Addressing William’s Immanent God

I am responding to this post, by a person I consider to be a friend, William.

http://ihaveseengod.wordpress.com/2013/01/20/the-debate-on-god-a-pagan-perspective/

William, I’m going to respond to you here on my blog, because I have addressed other concepts of god besides a personal one, and I want this to be shown.

Any argument attempting to prove or disprove the existence of a personal God inherently presents a false dichotomy. God is a subjective concept and therefore cannot be reified, rendering the use of logic insufficient as a means to resolve this argument

If we are talking about existence, then we are talking about something quantifiable. Something is either real, or it is not.  And we disprove personal gods all the time.

  In any case, efforts to actually personify God are, in essence, clear examples of anthropomorphic fallacy.

See, you just made a weak case against any personal gods. But the anthropomorphic fallacy doesn’t apply unless you prove that god is inanimate. So, what does the evidence say about personal gods? There is none in favor of them. So why should we believe in any of them? We shouldn’t. Does that mean that we can universally disprove them? No, we do not have infinite knowledge. But we can disprove specific god claims.

 The ongoing debate between atheists and non-pagan theists is an exercise in futility, a complete and utter waste of time in my opinion. Both sides rely upon argumentum ad ignorantiam, meaning an argument based upon ignorance, a practice which violates the laws of logic. Most atheists would disagree with this assessment as they maintain the burden of proof resides upon the claimant; they purport to make no claim and therefore shift the burden of proof to the theist but this practice is itself a fallacy. By the act of engaging in debate and demanding proof, the vocal atheist is effectively claiming that the theist’s belief is lacking evidence and is therefore false. The non-pagan theist in comparison will always find themselves claiming that God must exist simply because the existence of God hasn’t been successfully proven false.

Actually, we have and do prove specific god claims false.  For instance, the problem of unnecessary suffering with an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent god. I can give more. When we ask for proof, we are asking for proof of any claims made. By showing that their arguments do not provide evidence, we are proving those specific arguments false, and returning to the null hypothesis. We have no reason to believe in any gods.

 I do not pretend to understand atheists who challenge any public statement of religious belief with incredulity and generally seem obsessed with the need to castigate those who possess such beliefs. Albert Einstein once characterized such individuals as “slaves who are still feeling the weight of their chains which they have thrown off after hard struggle. They are creatures who—in their grudge against the traditional ‘opium of the people’—cannot bear the music of the spheres.”

I’ll give you three of my reasons.

1. Self-defense. People love to try to convince me that their god exists. They won’t just let me not believe, they feel a duty to save my soul. The only way to silence them is to show them that their arguments are bunk.

2. Beliefs have consequences. Rarely does the belief in gods come without baggage attached, whether it is the Christians discriminating against me for being bisexual, the gender essentialism so common in Dianic Wicca, or the classism in certain forms of hinduism.

3. We have an ethical duty to reason. Without it, we cannot possibly tell the consequences of our actions. Religion is based on claiming something, without showing that it is real. It encourages belief on faith instead of reason. You can have all the faith you want that if someone cuts your hand off, it will grow back, but that does not change reality, no matter how comforting the thought is. If you wish to prove me wrong, I suggest we do an experiment.

If you wish to hold a valid debate on God’s existence you must provide a basic definition for God. As previously inferred atheists and non-pagan theists usually attempt to personify God in their arguments and therefore encounter a logic block before they even begin.

1. look up ignostic atheism.

2. Atheist argue against the claims made. If someone defines god as a person, then we argue against their conception of god, and return to the null hypothesis when their claims fail the burden of proof, or we disprove specific claims.

3. The reason we more often argue against a personal god is because people with this conception are usually the ones causing the most problems.

Contemporary Pagan philosophy posits that God is immanent in the universe and equivalent to all that exists. Our definition by itself provides the proof to our claim

And if you stopped there, we wouldn’t have a problem. At that point the term god is nothing more than a poetic way of describing the universe, but most of the time, pagans don’t stop there, and make additional claims about the nature of god.

We know beyond any possible doubt that God exists and indeed that consciousness itself continues after the death of the physical body although we do not claim to know in what form it continues.

