who has thus far not been willing to what the blogger or regular serious commenters have to say, accuses others of trolling, the point at which it becomes appropriate to intervene and ban the individual in order to preserve the level of discourse on the blog? Or might it still be worth holding out hope that the individual who identifies himself as Chuck Johnson might actually engage with the atheist, agnostic, panentheist and other views that are held here rather than assuming that we are theists (even though it must be said that he gets things wrong even about classical theism)?

          • arcseconds

            This is pretty rich :-)

            When someone makes up stuff about you, like religious views and personality disorders, you don’t like it a bit and accuse them of trolling.

            Yet it’s OK for you do this to other people, apparently!

            If we applied your standards fairly, it became clear you were trolling a couple of days ago.

            Let me know when you actually want to listen to other people and engage with their actual views, rather than ignoring them and making up stuff about them, accusing them of random fallacies, and then hypocritically accusing them of trolling if they dare to treat you in a similar fashion.

            It would also be good if you actually attempted to base your views on evidence and made an attempt to rationally justify them, rather than just intone ‘facts’ you’ve made up to support your ideology.

          • Chuck Johnson

            I keep my reply brief.
            It’s best to not feed the trolls.

          • arcseconds

            So, your advice is for people not to talk to you anymore.

            Gotcha.

          • John MacDonald

            arcseconds – “From what I understand of it, he thinks that personal qualities (i.e. the qualities that we attribute to persons) like intelligence and intentions can only be attributed to God, i.e. All that Is, in a metaphorical sense.”

            It’s a little confusing. If we only attribute the qualities of a “Mind” to God “in a metaphorical sense,” in what way do people interact with (e.g. prayer), and why do they worship, this God? It would seem that God would have to be a Mind in some kind of literal sense, since otherwise we would just be talking about a naturalistic cosmology.

          • Gary

            “In what way do… people interact with… this God”…

            A non sequitor, but…

            https://m.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-triumph-of-christianity-bart-d-ehrman/1126244581?ean=9781501136702

            Since both you and I like reading
            Bart Ehrman, I was rather shocked when I looked at the cover of Ehrman’s latest book coming out in February. At first, OK, picture of Jesus. Then, wait a minute, sure looks like a young Ehrman!

          • John MacDonald

            lol

          • arcseconds

            Well, again, you should ask McGrath for his opinion :-)

            But prayer is already a bit strange even given the usual conception of an anthropomorphic God. People don’t usually think through the consequences of literal omniscience, but it’s standard to believe that God knows your thoughts and desires. He also knows what’s good for you. And he’s really really good and loves you. So what’s the point of asking him for anything? He already knows you want whatever it is, and also whether it’d be good for you to have it, or whether you deserve it or whatever.

            With traditional omni-god theology, it becomes even harder to understand how there could be a point to asking for anything. You can’t give them new information, and you can’t expect to alter their values. In fact, God is often understood as being actually unchangable.

            So it’s often admitted by the theologically informed that prayer is substantially unlike asking a person for something. Instead it’s often understood as being about changing the prayer, not God.

            Also, while traditional theology does assert that God has (or is) a mind, it’s already the case that in important respects it’s utterly unlike our minds. It’s hard to make sense of a mind that never changes. Also intentions for an omniscient, omnipotent being who has constant values don’t work the same way as intentions do for us. There’s no question of God failing to achieve their intention, for example.

            A panentheistic or pantheist God does have mental qualities, though, in a non-metaphorical manner: after all, we have mental qualities, and we’re part of the universe!

            Spinoza is the classic example of a philosophical pantheist, and he thinks God has two (infinte) attributes available to our comprehension: Extension (i.e., space, time, physical objects, etc.) and Thought (ideas, minds, etc.), and discusses God in terms of being ‘infinite intellect’ and so forth.

            (Spinoza’s conception is naturalistic in some senses, e.g. God changes in a deterministic manner. But his metaphysics is quite unlike the Modern Scientific Worldview metaphysics.)

          • arcseconds

            Gods were (and in some cultures, and with some individuals in our culture maybe too) often thought of as having something like a physical form, and a location, e.g. Hades is a man, complete with a grim visage and male genitalia, who lives underground (with a three-headed guard-dog).

            In Exodus God apparently has a back and a face and a location (sometimes in or over the Ark) and thus appears to be thought of as a physical entity.

            Although perhaps it’s best to say that in these times there was no firm distinction between the physical and the spiritual — in fact, maybe such a distinction couldn’t really arise until there was a definite conception of matter.

            But anyway, in the Abrahamic tradition God has not been thought of by even modestly-educated believers as being a physical entity for about 2 millenia, so you’ll be pleased to know that virtually everyone over the age of 12 agrees with you: a physical god with a human form makes no sense!

            Although I’m not sure why you think it’s worth refuting an idea that hasn’t had any real currency for several millenia?

          • Chuck Johnson

            Although I’m not sure why you think it’s worth refuting an idea that hasn’t had any real currency for several millennia?-arcseconds

            The New Testament is less than several millennia old, yet it is full of miracles. Miraculous beings and miraculous events are physical manifestations. Such things are widely believed by children and adults around the world.

