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But why do you believe in Gawd?

This word “god” needs some serious redefining. I keep running into these intentionally obscurantist blitherings about “god” when the definition is clearly bouncing back and forth between multiple meanings. There are at least two categories of gods. Let’s give them different names so we stop confusing them.

  1. Gods as working deities or GAWD. GAWD is an interventionist; it may have created the universe, it has power in the real world, it has a personal interest in human beings and planet Earth. GAWD can answer personal requests, GAWD can carry out miracles, GAWD must be propitiated by thoughts and rituals lest GAWD become wrathful…which is a bad thing that can have dire results in the real world. GAWD is what most religions are about, it’s what most people worship. GAWD is usually portrayed as an omnipotent, omniscient being who is greater than and beyond the universe, but he keeps a hand in and dabbles with virgins and foreskins and sends the occasional tornado and earthquake.

  2. Gods who avoid reality, or GWAR. GWAR is an abstraction, an impersonal and remote being who exists completely outside space and time, who doesn’t actually interact with our world; alternatively, GWAR is simply the state of existence that permeates the entire universe. GWAR does not tinker; it does not modify the rules of existence to satisfy personal requests; it does nothing but be and watch and sometimes, love. GWAR is invisible and indetectable because GWAR does nothing. At best, one can aspire to die and become invisible and indetectable oneself, and then you’ll get to meet GWAR. No religion actually exists to support GWAR. GWAR doesn’t need them, and they don’t believe that GWAR will actually do anything for them anyway.

Now you see, GAWD is the deity everyone wishes were true, and it’s the one that everyone talks about and fiddles over with prayers and rituals and what not, but GAWD has a serious flaw: GAWD itself is postulated to be beyond mere mortal ken and is therefore untouchable by science, but it is supposed to do things in the real-world, making the consequences of GAWD-activity and GAWD-belief vulnerable to actual empirical and experimental evaluation…which they fail, every time.

This is where GWAR comes in. GWAR also has a serious failing: GWAR doesn’t matter. It doesn’t do things, it’s vast and omnipotent and godlike, but it really won’t lift a finger to get you that raise you’re praying for or to smite that icky gay man in the next apartment, and no one worships it. There is no church of GWAR, because it is so unsatisfying and philosophically absent. But GWAR has one essential function: whenever those annoying skeptics start exposing the absence of evidential support for GAWD, just slap a skyhook on it and temporarily winch GAWD out of this universe, and pretend you’re talking about GWAR.

God is like a yo-yo. In church, you do a sleeper and have god spinning in imaginary action as GAWD, and all the congregation is praising and begging and looking for salvation…then someone comes along who’s critical and asks for evidence that those prayer mats and seed donations actually bring prosperity, and woop, back flip, over-under, reverse fling — look, it’s GWAR! GWAR don’t need no evidence, GWAR just is, have faith and believe. And as soon as we leave the room, GAWD can leave the shelter of his transdimensional outside-the-known-universe hidey hole and his GWAR alias and take center stage again.

Of course, even GWAR isn’t safe. We can always attack his prophets with the epistemological question of “If he’s so removed from this universe, how do you know about him?” Unfortunately, I don’t see many skeptics taking that line of attack, but we should.

Yesterday, I talked about how even skeptics are willing co-conspirators in this shell game. But theologians are worse, much worse.

Over at the awful Huffington Post, Episcopalian Bishop Pierre Whalon has put up a post supposedly explaining why he isn’t an atheist. Surprise…he doesn’t actually say why. But he starts out with a dig at me, the “inflammatory” “freshman-class-atheist-prof”. I confess, it’s the only thing that perked me up to care enough to comment on his empty blather. Raising the ire of bishops is just one of those things that makes my whole day look happier and brighter.

Anyway, he tries to give arguments for why he isn’t an atheist, or why he believes in god, and he doesn’t do a very good job of it. It is, to be honest, a rambling mess where he fails to actually come to any clear point. He does say this, though, to my amusement:

Where is the evidence for God? Well, by definition, there isn’t any. If you could see God in a telescope or electron microscope, it wouldn’t be God. Couldn’t be. That would violate the theological ground rules that the 17th-century Christian developers of the scientific method set up: You cannot explain the universe by appealing to a creator. Or as the late Karl Rahner put it, “God is not a datum in the universe.”

But what about Thomas Aquinas’ proofs for the existence of God? Don’t Christians believe because of them? Simply put, no. As the Angelic Doctor himself makes clear, he is reiterating what others have said concerning “what everyone calls ‘god.’” Nothing can be proven from nature or scripture to those who do not have faith already — at best, all we can do is defend the reasonableness of what we believe.

It is therefore unreasonable to look for scientific evidence of God’s existence. Whether there is or is not a creator who subsists completely outside of the universe cannot be proven or disproven by any means, scientifically or otherwise.

Oh. So Episcopalians worship GWAR? That’s pure, undiluted GWAR defense, after all, and you didn’t actually “defend the reasonableness of what we believe.” You were so sneaky and cowardly you don’t even say what you believe. So I had to look it up. What do Episcopalians believe?

  • Jesus Christ is fully human and fully God. He died and was resurrected from the dead.
  • Jesus provides the way of eternal life for those who believe.
  • God the Father, God the Son (Jesus Christ), and God the Holy Spirit, are one God, and are called the Holy Trinity, “Three and yet one”
  • The Old and New Testaments of the Bible were written by people “under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.” The Apocrypha are additional books that are used in Christian worship, but not for the formation of doctrine.
  • The two great and necessary sacraments are Holy Baptism and Holy Eucharist.
  • Other sacramental rites are confirmation, ordination, marriage, reconciliation of a penitent, and unction.
  • Belief in heaven, hell, and Jesus’ return in glory.
  • Emphasis on living out the Greatest Commandment to love God and neighbor fully, as found in the Gospel of Matthew 22:36-40

I’m so sorry, Bishop Whalon, you don’t understand your own church’s doctrine. You worship GAWD, not GWAR. Telling us why atheist arguments can’t touch GWAR isn’t relevant in a personal testimonial about what you believe.

Go back to square one, Bishop. No one is really interested in why you don’t have some particular belief; I’d much rather hear about why you believe in a trinity, and why the eucharist is important, and why you think I’m going to hell. I’d love to hear about what you actually believe about your GAWD.

I’m waiting.

If it helps, picture me all cherub-cheeked and eager, sitting impatiently at my desk with my doe-eyes wide and anticipating, batting my lashes at you and doing my very best to hide my fangs behind a cheerful smile.

Let’s see you defend your faith, priest.

Comments

  1. says

    We can always attack his prophets with the epistemological question of “If he’s so removed from this universe, how do you know about him?” Unfortunately, I don’t see many skeptics taking that line of attack, but we should.

    Because that would be philosophy, and we’re just not qualified, and should stick to science</sarcasm>

    I also notice that the GWARness of God increases with the inverse of the distance to the nearest outspoken atheist.

  2. Matt Penfold says

    The Anglicans/Episcopalians tell us what they believe every Sunday.

    I believe in one God the Father Almighty,
    Maker of heaven and earth,
    And of all things visible and invisible:

    And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God,
    Begotten of his Father before all worlds,
    God of God, Light of Light,
    Very God of very God,
    Begotten, not made,
    Being of one substance with the Father,
    By whom all things were made;
    Who for us men, and for our salvation came down from heaven,
    And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary,
    And was made man,
    And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate.
    He suffered and was buried,
    And the third day he rose again according to the Scriptures,
    And ascended into heaven,
    And sitteth on the right hand of the Father.
    And he shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead:
    Whose kingdom shall have no end.

    And I believe in the Holy Ghost,
    The Lord and giver of life,
    Who proceedeth from the Father and the Son,
    Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified,
    Who spake by the Prophets.
    And I believe one Catholick and Apostolick Church.
    I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins.
    And I look for the Resurrection of the dead,
    And the life of the world to come.

    The Anglican Nicene Creed. The Book of Common Prayer 1662

  3. MFHeadcase, caffeine fueled , but running on "E" says

    GWAR doesn’t do anything? Whose shows were I going to then?

    **reads more carefully**

    Nevermind…

  4. Reginald Selkirk says

    As Daniel Dennett has pointed out, GWAR is a result of evolution. None of the early religions had a GWAR, it is only the advancement of science and the ability to check up on those wondrous claims that forced the theologians and philosophers of religion to whittle down GAWD until they ended up with GWAR.

  5. Mattir-ritated says

    Actually, I would suggest that several religions do focus on GWAR – UUs, the more humanist end of Judaism, many strains of Buddhism. One can even find quite a bit of aesthetic pleasure and comfort in traditional rituals and prayers that have been shifted from GAWD to GWAR.

    The thing that annoys me about GWAR, though, is that contemporary American culture has adopted the god-of-your-understanding/higher power concept so that if you don’t say that you believe in “god,” then you can’t participate in various groups. It’s an astonishingly dishonest policy, since those groups (Boy Scouts, especially) specifically state that they do not define the g-word and that a belief in GWAR is fine as long as you call it “god” and not “the law of gravity”. That way people can ignore how they really do not agree on the whole GAWD question. It would be so much easier to simply acknowledge that the g-word question has precious little to do with tying knots, swimming, and hiking…

  6. PeteJohn says

    But what about Thomas Aquinas’ proofs for the existence of God? Don’t Christians believe because of them? Simply put, no. As the Angelic Doctor himself makes clear, he is reiterating what others have said concerning “what everyone calls ‘god.’” Nothing can be proven from nature or scripture to those who do not have faith already — at best, all we can do is defend the reasonableness of what we believe.

    I suppose this is where Edward Feser perks up, sniffs around, realizes someone bashed his beloved cosmo argument, then argues that this fellow is deluded, or not philosophically sophisticated, or something like that. But surely this is all the fault of the theologically-bankrupt new atheists.

  7. Matt Penfold says

    I am not sure if it is a good sign I was almost (but not quite) able to remember the Nicene creed from the short period of time I spent as an Christian in my teens.

    Once the cake ran out so did my belief.

  8. LawnBoy says

    If God interacts with the universe, then where’s the evidence?
    If God doesn’t interact with the universe, then where’s the relevance?

  9. Karmakin says

    Was using GWAR intentional or an accident?

    Anyway, I actually think this is a very important topic. Christianity is, without any doubt, a GAWD religion. No doubt. 100%. But so many people in our society try to pass it off as a GWAR religion, while at the same time holding on to the GAWD-ness.

    Anyway, what Mattir said. Religious groups in our society need to have a sit down and hash out if they believe in GAWD or if they believe in GWAR, and formulate their group beliefs accordingly. The only problem I have with GWAR is that it encourages GAWD, something which I think is quite harmful in our society.

  10. DFS says

    Ah, yes, the goal post move, the crunchy granola, Tie dye and Birkenstock wearing indica smoking God as love that is completely irrelevant to religion as a historical phenomenon

  11. Quodlibet says

    Lawnboy:

    If God interacts with the universe, then where’s the evidence?
    If God doesn’t interact with the universe, then where’s the relevance?

    Oh, that’s good. +1

  12. says

    @required

    That made me laugh:

    Not to be confused with guar (Cyamopsis tetragonolobus), an annual legume.

    I think this applies to GWAR too.

  13. Erulóra (formerly KOPD) says

    “There is no church of GWAR”

    I know I already went there, but…

    Yes there is, and they even have a Facebook page (though for some reason they forgot to put GWAR in all caps as it should be, heretics).

    Okay, done with GWAR jokes.

  14. Steve LaBonne says

    This GAWD/GWAR thing is as brilliant, useful and deserving of wide attention as the Courtier’s Reply. It will both save a lot of wasted motion among people who are trying to have a real discussion, and effectively out people who are trying to achieve the exact opposite of that. Well done!

    We can always attack his prophets with the epistemological question of “If he’s so removed from this universe, how do you know about him?” Unfortunately, I don’t see many skeptics taking that line of attack, but we should.

    Damn straight. I point this out whenever anybody tries to claim that their pet version of the “supernatural”, whatever it might be, is somehow ineffably non-susceptible to empirical investigation.

  15. David Marjanović, OM says

    Actually, I would suggest that several religions do focus on GWAR – UUs, the more humanist end of Judaism, many strains of Buddhism.