See, another claim about reality. Evidence of this please. The existence of the universe doesn’t show that consciousness continues after death.

 Conscious thought must be energetic for all that exists is fundamentally comprised of energy in one form or another.

Yes, the physical, chemical and electric reactions in the nervous system. How does this show a soul?

One of the basic scientific laws maintains that energy cannot in fact be destroyed, it may only be changed in some way.

Yes. Energy is always being changed from one form to another, most of which escapes as non-usable heat. All of this occurs in the physical realm.

I have said before that in order for religion to be relevant in this modern age, it must mark its beginning where science ends while remaining in agreement with everything science has previously determined to be true.

And you claim that atheists are making an argument from ignorance?

I forgot who said this but:

“First god was on the mountain, then we climbed the mountain, and god was not there. Then god was a god of the sky, then we built airplanes and god was not there. Then god was above the sky, now we have gone into space, and god was not there.”

Yes I realize that this is not your conception of god. But the point remains: every single time we have postulated a god instead of looking at the evidence, when the science improved, the god was shown to be non-existent. Why do you think our current ignorance is any different?

I would like to conclude by returning to the words of Professor Einstein, who believed that “science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.

Our desires do not change reality. If you wish to argue otherwise, allow me to cut off one of your fingers and see if your desire for it to be there will cause it to regrow without any medical intervention.

A person who is religiously enlightened appears to me to be one who has, to the best of his ability, liberated himself from the fetters of his selfish desires and is preoccupied with thoughts, feelings and aspirations to which he clings because of their super-personal value.

And once again, someone gives religion the credit for something people achieve. Applied empathy and ethics do not equal Religiously enlightened.

It seems to me that what is important is the force of this super-personal content … regardless of whether any attempt is made to unite this content with a Divine Being, for otherwise it would not be possible to count Buddha and Spinoza as religious personalities

Religion is irrelevant to these values. Unless you wish to argue that someone like me who has no religion is incapable of empathy and applying empathy ethically. Religion carries all sorts of beliefs, and most of them are not benevolent. Sexism, homophobia, Transphobia, racism, classism, just to name a few that are prevalent in modern day religions. And yes, I know you will just say that these people are not religiously enlightened. But if the modern religions propagate this filth along with what you consider benevolent values, how can you ignore that it is part of the religion?

Accordingly a religious person is devout in the sense that he has no doubt of the significance of those super-personal objects and goals which neither require nor are capable of rational foundation

You want a rational foundation? How about, “What kind of world do I want to live in?” Work outwards from there.

For science can only ascertain what is, but not what should be.

Yes, but science is not the only tool. Logic. Reason. Empathy. All are needed.

15 thoughts on “Addressing William’s Immanent God

  1. Oh fuck, I just read the comments section.
    Lady Gwendolynn:

    Here’s maybe a bad example to some, but a very good example to others. Santa Claus. The one we envision and see flying around on a sleigh, delivering presents for Christmas Day. Just because you’ve never seen him, does that really mean he can’t do these incredible and amazing things? I’ve heard my fair share of stories from some honest people who claim there might just BE some magick and truth behind the “Santa Claus” we know. Do I believe it? I’m not sure. I want to, I’d like to because to me it’s part of the Yule-tide, Christmas and seasonal magick. I like that. It bolsters the positive energy and thoughts during December.

    Ok. That it. I’m done. Adults who believe in Santa. Fuck, I’m gonna go cry now. Humanity just isn’t fucking worth it.

  2. [pointless mocking removed]
    Now serious:

    Hi (e)m,

    Good breaking down of argument, point-by-point. I agree, the issue is much more complicated because of the personal level subjectivity involved, even though it’s rather simple. I’ve left Mr. Knox a reply as well, I’d be curious of your opinion, if you could spare a couple of minutes😇

    Cheers,

    Rom… etc.etc.etc.