            Miracles and answered prayers still are commonplace thoughts in Christianity. These are physical manifestations.

            Many, many Christians still believe that God thinks things and does things.

          • arcseconds

            Sorry, I meant several centuries, not several millenia.

            Is this what you mean by a physical God? One that has physical effect? Maybe you could use clearer terminology so it doesn’t sound like you’re talking about a god with a body.

          • Chuck Johnson

            Long, long ago, gods and goddesses were invented and these super-beings were like humans.

            As evidence accumulated, and scientific, rational thinking increased, then the human characteristics started to dissolve and fade away piecemeal.

            That’s why many religionists today think that a man in the sky with a long white beard is quaint or laughable.
            But at the same time, many of these same religionists will rely upon conversations with God or with Jesus, miracles, answered prayers, emotional or intellectual messages from God, or whatever.

            The God thought of by today’s churchgoers is partly there (physically) and partly not there, and each Christian has his own version of God’s residual physical manifestations.

          • arcseconds

            Sorry, you refer to a physical God who is also ‘(physically) … partly not there’ — what does this mean?

            This sounds either nonsensical or contradictory to me.

            I’ve asked for you to explain and clarify your terminology, it would be nice if you could think about that.

          • Chuck Johnson

            Sorry, you refer to a physical God who is also ‘(physically) … partly not there’ — what does this mean?-arcseconds

            The very ancient stories about God or gods depicts them as very human.

            These human characteristics progressively disappear over the centuries. Some Christians will now tell you that God and Jesus are the “spirit of love” or some other thing.

            Other people will claim that they are “spiritual but not religious”.
            That’s another way that God’s human characteristics fade away over time.

            The disappearance of anthropomorphic gods has taken many forms over the centuries.

          • arcseconds

            I am no clearer on how something can be physical and yet partly physically there and partly physically not there.

            I am getting the impression that you don’t know how to carry out a conversation, as you respond to direct questions by ignoring them in favour of chanting your own credo.

          • Chuck Johnson

            “I am no clearer on how something can be physical and yet partly physically there and partly physically not there.”

            This is quite clear when you understand that God is just an idea.
            Ideas change over time.
            Earlier characteristics are discounted.

          • arcseconds

            Sorry, it isn’t clear at all.

            If something is partly physically not there, then it sounds to me like it’s partly not physical. Like if a truck is halfway across a border between two countries, it could be ‘partly in Germany, but partly not in Germany’, but the other part of it is therefore in France.

            It can’t both be a truck that is entirely in Germany, yet at the same partly in Germany and partly in France.

            By parity of reasoning, something both can’t be entirely physical, but partly physical and partly non-physical.

            But maybe that’s not what you meant. Hopefully this gives you some idea of how unclear you’re being and how my attempt to interpret you leads to nonsense, and you can correct your discourse to clarify what your strange statement means.

            It is not clear to me how saying “it’s just an idea” helps here. Are all ideas entirely physical but partly physically there and partly physically not there in your opinion? Or only some of them?

            Maybe you could give some examples?

          • Chuck Johnson

            The various characteristics of God disappear over time and new characteristics replace them.

            I am speaking of the asserted or believed characteristics.
            People change their beliefs over the centuries.

          • arcseconds

            So your confusing statement about a physical god being partly there and partly not there was just an attempt to say “the attributes God has been attributed by humans has changed over time”?

            If so, I’m glad we’ve got past this confusion and seeming (to me, at least) nonsense, and on to a clear statement that we can all agree on!

            (No-one here is under any illusions that the notion of God has remained constant over the centuries.)

          • arcseconds

            Also, what history have you read that tells you it was ‘scientific, rational thinking’ and (presumably empirical?) evidence that dissolved and faded God’s human characteristics?

            It was actually a result of theological considerations that this happened, at least for the theologically informed, and it happened long before the advent of modern science.

            Already in the early first century, prior to Christianity, Philo conceived of God as lacking in any human characteristics whatsoever.

            Perhaps we can help you find some better material to read on this subject?

          • Chuck Johnson

            It was actually a result of theological considerations that this happened, at least for the theologically informed, and it happened long before the advent of modern science.-arcseconds

            Science did not come into existence “all of a sudden”. It has been in development for many thousands of years.

            Science has a lot to do with the development of human competence with empiricism. Theology has some competence with empiricism, science has much more competence with empiricism.

            Philo had obviously noticed that the anthropomorphic gods of legend had not turned up after centuries of Roman conquest and exploration. This is an example of empiricism.

            Some logical conclusions would be:

            (A) Gods exist in non-human form.
            (B) Gods are very well hidden to human observers.
            (C) Gods are just human ideas, just human inventions.

            Philo chose (A).

          • arcseconds

            What literature of Philo have you read, and what passages in particular have caused you to think that this is Philo’s reasoning?

          • arcseconds

            (I ask because this is quite different from any account of Philo I’ve ever encountered.)

