A Conflation of Atheisms

In all the discussions of atheism, I have not yet seen any one make what I take to be a rather simple point: atheism is always relative to a specific conception of God. For this reason, one can be an atheist in one sense and a theist in another. This in turn raises the question whether an atheist is intellectually compelled to investigate every conception of God and refute each of them in order to be entitled to his or her atheism. I want to make a preliminary, crude, and rather obvious distinction between two ways of conceiving of God in order to clarify two distinct kinds of atheism: the mythological conception and the metaphysical conception.

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51 thoughts on “A Conflation of Atheisms

  1. Thank you for that clarification of “atheism”.

    In my case, I am skeptical of gods that fit the mythical conception. I am agnostic with respect to the metaphysical conception.

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  2. In any event, we might have better conversations around here if atheists are more clear if they are rejecting the mythological conception or the metaphysical conception.

    Hmm! I don’t feel I’m rejecting anything. I explain (to myself) others apparent need for religion of one sort or another as emotional rather than logical. If it works for them, fine. Unless, of course, that entrains burning me at the stake!

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  3. The metaphysical form sounds so hopelessly vague I would wonder what use it is at all.

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  4. Neil Rickert:
    Thank you for that clarification of “atheism”.

    In my case, I am skeptical of gods that fit the mythical conception.I am agnostic with respect to the metaphysical conception.

    I would deny all storybook gods and find metaphysical discussion to be mostly without value. But stories can have value as stories.

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  5. graham2:
    The metaphysical form sounds so hopelessly vague I would wonder what use it is at all.

    To be fair, I could have phrased it better but I was in a hurry.

    The problem could be put as follows: we discover, through careful experimentation, that the Universe seems to exhibit a degree of complexity that it is possible for us to comprehend (and more importantly, for us to improve our methods of comprehension). We discover that phenomena have causes, and that is possible for us to understand those causes by building models of them.

    In light of this, the question may arise: what explains the fact that the Universe can be explained?

    The metaphysical conception of God is, for some, an attractive explanation at this point.

    But this does not tell us anything about what God would want or expect, or even if such a conception of God would be worthy of worship, or if so, what kind of worship.

    For me, as a Spinozist, the metaphysical conception of God is not alien to my way of thinking. But such a conception has nothing in common with the mythical conception, which is why Spinoza could be described — accurately — as both a devout and pious pantheist and a dangerous atheist.

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  6. Too conceptualistic. Try perception, rather than conceptualization. Quite different. It seems quite easy for imbalanced, highly conceptual people to lack perceptive abilities & thus attempt to disqualify theology. “Hard to know what it is if you’ve never had one”.

    “one can be an atheist in one sense and a theist in another”

    Is this what you consider yourself? If so, in what sense are you a ‘theist’, Kantian Naturalist? It sounds like you’re trying to frame it so that a naturalistic atheist could also somehow be considered as a theist. Muddying the waters again?

    I had thought most Jewish people start with “I’m Jewish, so…” rather than “the Universe seems to exhibit a degree of complexity that it is possible for us to comprehend”. A rather different starting point for so-called “secular Jews”, it seems, while “irreligious Judaism”; makes no sense.

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  7. “it is difficult to see how one can give up on the metaphysical conception of God and still take science seriously”

    Steve Fuller has written widely on this. One chapter “What has atheism ever done for science?” His conclusion? Not much if anything at all.

    Sadly, pop atheism isn’t very discerning. On that it seems we are agreed.

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  8. I admit I can’t make much sense of this. I understand the mythological god, since that god seems to be the target of prayer and worship. But this metaphysical god strikes me as artificial at best. Yes, we can make sense of much of our universe, and we’ve recently had a decent track record finding coherent explanations. But why press a word like “god” into this, since (1) the universe is what it is, and it’s fun to figure it out; and (2) that word is already widely claimed for something entirely different, and in many ways the opposite.

    Asking “how can we explain that the universe can be explained” is an exercise in angels on pinheads. I think Douglas Adams would have had some fun with this question, after which we’d understand that the question doesn’t MEAN anything. A better (and more meaningful) question might be asking why math seems to describe our universe so well in many ways, even though “may (pure mathematics) never be of any use to anyone.” I don’t see people confuse gods and math all that often.

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  9. what explains the fact that the Universe can be explained?

    Well, yes, lots of the universe can be explained, but lots cannot. Is the ratio tilted in our favour ? Perhaps we are actually doing a crap job. Whatever our answer, how do we justify it ?

