A god who makes no difference
HE Baber explains something but I’m not exactly sure what.
[L]ike most educated Christians, I do not believe most of the empirical claims associated with Christianity. I do not believe that the universe came into being just a few thousand years ago. I do not believe that humans or other animals were created their current form or even that God had some hand in “guiding” evolution. I do not believe that the Bible provides an accurate account of Middle Eastern history, or that any of the miracles it reports actually occurred, or that the wisdom literature it includes is a suitable guide to life. I do not believe that the existence of God makes any difference to the way the world operates or that religious belief should make any difference to the way we live.
So Baber is saying that most educated Christians don’t believe that God had some hand in “guiding” evolution or that the wisdom literature included in the bible is a suitable guide to life or that the existence of God makes any difference to the way the world operates or that religious belief should make any difference to the way we live? That’s an enormous claim, and on the face of it it looks like an absurd claim. I would think that most educated Christians do believe the last two items at the very least, and in fact that most of them probably believe all but the first two items – at least if they really are Christians as opposed to deists who attend Christian churches. That’s where ‘on the face of it’ comes in – maybe Baber has some such stipulation, or several of them, in mind when making that enormous claim. But then – if she does, she should spell it out. Making enormous claims that are actually not as enormous as they look because of various unstated stipulations is…not respectable.
But maybe she has no such stipulations in mind; maybe she really does think most educated Christians don’t believe all those claims. If that’s the case I think she’s just wrong, and overgeneralizing wildly. We’ve disagreed about this before – I think Baber overgeneralizes about hostility to theists, about what atheists say and do, about what critics of atheists say and do and want, and various other things. I see this pattern in a lot of the critics of the “New” atheists – which is interesting.
Theists, like myself, claim that there is a conscious being, who is omnipotent and omniscient, who is not a part of the natural world and not to be identified with the cosmos in toto, but is incorporeal and transcendent…[E]ven if it is not meaningless to claim that there exists a God who makes no difference to the way in which the natural world works one may ask: what is the point of believing in such a God? Why would anyone even want to believe in a God who makes no difference: a God who does not answer prayers, give our lives “meaning,” or imbue the universe with purpose, reveal moral truths, strengthen us to fight the good fight or, in some sense, ground values. I can only speak for myself, though my answer is hardly original. God is an object of contemplation. It is remarkably hard to discover by introspection what one really thinks about these matters because they are so overlain by conventional pieties. I suppose what I believe is that God is the ultimate aesthetic object, ultimate beauty, glory and power, and that the vision of God embodies the quintessence of every aesthetic experience and every sensual pleasure.
But that’s not theism, it’s deism. That’s certainly not Christianity – and it’s not even theism. So what exactly is being claimed here? I can’t quite tell.