          • Chuck Johnson

            We can’t get into a time machine and question Philo about this.

            This is an historical trend.
            People understand our universe better as better data are available.
            Understanding the truth about gods is a product of the advancement of human knowledge.

            Anthropomorphic gods are a product of ancient ignorance.
            Gods who become increasingly vague and non-human are products of the advancement of human knowledge.

            Take that advancement far enough, and you have gods who only exist as human ideas without any physical referent.

            Philo doesn’t have to know this or say this for it to be true.
            We are all immersed in an evolving culture.
            That evolution proceeds whether we understand the evolution process or not.

          • arcseconds

            Again, you haven’t answered the question. What justifies your interpretation of Philo?

            We can’t get into a time machine, but we can read his extant writings, and the work of those who have examined them, i.e. look at the existing evidence and the work done on the basis of that. And not make things up because it seems plausible to us from our armchair without bothering to examine anything, which is what I suspect you have done.

            This is what young-earth creationists do with geology, down to the ‘we can’t know because we weren’t there’ argument, and I’m sure you don’t think highly of them.

            Please hold yourself to your own standards and pay attention to the evidence.

          • Chuck Johnson

            “Again, you haven’t answered the question. What justifies your interpretation of Philo?”

            I told you, and you decided to be dishonest about it.
            Dishonesty is the tool best suited to promoting religions and superstitions.

          • arcseconds

            I’m being perfectly honest. Nothing you said justifies your interpretation of Philo.

            What you said regarding Philo was:

            We can’t get into a time machine and question Philo about this.

            and

            Philo doesn’t have to know this or say this for it to be true.

            Surely it’s obvious even to you that neither of these statements justifies saying Philo got to his notion of God by empirical observation. That is a substantive historical claim, and as such, requires evidence.

            If you don’t care about evidence, could you at least stop calling yourself an empiricist?

          • Chuck Johnson

            Philo and other progressive theologians did get, and do get their progressive notions of God by being immersed in societies that are less ignorant than previous societies.

            That’s why anthropomorphic gods historically came first, and then the gods became abstractions like yours is.

          • arcseconds

            Sure, that sounds about right.

            One could say much the same thing about e.g. mathematics. Starts off as being a method of accounting and measuring things (geometry = ‘land measuring’), turns into something quite abstract with at best extremely tenuous connections with ‘medium-sized dry goods’.

            I am wondering whether you accept that you should learn something about what Philo wrote though, if you wish to give opinions about him?

            Presumably you agree that anyone wishing to discuss geology should learn something about it (perhaps by asking questions of those who do know about it!) rather than give handwavey opinions from the armchair that sound plausible to them in their ignorance, especially if it’s to shore up a view they have of the world that’s grounded in their ideology but not in fact.

            It’s the same with history, of course.

            I also hope you agree that it’s important for people to recognise when they have said something they can’t support, and to reconsider their ideas once this has been pointed out to them.

          • Chuck Johnson

            I also hope you agree that it’s important for people to recognise when they have said something they can’t support, and to reconsider their ideas once this has been pointed out to them.-arcseconds

            Here you are offering strawman arguments in an attempt to prove that you are right and I am wrong.

            The politics of your personal version of Christianity are crooked politics. We see this all the time with religionists.

          • arcseconds

            Sorry, what is my personal version of Christianity, and what are the politics?

            I’m intrigued now as I don’t believe I’ve said anything about my version of Christianity, and we haven’t been discussing politics, so I’m wondering exactly how you know about my version of Christianity or what it’s politics are, and what exactly you object to those politics.

            Also, how on earth is the phrase of mine you quote a straw man argument?

            It’s not even an argument, it seems to me, I’m just trying to establish some shared values.

          • Chuck Johnson

            “I’m intrigued now as I don’t believe I’ve said anything about my version
            of Christianity, and we haven’t been discussing politics,. . .”

            Religion is a type of politics.
            Elected-official government politics are far from being the only kind.

          • arcseconds

            It’s interesting to learn you’re a crypto-vedantist. When did you first start supporting Hindu nationalism?

          • Chuck Johnson

            More diversions.
            Are you trying to make me laugh?

          • arcseconds

            Sure!

            I’ve finally worked it out — sorry it’s taken me so long.

            Which god do you follow? I’m apparently a devotee of Hanuman myself.

          • Chuck Johnson

            “Which god do you follow?”

            The gods who are fictional characters.
            I said that before.

          • arcseconds

            Theologians of course would agree it was ‘scientific, rational thinking’, i.e. theology in this case, that led to this conclusion, but I somehow don’t think that’s what you had in mind…

          • Chuck Johnson

            Theology can only be scientific and rational to the extent that it does not make use of supernatural ideas as if they represent something real and physical.

            Scientists can analyze superstitions as if they are just human ideas without actually indulging in superstition themselves.

          • Chuck Johnson

            I use the word “religionists” to include Muslims and many other religious people. Christians are not the only people who can’t agree upon what a god might consist of.