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  10. Alan Fox: Hmm! I don’t feel I’m rejecting anything. I explain (to myself) others apparent need for religion of one sort or another as emotional rather than logical. If it works for them, fine. Unless, of course, that entrains burning me at the stake!

    I think it is a rather naive notion to believe that those who have come to a conclusion about the existence of a God do so simply as a comfort. There may well be those to whom that is all it is, yes I am quite sure that is not the case for most. People’s belief in a God is almost certainly primarily based on their observation of the world, along with their own personal experiences within that world. Those experiences are real to the individual. Now, the kind of God one believes in is certainly influenced by the culture one grows up in, but the actual experience of belief, that is internal and actual. There is as reason why people have believed in God’s long before religion existed. Consciousness gives everyone a sense of a higher being outside us.

    If that is an illusion, it’s an awfully good illusion, as well as an extremely pervasive one. To just call it a comfort is way too facile.

    I am willing to bet almost no one exists who doesn’t find a sense of synchronicity in their life. Maybe no one. Listening to that sense is the essence of faith.

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  11. phoodoo … People’s belief in a God is almost certainly primarily based on their observation of the world, along with their own personal experiences

    Then how do you explain that Christian nations tend to remain Christian, Muslim remain Muslim, etc ?. All pretty constant. Do we have a gene or something that predisposes us to make observations of the world somehow, miraculously, continue to prop up the religion we are immersed in ?

    Or could it have something to with our upbringing (from a very early age) ?

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  12. graham2: Or could it have something to with our upbringing (from a very early age) ?

    phoodoo has already conceded that point: “[…] the kind of God one believes in is certainly influenced by the culture one grows up”.

    His point is that belief is not merely adopted out of need for emotional comfort, as Alan seemed to suggest, but that rational considerations also come into play.

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  13. Gregory: What has atheism ever done for science?

    Considering how much religion hampers science, atheism has done a lot for it

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  14. dazz: Considering how much religion hampers science, atheism has done a lot for it

    We should bear in mind that atheism isn’t a something, it is a LACK of something. Religions posit something specific (though what they posit varies from one culture to another, and there’s no path to agreement). But atheists are the same everywhere. One is not a “Muslim atheist” or a “Hindu atheist”. As an analogy, what is considered music varies with cultures, what is used for language varies with culture, but silence is the same everywhere.

    So atheism doesn’t help science, it is simply the absence of something that would impede science.

    phoodoo says: There is as reason why people have believed in God’s long before religion existed. Consciousness gives everyone a sense of a higher being outside us.
    If that is an illusion, it’s an awfully good illusion, as well as an extremely pervasive one. To just call it a comfort is way too facile.

    I would argue that religion purports to answer questions people are curious about but can’t answer. Some of these questions science can answer, so the god of the gaps is shrinking. But people in general do not like admitting ignorance, so bogus explanations are better than confessing they don’t know. In that sense, gods are a comfort because by explaining nothing, they explain everything.

    Some people believe there is a rational explanation for everything, that the universe is consistent, that understanding is always possible. But perhaps gods aren’t the best explanation. If dances performed to please the rain gods fail to bring rain, then sure, maybe the rain gods aren’t listening, maybe the dance was done wrong, maybe the rain gods are annoyed by something else. But if you sincerely believe in the rain gods, then ANY explanation you can conceive for the lack of rain must involve them. If the rain gods are an illusion, they have been an extremely pervasive one. Especially for those who simply cannot make sense of the possibility that there are no rain gods.

    I’m going to bet phoodoo doesn’t accept the rain gods, and equally can’t accept that HIS god is no different.

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  15. phoodoo: I think it is a rather naive notion to believe that those who have come to a conclusion about the existence of a God do so simply as a comfort.There may well be those to whom that is all it is,yes I am quite sure that is not the case for most. People’s belief in a God is almost certainly primarily based on their observation of the world,along with their own personal experiences within that world.Those experiences are real to the individual.Now,the kind of God one believes in is certainly influenced by the culture one grows up in,but the actual experience of belief,that is internal and actual.There is as reason why people have believed in God’s long before religion existed. Consciousness gives everyone a sense of a higher being outside us.

    If that is an illusion,it’s an awfully good illusion,as well as an extremely pervasive one.To just call it a comfort is way toofacile.

