God 1 or god 2

I kept going on arguing in that discussion at CfI yesterday, and in doing that I tried to boil down the point of contention to make it as clear as possible.

There are two possibilities for theists here.

1) There is a god who is transcendent, outside of nature, outside of the universe.

2) There is a god who is descendent, inside nature, inside the universe, and who makes things happen in our world.

There are different things to say about each. About 1, nearly everyone would agree that it’s not possible to offer evidence that such a god does not exist. But theists fail to draw the rest of the obvious conclusion: for the same reason that it’s not possible to offer evidence that such a god does not exist, it’s not possible to know anything at all about such a deity, therefore there is literally nothing to say about it. If it’s outside, it has nothing to do with us, and we have nothing to do with it, and there’s just nothing to say. There’s fantasy, of course, but fantasy can be about anything and everything, and most theists don’t consider theism to be fantasy.

About 2, agreement is much less likely – but that’s mostly because theists smuggle in aspects of 1 in order to defend their belief system. They hang on to 2 by claiming (literally nonsensically) that 2 has the attributes of 1 but is still the god of 2. Well, that’s a cheat. You can have 1, or you can have 2, but you can’t have both in one. You can’t combine them. It’s not like blending carrots and ginger to make soup. Your god has to be either 1, or 2; it can’t be both.

Once that is realized (and that of course is the snag, because theists and pretend-skeptics simply refuse to realize it), then it becomes clear that 2) is in fact entirely subject to all sorts of empirical inquiry. It’s also subject to common or garden skepticism, in which one declines to believe every blagger who claims there is an invisible magical being up in the sky answering prayers and punishing sinners.

That was yesterday. What I want to know is, is it wrong? The guy I was arguing with seemed to think that you can combine them – and that puzzles me; I don’t see why it’s not obvious that you can’t. G. probably knows, but he’s busy with other things.

The only reason I can think of for people to think you can combine the two is that they are thinking of ‘outside of nature’ as analogous to outside a house, or a room, or a city, or a country. You can be outside all of those and still make things happen inside them. You can be outside a house and throw rocks at it, or set it on fire, or paint it, or shout at people inside it.

But I don’t think that’s relevant to this god stuff because when theists say god is outside, beyond, transcendent, they don’t mean something analogous to outside a house or a city. We know this because they also say that god therefore can’t be tested by the methods of science, and that doesn’t apply to outside a house or a city. This outsideness is a special kind of outsideness that (usefully) confers total immunity from testing and questioning on this god. Well if it’s going to do that, it has to be a kind of outsideness that can’t be combined with being in the world and acting on it – because if it can be combined with being in the world and acting on it, it’s no longer some special magical kind of outsideness, it’s just geographic outsideness which is compatible with occasional (or frequent) visits. And a god that pays visits is back to being one that can be tested. So we still (as far as I can make sense of all this) have the same incompatability. If the god is ‘transcendent’ and permanently beyond human knowledge and testing – then it’s 1, and it can’t also be 2.

Can it? I don’t see how it can; am I missing something?

54 Responses to “God 1 or god 2”

Leave a Comment



Subscribe without commenting