    There are also plenty of religions in vaguely central Africa (the indigenous one of Rwanda for instance) which have a GWAR creator — a deist figure who created the universe, hasn’t done anything since, and is above worship. These religions are chock full of lesser GAWDs, though.

  16. Paradox says

    There is a religion that worships GWAR: Taoism.

    The tao that can be told
    is not the eternal Tao
    The name that can be named
    is not the eternal Name.

    The unnamable is the eternally real.
    Naming is the origin
    of all particular things.

    Free from desire, you realize the mystery.
    Caught in desire, you see only the manifestations.

    Yet mystery and manifestations
    arise from the same source.
    This source is called darkness.

    Darkness within darkness.
    The gateway to all understanding.

    No where in any of the Taoist writings is the Tao personalized or shown to have any care for meddling in human affairs. Instead it is more akin to gravity or the flow of a river: you can jump or swim upstream, but in the end, fighting against its field force is fundamentally foolish.

  17. Erulóra (formerly KOPD) says

    Lawnboy:

    If God interacts with the universe, then where’s the evidence?
    If God doesn’t interact with the universe, then where’s the relevance?

    Oh, that’s good. +1

    No, that’s damn good.

  18. Sastra says

    Even the esoteric, mysterious, impersonal versions of God usually have a basic anthropomorphic element at their core — or they wouldn’t be labeled “God.” People will only feel reverence towards the “higher” (or transcendent or mysterious) force (Being, essence) if it has mental properties: emotions and/or values, a drive towards a goal, a way things are meant to be. Even the Tao, I think, is imbued with some mind-like characteristics.

  19. Steve Allison says

    I am thrilled that there are still people who would count themselves Skeptics, Agnostics, Materialists, Atheists, etc. that have any interest at all in seeking truth about GOD (I think I will stick to that spelling for now). While I find the definitions offered to be predictably incomplete, the one that gets closest to the GOD I worship and know is GAWD (Gods as working deities or GAWD.) I have copied the GAWD definition and offered my thoughts in Parentheses Below:
    GAWD is an interventionist (not quite; this implies that God was somehow at one time disconnected from Creation; He never has been); it (‘it’? The God I know Is One in 3 Persons, not an ‘it’, although through this depersonalization it may be easier to discount any of the clues God has left for anyone to ponder) may have (DID)created the universe, it (God) has power in the real world, it (God) has a personal interest in (Make that personal, perfect LOVE FOR)human beings and planet Earth. GAWD can (DOES) answer personal requests, GAWD can (DOES) carry out miracles, GAWD must be propitiated by thoughts and rituals lest GAWD become wrathful(ooops – the GOD I know WAS – no – MADE HIMSELF – the propitiation for all of our violations of God’s Laws – Our efforts ‘propitiate’ nothing) …which is a bad thing that can have dire results in the real world. GAWD is what most religions are about, it’s what most people worship(sad but true – IF only this GOD I know were the consistent focus/object of human acts of worship, and not some part of creation!). GAWD is usually portrayed as an omnipotent, omniscient (Lets not forget, in GOD’s case, Self Existent, unchanging, limitless, free from defect, Righteous, Just, eternal, Absolutely Sovereign, good, Loving, Gracious, merciful and patient) being who is greater than and beyond the universe, but he keeps a hand in and dabbles (dabbles – really?) with virgins and foreskins and sends the occasional tornado and earthquake (you left out fire, blood, frogs, locusts, and oh yeah, Manna (daily food supply), donkeys, sheep, pigs, and fig trees). (Another important omission; GOD is Omnipresent; and out of LOVE is never out of touch with the creation with whom he longs to have a relationship). (This in part describes the GOD I know, the GOD who started ‘it’ (name ‘it’, God started ‘it’), The God Who I love because This God first loved me… This is not meant to be a defense of GOD. The GOD I know has always been able to take of Himself. This is simply a faith statement; what is yours?

  20. Steve Allison says

    I am thrilled that there are still people who would count themselves Skeptics, Agnostics, Materialists, Atheists, etc. that have any interest at all in seeking truth about GOD (I think I will stick to that spelling for now). While I find the definitions offered to be predictably incomplete, the one that gets closest to the GOD I worship and know is GAWD (Gods as working deities or GAWD.) I have copied the GAWD definition and offered my thoughts in Parentheses Below:
    GAWD is an interventionist (not quite; this implies that God was somehow at one time disconnected from Creation; He never has been); it (‘it’? The God I know Is One in 3 Persons, not an ‘it’, although through this depersonalization it may be easier to discount any of the clues God has left for anyone to ponder) may have (DID)created the universe, it (God) has power in the real world, it (God) has a personal interest in (Make that personal, perfect LOVE FOR)human beings and planet Earth. GAWD can (DOES) answer personal requests, GAWD can (DOES) carry out miracles, GAWD must be propitiated by thoughts and rituals lest GAWD become wrathful(ooops – the GOD I know WAS – no – MADE HIMSELF – the propitiation for all of our violations of God’s Laws – Our efforts ‘propitiate’ nothing) …which is a bad thing that can have dire results in the real world. GAWD is what most religions are about, it’s what most people worship(sad but true – IF only this GOD I know were the consistent focus/object of human acts of worship, and not some part of creation!). GAWD is usually portrayed as an omnipotent, omniscient (Lets not forget, in GOD’s case, Self Existent, unchanging, limitless, free from defect, Righteous, Just, eternal, Absolutely Sovereign, good, Loving, Gracious, merciful and patient) being who is greater than and beyond the universe, but he keeps a hand in and dabbles (dabbles – really?) with virgins and foreskins and sends the occasional tornado and earthquake (you left out fire, blood, frogs, locusts, and oh yeah, Manna (daily food supply), donkeys, sheep, pigs, and fig trees). (Another important omission; GOD is Omnipresent; and out of LOVE is never out of touch with the creation with whom he longs to have a relationship). (This in part describes the GOD I know, the GOD who started ‘it’ (name ‘it’, God started ‘it’), The God Who I love because This God first loved me… This is not meant to be a defense of GOD. The GOD I know has always been able to take of Himself. This is simply a faith statement; what is yours?

  21. Paradox says

    Even the Tao, I think, is imbued with some mind-like characteristics.

    I’ve all the Taoist cannon that has been translated into English and can’t find any. Care to cite?

    Using this translation (not the best, but is free and easy): http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/core9/phalsall/texts/taote-v3.html

    The Tao is like a well:
    used but never used up.
    It is like the eternal void:
    filled with infinite possibilities.

    It is hidden but always present.
    I don’t know who gave birth to it.
    It is older than God.

    The Tao doesn’t take sides;
    it gives birth to both good and evil.
    The Master doesn’t take sides;
    she welcomes both saints and sinners.

    The Tao is like a bellows:
    it is empty yet infinitely capable.
    The more you use it, the more it produces;
    the more you talk of it, the less you understand.

    The Tao is called the Great Mother:
    empty yet inexhaustible,
    it gives birth to infinite worlds.

    The Tao is infinite, eternal.
    Why is it eternal?
    It was never born;
    thus it can never die.
    Why is it infinite?
    It has no desires for itself;
    thus it is present for all beings.

    When the great Tao is forgotten,
    goodness and piety appear.
    When the body’s intelligence declines,
    cleverness and knowledge step forth.
    When there is no peace in the family,
    filial piety begins.
    When the country falls into chaos,
    patriotism is born.

    The Master keeps her mind
    always at one with the Tao;
    that is what gives her her radiance.

    The Tao is ungraspable.
    How can her mind be at one with it?
    Because she doesn’t cling to ideas.

    The Tao is dark and unfathomable.
    How can it make her radiant?
    Because she lets it.

    Since before time and space were,
    the Tao is.
    It is beyond is and is not.
    How do I know this is true?
    I look inside myself and see.

    The Master, by residing in the Tao,
    sets an example for all beings.
    Because he doesn’t display himself,
    people can see his light.
    Because he has nothing to prove,
    people can trust his words.
    Because he doesn’t know who he is,
    people recognize themselves in him.
    Because he has no goad in mind,
    everything he does succeeds.

    If you open yourself to the Tao,
    you are at one with the Tao
    and you can embody it completely.
    If you open yourself to insight,
    you are at one with insight
    and you can use it completely.
    If you open yourself to loss,
    you are at one with loss
    and you can accept it completely.

    Open yourself to the Tao,
    then trust your natural responses;
    and everything will fall into place.

    If you want to accord with the Tao,
    just do your job, then let go.

    There was something formless and perfect
    before the universe was born.
    It is serene. Empty.
    Solitary. Unchanging.
    Infinite. Eternally present.
    It is the mother of the universe.
    For lack of a better name,
    I call it the Tao.

    It flows through all things,
    inside and outside, and returns
    to the origin of all things.

    The Tao is great.
    The universe is great.
    Earth is great.
    Man is great.
    These are the four great powers.

    Man follows the earth.
    Earth follows the universe.
    The universe follows the Tao.
    The Tao follows only itself.

    Whoever relies on the Tao in governing men
    doesn’t try to force issues
    or defeat enemies by force of arms.
    For every force there is a counterforce.
    Violence, even well intentioned,
    always rebounds upon oneself.

    The Master does his job
    and then stops.
    He understands that the universe
    is forever out of control,
    and that trying to dominate events
    goes against the current of the Tao.
    Because he believes in himself,
    he doesn’t try to convince others.
    Because he is content with himself,
    he doesn’t need others’ approval.
    Because he accepts himself,
    the whole world accepts him.

    The Tao can’t be perceived.
    Smaller than an electron,
    it contains uncountable galaxies.

    All things end in the Tao
    as rivers flow into the sea.

    The great Tao flows everywhere.
    All things are born from it,
    yet it doesn’t create them.
    It pours itself into its work,
    yet it makes no claim.
    It nourishes infinite worlds,
    yet it doesn’t hold on to them.
    Since it is merged with all things
    and hidden in their hearts,
    it can be called humble.
    Since all things vanish into it
    and it alone endures,
    it can be called great.
    It isn’t aware of its greatness;
    thus it is truly great.

    The Tao never does anything,
    yet through it all things are done.

    When the Tao is lost, there is goodness.
    When goodness is lost, there is morality.
    When morality is lost, there is ritual.
    Ritual is the husk of true faith,
    the beginning of chaos.

    When man interferes with the Tao,
    the sky becomes filthy,
    the earth becomes depleted,
    the equilibrium crumbles,
    creatures become extinct.

    Return is the movement of the Tao.
    Yielding is the way of the Tao.

    When a superior man hears of the Tao,
    he immediately begins to embody it.
    When an average man hears of the Tao,
    he half believes it, half doubts it.
    When a foolish man hears of the Tao,
    he laughs out loud.
    If he didn’t laugh,
    it wouldn’t be the Tao.

    The Tao is nowhere to be found.
    Yet it nourishes and completes all things.

    In pursuit of knowledge,
    every day something is added.
    In the practice of the Tao,
    every day something is dropped.
    Less and less do you need to force things,
    until finally you arrive at non-action.
    When nothing is done,
    nothing is left undone.

    Every being in the universe
    is an expression of the Tao.
    It springs into existence,
    unconscious, perfect, free,
    takes on a physical body,
    lets circumstances complete it.
    That is why every being
    spontaneously honors the Tao.

    The Tao gives birth to all beings,
    nourishes them, maintains them,
    cares for them, comforts them, protects them,
    takes them back to itself,
    creating without possessing,
    acting without expecting,
    guiding without interfering.
    That is why love of the Tao
    is in the very nature of things.

    Be like the Tao.
    It can’t be approached or withdrawn from,
    benefited or harmed,
    honored or brought into disgrace.
    It gives itself up continually.
    That is why it endures.

    If you want to be a great leader,
    you must learn to follow the Tao.
    Stop trying to control.
    Let go of fixed plans and concepts,
    and the world will govern itself.

    The Tao is always at ease.
    It overcomes without competing,
    answers without speaking a word,
    arrives without being summoned,
    accomplishes without a plan.

    Its net covers the whole universe.
    And though its meshes are wide,
    it doesn’t let a thing slip through.