    I am willing to bet almost no one exists who doesn’t find a sense of synchronicity in their life.Maybe no one.Listening to that sense is the essence of faith.

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  16. phoodoo: I think it is a rather naive notion to believe that those who have come to a conclusion about the existence of a God do so simply as a comfort.There may well be those to whom that is all it is,yes I am quite sure that is not the case for most. People’s belief in a God is almost certainly primarily based on their observation of the world,along with their own personal experiences within that world.Those experiences are real to the individual.Now,the kind of God one believes in is certainly influenced by the culture one grows up in,but the actual experience of belief,that is internal and actual.There is as reason why people have believed in God’s long before religion existed. Consciousness gives everyone a sense of a higher being outside us.

    If that is an illusion,it’s an awfully good illusion,as well as an extremely pervasive one.To just call it a comfort is way toofacile.

    I am willing to bet almost no one exists who doesn’t find a sense of synchronicity in their life.Maybe no one.Listening to that sense is the essence of faith.

    Corneel,

    Thank you!

    I was started to wonder if he had even read my post. Maybe he is a bot?

    Doggone Russians got everyone confused!

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  17. Steiner in Friedrich Nietzsche, Fighter for Freedom says:

    There are people who base their justification for calling themselves “free thinkers” upon the fact that in their thinking and acting they do not subject themselves to those laws which are derived from other human beings, but only to “the eternal laws of the intellect,” the “incontrovertible concepts of duty,” or “the Will of God.” Nietzsche does not regard such people as really strong personalities. For they do not think and act according to their own nature, but according to the commands of a higher authority. Whether the slave follows the arbitrariness of his master, the religious the revealed verities of a God, or the philosopher the demands of the intellect, this changes nothing of the fact that they are all obeyers. What does the commanding is of no importance; the deciding factor is that there is commanding, that the human being does not give his own direction for his acting, but thinks that there is a power which delineates this direction.

    Earlier he had quoted Nietzche having Zarathrustra say:

    “You have not searched for yourselves as yet; there you found me. Thus do all believers, but, for that reason, there is so little in all believing.

    “Now I advise you to forsake me and to find yourselves; and only when all of you have denied me will I return to you.”

    It’s only when we feel as if we have been abandoned by God, or we have become so separated from any higher reality so as to deny its existence that we can begin to find our way back in freedom. And who but atheists can be more free from any coercion from above. Any compulsion to believe makes us slaves where we have the potential to be free spirits.

    Many atheists although they deny God act as though there is a God, and many who believe in God act as though there is no God.

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  18. CharlieM,

    Right, why would the fact that it is comforting be an excuse for a belief in theism, any more than it would be a comfort for many to NOT believe there is a God.

    Maybe that’s THEIR reason. Alan, is that it?

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  19. phoodoo: I meant to write thank you, to you! Pizdets!

    No problem. I think your comment deserves serious consideration.

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  20. Flint: A better (and more meaningful) question might be asking why math seems to describe our universe so well in many ways, even though “may (pure mathematics) never be of any use to anyone.” I don’t see people confuse gods and math all that often.

    You don’t see people confusing gods and math? Allow me to introduce you to the entire Western philosophical tradition from Plato onward!

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  21. Corneel: No problem. I think your comment deserves serious consideration.

    Me too! On reading his comment to me, I wondered if the real phoodoo had been kidnapped and his account hijacked. 😵😈

    There’s much I agree with but I don’t have time to respond at length at the moment.

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  22. Kantian Naturalist: …pantheist…

    This idea that there must be more to life than we see is something I encounter daily – not least from my wife and my daughter (the Buddhist) – and from friends in surprising moments. And, fair enough, it may be so, this spirit that pervades everything. But it’s undecidable.

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  23. Gregory: Try perception, rather than conceptualization.

    If I adopt that position, I’m an atheist, no question. What I see is no evidence for deities. Of course I might be deaf to the music of the spheres. Or there is just silence. (I like that metaphor, Flint)

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  24. phoodoo: I think it is a rather naive notion to believe that those who have come to a conclusion about the existence of a God do so simply as a comfort.

    I wasn’t being pejorative. Emotion is a powerful controller of our thoughts and actions.

    There may well be those to whom that is all it is, yes I am quite sure that is not the case for most. People’s belief in a God is almost certainly primarily based on their observation of the world, along with their own personal experiences within that world. Those experiences are real to the individual.

    Sure, this isn’t an issue for me.

