On Knowing

If the god of the bible existed
Could I really perceive Him as true?
When I see all His qualities listed
Is that something that mortals can do?

Can I tell that a god is omniscient
As opposed to just smarter than me?
Could He just be some guy who’s efficient
And can google or wiki to see?

Can I know He’s omnipotent, truly?
And not merely a really strong guy?
Do I think him immortal unduly,
If He’s still hanging ‘round when I die?

All His qualities pass comprehension
They exceed what a man may perceive
Yet the truth, that I hardly need mention,
Is that billions and billions believe.

In some of yesterday’s arguing, it became quite clear that there are different standards for knowing stuff for science and religion. It’s amusing, really, that things we can observe and agree upon, we admit we have uncertainty about, and express our observations in terms of probability levels. But for one particular construct, the characteristics of which are beyond our ability to measure, there is no uncertainty at all. It is known as a fact that god exists, and has particular characteristics. It might be a bit annoying that these certain known facts, these universal constants, vary from believer to believer… but at least they know them to be true.


  1. Joan says

    Not sure why billions and billions believe. More than likely because all are brainwashed at an early age. That his qualities pass comprehension, is certainly a given. That his motives are equally inscrutable is the big hang-up, not solved at all by the book of Job.

    Here’s a lovely cynical poem by Phillip Appleman. The title is an ironic zinger on G. M. Hopkin’s poem of the same name. Hope there are no errors. Copied it by freeze framing a video of Appleman’s book pages on Bill Moyers’s web site and my eyesight is not as strong as my desire acquire a good poem for free. Just today I found they had published the whole transcript. Duh.. http://billmoyers.com/segment/the-poetry-of-philip-appleman/

    God’s Grandeur
    (God will laugh at the trial of the innocent)

    When they hunger and thirst and I send down a famine
    When they pray for the sun and I drown them with rain
    And they beg me for reasons, my only reply is
    I never apologize, never explain.

    When the Angle of Death is a black wind around them
    And children are dying in terrible pain
    Then they burn little candles in churches, but still
    I never apologize, never explain.

    When the Christian kill Jews, and Jews kill the Muslims
    And Muslims kill writers they think are profane,
    They clamor for peace, or for reason, at least
    But I never apologize, never explain.

    The they wail about murder and torture and rape,
    When unlucky Abel complains about Cain
    And they ask me just why I had planned it like this
    I never apologize, never explain.

    Of course if they’re smart they can figure it out
    The list of all reasons is perfectly plain
    It’s because I just happen to like it this way
    So I never apologize, never explain.

    Phillip Appleman

  2. hotshoe says

    Heya, Cuttlefish. As soon as I saw the title of this, I guessed it was in reference to the “ThinkingChristian” stuff from yesterday.

    Yeah, I was over there again today and asked head honcho Tom to consider, basically, how he knows he’s right. Other devout Christians think he is wrong – and what source of knowledge could show that they were incorrect in thinking so ?

    I like your rhymes and your passionate sarcasm so much better than the boring “we just know, because, erm, objective morality for the win!” over there. I don’t think I’ll go back – and no thanks to you for introducing me to them in the first place! – but thanks again for all the fun you create over here.

  3. carpenterman says

    When people ask me what I believe, I tell them I try not to *believe* anything… I try to *know* things. We know what can be proven, demonstrated, verified independantly. When something cannot be proven, you don’t know; you believe. And if there’s no proof, there’s no way to know if what you believe is true.
    It drives me absolutely crazy when people cannot, or will not, understand the difference.

  4. Cuttlefish says

    Carpenterman–I have no problems saying I believe something, and recognizing that sometimes things that I cannot know with absolute certainty. Just recognizing that it is quite possible for me to be wrong is, for me, important.

    Mind you, the way I find out I am wrong is by some additional evidence coming to light, so it’s perfectly fine to behave as if what I believe is known with certainty. After all, we save an awful lot of lives with medical research that sometimes does have false positives, and sometimes false negatives–and if we waited until 100% certainty, we would never get there.

  5. John Moriarty says

    some I like:

    Our God, some contend, is immutable,
    And their faith is, indeed, irrefutable:
    When He does what He should,
    It’s because “He is good,”
    When he doesn’t, “His ways are inscrutable.”
    -Laurence Perrine

    “Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana”. Groucho Marx

    Pilate: “What is Truth?”
    Joe: “Truth is Tribal, so fuck off Pilate”
    Pilate: “Take him away and kick his bollocks to pulp”
    Jesus: “Go Pilate, yay”
    Pilate: “next!”

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