    As it acts in the world, the Tao
    is like the bending of a bow.
    The top is bent downward;
    the bottom is bent up.
    It adjusts excess and deficiency
    so that there is perfect balance.
    It takes from what is too much
    and give to what isn’t enough.

    To be fair though, the only people that would call Taoism a religion are non-Taoists ;)

  22. DFS says

    @ Sastra Agreed. In order for a god concept to be relevant it pretty much has to have some anthropomorphic characteristics. I run across plenty of New Agers who say smugly “I don’t believe in God..you know white man in the sky with a beard, but I believe in the Universe…blah blah” then go on to describe the Universe in anthropomorphic terms.

    @ Steve Allen. We don’t have statements of “faith”.

  23. gillt says

    Let’s see you defend your faith, priest.

    I cannot help but read this with the voice of the possessed Regan in The Exorcist.

  24. b00ger says

    @ Steve Allen

    My statement of Faith is to not have any. I do not consider “faith” to be a virtue. Also, use some line spacing if you’re gonna have a really long post. When I see a wall of text I immediately think “nutter.”

  25. Rich Woods says

    @Steve Allen:

    You claim that the god you know made himself the propitiation of all our violations of his laws; you also claim that your god is eternal, unchanging and without defect. Which one is it to be?

    > This is not meant to be a defense of GOD

    Strange. It reads very much like one.

    > This is simply a faith statement

    It is indeed a statement of faith. But if I were to say that I had faith in the fairies at the bottom of my garden, what would you think of me?

  26. chigau () says

    Steve Allison #25

    (Lets not forget, in GOD’s case, Self Existent, unchanging, limitless, free from defect, Righteous, Just, eternal, Absolutely Sovereign, good, Loving, Gracious, merciful and patient)

    Is there a difference between those characteristics that begin with capital letters and those that don’t?
    .
    .
    .
    Steve Allison #26

    (Lets not forget, in GOD’s case, Self Existent, unchanging, limitless, free from defect, Righteous, Just, eternal, Absolutely Sovereign, good, Loving, Gracious, merciful and patient)

    Is there a difference between those characteristics that begin with capital letters and those that don’t?

  27. Scrawny Kayaker says

    Kinda-sorta tangential to this topic: I’m surprised there’s not already a post on the story this morning from Nice Polite Republicans by Barbara Bradley Haggerty. It was a little less awful than usual for her, in that while it was completely credulous, it did at least describe a conflict between unthinking and limited-thinking Xtians.

    But it contained at least a couple of Gumby-blockquote-worthy bits. My favorite:

    “If so, that’s simply the price we’ll have to pay,” says Southern Baptist seminary’s Albert Mohler. “The moment you say ‘We have to abandon this theology in order to have the respect of the world,’ you end up with neither biblical orthodoxy nor the respect of the world.”

    Mohler and others say if other Protestants want to accommodate science, fine. But they shouldn’t be surprised if their faith unravels.

    No they shouldn’t. Welcome to the grown-up view of the world!

  28. Scrawny Kayaker says

    Oops, sorry, there’s only supposed to be one G in Hagerty. Wouldn’t want to insult her husband/master.

  29. ThirdMonkey says

    Mohler and others say if other Protestants want to accommodate science, fine. But they shouldn’t be surprised if their faith unravels.

    Yeah… That should really tell you something.

  30. Scrawny Kayaker says

    Actually, I take it back. If it was less-awful-than-usual, she’d have included a quote from a former evangelical saying, “Yeah, I had to admit science was right about evolution and astronomy so the Bible wasn’t literally true, and eventually to admit that none of it was true.”

    Going all-in may not have been the point of her story, but it should have been mentioned as a real outcome for real people.

  31. Loqi says

    @Steve Allison
    Your parenthetical rebuttals start off as saying “nuh uh” over and over again, and then turn into you repeating “god is perfect” over and over again. You aren’t going to convince anyone of a god’s existence by repeatedly telling them it loves them over and over again. You were left off the debate team in high school, weren’t you?

  32. gillt says

    @Rich Woods, That works too. And if there is any doubt, I meant it as a compliment–the wording itself is refreshingly sacrilegious.

  33. Sines says

    *sigh* Let’s make this straight. Let’s propose a certain god for purpose of argument.

    Hippocratic God. This god exists outside our universe, and cannot be observed, directly or indirectly, by humans, no matter how much we advance in our technology or wisdom. This god has one known attribute. When a prayer is said to it, wishing for the improvement of health of an individual, that person benefits from an immediate recovery. Even limbs can be regrown.

    Now, if prayers said to this hippocratic god always result in healing, then we cannot confirm the existence of the hippocratic god, because he is indeed outside of existence. It could be a different god outside of existence (We’d have no way of telling, we cannot even indirectly observe them in any way). Or it could be some intelligence that we might be able to observe, we just haven’t yet.

    On the other hand, if the prayers aren’t answered… then we can conclude this god doesn’t exist. We don’t need to observe every detail of the god to know that if events we can observe do not match up with what we would expect were this god to exist, then we can say this god doesn’t exist. A god LIKE it may exist, similar to the god in every catagorey except those which we observe not to be true. However, since those attributes are beyond are observation anyway, then we cannot know for certain.

    This is why I can reject the Abrahamic God wholesale, while I cannot reject the Deists God. The Abrahamic God makes specific predictions about reality. Prayers will be answered. The Earth is flat. Not all of the people of ~30 AD will die before Jesus returns. Et cetera. While we may not be able to observe the deity of Abraham directly, if the things we can observe directly do not match up with the model we would have with his existence, then we can conclude he doesn’t exist.

    By all means, keep your god in the phantom zone. But if he is a meaningful deity in any way, he is testable. And not one deity of the worlds major religions has passed his tests. And no recently proposed deity who fits the world we see, has any predictive capability. The sole exception, is the deist god. A god who doesn’t matter at all.

  34. UpAgainstTheRopes says

    Why the Bishop is not an atheist?

    Captain Obvious says not even Episcopalians allow out atheists to be bishops.

  35. says

    Declining to engage in discussions about the existence or nonexistence of God with anyone who isn’t able to clearly define the word “god” is a big time-saver.

  36. Ibis3, féministe avec un titre française de fantaisie says

    This discrepancy goes back to the first century when some of the early Christians wanted to expand into Gentile territory. The GAWD of the Jews just wouldn’t cut it in educated Helleno-Roman circles whose god was closer to how you describe GAWR (popularly, a neo-Platonic ideal Good with the complete omni-package). Christians etc. want to have their biblical Yahweh and their transcendent First Mover too. The two are completely different religious concepts from completely different cultures. Unlike making equivalents of Zeus & Jupiter or Venus & Freya, the fit is much more difficult to maintain without resorting to the yo-yo approach.

  37. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    I notice that in #25 and 26 Steve Allison gives all kinds of attributes to his GAWD. I also notice he neglects to give any kind of evidence to support his faith. Is anyone surprised at this?

  38. freemage says

    As an actual believer in a GWAR, I’d like to thank you for this post. It’s not a scientific or skeptically supported belief, it’s a purely aesthetic one. That said, this post also makes it clear why, whenever the issue is political or social, I end up siding with the atheists and against the GAWD-bots.

  39. Sines says

    Good sir Steve, of posts 25 and the accidental repost of 26… you seem to think PZ Myers is talking about your god. His presented concept of GAWD is a generic one. One that is meant to fit most deities believed in by the religions of the world. That is why ‘might have created the world’ is a maybe statement. Because some gods (usually in polytheistic religions) are not creator gods. ‘It’ is used because english lacks a gender neutral pronoun to refer to persons. It is used for lack of a better term to be allowed to refer to male, female, or sexless deities, without having to constantly write ‘he or she’ or something even more confusing to include sexless deities.

    GAWD is not a solely christian concept. It is not even solely Abrahamic.

  40. consciousness razor says

    Paradox, #21:

    There is a religion that worships GWAR: Taoism.

    Why would you think that? No, don’t just quote the Tao Te Ching again, without even reading it for comprehension. Why?

    . . .

    Paradox, #28, quoting more of the Tao Te Ching:

    The Tao doesn’t take sides;
    it gives birth to both good and evil.

    If so, then it’s not a GWAR. It interacts with the physical world by giving birth to things in it. Even if it only interacts with abstract concepts like good and evil, it is meaningless unless good and evil have real physical manifestations.

    The Master doesn’t take sides;
    she welcomes both saints and sinners.

    If it/she “welcomes” anything, it is an agent with a mind. Presumably the Tao does not have a brain, which in the physical world is necessary for a mind.

    The Tao is like a bellows:
    it is empty yet infinitely capable.

    Capable of what? If the Tao doesn’t interact, what does the Tao do and how does the Tao do it?

    The Tao gives birth to all beings,
    nourishes them, maintains them,
    cares for them, comforts them, protects them,
    takes them back to itself,
    creating without possessing,
    acting without expecting,
    guiding without interfering.
    That is why love of the Tao
    is in the very nature of things.

    Again, agents with minds do this sort of stuff, which requires interaction. This assertion that the Tao is “guiding without interfering” is nonsensical. It’s magic woo-speak for “it interacts, but it’s really good at hiding from non-believers.” It isn’t a paradox, but a straight-up contradiction. You could demonstrate otherwise, of course, but I predict that you won’t.

    To be fair though, the only people that would call Taoism a religion are non-Taoists ;)

    Is it just a coincidence that the only people who aren’t deluded by Taoism are non-Taoists? A paradox? What?

  41. consciousness razor says

    freemage:

    As an actual believer in a GWAR, I’d like to thank you for this post. It’s not a scientific or skeptically supported belief, it’s a purely aesthetic one.

    That’s a meaningless statement. You can’t have a “purely aesthetic” belief. If you can, then you could explain why I’m wrong. Go right ahead. I’m listening.

    Would you like to tell us what your GWAR is? Also, how did you come to think it exists, or might exist, or that we can’t know it doesn’t exist? (Whatever the case may be.) You probably also have to explain what you mean by “exist.”

  42. Sastra says

    Paradox wrote:

    I’ve all the Taoist cannon that has been translated into English and can’t find any (mind-like characteristics.) Care to cite?

    Thanks for the generous quote: I see strong implications of mind/mind products.

    “it gives birth to both good and evil.”
    “It has no desires for itself;
    thus it is present for all beings.

    When the great Tao is forgotten,
    goodness and piety appear.
    When the body’s intelligence declines,
    cleverness and knowledge step forth.

    The Tao seems to distinguish between good and evil; it is connected to desire, goodness, piety, intelligence, etc. “Residing in the Tao” leads a person to become like the Tao — calm, serene, accepting. These are psychological characteristics. Best I can make out the Tao seems to be a sort of mental state which permeates all things. It’s not reality itself, because you have to “open” yourself to it

    “For every force there is a counterforce.
    Violence, even well intentioned,
    always rebounds upon oneself.”

    Okay, if the Tao has to do with some sort of harmonious karmic balance of human-centered concerns like good and evil, then it’s connected to those concerns, distinguishes between them, like a mind. A mindless material nature would not ensure that violence WILL always rebound.

    The Tao gives birth to all beings,
    nourishes them, maintains them,
    cares for them, comforts them, protects them,
    takes them back to itself,
    creating without possessing,
    acting without expecting,
    guiding without interfering.

    This is anthropomorphism. You can say it’s just a metaphor, but it’s an anthropomorphic metaphor.

    It adjusts excess and deficiency
    so that there is perfect balance.
    It takes from what is too much
    and give to what isn’t enough.

    Again, the idea that there must be a “perfect balance” involves an aspect of mental judgement. The Tao is much more like a living thing — like a flow of Vital Energy — than it is like electricity or gravity. With the Tao, human interests like love and hate and justice and harmony appear to go all the way down to the very heart of reality. It’s that “heart” aspect, emotional aspect, which is connected to things with a mind.

    I think the description of the Tao is filled with a lot of “deepities” — statements which can be read two ways. One interpretation is true but trivial, meaning that you can turn it into a reasonable natural atheist-friendly statement. The other interpretation is extraordinary but false — supernaturalism. Deepities trade on this ambiguity: when the extraordinary implication is questioned, suddenly it turns out that no no, all that was really meant was the most prosaic interpretation. Except that’s not really true. Otherwise, why all the fuss?

