June 29, 2009

Althouse joins Goddapalooza: It's the new Bloggingheads about Robert Wright's "The Evolution of God."

"Why should we care about God if he doesn’t exist?... Is Bob an atheist in spiritual clothing?... Making the case for universal brotherhood... Christianity is more conducive to a free society than Islam..."

Plus: "Did Michael Jackson matter?" and "Hey, how about a little sympathy for Mark Sanford?"


traditionalguy said...

Thanks for the pleasure of your intellect in the morning Professor. While watching you express sympathy for the experience of the suddenly passionate lover Mark Sanford (who risked losing his status as a socially acceptable man because he fell into a love crisis)reminds me that true believers in the Christian message go thru a similar experience with the man Jesus. I expect that it will be hard to argue Sanford out of believing in "a man made history" of his relationship in Argentina by telling him that it is ridiclously unbelievable, although he may soon wish someone could.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Bloggingheads TV failed miserably in the captions. They say: "Why should we care about god if he doesn't exist?" when Althouse asks why should we care about God if he DOES exist?

Much better question.

Ann Althouse said...

Thanks, Jason. You are absolutely right! Why not put that comment over there too?

Treacle said...

I don't get the bit about whether Michael Jackson mattered. If you grew up during the period between Off the Wall and Bad, you'd probably think he mattered, musically and culturally.

And you'd think that the Beatles, Elvis, Motown, Aretha, etc. were your parents music.

nansealinks said...

I had three children between 1982-1987, i can't even remember him being the king of pop. I really don't remember any music dominating the 1980s except those wee sing for kids songs, raffi, tom chapin, red grammer, joe scruggs, willi sterba.

oh, and bruce hornsby because we lived in virginia and he gave that free concert for his fans in 1987 that was just huge for the hampton roads area.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Why not put that comment over there too?

1. I'm shy.

2. I just tried and I'm not allowed to unless I'm approved; who knows how long that will take.

3. Now (because of #2) I think Blogginheads TV is run by a bunch of jerks!

nansealinks said...

speaking of hornsby, he has aged as well as cat stevens:


Paddy O. said...

I don't have time to listen to the whole thing this morning, so I'm commenting out of ignorance here. But the first part was quite interesting, and so hopefully I'm going to get back to it later.

Studying God is not about morality or ethics for me. That's a minor aspect, a secondary or tertiary issue, that sadly gets the most emphasis. So, why do I care about God? Well, one big reason is to find out, assuming God(s) exists, what kind of God is he/she/them? That's a pretty big question, and one that's quite caught up in our own psychology. Even in Christian theology, which certainly understands a transcendent God, we can see God as a reflection of our own best selves. In Christian theology, it's turned around a bit, where we say our best self is that which conforms to the image of God, who we were originally created to be. This pushes it past our own psychology, as our theology then becomes a driving force to shape us beyond our own instinctual drives and understanding. Jesus said peace and love, even with enemies. That's counter-intuitive a great deal of the time, but pursuing that can drive a person deeper into a more whole and still reality.

Knowing more about God, indeed, can push us into challenging religions themselves. Almost always the great transitions of religion don't come from the outside, crushed by intellectual or social pressure, rather they come by internal movements of reformation. And these movements are almost always led by people who were more intensely devoted. Wesley, for instance, was almost fanatical about his spirituality, and that led to a massive movement that incorporated common people, emphasized social works such as helping the poor, prison reform, etc.

Knowing more about God drives us to know more about ourselves, our often hidden selves that are shaped and driven by our egos.

I think, it's interesting to care about God because if he exists, how fascinating is that reality that goes so far beyond our own limited understanding that we can explore the bounty of God's being for not only a lifetime, but maybe even eternity.

Personally, I'm not nearly as interested in proofs of God's existence. I think there's interesting studies out there, but I figure God can prove himself if he wants to. What's exciting, and fulfilling for me, is talking with those who, for whatever reason, find their way with God, and who in dark times find their lives troubled and dark and difficult. A deeper knowledge of God, his ways, his works, his patterns, helps to bring a renewed hope, not for a future world but for this one, hope in this present life that extends into eternity that can then radiate hope, and peace, and light to those in their circles.