  3. Hi, I enjoyed reading your post and I hope you don’t mind if I make a comment here.
    I have had numerous debates with atheists of various kinds and ultimately the problem I’ve experienced is not so much that it is very difficult to agree upon terms of reference, but that too much of the argument ultimately is tied up in ego. Nothing is to be achieved through an argument about the existence of the Divine from either the “believer” or “scientific” perspective. It all boils down to conflict over whose conception of reality is to be master. You said as much when you asserted that the rational foundation for ethical behaviour is “what kind of world do I want to live in?”. It’s a short step from there into this circular argument: “Who cares what kind of world *you* want to live in if it is in conflict with the kind of world *I* want to live in?”
    “Our desires do not change reality. If you wish to argue otherwise, allow me to cut off one of your fingers and see if your desire for it to be there will cause it to regrow without any medical intervention.” Of course our desires change reality. Your repeated assertion that amputated limbs cannot re-grow is just reductio ad absurdum. Desire alone cannot make impossible things possible, of course. But if I didn’t desire to make changes to my reality then I would be inanimate. Desire is the impetus for change, is it not? One can use science to explain some parts of reality, but not all.
    You ended with, “Yes, but science is not the only tool. Logic. Reason. Empathy. All are needed.” Science is nothing without logic or reason, and as such none of those are the “only tools”. Empathy is an extremely difficult concept to define because it is not universal. You rather poignantly emphasised that problem when you said “Humanity just isn’t fucking worth it”. You’re right, of course. It’s hard to empathise with people whose opinions or beliefs (or indeed their conception of reality) is in opposition to one’s own. You need to be able to see things from their point of view to have empathy for them. Compassion, it would seem, is the more pragmatic virtue.

  4. @ Liberty of Thinking
    Don’t mock people on my blog. This is your warning. Criticize ideas and address arguments. I wrote the comment I did not to mock a person, but to show demonstrate how much despair I have.

  5. Right. I had no intention of mocking anyone, it was a joke aimed at myself in self irony, about my sometimes poor memory.
    I really appreciated the way you analysed Mr. Knox’ article and I asked your opinion about mine.
    No problem.

    Regards.

  6. @ Liberty of Thinking
    Thank you. I have not looked at your reply to him yet. Please feel welcome to continue commenting here.

  7. @ deryckrj

    “Hi, I enjoyed reading your post and I hope you don’t mind if I make a comment here”

    Comment policy

    ” I have had numerous debates with atheists of various kinds and ultimately the problem I’ve experienced is not so much that it is very difficult to agree upon terms of reference, but that too much of the argument ultimately is tied up in ego.”

    I want to be correct, not right, if I am incorrect the kindest thing someone can do is correct me. I will bow to the evidence.

    ” Nothing is to be achieved through an argument about the existence of the Divine from either the “believer” or “scientific” perspective.”

    You are incorrect. People deconvert and convert due to arguments all the time. And if you mean that beliefs do not matter, you are also incorrect, beliefs inform actions. And if you actually believed that, why would you be attempting to convince me by argument?

    ” It all boils down to conflict over whose conception of reality is to be master.”

    Reality is not affected by our perception, it exists independently of it. Our job is to figure out what is real and what isn’t. Science, reason, logic, and evidence give us tools to figure it out. Faith makes an assertion and presents it as fact.

    ” You said as much when you asserted that the rational foundation for ethical behaviour is “what kind of world do I want to live in?”. It’s a short step from there into this circular argument: “Who cares what kind of world *you* want to live in if it is in conflict with the kind of world *I* want to live in?””

    I gave one example of a rational foundation for ethical behavior outside of religion. It isn’t the only one. I can get deeper into this topic if you want to, but I will have to make a different blog post dealing specifically with that subject.

    ““Our desires do not change reality. If you wish to argue otherwise, allow me to cut off one of your fingers and see if your desire for it to be there will cause it to regrow without any medical intervention.” Of course our desires change reality. Your repeated assertion that amputated limbs cannot re-grow is just reductio ad absurdum.”

    To which I will quote you, ” Desire alone cannot make impossible things possible, of course.” and add wanting for something to exist does not mean that it does.

    ” But if I didn’t desire to make changes to my reality then I would be inanimate.”

    Contentment with the state of things does not equal inanimate.

    ” Desire is the impetus for change, is it not?”

