Either It Is, or It Is Not

Right, where was I, before things got so busy. Several places, one of which was a series of disagreements over theism and atheism. One of our readers, Ben Keen, emailed me a thought on the subject last week that suggested some further thoughts, or they may be just repeated restatements of the same thought, I’m not sure. My brain got a bit curdled over the last few days, and I’m not sure it’s back to normal yet. Whatever ‘normal’ may be in my case.

Ben’s comment, which he’s given me permission to quote, was this:

the topic of
religious claims being exempt from the same sort of scrutiny as other
sorts of truth-claims. Something people often say is that science
makes claims about the natural world and religion about things outside
the natural world. Well, it occured to me that if it’s claimed that
God can possibly have any effect at all on the natural world or if
religious precepts somehow are meant to engage in any way whatever in
how we think or act in the natural world, then indeed they must be part
of the natural world. There’s no way that something can have any
meaningful effect on us without somehow being part of the world we live
in – so the claim of privilege by separation is bogus.

I don’t think I’d thought of it in quite that way before. I’d thought of it in a slightly different way, which was to wonder in a sullen fashion why, if this God people are always saying is in another realm, is in another realm, they think they know so much about it and can talk about it with confidence? Huh? But that doesn’t make the point sharply enough, whereas Ben’s version does. Surely there are only two possibilities. Either the deity is part of nature, in which case it is accessible to human research and inquiry, or it is not, in which case it isn’t. Period. You can’t have a deity that is in some convenient ‘other realm’ inaccessible to atheists and scientists but accessible to ‘spiritual’ people. Or one who is in some other, non-natural realm, but nevertheless is in some way active or relevant in this, natural one. That’s just a flat contradiction, it makes no sense. So that particular argument just falls splat and becomes useless.

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