Certainly too, it's a pursuit of intellectual curiosity. If Jesus did in fact rise from the grave, that's a curious bit of reality. If the Holy Spirit is a pervasive presence of God, God's 'field of force' as some have put it, that's a curious reality. If God exists, that's just something interesting. Study of God, if God is truly God, presses us in all kinds of directions. This year my study of God pushed me to study the idea of beauty, ugliness, art. Pressed me to study Latin American history and politics, Marxism, capitalism, and social efforts. Drove me to better understand holiness as a historical, grammatical, and psychological topic that goes well-beyond morality and is an issue of our holistic identity.

The problem, of course, with a lot of theology is that the popular expressions are really boring and uncreative in their dogmatic assertions. Like history, it can be either quite, quite boring or quite interesting. Unfortunately, like history, the boring side is often the only part people experience, and so they write off the whole subject.

jag said...

the new atheists display an evangelical zeal to erase all belief in God. it has been said that, if God does not exist, all things are possible save one: to speak of God. atheist interest in God appears to be the eradication of a pernicious lie.

nansealinks said...

maybe pertaining to the evolution of god;

hornsby says at the end of the video you have to listen for 10 minutes of music and piano playing:

"i know i didn't play it like the record.

why would you do that if why can't you go beyond the record

why wouldn't you do that if you could do more?"

he gets the answer right for himself. can we ask that question of michael and get the same answer?

and of god?

nansealinks said...

sorry, i misquoted him so this time i will correct myself.

"i know i didn't play... the... play it like the record.

but why would you do that?

why can't you go beeyond the record

why would you do that if you could do more?"

kynefski said...

it has been said that, if God does not exist, all things are possible save one: to speak of God.

If that were true, it would mean that believers today cannot speak of the gods in which they don't believe.

Is that really true?

Jason (the commenter) said...

Wright wondered how there could be a position outside of theism or agnosticism.

I was raised without any discussion of religion and went to public school. I know this may sound disrespectful, but for me it's true: god's existence is just like that of pink unicorns. Maybe it's not scientific of me to say god doesn't exist, but no one has a problem with me saying it about pink unicorns.

I read a lot, so there are entire pantheons of gods for me to pick from. It only encourages the lines between "religion" and "stories" to blur.

If I read philosophy I see schools of philosophers who tried to prove the existence of god only to end up with atheist world-views.

Historically I see god being used as an explanation for things, which are then given other explanations; over and over again.

For me, saying god doesn't exist has no tension. It seems completely natural and I'm not angry about it like most atheists.

God, I hate being stuck in a room with them!

jag said...

@ kynefski-

i'm sorry, i don't know what you mean by 'true'.

idol smashers (the taliban, for example) might agree with your logic.

since i believe in God, i am not offended by talk of 'the gods' b/c i understand all talk of god as a search for the one true God.

kynefski said...

Jason - Those last two sentences. Was that sincere or appeasement? I ask this as an appeaser.

rhhardin said...

Wittgenstein on why an atheist like him gets something out of God.

Oligonicella said...

Jason (the commenter) --

I don't think anywhere near most are hostile. I actually don't know any. I would think it's more like the rabid anythings you hear/read on the media. The vocals get the time. I believe you and I are more the norm. It simply isn't part of our lives.

kynefski --

Answering only for me, I take great delight in eviscerating the hateful atheist when I find them online. They use no more logic than the hateful theist. They also have no more depth of understanding of either the philosophies involved or the history.

I love studying the evolution of theology.

nansealinks said...

people are going to get upset with me for clogging the comments with links,

but I find it interesting that the youtube version


is shorter without the comment on the end. What is highly unusual is the comment section not included in google video. A whole page of comments that have pluses and sound meaningful. I will file that under when youtube grows up.

plus i like the truer color in the youtube video.

Jason (the commenter) said...

kynefski : Was that sincere or appeasement?

It was sincere. When Nietzsche does his "God is dead" speech he has it said in front of a crowd of atheists, none of which understands. The New Atheists may consider themselves heirs of Nietzsche, but I consider them the heirs of the crowd.

And Oligonicella is on to something, although I have met haters in person.

kynefski said...

Thank you, Jason.

Unlike you, I was an intensely devout child. When honesty compelled me to let all that go, I really felt that I lost something important to me and, in fact, I subsequently worshipped for twenty years as a ceremonial Christian. (Churches used to be full of these people, and I have watched them literally die out.) I've only recently given that up, due to

(1) 9/11. I felt intense revulsion for supernatural belief. And, of course, I was not alone; that was the market for the neos. (I'm talking gut reaction here. I realize that these murderers weren't really motivated by belief; they'd have been just as happy as brownshirts.)