    I’ve already said that belief informs action, but the fact that I wish I had a body that conforms to my gender since birth does not change the fact that I’m trans* and that I have to deal with reality.

    ” One can use science to explain some parts of reality, but not all.”

    Let me be very clear. The scientific method, along with reason, evidence and logic are the only reliable ways to figure out the nature of reality. It allows us to be less wrong over time. We cannot make an assertion not backed by evidence, reason, and logic, in place of our current ignorance and say that it must be real. Every time we have done so in the past, we have been shown to be wrong. The earth is not flat. The earth is not the center of the universe. The gods do not live on mount Olympus.

    ” Empathy is an extremely difficult concept to define because it is not universal.”

    And, I never claimed that it was. Many people are assholes. I’ve written about that before.

    ” You rather poignantly emphasised that problem when you said “Humanity just isn’t fucking worth it”.”

    Hi, I suffer from depression. Sometimes I get frustrated. I do understand where they were coming from. But it makes me despair, because there is no argument that can affect an adult who believes in fucking santa clause because they want it to be true. You can show someone like that they are factually wrong about something, and it will not change their mind. This is the kind of reasoning that allows for parents to pray for their kids instead of taking them to a hospital so they end up dead. And yes that does happen. Like I said, beliefs have consequences.

  8. @ Liberty of thinking

    I’ve just read your reply to William. It was definitely the reply of one theologian to another. I go one step further than you do. I’m an agnostic atheist. If we have no evidence for any gods, then we have no reason to believe that they exist. That does not mean that gods universally do not exist, just that we have no reason to believe that they do. Agnostic referring to knowledge: we have no knowledge (evidence) of any gods. Atheism referring to belief: I do not believe in any gods. I don’t believe in any gods because we have no evidence for them therefore I am an agnostic atheist.

  9. Perfect. Just as a matter of fact, I have initially asked for your opinion on my reply to Mr. Knox, seeing in your reply to him a similar method of analysis to my own, so I was truly curious how someone with a similar method would consider my own thoughts.
    I have debated atheists from my former Christian perspective, for nearly two decades, and have found that the most effective tool is breaking down the opponent’s own thoughts and addressing them point-by-point.
    Interesting duality the “agnostic atheist”, I never considered it, as I have been used to either one or the other. Nevertheless, it does make sense, and the logic of your reasoning is valid.
    I’ll give it a thought, or maybe more😃, as your argument seems to be standing.
    Thank you, I truly appreciate the time you’ve put in reading my comment and in replying.

    All my very best,

    Rom

  10. Thanks for taking the time to respond, Em. I think the point at which our views diverge is where you rigidly adhere to the scientific method, I feel it is altogether far too restrictive. You wrote, “Let me be very clear. The scientific method, along with reason, evidence and logic are the only reliable ways to figure out the nature of reality.” The key word in there is “reliable”. I presume by that you mean “able to withstand scrutiny from acceptable scientific types”. Please correct me if I’m wrong.
    But the trouble with reason, evidence and logic is that they are limiting factors in the search for the nature of reality, rather than expository. If your reality consists only of what you can verify by means of scientific enquiry, then I think it’s inevitable you will miss out on an awful lot. The best kind of evidence for the spiritually inclined is experience, but experiential evidence is not viewed as terribly reliable by the scientific community because it’s so difficult to verify. Science also has problems with unique events, because they cannot be replicated or observed under controlled conditions. That doesn’t mean you should disregard your experiences, surely?
    What science was designed to do was to put into scientific terms things people already knew about in other terms. We’ve been encouraged to have a kind of faith that the scientific version of events is superior to, say, the romantic poets’ version of events. I can’t think of any particularly compelling reasons to believe that other than that it is the conformist path and it can make life a little easier to be seen to follow the herd. Science is a tool. I would look to science to put a man on the moon, but not to speak to the depths of my soul. I’d perhaps ask a poet to do that. Science doesn’t determine reality, it attempts to explain it in terms it defines for itself. But my reality clearly differs from that of others, but curiously it is congruent with the apparent realities of others.
    I’m fascinated by what you said here, too: “You are incorrect. People deconvert and convert due to arguments all the time.” Are you referring to religious conversion? Because if you are, and someone can be either converted or deconverted purely on the basis of argument then they are doing it wrong. I would contend that one’s experience of the Divine transcends language, and as such cannot be expressed logically or by argument.