    Now, the kind of God one believes in is certainly influenced by the culture one grows up in, but the actual experience of belief, that is internal and actual. There is as reason why people have believed in God’s long before religion existed.

    I see an evolutionary explanation. It makes sense, in human society where cooperation and collaboration are key, that traits that reinforce those behaviours would be retained.

    Consciousness gives everyone a sense of a higher being outside us.

    Well, I agree that seems to apply to many. But not to me.

    If that is an illusion, it’s an awfully good illusion, as well as an extremely pervasive one.

    The power of emotion should not be underestimated. The liturgy, the smell of the incense, the poetry, the light through stained glass – and, above all, the sense of belonging. I’m not criticising – just observing.

    To just call it a comfort is way too facile.

    I did not use the words “just” or “comfort”.

    I am willing to bet almost no one exists who doesn’t find a sense of synchronicity in their life. Maybe no one. Listening to that sense is the essence of faith.

    Live and let live. And live in the moment. And never forget to be curious!

    ETA html corrections

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  25. Flint: As an analogy, what is considered music varies with cultures, what is used for language varies with culture, but silence is the same everywhere.

    Excellent point.

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  26. Kantian Naturalist: You don’t see people confusing gods and math?

    I see people confusing mathematical models for reality. If math and reality don’t match, it’s the math that’s wrong, not reality.

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  27. False:
    “atheism is always relative to a specific conception of God. ”

    No one – not even atheists – consider Muslims, Christians, Jews, Deists, Hinduists, etc. etc. to be atheists.

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  28. Nonlin.org: No one – not even atheists – consider Muslims, Christians, Jews, Deists, Hinduists, etc. etc. to be atheists.

    It occurs to me that I should have an open mind regarding religions that I have not yet encountered. The one true faith might be out there somewhere waiting to be discovered.

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  29. Kantian Naturalist: You don’t see people confusing gods and math? Allow me to introduce you to the entire Western philosophical tradition from Plato onward!

    Seriously? Now, I’ve not attended churches in every denomination, so maybe there are some churches that worship, say, Euclid. I haven’t read about any either. Perhaps most religions have yet to be introduced to the entire Western philosophical tradition? Or maybe those religions realize they can’t attract contributions using that tradition rather than the bible?

    Science doesn’t explain why water exists at all, little yet explaining rain.

    My education in chemistry says otherwise. Maybe you lie awake at night wondering what (besides your god) could explain why there is something rather than nothing? I admit I don’t know why there are protons, for example, but chanting “goddidit” gets me no closer to this knowledge. YMMV.

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  30. Alan Fox,

    It gives you comfort to believe in atheism. Its why you can’t be expected to make a rational conclusion about it. Fear based mostly I suppose. I say live and let live- if it makes you feel better to walk around all day long with a lead lined scarf wrapped firmly around your dark glasses, and a pair of noise cancelling Beats to block out any sensations, who is to judge? Probably it has something to do with your upbringing ultimately.

    Maybe when you were young, your parents told you about Santa Claus, and that shattered your worldview at the time, and from then on, you were committed to not believing in anything any more. Its not really in your control, an environmentally induced astigmatism of sorts. Not really evolution, but sort of a Lamarkian trait your parents passed on to you. Some of us are just more lucky to not have been given this trait which doesn’t allow us to see reality. Or maybe we can say its unlucky to not have been given the trait, since it is such a comfort to have it, because then the world feels safe.

    Live and let live..

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  31. Alan Fox,

    Well, you just never got the accidental mutation which would have caused you to believe in things which aren’t true, because it would give you a mating fitness advantage, that’s what you believe?

    You just have the recessive, non-believer gene. Unluck of the draw.

    Isn’t evolution a hoot when you actually think of it? I mean, if you had that gene to think of it, I mean.

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  32. phoodoo:
    Alan Fox,

    It gives you comfort to believe in atheism.Its why you can’t be expected to make a rational conclusion about it.Fear based mostly I suppose.

    This reaction always fascinates me. True Believers simply cannot comprehend the lack of a belief. For them, EVERYTHING must be a belief, even the lack of a belief! And furthermore, lacking a belief in what someone else imagines strikes that someone else as irrational! OF COURSE the moon is made of green cheese. I don’t believe that for comfort, I believe it because I have FAITH. And if you don’t share that belief, YOU are irrational, probably because you are afraid to face the TRUTH! What other possible motivation could you have?

