Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Theory of God
1. Objective entity.
This is arguably a dead-end pursuit. We have yet to see conclusive evidence to support any of the myriad theories that have sprouted over the millenia. This, of course, should not prevent us from discussing it.
2. Subjective entity.
This is a barrel of worms that even the most adventurous will hesitate to delve. It can be measured, though.
Source and form.
Most mythos have, at the core, at least some lip service towards a primary source. It is frequently vague in form, though notably takes on anthropomorphic semblance more often than not. At the nebulous end, we have the disembodied voice/force/will. At the specific end, we have the matri- or patriarchal form (occasionally, the duality of gender is strong, but one is usually in ascendance over the other.)
Most modern (less than 50,000 years ago) mythos focus on secondary sources, which most often have a recognizable, physical form. Unsurprisingly, it usually takes the monarchic structure, with a single or dual form at the top. The top is usually represented as having conquered or otherwise replaced the primary source, often with the usual explantion about dissatisfaction with the prior administration.
Singularity and committee.
This is not just mono- vs. polytheism. Most pantheons recognize "All" as either a single figure or the sum-total of the many figures. Pantheons usually have a head honcho who seems to have an easier time of it vs. the all-encompassing solo act, who always seems to have a multitude of lesser entities who envy him (he usually being a him). It's a testament to the schizophrenia of the ancient Greeks that they gave us both monarchy (in its recent (less than 5,000 years) form) and democracy, and that all-time-favorite hybrid -- bureaucracy.
And now, the $64,000 questions, in no particular order:
Is it possible to define an objective entity by exploring the myriad of subjective entities?
Is anthropomorphism a bankrupt approach? (Prerequisite: all of J. Campbell and some of Jung) (or is it all of Jung and some of Campbell...)
Speaking of subjective entities, is the quest for deity valid, or is it just spiritual (ego) masturbation?
(My personal favorite) Do we really need deity, and isn't it just another way for the few to control the many? (Marxian opiates, anyone?)
Just remember, Christianity did not invent circular logic, they are just the poster children for the concept.
It has been my observation that there are people who, because they are already convinced that there is no deity, place the bar by which they judge evidence as trustworthy far higher than the bar they use for other things that they do believe in, such as the existence of famous people and places in history, or causes and effects in nature.
However, I have also seen those who, because they are already convinced that there is a deity in the form that they have already chosen, will accept evidence at a level that they would not think of trusting if their pocketbooks, jobs, or children were at stake.
So when someone says "there is no conclusive evidence", either to prove or disprove the existence of a deity, the first thing I want to know is if that person applies a different standard to 'religious material' than to 'non-religious'.
(Not trying to 'start a fight', just putting in a thought!)
Your qualifying question is a good one, and I am often faced with appearing rude because I feel certain getting an answer to that question would avoid much unpleasantness... by causing the one asked to shut hir trap and leave. ;-D
Anyway, it is also an importanat question, and it deserves an answer:
Yer darn tootin' I apply different standards!!
Religious material must be viewed on two levels simultaneously: the value of meaning it has for the believer, and the relationship it bears to real life.
For example (and I'm being deliberately provocative here), the four primary Gospels disagree with each other in significant ways. Much scholarship and debate has gone into that question. I see it with my dual lens: first, as a matter of faith, it matters not that the differences are there; second, as soon as any believer makes a claim towards historicity, I tend to laugh in hir face.
These are two separate conclusions. My conclusion of faith is one thing, my conclusion of fact is another, and I remain sane despite the obvious conflict. That either makes me truly as mad as Myrddin, or I should have been writing books by now.
Or heck, both could work! *ducks*
I hear ya though, because now that I think about it, I probably do the same thing. And it hasn't made me crazy quite yet *twitch*
IMHO, no. We can probably get closer and closer, but can you even really define your best friend by all the aspects of hir that you know? Pure understanding is quite a bit more elusive than we might want to admit.
"Is anthropomorphism a bankrupt approach? (Prerequisite: all of J. Campbell and some of Jung) (or is it all of Jung and some of Campbell...)"
Not necessarily. On the one hand, we are human, and as yet we've been hard pressed to understand anything not human well enough to empathize with it, so how are we expected to understand a non-anthropomorphic god? On the other hand, we do have a great amount of experience existing on this planet, and we have a great deal of knowledge about the universe at large, so it would be quite petty of us to ignore that in our quest. On the gripping hand, on what level can we gain best understanding and wouldn't deity, if it was truly deity, know that?
"Speaking of subjective entities, is the quest for deity valid, or is it just spiritual (ego) masturbation?"
How are those mutually exclusive? Explain and I might not answer "both."
"(My personal favorite) Do we really need deity, and isn't it just another way for the few to control the many? (Marxian opiates, anyone?)"
Only if you're a part of the latter kind of organization is that even valid. My understanding of deity released me from that kind of control, and I've been skeptical of it ever since. Not that I'm perfect, of course, but I am a solitary and I look to no-one to tell me what my concept of deity is, except myself and my deities. They are not perfect, they are not monarchs, and they certainly do not tell me what I am or will be. They just occasionally offer advice from experience... ;)
But that's a wholly different can of worms.
Speaking of subjective entities, is the quest for deity valid, or is it just spiritual (ego) masturbation?"
How are those mutually exclusive? Explain and I might not answer "both."
The underlying question is: did deity create humanity, or did humanity create deity? I always answer this with the latter, and with the caveat that as with most creations, it is capable of taking on a life of its own.
Perhaps my original question can be considered a trick question, though I didn't intend it as one. Too many sects of Christianity have a dual layer of intermediation (a symbol or structure that stands between the worshipper and the worshipped), with Jesus always "guarding" the final door, and the cults of personality that spring up as what I can only describe as local deities.
I put Roberts, Falwell, Robertson and even the Grahams in this category, though I have alot more respect for Billy than I do for his son Frank.
So, both is a valid answer, and you are welcome to expand on it. I tend to see most modern quests for deity as masturbation, and I don't necessarily believe that this is always a bad thing... as it were.