    God is a deepity; spirituality is a deepity. So, I think, is the Tao. You can secularize it — just like you can secularize “god” and “spirituality” — but the secularization is a defensive maneuver. It involves the products, and has the characteristics, of a mind.

  43. Sastra says

    Steve Allison wrote:

    This is not meant to be a defense of GOD. The GOD I know has always been able to take of Himself. This is simply a faith statement; what is yours?

    Is it possible that you might be wrong about what you think you “know” about God — or does you faith ultimately lie in yourself?

    You don’t have to defend God. We see only you — and what you claim.

  44. John Morales says

    When a superior man hears of the Tao,
    he immediately begins to embody it.
    When an average man hears of the Tao,
    he half believes it, half doubts it.
    When a foolish man hears of the Tao,
    he laughs out loud.
    If he didn’t laugh,
    it wouldn’t be the Tao.

    (So transparent)

  45. binjabreel says

    Tao is pretty firmly GWAR: The Tao that can be named is not the true Tao.

    But a lot of old religions were, just none of them mattered for long. The Aristotelian Prime Mover is GWAR. The early Jewish philosophical God was GWAR. The god of Islamic falsafah was GWAR.

    But like I said, none of those mattered for long, because what the common people want is a petty, small deity who hates the same people they hate.

  46. Lord Shplanington, Not A Frenchman says

    @binjabreel

    Except for all those quotes up there that show that it’s not.

    But hey, we can ignore those. It’s not like people should be expected to actually follow the religious texts that they consider to be the source of all morality.

  47. Sastra says

    GWAR isn’t just a reaction to challenge: I suspect it is also derived from those not uncommon mystical experiences which fire off the neurons in those sections of the brain which give a sense of profundity and meaning, or differentiate between self and not-self. You are filled with an indescribable sense of deep discovery as the inner world of thought and experience blurs into the outer world of object and event. People then fasten the sensation onto the simplest interpretation: the entire cosmos is somehow very much like them, and vice versa. How much like them, depends on how much they need it — or want it — to be like them.

  48. Rey Fox says

    If it helps, picture me all cherub-cheeked and eager, sitting impatiently at my desk with my doe-eyes wide and anticipating, batting my lashes at you and doing my very best to hide my fangs behind a cheerful smile.

    I don’t think you want him to imagine you as a small child, PZ.

    Steve Allison:

    This is simply a faith statement; what is yours?

    Ain’t got one, don’t need one. I’d have to hit myself in the head pretty hard to want to invent nonsense like you did and then profess faith in it.

  49. consciousness razor says

    Tao is pretty firmly GWAR: The Tao that can be named is not the true Tao.

    If it really is incomprehensible, then you can’t believe in it — you believe only what you can comprehend. So, the Tao that Taoists believe exists is a GAWD, not a GWAR. Either that, or Taoists know they’re bullshitters and continue to spew bullshit. This is the same, tired Sophisticated Theology™ you’ll find in every other religion: no, they don’t believe in that crude thing. Heavens, no, they’re much too sophisticated. They have no idea what they believe, and that is the wonderful magical thing they believe.

    *eyeroll*

  50. kantalope says

    Per Steve Allison: God is not an it. Does or does god not have a wangdangdoodle? If god does have said wang, what is its purpose? Certainly if god has a wang there is some other goddess somewhere with the appropriate receptacle OR Mary was not a virgin and well if the supreme ruler of the universe and some peasant from Bethlehem does not represent some kind of difference in power then nothing would. If god is indeed wangless, that would qualify for itness. If god is gonna be anthropomorphic these are the kind of problems that are erected.

    Then there is some crazyness about how god does indeed answer prayer and miracles and requires rituals or obedience…or he doesn’t? Steve’s formatting makes this kinda unclear.

    But – if the gawd like god answers prayers, that should be measurable: thing prayed for happens. Count prayers, count when thing happens / compare to when thing happens without prayer. That fraction should be more than one…and significantly so. But folks have measured and measured and no evidence can be found that prayer has any more (or less) effect than doing nothing at all. Case and point…Rick Perry prays for rain in Texas and well, apparently Rick is not god’s first choice for prezzy.

    Then there is that god is love…except when he doesn’t love you and sends you to ETERNAL torture. Which is the kind of love usually reserved for the popular reruns of COPS.

    Steve, instead of just stating what you have faith in…say why you believe it. Knowing WHY is really more than half the battle.

    And the legumes thing on the GWAR page made me lol. “What do you mean when you say legumes wear assless chaps?”

  51. Erulóra (aka KOPD) says

    Steve, instead of just stating what you have faith in…say why you believe it.

    Which happens to be the title of this post. To be honest, I couldn’t even read Steve’s wall of text. I tried twice.

  52. says

    I notice that in #25 and 26 Steve Allison gives all kinds of attributes to his GAWD. I also notice he neglects to give any kind of evidence to support his faith. Is anyone surprised at this?

    In a word: No.

    Although he might have been hoping that eyes would glaze over reading that wall-o-text write-a-mess and miss the lack of any credible evidence.

  53. says

    GWAR isn’t just a reaction to challenge: I suspect it is also derived from those not uncommon mystical experiences which fire off the neurons in those sections of the brain which give a sense of profundity and meaning, or differentiate between self and not-self. You are filled with an indescribable sense of deep discovery as the inner world of thought and experience blurs into the outer world of object and event. People then fasten the sensation onto the simplest interpretation: the entire cosmos is somehow very much like them, and vice versa.

    You mean god is shrooms?

    I had exactly that experience, once, but I knew that a) I had eaten a bunch of shrooms and my neurochemistry was not normal b) I was not falling upwards into the night sky because – even though I thought I was – there was no way Earth’s gravitational field would reverse itself like that and c) Even if Earth’s gravitational field reversed itself, Pink Floyd would not be the theme music.

    Hyperbole aside, one of the fun things to ask the faithful is how they can distinguish their sense of “knowledge” about god from simply being mistaken. Most humans have had the experience of being mistaken; it’s remarkably similar to the feeling of having faith. How do you tell them apart? (This is one of Sextus Empiricus’ tropes of Pyrronian skepticism, ~150AD, old-school skepticism FTW)

  54. says

    You can’t have a “purely aesthetic” belief.

    I’ve often wondered about that. I think it’s possible – the idea would be that you hold a belief for aesthetic reasons or simply because it’s entertaining. Perhaps one could hold a belief as a sort of performance art or as a means of adopting a label to apply to oneself.

    My father used to attend a particular church simply because he likes the music and really likes the incense, and it gives him a chance to dress up and go out – sort of like dinner and a movie only subsidized by being tax-free. His feeling was always that if a lot of people want to get together, wear big hats and gold dresses, and sing pretty songs and connect with strangers, that’s not a bad idea. When I was a teenager I told him about the church scene in Tommy and he said “exactly.” So, yeah, if Clapton was going to play a stratocaster from a pulpit in the cathedral of Notre Dame I’d go if I could get in the door. For the aesthetics of it.

  55. says

    I think the dichotomy between GAWD and GWAR is, while potentially useful as a rough model for debate with believers, a false and artificial one. I don’t think that believers’ brains think of supernatural entities in these binary terms of it either does something for me or it doesn’t and has mere aesthetic or mystic attributes. And I agree with Sastra that even the most spaced-out GWAR subscriber would usually still assign at least some kind of material effect to their entity.
    This is why I like the term supernaturalist, because then one can deal with it without these artificial distinctions between interventionist or non-interventionist. A supernaturalist believes in something that isn’t there, or for which exists no evidence or no explanation through natural laws, fullstop. And then it becomes irrelevant whether it answers phonecalls or sends tornadoes, or not.

  56. says

    You can’t have a “purely aesthetic” belief.

    I’ve often wondered about that. I think it’s possible – the idea would be that you hold a belief for aesthetic reasons or simply because it’s entertaining. Perhaps one could hold a belief as a sort of performance art or as a means of adopting a label to apply to oneself.

    That’s how I feel about using Tarot cards. Went through a New Agey phase back around high school/early college years, but I’ve kept the cards since. I’ve got a couple of sets that I keep for purely aesthetic reasons (the gilded edged Salvador Dali set is quite lovely), and I’ll occasionally lay them out and give myself a “reading” as a meditation tool. It’s fairly useful in that regard and I still find it fun, keeping in mind that I’m not predicting my future or tapping into some nebulous cosmic force.

    I’ll even occasionally break them out at parties and read palms, just for fun – I’m just sure to make it clear before I do so that it’s JUST FOR FUN and not meant to be taken seriously in any way. Whenever I seem to hit something close to the mark, it’s actually a good way to talk about “cold readings”, basic observation, remind people of the fact that I’m usually taking what I already know about them, and that I’m a writer so telling plausible stories is part of the territory. For anyone who puts more stock into things like palm reading and tarot as more than fun, I hope that pointing out things like that will stick in the back of their mind before they go out to pay someone for a “reading.”

  57. Paradox says

    Why would you think that? No, don’t just quote the Tao Te Ching again, without even reading it for comprehension. Why?

    Pretty strong accusations for one who has some serious misunderstandings of the text.

    The Tao doesn’t take sides;
    it gives birth to both good and evil.

    If so, then it’s not a GWAR. It interacts with the physical world by giving birth to things in it. Even if it only interacts with abstract concepts like good and evil, it is meaningless unless good and evil have real physical manifestations.

    Why would it be meaningless unless good and evil have real physical manifestations?

    The Master doesn’t take sides;
    she welcomes both saints and sinners.

    If it/she “welcomes” anything, it is an agent with a mind. Presumably the Tao does not have a brain, which in the physical world is necessary for a mind.

    “The Master” as used throughout the Tao Te Ching refers not to the Tao (which is always referred to as the “Tao”), but instead refers to a human who embodies the Tao.

    The Tao is like a bellows:
    it is empty yet infinitely capable.

    Capable of what? If the Tao doesn’t interact, what does the Tao do and how does the Tao do it?

    Exactly. GWAR.

    The Tao gives birth to all beings,
    nourishes them, maintains them,
    cares for them, comforts them, protects them,
    takes them back to itself,
    creating without possessing,
    acting without expecting,
    guiding without interfering.
    That is why love of the Tao
    is in the very nature of things.

    Again, agents with minds do this sort of stuff, which requires interaction. This assertion that the Tao is “guiding without interfering” is nonsensical. It’s magic woo-speak for “it interacts, but it’s really good at hiding from non-believers.” It isn’t a paradox, but a straight-up contradiction. You could demonstrate otherwise, of course, but I predict that you won’t.

    Really? What makes you think Taoists read their literature as literally as an inbred Southern Baptist reads the bible? Darwin gave birth to evolution. Poetry nourishes me. The earth maintains the sky. The sun cares for the moon. The rain comforts the forest. My home protects me. The soil takes me back into myself.

    And that isn’t even getting into translation errors. Johnathan Star’s translation says:

    “Tao gives all things life, Te gives them fulfillment
    Nature is what shapes them
    Living is what brings them to completion
    Every creature honors Tao and worships Te
    not by force, but through its own living and breathing

    Though Tao gives life to all things, Te is what cultivates the
    Te is that magic power that raises and rears them
    completes and prepares them
    comforts and protects them.”

    He translates Te as virtue/power.

    And yes there is lots of apparent nonsensical passages throughout Taoism, and not just from Lao Tzu. It is a bit like Zen Koans: how do you explain that which cannot be explained? You push language to the breaking point such that the indescribable flickers in your peripheral vision. Poetry.

    Granted, there is lots of magic woo-speak in Taoism (unless you want to talk about the Ultimate Reality Sect), but even the hard core alchemist sects don’t talk about the Tao doing anything directly and consciously: it is up to the disciple to cultivate chi, shen, and jing and embody the spirit of the Tao in order to become a Taoist Immortal.

    The Tao is GWAR.

    Is it just a coincidence that the only people who aren’t deluded by Taoism are non-Taoists? A paradox? What?

    I wouldn’t know, I can’t say I’ve ever met a Taoist.

  58. consciousness razor says

    I’ve often wondered about that. I think it’s possible – the idea would be that you hold a belief for aesthetic reasons or simply because it’s entertaining. Perhaps one could hold a belief as a sort of performance art or as a means of adopting a label to apply to oneself.