    You said ” And if you mean that beliefs do not matter, you are also incorrect, beliefs inform actions.” I don’t mean that beliefs do not matter. Quite the opposite. It is because beliefs inform actions that desires change reality. By acting upon a belief, you change reality. Beliefs are derived from desires, ergo, desire is the impetus for change.

    I think there’s a lot of ground to cover here, not least of which being ethics, which if you were to expand upon in another post I would be most eager to participate.

  11. @deryckrj

    ” The key word in there is “reliable”. I presume by that you mean “able to withstand scrutiny from acceptable scientific types”. Please correct me if I’m wrong.”

    Ok, I’ll correct you. Reliable: able to produce accurate results better than random chance, self correcting over time.

    ” But the trouble with reason, evidence and logic is that they are limiting factors in the search for the nature of reality, rather than expository.”

    Yes, they limit us to what is actually true. They do not deny what is possible, but they don’t say that the possible is probable. And they show that the impossible is impossible. Otherwise, you would have to give credence to Last Thursdayism.

    ” The best kind of evidence for the spiritually inclined is experience, but experiential evidence is not viewed as terribly reliable by the scientific community because it’s so difficult to verify. Science also has problems with unique events, because they cannot be replicated or observed under controlled conditions. That doesn’t mean you should disregard your experiences, surely?”

    Perception is easily deceived. The senses are easily fooled. Ask any magician. Did you know that the eye has a blind spot? We have evidence for the feelings of a religious experience, and no one will try to deny that people undergo them. But those feelings are not evidence of a god, much less a specific deity.

    I have actually had what you would call religious experiences. They aren’t evidence of a god. You know what’s cool? You can still get that feeling of the numinous without any spiritual bullshit that posits false claims.

    ” What science was designed to do was to put into scientific terms things people already knew about in other terms.”

    You are wrong. Science is a method to determine reality from perception. It allows us to be less wrong over time.

    ” We’ve been encouraged to have a kind of faith that the scientific version of events is superior to, say, the romantic poets’ version of events.”

    Ok, the world was created 6000 years ago. Oh wait, we have evidence that it existed long before that. Science. Science does not work on faith. Faith is antithetical to the scientific method. When we discover new evidence, we accept it and refine our world view based on the new evidence. Science is self correcting.

    ” I can’t think of any particularly compelling reasons to believe that other than that it is the conformist path and it can make life a little easier to be seen to follow the herd.”

    Conformity? Now you’re starting to piss me off. 40% of the U.S. population are Young earth creationists. I live in the fucking south. That number is even higher here. Do you know how few non-believers there are around here? The majority of people around here don’t even think that global warming is real. The scientific method produces results. We are communicating because science and engineering make it possible. What have other methods of knowing ever produced? Nothing.

    ” I would look to science to put a man on the moon, but not to speak to the depths of my soul. I’d perhaps ask a poet to do that.”

    Yes, poetry affects the emotions. That isn’t an argument. I write poetry.

    ” Science doesn’t determine reality, it attempts to explain it in terms it defines for itself.”

    Reality exists independent of us. Science is a tool to understand it.

    ” But my reality clearly differs from that of others, but curiously it is congruent with the apparent realities of others”

    No it doesn’t. Reality is independent of perspective. You do not get your own reality.

    ” I’m fascinated by what you said here, too: “You are incorrect. People deconvert and convert due to arguments all the time.” Are you referring to religious conversion?”

    Yes, Examples: Leah Libresco converted to Catholicism from atheism based on arguments.

    Most atheists deconvert due to arguments.

    ” I would contend that one’s experience of the Divine transcends language, and as such cannot be expressed logically or by argument.”

    So something nonsensical is real because you can’t explain it?

    ” You said ” And if you mean that beliefs do not matter, you are also incorrect, beliefs inform actions.” I don’t mean that beliefs do not matter. Quite the opposite. It is because beliefs inform actions that desires change reality.”