(2) the reaction to the neos from the likes of Terry Eagleton. I've found it quite aggravating, people refusing to consider theism seriously while accusing Ditchens of the same. It just seems a mendacious enterprise and, in a way, it was me they were mocking.

(3) a desire for spiritual integrity. Being a Christian nonbeliever is kind of like being a Log Cabin Republican. They're happy to have your support, but they don't care to know what you think.

Revenant said...

it has been said that, if God does not exist, all things are possible save one: to speak of God.

It may have been said, but not by anybody with common sense.

Humans speak of things that do not exist all the time; that's what the Fiction section of the bookstore is about, for one. Indeed, were it not possible to speak of and/or think about things that do not exist, it would be impossible to ever create anything. The first book was spoken of before it was written, the first bridge was spoken of before it was built, etc.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Althouse : Why not put that comment over there too?

4. Both you and I have tried contacting them via Twitter and they refuse to change it. I didn't like the way they responded either.

Anyway, I'm not following them on Twitter anymore, like they care if they drop one follower or one viewer, and now I can upgrade my "I think they are run by a bunch of jerks" to "I know they are run by a bunch of ..."

Jason (the commenter) said...

That was AWFUL, especially because I've been following them forever and loved their work. But you can't put up with poor costumer service, otherwise you end up with Congress.

Methadras said...

So Bob has come to the conclusion that I did years ago? That to call yourself an atheist, you simply do not care about the existence of God that the 99% of other do. A real Atheist doesn't or shouldn't even argue about the existence of God because they just shouldn't care about it and go about their lives in ignorant bliss.

bagoh20 said...

For me God = Justice, and so I want him.

I also could go for some of those pink unicorns.

How do I feel toward a father that would send me out into the wilderness with the tools I need to survive, but not a map home. Do I love him or hate him, deny him, or search for him?

Jason (the commenter) said...

Methadras : A real Atheist doesn't or shouldn't even argue about the existence of God because they just shouldn't care about it...

Just like a real Christian.

rhhardin said...

A young lass of noble heart, pleasing and attractive, was made a nun against her will, thus living in great distress (1550).

Une Jeune Fillette.

Fantasia thereon link.

Somebody who knows all the verses link, probably a feminist.

Revenant said...

A real Atheist doesn't or shouldn't even argue about the existence of God because they just shouldn't care about it and go about their lives.

Other peoples' beliefs about God affect my life. If, for example, a jihadist decides to kill me because God demands the death of atheists, the fact that I'm completely uninterested in religion is not going to inspire him to spare me. If some Christians decide to ban alcohol because God frowns on drunkenness, my lack of interest in what "God" thinks will not prevent me from being jailed for possession of alcohol. Etc, etc.

There are more mundane problems, too. American life is filled with offhand references to God. You can't avoid interaction with theistic beliefs unless you avoid interaction with the rest of society.

rhhardin said...

Bowed head of toy comtemplation.

kynefski said...

A real Atheist doesn't or shouldn't even argue about the existence of God because they just shouldn't care about it and go about their lives in ignorant bliss.

I'm inclined to agree (absent the ignorant bliss bit, of course) as a matter of personal conduct, but I hesitate to condemn the Bensons.

I doubt that any of the believers here would be ostracized by their neighbors or estranged from their families were they to express skepticism. I imagine that those who would, and do, might appreciate the support.

traditionalguy said...

The God is Dead Theologians argue for the past existence of a creator god, as described by his Hebrew prophets, who was wise enough to kill himself off about 200 years ago so that we can enjoy life without him. That leaves the best of both worlds: a faith in the obviously inspired scriptures and a new age free from interference by a god. Ideas are powerful. But the Spirit of the living God, who wrote the scriptures for us, is still very much alive and is more powerful than men's best formed false ideas about Him.

Revenant said...

The God is Dead Theologians argue for the past existence of a creator god, as described by his Hebrew prophets, who was wise enough to kill himself off about 200 years ago.

That's certainly one of the more amusing misreadings of Nietzsche. :)

Jason (the commenter) said...

That's certainly one of the more amusing misreadings of Nietzsche. :)

I remember reading in a translator's note that a group like that existed. Everybody wanted to have Nietzsche on their side for some reason. In World War I, one of his works was handed out with the bible, even though he was an atheist. And the Nazis loved him even though he hated anti-Semites.

kynefski said...

This just showed up on Sullivan's site. It's Ross Douthat interviewing Wright.

AS rightly characterizes it as "one of the longest questions followed by one of the shortest answers on the riddle of religion ever."