    Well, OK, maybe it was your upbringing that has warped you. Maybe it was because you were traumatized by loss of faith in the tooth fairy. Maybe you have a genetic flaw, beyond your control, passed to you by sick parents. Maybe you just didn’t have the luck to be brainwashed early in life. But whether the problem is your training, your parents, your genes, your allergies, or whatever, what remains constant is that the problem is entirely yours. There is no conceivable way I could have a problem, at least not to me. *I* can see that your lack of belief is not only a belief, but a wrong belief. Why can’t you see this?

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  33. Flint,

    What do you mean, I just lack belief that there are no gods. I just have never gotten that belief that you have.

    Alan’s thesis is that this lack of belief must be some genetic mutation. Alan never got the genetic mutation that allows him to lack belief. He carries the recessive gene which causes him to believe there are no gods. I guess you have that recessive gene also?

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  34. dazz: Considering how much religion hampers science, atheism has done a lot for it

    There’s a warmer, more hopeful, collaborative, up-to-date view you could choose instead of the old “Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths about Science and Religion.” Quite a lot of fruitful dialogue has taken place between ‘science and religion’ since Einstein said: “science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”

    Some people just don’t want a collaborative science, philosophy, theology/worldview conversation. dazz seems to be one of those people who voluntarily uninvites themselves to collaborative discussion. It’s conflict between them all the way down. Right?

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  35. Flint,

    Indeed! I know only how it is for me. What phoodoo fails to do is convince me there is any substantive alternative.

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  36. There is a related contrast to the one in the OP: God as an agent versus God as the ground of being.

    There is a short introduction to the ground of being concept here; the article positions the contrast as the Feser/Catholic view of Christianity versus the Plantinga/Protestant view.

    https://santitafarella.wordpress.com/2014/04/20/is-god-a-person-or-the-ground-of-being/

    However, that article is not neutral — it is unfriendly to both viewpoints. For a neutral view of the ground of being concept, see this article:
    http://people.bu.edu/wwildman/WeirdWildWeb/media/docs/Wildman_2006_Ground_of_Being_Theologies_prepub.pdf

    Trigger Warning: this article is philosophical theology, so is not for those who take the Jerry Coyne view of such work.

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  37. Flint: Seriously? Now, I’ve not attended churches in every denomination,

    I don’t know what KN had in mind, but perhaps it can positioned as the quest to understand the ultimate nature of reality. Max Tegmark, a cosmologist, takes the view that reality is ultimately mathematical, and that all logically possible mathematical universes exist.
    There is a discussion of this idea starting at the 20 minute point of Sean Carroll’s latest Mindscape podcast. (It also includes a debunking of the Bostrom’s simulation version of that idea). There is a link to the transcript here:
    https://www.preposterousuniverse.com/podcast/2019/12/02/75-max-tegmark-on-reality-simulation-and-the-multiverse/

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  38. Kantian Naturalist:

    but it is difficult to see how one can give up on the metaphysical conception of God and still take science seriously. (Note — not impossible. Just that there is an intellectual puzzle to be solved here.

    Could you say more about what that intellectual puzzle is?

    For example, is it a puzzle regarding the existence of ongoing regularity which is required to permit the existence of explainers like us?

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  39. phoodoo: Would you call this science, or philosophy?

    The question is too general, I think. But as a quick answer which I may amend for some specific example

    Science: The specific entities posited by a scientific theory.

    Philosophy: Whether we should consider anything science says about unobservable theoretical entities (eg Higgs bosons) to be real.

    (*) Both: Whether it is enough for an entity to be a theoretical consequence of a scientific theory to be a scientific-based entity, or whether such an entity also has to be empirically testable (eg Level I multiverse — infinite universe).

    (Meta) philosophy:Whether and how our metaphysics should be influenced by science (will be related to answer to (*)).

    The nature of “ultimate” reality is philosophy. So Level IV (math) is philosophy. Level III (quantum multiverses) mostly philosophy. Levels II and I depend on answer to (*).

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  40. BruceS:
    There is a related contrast to the one in the OP:God as an agent versus God as the ground of being.

    There is a short introduction to the ground of being concept here; the article positions the contrast as the Feser/Catholic view of Christianity versus the Plantinga/Protestant view.

    https://santitafarella.wordpress.com/2014/04/20/is-god-a-person-or-the-ground-of-being/

    However, that article is not neutral — it is unfriendly to both viewpoints.For a neutral view of the ground of being concept, see this article:
    http://people.bu.edu/wwildman/WeirdWildWeb/media/docs/Wildman_2006_Ground_of_Being_Theologies_prepub.pdf

    Trigger Warning:this article is philosophical theology,so is not for those who take the Jerry Coyne view of such work.

