God is a walnut, a mouse, a sunny day, a gleam in your eye

So if God, in Humpty Dumpty fashion, just means whatever any word-spinner says it means, then – why are we expected to heed it or obey it or respect it or not do stem-cell research because of it?

There is a ‘childish notion of an anthropomorphic God that is characteristic of the tribe, of the closed society’ and then there is the non-childish notion of a non-anthropomorphic God.

God exists in the word and through the word…God is a human concept. God is the name we give to our belief that life has meaning, one that transcends the world’s chaos, randomness and cruelty…God is that mysterious force—and you can give it many names as other religions do—which works upon us and through us to seek and achieve truth, beauty and goodness. God is perhaps best understood as our ultimate concern, that in which we should place our highest hopes, confidence and trust…God is better understood as verb rather than a noun. God is not an asserted existence but a process accomplishing itself. And God is inescapable. It is the life force that sustains, transforms and defines all existence.

Well that’s all quite pretty, but it is not what everyone means by the word ‘God’ – to say the least. It’s very odd to say that God is not this childish notion of a person, then matter-of-factly say that God is the name we give to our belief that life has meaning, as if that were common knowledge and universally accepted. I would go so far as to say that’s dirty pool.

It is by the seriousness of our commitments to compassion, indeed our ability to sacrifice for the other, especially for the outcast and the stranger, our commitment to justice—the very core of the message of the prophets and the teachings of Jesus—that we alone can measure the quality of faith. This is the meaning of true faith…Professed faith—what we say we believe—is not faith. It is an expression of loyalty to a community, to our tribe. Faith is what we do. This is real faith. Faith is the sister of justice.

Same thing. Very pretty, but idiosyncratic; does not reflect common usage or common knowledge; therefore, no basis on which to contest someone else’s account of the matter which more closely reflects common usage and knowledge (whatever other faults it may have).

Faith is not in conflict with reason. Faith does not conflict with scientific truth, unless faith claims to express a scientific truth. Faith can neither be affirmed nor denied by scientific, historical or philosophical truth…There is a reality that is not a product of rational deduction. It is not accounted for by strict rational discourse. There is a spiritual dimension to human existence and the universe, but this is not irrational—it is non-rational.

More Humpty Dumptyism with ‘faith’ along with some unnecessary decoration. There is an emotional dimension to human existence that it is fair to call non-rational, but as for a spiritual dimension to the universe – 1) I don’t know what that means and 2) I think it’s decorative windbaggery.

The danger of Sam’s simplistic worldview is that it does what fundamentalists do: It creates the illusion of a binary world of us and them, of reason versus irrationality, of the forces of light battling the forces of darkness. And once you set up this world you are permitted to view as justified military intervention, brutal occupation and even torture, anything, in short, that will subdue what is defined as irrational and dangerous.

That, on the other hand, I think is a defensible view, and it also doesn’t bother with idiosyncratic definitions or with decorative windbaggery. Argumentative writing is never improved by idiosyncratic definitions or decorative windbaggery; never.

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