    And now we’re going in circles. I’ve already clarified my point. A tree in my front of my apartment exists whether I want it to or not. I can cut it down, but that would be my actions, and it would not make the molecules go away.

    I think there’s a lot of ground to cover here, not least of which being ethics, which if you were to expand upon in another post I would be most eager to participate

    I really don’t have the energy to argue about that right now. I’d rather focus more on feminism, trans* issues, and poetry for the time being.

  12. Fair enough, thanks for your time. I won’t reply again to your arguments because I don’t feel that it would be productive. It doesn’t look like we’re talking about the same things. I wish you all the best in your endeavour to resolve the issues in your personal life. The one piece of advice I would offer is that when I mentioned compassion in my first reply it was as a means to encourage you to adopt a different approach to those issues. Forget empathy. You might strive for it in your own actions but you can never expect it to come from others.

  13. First, I would like to compliment you on your choice for a new blog design as it is extraordinarily beautiful. And I consider you to be a friend as well, so thank you for the sentiment.

    Although I read this post immediately after you published it I admit I have procrastinated in drafting a response for quite some time as the ultimate point of my original article was to highlight the foolishness of attempting to debate the existence of God in the first place and I would prefer to avoid the appearance of being disrespectful to your perspective or your practices, philosophically speaking.

    I must say I have been pleasantly surprised at the level of debate that has taken place in your comment section and I feel extremely honored that my thoughts have become the impetus for such weighty discussion. I fear however that no positive result can be derived from any attempt on my part to rebut your argument in this case. Posting a personal opinion is dramatically different from participating in a direct debate and as I said in my original post, the debate itself seems to be nothing more than an exercise in foolishness; both sides of the argument seem destined to arrive at an intellectual impasse.

    I have said before and I reiterate here that the atheist demand of proof precludes acknowledgement of many types of evidence because your presuppositions don’t allow it. Therefore it is essentially futile for any theist to respond with the expectation that our views will be seen as anything more than delusional fallacy. When you disregard personal experiences such as theophany based on the reasoning that the senses can be fooled, you take away the number one reason people choose to follow a spiritual existence and in the process you essentially make the assertion that anyone who has faith in something beyond what logic, reason and science can prove is, for all basic intents and purposes, clinically insane. As someone who has experienced theophany personally, I’m afraid I cannot concur with this assessment although I freely admit to being clearly biased and I remain so without shame.

    I do not dismiss your opinions off hand, nor do I disagree with your logic in this matter. I respect your application of critical thinking and furthermore as you already know quite well, I respect your right to think and believe whatever you wish with the caveat that no one should ever be harmed based on one’s position on the spiritual or non-spiritual nature of the universe, depending on perspective. I sincerely hope my reply hasn’t been overly disappointing to you as I’m afraid I haven’t really presented substantive evidence to prove my philosophical position, which I presume you anticipated when you initially wrote your response. I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for the lengthy rebuttal however as you made many salient points; I don’t completely agree with your reasoning, naturally, but on the subject of religion it seems the best policy to respond as they do in France and simply say “c’est la vie. “ Namaste, my friend.

  14. @ William

    Sorry for taking so long to respond. I’ve been dealing with things.

    for all basic intents and purposes, clinically insane.

    This is very ableist, specifically a form of sanism. I won’t stand for that here. I have mental disorders. Several people I know and like have mental disorders. Please stop comparing a medical condition that we have no control over to religion especially as a disparagement. I may say that you are incorrect. I may say that your reasoning is faulty. I may say that you are mistaken. But I will never say that you believe as you do because of a mental disorder. Also, insane is a legal term, not a medical one. One cannot be clinically insane.

    with the caveat that no one should ever be harmed based on one’s position on the spiritual or non-spiritual nature of the universe, depending on perspective

    I hope you don’t think I advocate violence. I don’t see where I’ve ever given that indication.

    . I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for the lengthy rebuttal however as you made many salient points;

    It is what I do.

    Namaste, my friend.

    And I wish a clear and gentle path for you my friend.

    Side note, I’m going on hiatus, so any response may take a while to be addressed.

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