    That is not the kind of cognitive activity to which “belief” refers in this context.

    So, yeah, if Clapton was going to play a stratocaster from a pulpit in the cathedral of Notre Dame I’d go if I could get in the door. For the aesthetics of it.

    So would I. But that doesn’t mean I believe anything about any particular facts or what is true or false. The subject under discussion (originally, before the “believer” went on this weird tangent) was the existence of something. That is not in the same category as a belief in what is right or wrong (morally, aesthetically, legally, or whatever). It’s a statement about what you think there is.

    If I asked you, “do you believe God exists?”, your answer would have to be along the lines of “Yes, I believe seven gods exist; no more or less” or “No, I don’t believe so,” or “I have no clue what you’re talking about.” It wouldn’t be sensible to answer with something like, “church music sure is pretty.”

  59. consciousness razor says

    Why would it be meaningless unless good and evil have real physical manifestations?

    Name something good or evil, which actually exists and which has no physical manifestation of any kind. Give a single example. If you can’t do that, then you’re talking about nothing. Hot air. Word salad. Sophistry. Bullshit.

    “The Master” as used throughout the Tao Te Ching refers not to the Tao (which is always referred to as the “Tao”), but instead refers to a human who embodies the Tao.

    Right, but as an embodiment of the Tao, they are embodying qualities of the Tao. The Tao (here I mean the “true” Tao, which is supposed to be ineffable and GWAR-like) either has those properties or it doesn’t. If it does, then how can that possibly be the case? How could something which does not interact with the world have those sorts of properties? You can just talk about these abstractions, building up piles of bullshit upon bullshit, using whatever poetic metaphors you like. I quite like poetry. But if you think it reflects something about reality, you’re wrong unless you have some evidence and can explain how it works.

  60. Steve Allison says

    Why do I believe in the God that I described in part earlier?

    It is not, Rey Fox, because I decided to whack myself on the head and make up nonsense (an abject dismissal unworthy of you, really) about a God and THEN believe in Him (BTW – I do apologize for the ‘Him’ reference. God is MUCH more than ‘it’, or a ‘Him’, or a ‘Her’, so with no real suitable pronoun, I defer to the most consistently used one in the Bible, ‘Him’ (BTW – Kantalope – ‘wangdangdoodle’? Really?) Seriously, any attempted description by one who does not believe that I have ever read of the God of the Old and New Testament is woefully (hopefully not intentionally selectively) incomplete, and therefore the described god is unworthy of worship. That these who have made attempts at description of God don’t buy into the God they describe is actually of no surprise and a great relief to me.

    Why do I believe in the God that I described in part earlier?

    My Belief is not based on a system of proofs that are impossible to debate, any more than anyone else’s refutable reasons for what they believe in. It occurs to me that if God had allowed it to be possible for His existence and attributes to be irrefutably, inescapably proven, there would be no chance for a decision on the part of the human creation to believe or not, to either accept or reject God’s Love. That decision to believe is key to the possibility of relationship with this God, a ‘bottom line’ that emerges every time from any careful, inspired reading of the whole of scripture (BTW – Pint and KOPD, I invite you to reread my admittedly awkward original post – slowly and thoughtfully, as the literate people you appear to be are surely able.)

    Why do I believe in the God that I described in part earlier?

    Simply put – my core reasons for believing are based on God’s revelation of Himself to me – experiences I can neither measure nor ‘prove’ to someone else. These experiences are clarified and affirmed by what I read in Scripture. Therefore, I can not hope to ‘prove’ God to others or convince others to believe in Him by winning an argument. I can, however, trust that the God I have come to know, trust and love can and will reveal Himself to others according to His will, His time frame, not mine or even theirs.

    Sastra: “Is it possible that you might be wrong about what you think you “know” about God — or does you faith ultimately lie in yourself? You don’t have to defend God. We see only you — and what you claim.” What I know, what you know, what anybody knows, Sastra, is as incomplete and imperfect as we ourselves are and will always be. It is what we encounter, what we experience, what we are touched by (or not – yet) that shapes our beliefs. My role is not to convince another of the reality of God. My role is to Live and Love, Accept and Forgive according to the pattern of the God I have come to know.

  61. BorkMcfink says

    Who doesn’t worship GWAR? They rock! I saw them live last year and they were awesome. Also, unlike God, they exist.

  62. says

    Simply put – my core reasons for believing are based on God’s revelation of Himself to me – experiences I can neither measure nor ‘prove’ to someone else. These experiences are clarified and affirmed by what I read in Scripture.

    One of the more common gambits out there, and another reason I don’t like the GAWD/GWAR dichotomy. Argument from personal experience, the good old “I just know”. Unfortunately, this is worthless, in that it removes itself from any critical examination by being strictly subjective. This is about as useful or credible as “my orgasm last night lasted 45 minutes”. We have no way of knowing or testing the claim, but we have a suspicion that you are making shit up.

  63. John Morales says

    Steve Allison:

    It occurs to me that if God had allowed it to be possible for His existence and attributes to be irrefutably, inescapably proven, there would be no chance for a decision on the part of the human creation to believe or not, to either accept or reject God’s Love.

    It should have further occurred to you that this is a stupid contention because it’s backwards; it is only possible to accept or reject something if that something actually exists.

    All that exists is your contention that this thing you call “God’s Love” is real, and that’s what I reject, ‘cos it’s plain silly.

    PS What is this with the gendered deity business, anyway?

    It’s a supposedly a singular being, whyever would it be sexed?

    (Bah)

  64. Wowbagger, Madman of Insleyfarne says

    Steve Allison wrote:

    It occurs to me that if God had allowed it to be possible for His existence and attributes to be irrefutably, inescapably proven, there would be no chance for a decision on the part of the human creation to believe or not, to either accept or reject God’s Love.

    Pineapple on pizza – an execrable thing – exists, and yet I choose to not eat it. Likewise, if your vile monster god did exist, I would choose to spurn it as I would the proverbial rabid dog.

    So there goes that piece of shoddy rationalisation.

  65. John Morales says

    Steve Allison:

    [1] Simply put – my core reasons for believing are based on God’s revelation of Himself to me – experiences I can neither measure nor ‘prove’ to someone else. [2] These experiences are clarified and affirmed by what I read in Scripture. [3] Therefore, I can not hope to ‘prove’ God to others or convince others to believe in Him by winning an argument. [4] I can, however, trust that the God I have come to know, trust and love can and will reveal Himself to others according to His will, His time frame, not mine or even theirs.

    1. Your psychotic episodes made you theistic. Noted.

    (I think I’d seek help, were I to have one such, lest my fate be yours)

    2. Charles Manson found validation of his psychosis in the Beatles.

    3. Well, then, you’re in the wrong place; Gnu stomping field, this is.

    4. You trust that no matter what eventuates, your trust won’t be eroded since you had no expectations. Way to shield your faith! ;)

    PS So, does God have a penis?

    Does He pee out of it? Does he Wank?

    </sophisticated theological speculations>

  66. consciousness razor says

    Argument from personal experience, the good old “I just know”. Unfortunately, this is worthless, in that it removes itself from any critical examination by being strictly subjective.

    In this case, it’s also completely free of content (much like the rest of his comments). What does it mean that his belief is “based on God’s revelation of Himself to me”? Did he have a vision? Did he hear a voice? What happened?

    I sort of doubt he even has a specific experience in mind. It sounds more like a line he pulled out of the catechism than a personal experience. It’s probably just that he thinks that must have happened to him at one point or another, because that’s how this whole believing-in-God business is supposed to work.

    Now, Collins and his waterfall — that took a bit of creativity, not much, but a little. It was still pathetically stupid, but it was something.

    With shit like this…. I don’t know. What are we supposed to say? “Great, kid, good job. Something vague happened. Maybe you have a point, I guess. Someday we should all be so lucky as to have had such vague things happen.” What’s the fucking point?

  67. John Morales says

    Rorschach,

    More relevant, can god make a penis so big even he can’t wank it ?

    Ah, but one can apply Plantinga’s modal logic version of the ontological argument to show God must be the necessarily be the greatest possible wanker.

    </moar sophisticated theology>

  68. WogerWabbit says

    What I know, what you know, what anybody knows, Sastra, is as incomplete and imperfect as we ourselves are and will always be. It is what we encounter, what we experience, what we are touched by (or not – yet) that shapes our beliefs. My role is not to convince another of the reality of God. My role is to Live and Love, Accept and Forgive according to the pattern of the God I have come to know.

    Live and Love is all well and good, but if your knowledge of the God you describe is also, by your own admission, “incomplete and imperfect” and if everyone’s beliefs are shaped by their experiences, how can you claim to be certain? Shouldn’t it occur to you that there is atleast the possibility of being mistaken, no matter how profound you deem your experiences to be?

    Which was Sastra’s question originally and you havent answered it yet.

  69. Christophe Thill says

    Jesus Christ is fully human and fully God. He died and was resurrected from the dead.

    I was thinking that believers are fond of invoking such “general rules” as “everything must have a first cause”, but they never seem to reflect on the fact that you can’t “fully” be two different thiongs at the same time, especially if they’re opposites.

    Then it struck me.

    Quantum theology !!!

    “Fully human” and “fully God” are two superposed states. That’s the only way they can be present at the same time. And that’s what makes Jesus special, because who could ever claim to have quantic properties ? Humans are much bigger than elementary particles, that is, much too big (even if we take into account the fact that people were shorter at the time).

    As for the resurrection… very simple. It happened… and didn’t ! The tomb was actually a kind of Schrödinger’s box. In it, he was alive and dead ! Someone took a peek, and that made him remain in the “alive” state.

    OK, theologians, I think I gave you a nice idea here (and a good cop out). One of you should strike a deal with an expert, such as Deepak Chopra, and co-sign a treaty on Quantum Theology. And please don’t forget my royalties.

  70. quisquose says

    So, does God have a penis?

    Apparently it’s 12 inches long.

    But he doesn’t use it as a rule.

    God rules by himself.

  71. quisquose says

    It occurs to me that if God had allowed it to be possible for His existence and attributes to be irrefutably, inescapably proven, there would be no chance for a decision on the part of the human creation to believe or not, to either accept or reject God’s Love.

    Whilst that is logically valid, and is often put forward as an argument for why GAWD behaves like GWAR, it fails to convince anybody. Besides, you immediately contradict yourself when you go on to admit:

    my core reasons for believing are based on God’s revelation of Himself to me

    It cannot be both.

    Even if I was to accept that a god exists, he has provided me an existence where it is dangerous to believe things without evidence, why should it be any different with him? If he has set a test, how do you know that it is not actually to reward the rational mind rather than the deluded?

    If his test is to reward believers, and punish disbelievers, despite all rational thought leading towards the latter, then he is evil. If you are provided with evidence, as you claim, and I am not, despite genuine open-minded searching, then he is evil. Even if I felt that such a god existed, which I don’t, I could not worship such a god, all I could is pretend to worship a god because of fear.

  72. Tigger_the_Wing says

    Nobody ever answers the question. :-(

    “But why do you believe in Gawd?”

    When I really, really tried to answer the question, I found that there wasn’t any reason to believe in any god.

    Is that why no-one wants to answer it? Because they would have to examine their beliefs? Their unexamined beliefs bring them comfort and they are afraid that examining them will expose them for the smoke-and-mirrors they are?

  73. nemo the derv says

    @paradox

    So, in a nutshell, Tao is gwar
    couldn’t Tao also be the force?
    Does that mean George Lucas is god?

  74. Cosmic Teapot says

    If God interacts with the universe, then where’s the evidence?

    If God doesn’t interact with the universe, then where’s the relevance?

    Look over there, Elvis! Steals quote and runs.

    Ah, but one can apply Plantinga’s modal logic version of the ontological argument to show God must be the necessarily be the greatest possible wanker.

    Nah, I read the bible and worked it out for myself. :)

    Quantum theology !!!

    Exactly. Jesus said only god knows when the end of times will be, even Jesus didn’t know that. But Jesus is god, so he does know when it will be, while at the same time, he doesn’t.

