The social protections

Georges Rey says many pointed and relevant things about belief in “God”: meaning “a supernatural, psychological being, i.e., a being not subject to ordinary physical limitations, but capable of some or other mental state, such as knowing, caring, loving, disapproving” who “knows about our lives, cares about the good, either created the physical world or can intervene in it, and, at least in Christianity, is in charge of a person’s whereabouts in an ‘afterlife’.”

Now, it doesn’t seem to me even a remotely serious possibility that such a God exists: his non-existence is, in the words of the American jury system, “beyond a reasonable doubt.” I am, of course, well aware that plenty of arguments and appeals to experience have been produced to the contrary, but they seem to me obviously fallacious, and would be readily seen to be so were it not for the social protections religious claims regularly enjoy.

That’s exactly it, and that’s what puts the “gnu” in “gnu” atheism – the fact that it doesn’t seem to us even a remotely serious possibility that such a God exists and that we don’t feel inhibited about saying so in public discourse. It’s exactly that, at heart, that so annoys the unfans of gnu atheism. It’s supposed to be rude or intolerant or fundamentalist or conceited or vain or we think we’re so smartish of us to think that and to say it.

Yet that doesn’t apply to other obviously preposterous claims or beliefs or stories. Just the goddy one. Just the local goddy one, pretty much.


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