    Thank you for those articles! I haven’t read the second but I was amused by the blog-post on Feser’s criticisms of Plantinga. I’ve read Hart’s The Experience of God, just to get a rough grasp of classical theism, and I learned much from it.

    Needless to say I was not convinced by Hart’s argument that the necessary being must also be ground of consciousness and of love. But I accept that one would need something like that in order to regard the necessary being as one’s “object of ultimate concern” — which is how Tillich defines faith — and not just as an intellectual commitment.

    One reason why I find Spinoza so fascinating here is that he took the tension between God as a person and God as the ground of being and ratcheted it up as far as it could go. One of my favorite lines from the Ethics: “God is not a sovereign”, the kind of power that God has is not the power that one person can have over another, but the power of being. I think that of this in connection with Gregory Bateson’s quip, “to be is to make a difference” (or with Deleuze’s “Being is difference”).

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  41. BruceS: The question is too general, I think.But as a quick answer which I may amend for some specific example

    Science:The specific entities posited by a scientific theory.

    Philosophy:Whether we should consider anything science says about unobservable theoretical entities (eg Higgs bosons) to be real.

    (*) Both:Whether it is enough for an entity to be a theoretical consequence of a scientific theory to be a scientific-based entity, or whether such anentity also has to be empirically testable (eg Level I multiverse — infinite universe).

    (Meta) philosophy:Whether and how our metaphysics should be influenced by science (will be related to answer to (*)).

    The nature of ultimate” reality is philosophy.So Level IV (math) is philosophy.Level III (quantum multiverses) mostly philosophy.Levels II and I depend on answer to (*).

    A friend of mine likes to put this way: science is about what is and philosophy is about what “what is” is.

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  42. phoodoo: What do you mean, I just lack belief that there are no gods

    So do some atheists. Unlike you, they also lack the belief that there are Gods.

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  43. Kantian Naturalist: One reason why I find Spinoza so fascinating here is that he took the tension between God as a person and God as the ground of being

    A few questions if you have time:
    Was Spinoza a pantheist, a panentheist, or something else?

    Is pantheism any different from liberal naturalism, where I include any modality science needs as part of naturalism (eg necessity for laws or dispositions for causal powers).

    Is deism a type of mythological religious belief in your topology? I believe it can be an answer for many of the arguments made for a theistic God, eg the need for a necessary being as the base of explanation, the argument to a first cause, and the argument to design/fine tuning. But deism in its usual form would not be an answer to an argument requiring a continung, external basis for the existence or regularity of the universe.

    Thanks for the Hart book; I will take a look at it. I will also take it as a compliment that you think I have the background to understand the context for your references to Deleuze and Bateson (I don’t).

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  44. BruceS: A few questions if you have time:
    Was Spinoza a pantheist, a panentheist, or something else?

    Definitely not a panentheist. Whether one reads him as a pantheist or an atheist is an interesting question . . . there’s no question that he denies transcendence, and he does not ascribe anything like will or intent to the universe. What is divine about the universe is its infinite power (anything that can happen, must happen) and infinite knowledge (because there is an idea of thing that corresponds to every thing).

    Is pantheism any different from liberal naturalism, where I include any modality science needs as part of naturalism (eg necessity for laws or dispositions for causal powers).

    I think that pantheists could be liberal naturalists though I’m not aware of anyone making that connection.

    Is deism a type of mythological religious belief in your topology?I believe it can be an answer for many of the arguments made for a theistic God, e.g. the need for a necessary being as the base of explanation, the argument to a first cause,and the argument to design/fine tuning. But deism in its usual form would not be an answer to an argument requiring a continuing, external basis for the existence or regularity of the universe.

    I think of deism, like theism generally, on a continuum between mythology and metaphysics. Spinoza is highly unusual in turning the metaphysical conception against the mythological one; most Abrahamic theology involves trying to hold these conceptions together somehow.

    Thanks for the Hart book; I will take a look at it.I will also take it as a compliment that you think I have the background to understand the context for your references to Deleuze and Bateson (I don’t).

    I think that Hart’s book is an excellent articulation of how classical theists see the world. Plus it’s extremely well written and a joy to read.

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