  75. GravityIsJustATheory says

    Steve Allison wrote:

    It occurs to me that if God had allowed it to be possible for His existence and attributes to be irrefutably, inescapably proven, there would be no chance for a decision on the part of the human creation to believe or not, to either accept or reject God’s Love.

    Pineapple on pizza – an execrable thing – exists, and yet I choose to not eat it. Likewise, if your vile monster god did exist, I would choose to spurn it as I would the proverbial rabid dog.

    So there goes that piece of shoddy rationalisation.

    The Bible is full of stories of people being given undenyable proof of YHWH’s existance, and then either rejecting him (most noatable example: Satan), or following him and being held up as exemplars of faith (Abraham, Noah, Moses, etc).

    The original meaning of “faith” is something akin to “trust” or “loyalty” or “commitment”.

    The meme that “if we had proof of God, we couldn’t have faith” is just a cop-out by people who have been forced to accept that there is no proof (or even evidence).

  76. bayesian says

    I’m having a problem with both the GWAR and the GAWD that’s supposed to be outside of space and time. Aren’t both type of gods supposed to be agents/sentient beings? (If not, I really wouldn’t attach the word God to whatever it is.) And isn’t our modern understanding of agency and thinking that these concepts only have meaning as processes, i.e. as stuff that changes in time? Maybe it’s because I had problems picking up anything worthwile in philosophy classes or that I do not possess enough understanding of sophisticated theology (hah!). But I really can’t make any sense out of having any being outside of time. Is it just me?
    PS: Loved LawnBoy’s comment.

  77. Rev. BigDumbChimp says

    Simply put – my core reasons for believing are based on God’s revelation of Himself to me – experiences I can neither measure nor ‘prove’ to someone else. These experiences are clarified and affirmed by what I read in Scripture.

    So confirmation bias is the reason you believe in god?

    Awesome there.

  78. Erulóra (formerly KOPD) says

    Steve,

    My literacy is not the problem. It’s my lack of patience with incoherent sophisturbation.

  79. claimthehighground says

    From the earliest time GAWD had a nickname: GOG – the God Of the Gaps. When every observation was a gap, then GAWD and GOG (and his later islamic cousin MAGOG – Muslim Allah God Of the Gaps) were interchangeable. As the gaps closed in on them through scientific inquiry and evidence, GOG got squeezed and found new life as GWAD. Same deity, just reinvented in a new sophisticated version. It’s a little like dressing up creationism as ID and claiming the “all new, never seen before” proof of creation. If GWAD gets squeezed there will be yet another incarnation – GAWD or GWAD knows what it will be. As Yeats wrote: “And what rough beast, its hour come ’round at last, slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?”

  80. Antiochus Epiphanes says

    Steve Allison:

    This is simply a faith statement; what is yours?

    I believe I’ll have another.

  81. Paradox says

    Name something good or evil, which actually exists and which has no physical manifestation of any kind. Give a single example. If you can’t do that, then you’re talking about nothing. Hot air. Word salad. Sophistry. Bullshit.

    So you think good and evil actually exists? Good and evil are constructs of the human mind, born of our biological evolution as social primates. Alone, pretty much anything can eat us, together we fucking kick ass. We need the group. While self sacrifice for others doesn’t help the individual spread their genes, it does help the species thrive, therefore we label it “good”. While psychopathic self-centeredness does wonders for individual success, it can also completely wipe out the tribe, therefore we label it “evil”.

    But a true GWAR should be above and beyond such human constructs. Gravity doesn’t care if you are making love to your wife or raping a child, it will hold you down regardless. An all permeating yet aloof GWAR should be found in both the saint and sinner.

    Right, but as an embodiment of the Tao, they are embodying qualities of the Tao. The Tao (here I mean the “true” Tao, which is supposed to be ineffable and GWAR-like) either has those properties or it doesn’t. If it does, then how can that possibly be the case? How could something which does not interact with the world have those sorts of properties? You can just talk about these abstractions, building up piles of bullshit upon bullshit, using whatever poetic metaphors you like. I quite like poetry. But if you think it reflects something about reality, you’re wrong unless you have some evidence and can explain how it works.

    You think “not taking sides,” “acting without doing anything,” “teaching without saying anything,” are concrete qualities of a physical entity. Ok. Seems quite GWAR like to me.

    Concrete language is fine if you are describing Zeus’ extramarital affairs or the God of Abraham’s genocide fetish, but if you are honestly trying to describe a GWAR, beyond saying, “the GWAR that can be described with words isn’t the true GWAR,” you are going to have push language beyond the breaking point. If you think GWAD and GWAR are equally absurd, the resulting GWAR description will surely sound like piles of bullshit. But that doesn’t negate the fact that the people who wrote down those descriptions didn’t believe in the GWAR they tried to describe.

    Going back to PZ’s original post:

    Gods as working deities or GAWD. GAWD is an interventionist; it may have created the universe, it has power in the real world, it has a personal interest in human beings and planet Earth. GAWD can answer personal requests, GAWD can carry out miracles, GAWD must be propitiated by thoughts and rituals lest GAWD become wrathful

    The Tao doesn’t have personal interest in human beings and planet Earth any more than it could be said to have interest in any other living thing or any other planet. The Tao never answers personal requests. The Tao never carries out miracles (though miraculous abilities are attributed to humans that have expended exceptional efforts to cultivate their internal Taoness). The Tao is never wrathful, whether you do rituals or not.

    How again does the Tao qualify as a GWAD?

  82. Birger Johansson says

    A third option would be super-HAL (or the Eschaton). A cosmos-spanning intellect busy keeping the really big stuff in order, but quite uninterested in the everyday doings of middle-east (or Middle-Earth) people. And most of the time it would operate on time scales far beyong human life spans.

    Since such an entity would not be interested in prayers or churches, it would be practically the same as GWAR.

  83. Thomathy, now gayer and atheister says

    Paradox, if Tao doesn’t exist except as an abstract and no one worships that abstract, then what are you even arguing about? Tao would be neither a GAWD nor a GWAR. Why is it so necessary to insist that Tao is a deist’s god? It seems to me like you’re trying to describe a god-of-the-gaps or something that isn’t even in the category of ‘god’ at all. If the former, then it’s sophistry and if the latter, then you are wasting bandwidth. And the worst thing about it is that in either case, it’s bloody inane.

  84. Paradox says

    So, in a nutshell, Tao is gwar
    couldn’t Tao also be the force?
    Does that mean George Lucas is god?

    No more of a god than Lao Tzu.

    Paradox, if Tao doesn’t exist except as an abstract and no one worships that abstract, then what are you even arguing about? Tao would be neither a GAWD nor a GWAR. Why is it so necessary to insist that Tao is a deist’s god? It seems to me like you’re trying to describe a god-of-the-gaps or something that isn’t even in the category of ‘god’ at all. If the former, then it’s sophistry and if the latter, then you are wasting bandwidth. And the worst thing about it is that in either case, it’s bloody inane.

    I honestly wouldn’t qualify the Tao as a deist’s god. As I said in my initial post I see it as akin to a subtle field force. I’ve found that the concept of the Tao shocks the mind of diests even more than athesists and is generally defined by them to be “not a true god.” Yet Taoists have all the trappings of religion and revere, if not directly worship, a supernatural force that is very GWAD like. They are very sincere in their supernatural beliefs and have endured longer than most currently active religions. Whether or not you think they are full of shit, they do believe in “something out there” and their description of that “something” doesn’t come close to fitting the GAWD criteria.

    If you were to design a religion from the ground up to be based around a GWAD like entity, would it look like Taoism or like another of the many -isms created by humans?

  85. 'smee says

    Paradox:

    I honestly wouldn’t qualify the Tao as a deist’s god. As I said in my initial post I see it as akin to a subtle field force

    WTF kind of woo is that?

    akin to a subtle field force? Are you fucking with us?

    If it is a force (subtle or not) it is interventionist. It may be interventionist in a general and holistic way, in which case it is a naturalistic artifact of the universe, therefore amenable to investigation. If it is NOT interventionist in this way, then what the fuck are you talking about.

    Woo. All the way down.

  86. says

    It occurs to me that if God had allowed it to be possible for His existence and attributes to be irrefutably, inescapably proven, there would be no chance for a decision on the part of the human creation to believe or not, to either accept or reject God’s Love.

    Bullshit. We do this all the time with the people we meet and either accept or reject based on our preference. I meet a man – I can see him, touch him, hear his voice and have his presence confirmed by witnesses. I can either accept his advances or professions of love, or I can reject them. I can do neither of those things if I don’t even know he exists in the first place.

    Simply put – my core reasons for believing are based on God’s revelation of Himself to me – experiences I can neither measure nor ‘prove’ to someone else. These experiences are clarified and affirmed by what I read in Scripture.

    Two words: Confirmation bias.

    Therefore, I can not hope to ‘prove’ God to others or convince others to believe in Him by winning an argument…My role is not to convince another of the reality of God. My role is to Live and Love, Accept and Forgive according to the pattern of the God I have come to know.

    Then why the hell are you even here spilling out word salad and attempting to convince us that your “God” is real?

  87. Thomathy, now gayer and atheister says

    Paradox, I’m going to infer that you are not Taoist. I’m going to presume that you do not believe in Tao as a field force. I’m going to say, that if Tao is considered akin to a field force (whatever the fuck that bullshit means), then it has something substantial in relation to a GAWD. If it is revered (honestly, the distinction between reverence and worship breaks down completely in a religious setting -see the Virgin Mary), and if Taoism has all the trappings of a religion, then there is nothing substantially GWAR like about Tao.

    Not that it bloody fucking matters anyhow, since it doesn’t fucking exist.

  88. Paradox says

    WTF kind of woo is that?

    akin to a subtle field force? Are you fucking with us?

    If it is a force (subtle or not) it is interventionist. It may be interventionist in a general and holistic way, in which case it is a naturalistic artifact of the universe, therefore amenable to investigation. If it is NOT interventionist in this way, then what the fuck are you talking about.

    Woo. All the way down.

    Isn’t being woo all the way down a defining characteristic of religion?

    The Tao permeates everything and touches nothing. How the fuck do you test that hypothesis. There are lots of testable predictions in Taoism, but they are pretty much confined to the internal alchemy branch. I can’t think of any way of testing their definition of the Tao like you could the Christian GAWD construct, which is another tick in favor of calling it a GAWR religion.

    Paradox, I’m going to infer that you are not Taoist. I’m going to presume that you do not believe in Tao as a field force. I’m going to say, that if Tao is considered akin to a field force (whatever the fuck that bullshit means), then it has something substantial in relation to a GAWD. If it is revered (honestly, the distinction between reverence and worship breaks down completely in a religious setting -see the Virgin Mary), and if Taoism has all the trappings of a religion, then there is nothing substantially GWAR like about Tao.

    Not that it bloody fucking matters anyhow, since it doesn’t fucking exist.

    It doesn’t matter if the Tao fucking exists or not.

    Taoism, as a cultural institution fitting all the criteria of being a religion, exits and they don’t worship a GAWD and never have. You don’t petition the Tao to do your bidding, you work hard to learn how to live in harmony with the Tao, which I think is the fundamental difference between worshiping a GAWD and a GWAR.

  89. Vicki says

    Note also that this bishop doesn’t give any reason why we should accept the “theological ground rules” that some 17th century Christians set up. But he uses them as if they controlled what his allegedly omnipotent deity was allowed to do. That’s a pretty clear admission that men create gods, not the other way around.

  90. Sastra says

    Steve Allison wrote:

    Sastra: “Is it possible that you might be wrong about what you think you “know” about God — or does your faith ultimately lie in yourself? You don’t have to defend God. We see only you — and what you claim.”
    What I know, what you know, what anybody knows, Sastra, is as incomplete and imperfect as we ourselves are and will always be. It is what we encounter, what we experience, what we are touched by (or not – yet) that shapes our beliefs. My role is not to convince another of the reality of God. My role is to Live and Love, Accept and Forgive according to the pattern of the God I have come to know.

    From what I can tell, your answer to “is it possible that you might be wrong about God?” is “Yes.”

    Next question: If you ARE wrong about God — you’ve mistaken or misinterpreted your personal experiences and God does not exist after all — how would or could you find that out?

    What would it take to change your mind?

  91. Thomathy, now gayer and atheister says

    Paradox, if the Tao doesn’t exist, then it’s not a field force or anything like it. See, not existing has a single attribute, if you like, and that is not existing. The distinction is important.

    What you’re talking about is a philosophy of life or a ‘god’ of some description. Seriously, are we going to go between whether it’s a GAWD, GWAR (as you think) or neither endlessly? If believers think it interacts with the world, it’s a bloody GAWD. If they don’t, it’s a GWAR. If they consider it to be a dressed up metaphor for an embodiment of a way of life, then that’s what it is. It’s one of those three things, and if it’s a ‘god’ of any sort (or even just superstition, like a field force), it’s unjustifiable nonsense.

    I don’t think the main distinction between GAWD and GWAR is worship. I think the main distinction is interaction. A deist may worship a deist god for whatever silly reason, but without the expectation that that god will ever interact with the universe. If Tao is something that interacts with the universe, and people believe in it as an entity or a thing that does anything, then regardless of whether they worship it or not, it’s definitely not a GWAR.

    And I’m done talking about Taoism. It’s very, very silly. I feel like I’ve been talking about astrology or big foot. There are things I can talk seriously and at length about in skepticism, but woo like this is just too silly for me. Damn, but I have respect for those people who wade this kind of shit. No, I’ll stick to the easy subjects, like religion, anti-vaxers and creationism.

  92. Thomathy, now gayer and atheister says

    And I do mean religion that matters to me in my life. Regardless of whether Taoism is a religion or not, the believers aren’t trying to influence the politics of Canada.

  93. 'smee says

    @Sastra, re Steve Allison (godbot):

    What would it take to change your mind?

    cojones?

    Ability to think logically?

    Ability to parse an argument, perhaps?

    worst case – a brain transplant?

  94. Paradox says

    Not confused.

    PZ’s initial assertion was that all religions worship a GAWD and not a GWAR.

    Using his definitions of GAWD:

    GAWD is an interventionist; it may have created the universe, it has power in the real world, it has a personal interest in human beings and planet Earth. GAWD can answer personal requests, GAWD can carry out miracles, GAWD must be propitiated by thoughts and rituals lest GAWD become wrathful

    and GWAR:

    GWAR is an abstraction, an impersonal and remote being who exists completely outside space and time, who doesn’t actually interact with our world; alternatively, GWAR is simply the state of existence that permeates the entire universe. GWAR does not tinker; it does not modify the rules of existence to satisfy personal requests; it does nothing but be and watch and sometimes, love. GWAR is invisible and indetectable because GWAR does nothing. At best, one can aspire to die and become invisible and indetectable oneself, and then you’ll get to meet GWAR.

    Then the Tao, as defined by Taoists, is firmly in the GWAR camp. I can’t find a single claim from Lao Tzu, Chuang-tzu, Sun Tzu, or the many anonymous alchemists that the Tao actually does anything physically or interacts with the world in a way that can be tested. They honestly do seem to worship an abstraction, thus are a GWAR cult.

    As a GWAR cult, they are “mostly harmless” and unlikely to ever launch a genocide against those who believe in a different supernatural formulation: after all, if the Tao permeates your enemy as much as it does yourself, how can you claim they are heathens deserving of death?

    GAWD cults are far more dangerous because their anthropomorphized gods will always be different than another’s anthropomorphized god and nothing shows that your God’s dick is bigger than your neighbors’ God than killing your neighbor.

  95. kantalope says

    “(BTW – Kantalope – ‘wangdangdoodle’? Really?) Seriously”

    How dare someone imply that I was not taking this gawd talk srsly. This is srs topic.

    On the other hand, does Big Bird really see snuffalufugus or is the 12 foot yellow bird mentally ill? While Steve Allison contemplates this new issue, what was his response to the old?

    “My Belief is not based on a system of proofs that are impossible to debate, any more than anyone else’s refutable reasons for what they believe in.”
    Sweet, sweet word salad! It is like trying to figure out parts of the Silmarillion without the weird elvish names. But I’m pretty sure that means: beliefs can be evaluated..yay. So what proof is offered?

    That mysterious godguy has to stay mysterious or else: “if God had allowed it to be possible for His existence and attributes to be irrefutably, inescapably proven, there would be no chance for a decision on the part of the human creation to believe or not, to either accept or reject God’s Love”.
    All I can think to say to that is….why? What about god requires mysteriousness? As has been pointed out above, if we knew god existed, we could still decide whether or not to reject the love part.
    I could decide that while this creature is claiming to have created the universe, this creature seems awfully petty and provincial and I can’t really get behind all his genocidal temper tantrums and mis-aimed smiting. And as for all this love talk, it seems to be a rather dysfunctional and destructive kinda love that I want no part of. Or I could decide; “Right, ok. No more mixed fabrics or working on whatever day for me. And don’t worry about me, I’ll keep up the lovin in return for not being thrown into a pit of fire for all time.”

    Lastly, as for the whole “God’s revelation of Himself to me”; how would you reconcile people having the same feelings about an entirely different god…they and you can’t both be right.

    I think Ebenezer Scrooge summed it up: “You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!”

  96. 'smee says

    Paradox. You cannot (unless you invoke quantum superposition) insist that Tao is both a religion, and not a religion.

    If a religion, then it has a GWAR (the Tao) as stated. Alternatively, if it has a GWAR then it is a RELIGION, since it has a GOD with some abstract properties but that is non interventionist (other than we are all part of teh Tao, or somesuch)

    If not a religion, then it has no god, it is merely philosophical wanking about midichlorians or something – hence nothing to get upset about.

    You are saying it is both, and that’s just confused.

  97. Paradox says

    Paradox. You cannot (unless you invoke quantum superposition) insist that Tao is both a religion, and not a religion.

    If a religion, then it has a GWAR (the Tao) as stated. Alternatively, if it has a GWAR then it is a RELIGION, since it has a GOD with some abstract properties but that is non interventionist (other than we are all part of teh Tao, or somesuch)

    If not a religion, then it has no god, it is merely philosophical wanking about midichlorians or something – hence nothing to get upset about.

    You are saying it is both, and that’s just confused.

    So, since it doesn’t posit a GAWD, and is instead based around a GWAR it isn’t a true religion?

    Funny, never thought I’d see the Ol’ Scotsman whipped out here by an atheist.

    What makes a religion? The strictest definition in federal court is the Meyers’ test:

    The Meyers’ Test:

    1. Ultimate Ideas
    2. Metaphysical Beliefs
    3. Moral or Ethical System
    4. Comprehensiveness of Beliefs
    5. Accoutrements of Religion
    a. Founder, Prophet, or Teacher
    b. Important Writings
    c. Gathering Places
    d. Keepers of Knowledge
    e. Ceremonies and Rituals
    f. Structure or Organization
    g. Holidays
    h. Diet or Fasting
    i. Appearance and Clothing
    j. Propagation

    Taoism fits all those points quite well whether the Tao is an abstract concept or not, so trying to say it isn’t a true religion if they don’t believe in a GAWD seems quite intellectually dishonest.

  98. lazybird says

    Paradox:

    I can’t find a single claim from Lao Tzu, Chuang-tzu, Sun Tzu, or the many anonymous alchemists that the Tao actually does anything physically or interacts with the world in a way that can be tested.

    The Tao Te Ching you linked to claims that following the Tao has a beneficial effect, so that is testable. Unfortunately the Tao Te Ching is also conveniently self-contradictory:

    37 The Tao never does anything, yet through it all things are done

    77 As it acts in the world, the Tao is like the bending of a bow.

    So it seems a Taoist should be able to weasel out of any test.

  99. Paradox says

    Following the Tao might have a beneficial effect for an individual or society, but can you say that the Tao had a direct effect or was the the activities humans committed in an effort to follow an abstract concept what caused the beneficial effect.

    And yes, the coupled self contradictory phrases does make the Tao a slippery phantasm that is near impossible to pin down. Which is another point for being under PZ’s GWAR umbrella IMHO.

  100. 'smee says

    For Fucks Sake.

    Paradox – you are the one who opined on the Tao, defined it both AS a religion and NOT a religion, continuously weaseled around every conversation and sought to confuse where you couldn;t weasel.

    I was merely referencing YOUR commentary in summary back at you looking for your conclusion: religion? not religion? stupid piece of shit philosophy designed to make the practitioner feel all superior and connected with the oneness that is the Tao?

    Which is it?

    Not that I really care – I echo Thomathy, now gayer and atheister‘s comment above:

    I’m done talking about Taoism. It’s very, very silly. I feel like I’ve been talking about astrology or big foot. There are things I can talk seriously and at length about in skepticism, but woo like this is just too silly for me.

  101. freemage says

    That’s a meaningless statement. You can’t have a “purely aesthetic” belief. If you can, then you could explain why I’m wrong. Go right ahead. I’m listening.

    This part’s easy. I look at the universe. In particular, I look at the beautiful elegance of the equations that science informs me underwrite the universe’s existence. It makes more sense, to me, that there be an author to those equations.

    Would you like to tell us what your GWAR is? Also, how did you come to think it exists, or might exist, or that we can’t know it doesn’t exist? (Whatever the case may be.) You probably also have to explain what you mean by “exist.”

    What my GWAR is? Fuck if I know. I can only make deductions–to wit, that if I’m correct and there is an original author to the universe, that entity (or entities) has chosen to stay apart from the result. I might try to deduce something from that fact, but it would be guesswork, at best, since I have no insight into the motives of such a creative agency.

    In the meantime, I’m left with logic, reason and science as the methods for determining such things as morality. (The Golden Rule seems to be a fairly time-tested conclusion as the basis for good living and a just society, for instance. Most of my other ethical conclusions are usually derived from that particular premise.)

    I don’t necessarily claim that you can’t prove it doesn’t exist, by the way–merely that I’ve never seen such a proof, and would be surprised if any scientist felt it worth his while to develop one. That said, if it happened, I hope I’d be capable of understanding it thoroughly enough to accept its validity.

    And since my belief is derived, as I said, on purely aesthetic principles, which are most definitely subjective and a matter of personal tastes, I can hardly expect others to accept them as anything more ‘valid’ than my personal belief that ketchup has no business on a hot dog. (Actually, correction–my opposition to ketchup on hot dogs has infinitely more evidence than my belief in a GWAR.)

  102. freemage says

    And… blockquote fail on my part. Crap. First and third paragraphs belong to consciousness razor; everything else should be blamed on me.

  103. Sastra says

    Paradox wrote:

    Then the Tao, as defined by Taoists, is firmly in the GWAR camp. I can’t find a single claim from Lao Tzu, Chuang-tzu, Sun Tzu, or the many anonymous alchemists that the Tao actually does anything physically or interacts with the world in a way that can be tested.

    Well, the Tao interacts with humans (or humans can interact with it) so it isn’t “firmly” in the GWAR camp as long as we admit that humans are included in the natural world. It seems to me that as GWAR is described by PZ whether one knows about GWAR — or doesn’t know about GWAR — would make no difference to anyone or anything (other than feeling smug about “knowing” something, perhaps.) Knowing about the Tao, on the other hand, can make a huge difference in a person’s life.

    a. It exerts a force on everything to make them go the “natural” way.
    b. Striving against the Tao makes your daily life more difficult.
    c. Harnessing the power of the Tao makes your daily life go more easily.
    d. To use the Tao effectively, you must live humbly and have few desires.
    e. The best way to influence with the Tao is to lead by example and never by force. The wise shun the use of weapons and the best leaders are those that the people hardly know exist.

    Richard Carrier, a former Taoist, describes it as “similar to a Newtonian occult force of gravity that nevertheless has values and intentions and acts without need of thinking (so more like The Force in Star Wars, yet perhaps having a tad more intention than even that.)” It’s like a vegetable mind or, as I suggested, a state of mind which can be accessed.

    As for being testable, it sounds as if the best “test” is no real test at all, but therapy: try it for yourself and see IF it works. IF it doesn’t, though, the problem is you. To the extent that the concept is coherent, it doesn’t seem to cohere with anything we’ve discovered about anything outside of psychology. But I can vaguely imagine a world where the Tao (like the Force in Star Wars) is an accepted part of the scientific model of reality. Again, according to Carrier, “when perfectly aligned with it, you can dodge bullets and live forever, and when not aligned with it life feels awful and things start to physically fall apart.” Those sound suspiciously like testable claims.

    So I suppose I’d say the Tao is not GAWD, not GWAR — but a little bit of both, along with enough garbled contradictions to make it a little bit of neither. Which sounds very tao-like of it, I think.

  104. Paradox says

    Paradox – you are the one who opined on the Tao, defined it both AS a religion and NOT a religion, continuously weaseled around every conversation and sought to confuse where you couldn;t weasel.

    I was merely referencing YOUR commentary in summary back at you looking for your conclusion: religion? not religion? stupid piece of shit philosophy designed to make the practitioner feel all superior and connected with the oneness that is the Tao?

    Taoism fits any sane, generic definition of religion (including the strict Meyer’s test), yet its adherents often describe themselves as following a way (Tao) of life rather than a religious dogma. Outside of defining religion as having a GWAD deity (which seems like a mighty presumptuous assumption), what definition of religion would include all the usual suspects but not Taoism?

    Is Taoism a religion? Define religion first. I have offered a definition accepted by the federal courts, which I posit includes Taoism, therefore Taoism is a religion. If you have a competing definition of religion post it.

  105. 'smee says

    Sastra, Paradox: re Tao* & GAWD. If Tao has *any* atributes that can be considered GAWD-like, Tao is a GAWD.

    * what can I say – I lied. I’m addicted to continuing conversation!

  106. What a Maroon says

    GAWD is an interventionist; it may have created the universe, it has power in the real world, it has a personal interest in human beings and planet Earth. GAWD can answer personal requests, GAWD can carry out miracles, GAWD must be propitiated by thoughts and rituals lest GAWD become wrathful

    You left out: “takes a personal interest in the outcome of American football games, and occasionally other sporting events.”

  107. Paradox says

    Sastra, Paradox: re Tao* & GAWD. If Tao has *any* atributes that can be considered GAWD-like, Tao is a GAWD.

    And which GAWD-like attributes are those? I find the arguments put forward that the Tao is an interventionist thing akin to the accepted GAWD based religions to either be based on a fundamental misunderstanding of Taoist language or simple an unsupported assertion.

  108. Sastra says

    Paradox #123* wrote:

    Taoism fits any sane, generic definition of religion (including the strict Meyer’s test), yet its adherents often describe themselves as following a way (Tao) of life rather than a religious dogma.

    GAWD is not necessary to religion — but supernaturalism is. At least, so-called “religions” which lack a supernatural aspect to them seem more like life philosophies (eupraxophies) than religions, so I’d argue against the label. Since Taoism does have that supernatural aspect (and fits into the Meyer list you cited) I’d consider it a religion.

    Whether the adherents agree that their belief is a “religion” or not may not be particularly important. After all, many of the most fervent fundamentalists will insist that they don’t have a religion: they have a “personal relationship with Jesus.” Can’t always let people set their own definitions.

    *(Hey! Numbered posts! YAY! PZ is GOOD!)

  109. Sastra says

    Paradox #126 wrote:

    I find the arguments put forward that the Tao is an interventionist thing akin to the accepted GAWD based religions to either be based on a fundamental misunderstanding of Taoist language or simple an unsupported assertion.

    I don’t agree. Read PZ’s description of GWAR again: this version of God is so remote from human interests that knowing about it — or even “having faith” in it — could make no discernible difference to any individual. The Tao on the other hand can change and influence people’s lives depending on how they react to it, harness it, attune themselves to it, and so on and so forth. Perhaps a small distinction from GAWD is that, instead of the Tao intervening in the world, the person-part of world can choose to intervene with it. Though even so it’s asserted that those who choose to NOT access into the Tao will suffer, for the Tao influences everything to go the way it ought to.

    Bottom line, the Tao just seems to make too much difference, have too much impact, to be a GWAR.

  110. 'smee says

    Paradox@126 asks

    And which GAWD-like attributes are those?

    it has power in the real world

    Quoting Sastra@122 (which is what prompted my statement)

    Well, the Tao interacts with humans [...] Knowing about the Tao [...] can make a huge difference in a person’s life.

    a. It exerts a force on everything to make them go the “natural” way.

    b. Striving against the Tao makes your daily life more difficult.

    c. Harnessing the power of the Tao makes your daily life go more easily.

    bolded for clarity.

  111. Paradox says

    Living your life with compassion and brotherly love makes daily life flow more easily, for you and others. Living your life in a state of self centered psychopathy makes life more difficult, for you and others.

    Does that mean that compassion, love, and psychopathy are physical entities, separate from the humans that express them, which interact with the world? Do abstract concepts become real as soon as humans use them to influence their behavior? Does a god of math exist because I use simple probability as a justification for avoiding casinos?

    I fully agree that abstract concepts can have a huge impact in the real world: memes and ideas are powerful things. But that does not make them existing entities in a GAWD sense.

  112. Sastra says

    Paradox #130 wrote:

    I fully agree that abstract concepts can have a huge impact in the real world: memes and ideas are powerful things. But that does not make them existing entities in a GAWD sense.

    True, abstract concepts are not GAWDs — but from what I can tell the Tao doesn’t seem to fit into the category of “abstract concept.” A determined secularist could think of the Tao as being an abstract concept, or like an abstract concept, perhaps — but from reading the excerpts you quoted and some of the quotes by former Taoists it doesn’t sound like it’s supposed to be an abstract concept. It sounds more like a force or condition, a sort of living energy or vegetable mind which undergirds reality and guides nature on the “right,” harmonious path.

    If you’re determined enough you can naturalize anything through the liberal application of metaphor, symbol, and analogy. But the Tao is I think too closely tied to mystical revelation and transcendent supernatural realities to easily reduce to being nothing more than useful advice that “Living your life with compassion and brotherly love makes daily life flow more easily, for you and others.”

  113. John Morales says

    Paradox:

    PZ’s initial assertion was that all religions worship a GAWD and not a GWAR.

    No, it wasn’t.

    (That’s your own straw-dummy)

  114. 'smee says

    Paradox is still confused. Perhaps its all the thought of A and Not A involved in Taoist thinking – (s)he can no longer contemplate arguments that are linear.

  115. says

    @smee 115

    Taoism is much more than GWAR. Go read the Tao Te Ching.

    It makes a variety of claims about reality.

    When taxes are too high,
    people go hungry.
    When the government is too intrusive,
    people lose their spirit.

    Any religion that didn’t say anything about real life would be too irrelevant to gain any followers.

    The more prohibitions you have,
    the less virtuous people will be.
    The more weapons you have,
    the less secure people will be.
    The more subsidies you have,
    the less self-reliant people will be.

    When rich speculators prosper
    While farmers lose their land;
    when government officials spend money
    on weapons instead of cures;
    when the upper class is extravagant and irresponsible
    while the poor have nowhere to turn-
    all this is robbery and chaos.
    It is not in keeping with the Tao.

    If powerful men and women
    could remain centered in the Tao,
    all things would be in harmony.
    The world would become a paradise.

  116. GravityIsJustATheory says

    I don’t know much about Taosim or The Tao, and don’t have any great inclination to investigate further (at least not at the moment).

    However, looking at some of the quoted passages above, it looks to me as if a big part of the Tao (or rather, of Taoism), is essentially saying “Society / the world / the universe works in a certain way. If you try to behave in accordance with these rules, things will go smoothly; if you go against the grain, life will be more difficult”, but with an element of teleology or woo thrown in.

    I’m not sure if that exactly fits into either the GAWD or GWAR category, but going by PZ’s original descriptions (if I understand them correctly), it is much closer to GWAR. There doesn’t seem to be an obvious sentient being who demands worship and conformity, and actively and deliberately punishes or rewards you according to your behaviour, except in the most metaphorical sense.

    That said, most religions seem to contian a wide range of different and often contradictory notions among the believers, so there may well be Taoists who treat the Tao more like a GAWD.

  117. Hazuki says

    That quote by the bishop is the most honest I’ve seen in a long time, even if it was a bit weasel-worded. The correct way it something like this:

    “If people start with something they want to believe, naturally everything will support their belief.”

    I just get the impression that apologists are sock-sniffing narcissists who think they can argue something false into veracity. The bishop’s quote, incidentally, is the essence of presuppositionalism, and it’s why the hordes of van Til zombies are so confident: they already “know” they’re right.

    Of course, what this means is that they worship their own minds as God :D I believe Bob Price called Craig out on that once.

  118. Old Rasputin says

    Re Tao, as far as I know (not very), Taoism shouldn’t qualify as a religion on the grounds that it’s followers (if such exist) do not appear to believe in the supernatural. The very act of labeling something “supernatural” implies that reality can be divided into two categories, which is about as far from Taoistic thought as you can get. That’s why the tao that can be named is not the eternal tao. To label it as somehow distinct from other aspects of reality is to miss the point.

    I personally don’t see how the tao would qualify as a GWAR or a GAWD. The language I’ve used here is certainly a bit GWARy, but the whole concept (tao) is intentionally incoherent as far as I can tell.

  119. John Morales says

    Old Rasputin, yes. To me, it seems much more akin to a philosophical doctrine, with bonus mysticism and superstition.

  120. consciousness razor says

    Taoism shouldn’t qualify as a religion on the grounds that it’s followers (if such exist) do not appear to believe in the supernatural.

    Taoism is very similar to Buddhism in a lot of respects. Some Taoism is more philosophical worldview, some more supernatural, some involves “alt”-med quackery, some is syncretic with other religious beliefs (including, of course, Buddhism). In other words, it’s a mixed bag. If we’re interested in what the majority of Taoists believe today, I’d have a hard time giving you statistics, but my impression is that it is more often supernatural than not.

    Even the “philosophical” forms of Taoism tend to involve a lot of wild metaphysical claims, dualistic and teleological thinking, with no evidential support of course. Even if the Tao wouldn’t qualify as a “god” by your standard, it’s functionally equivalent. The language used to describe it is different, but little else. So, I call it a religion. It’s just a very alien kind of religion to us in the West, and the paradoxes and other nonsense in Taoism only add to the confusion.

    Anyway, if it looks like a duck and acts like a duck….

    To label it [Tao] as somehow distinct from other aspects of reality is to miss the point.

    One could say the same about how many pantheists or deists describe their flavor of god. The point isn’t that they think of it as unified with reality itself (or the ground of being, or whatever), but that their deity has properties which can only coherently be described as distinct from any known phenomenon in the observable, physical world — these are almost invariably mental properties, which reality itself does not have despite the believers’ assertions to the contrary. That they can’t point to evidence or talk about their beliefs coherently is hardly a surprise, except perhaps to them.

  121. says

    Religion is garbage some moron made up for their own self-serving reasons. It’s usually used as a means to round up enough idiots to give someone a power base to inflict their stupid/ignorant/lazy view of reality on others who disagree with them. In short it’s the mental cudgel of the “reality handicapped;” people who would rather invent their own reality than deal with the present one.

    Proof that religion is bullshit will only continue to mount as time goes on, and you are still proven wrong by science if you presume there is still an “entity” sans religious texts. Things that exist have a measurable effect on reality, and anything that possessed the qualities of your “entity” would be easily discoverable. It has not, and thus it does not exist.

    Stupid/ignorant/lazy people like you have NO PROOF that religion is real (lack of evidence), but scientifically minded people have plenty of evidence that religion is not real (huge amounts of evidence). Science has proven from a positive/evidence based standpoint that religion is bullshit. Your denial of that just shows how stupid/ignorant/lazy you are. Go read a book outside of religious literature.

    One of the parts of Atheism is that religion is bullshit. So it’s actually really easy to prove Atheism is “true.” Religion IS bullshit, and its not that hard to find evidence of that. As for the other parts of Atheism, we’re talking about the same scientific principles that gave you the computer you are reading this on. To deny the truth of Atheism is much like denying the existence of your computer.

  122. Qwerty says

    I often think that the believers use both Gawd and Gwar.

    The old saying “god (or heaven) helps those who help themselves” seems to suggest an indifferent celestial being.

    So, the “true believer” prayers to Gawd while accepting a belief in Gwar if the prayers aren’t answered.