Sunday, September 27, 2009

Please excuse the long quote. This is by Karen Armstong. This statment is so good I would like to use it as my manifesto. Of course the atheists on CARM can't understand what it means. This is exactly what I'm trying to tell them but they just can't hear it.

Despite our scientific and technological brilliance, our understanding of God is often remarkably undeveloped—even primitive. In the past, many of the most influential Jewish, Christian and Muslim thinkers understood that what we call "God" is merely a symbol that points beyond itself to an indescribable transcendence, whose existence cannot be proved but is only intuited by means of spiritual exercises and a compassionate lifestyle that enable us to cultivate new capacities of mind and heart.

But by the end of the 17th century, instead of looking through the symbol to "the God beyond God," Christians were transforming it into hard fact. Sir Isaac Newton had claimed that his cosmic system proved beyond doubt the existence of an intelligent, omniscient and omnipotent creator, who was obviously "very well skilled in Mechanicks and Geometry." Enthralled by the prospect of such cast-iron certainty, churchmen started to develop a scientifically-based theology that eventually made Newton's Mechanick and, later, William Paley's Intelligent Designer essential to Western Christianity.

But the Great Mechanick was little more than an idol, the kind of human projection that theology, at its best, was supposed to avoid. God had been essential to Newtonian physics but it was not long before other scientists were able to dispense with the God-hypothesis and, finally, Darwin showed that there could be no proof for God's existence. This would not have been a disaster had not Christians become so dependent upon their scientific religion that they had lost the older habits of thought and were left without other resource.

Symbolism was essential to premodern religion, because it was only possible to speak about the ultimate reality—God, Tao, Brahman or Nirvana—analogically, since it lay beyond the reach of words. Jews and Christians both developed audaciously innovative and figurative methods of reading the Bible, and every statement of the Quran is called an ayah ("parable"). St Augustine (354-430), a major authority for both Catholics and Protestants, insisted that if a biblical text contradicted reputable science, it must be interpreted allegorically. This remained standard practice in the West until the 17th century, when in an effort to emulate the exact scientific method, Christians began to read scripture with a literalness that is without parallel in religious history.

Most cultures believed that there were two recognized ways of arriving at truth. The Greeks called them mythos and logos. Both were essential and neither was superior to the other; they were not in conflict but complementary, each with its own sphere of competence. Logos ("reason") was the pragmatic mode of thought that enabled us to function effectively in the world and had, therefore, to correspond accurately to external reality. But it could not assuage human grief or find ultimate meaning in life's struggle. For that people turned to mythos, stories that made no pretensions to historical accuracy but should rather be seen as an early form of psychology; if translated into ritual or ethical action, a good myth showed you how to cope with mortality, discover an inner source of strength, and endure pain and sorrow with serenity.

In the ancient world, a cosmology was not regarded as factual but was primarily therapeutic; it was recited when people needed an infusion of that mysterious power that had—somehow—brought something out of primal nothingness: at a sickbed, a coronation or during a political crisis. Some cosmologies taught people how to unlock their own creativity, others made them aware of the struggle required to maintain social and political order. The Genesis creation hymn, written during the Israelites' exile in Babylonia in the 6th century BC, was a gentle polemic against Babylonian religion. Its vision of an ordered universe where everything had its place was probably consoling to a displaced people, though—as we can see in the Bible—some of the exiles preferred a more aggressive cosmology.

She is obviously saying that the big man in the sky doesn't exist, but he doesn't have to exist to know that there is a God and that some aspect of being is divine. The atheists are not capable of that kind of thought, let alone any kind of thought.


dmcderm said...

I love Karen Armstrong, and that was a wonderful piece, but I don't see her arguing that . That people, especially guys like you, see aspects of the divine whether or not it actually exists is absolutely true. But there is nothing in that piece that suggests that is that she thinks "he [the big guy in the sky] doesn't have to exist to know that there is a God and that some aspect of being is divine." She merely describing what people think, not actively promoting that point of view. You're reading into the passage something that isn't there, and even if it were, wouldn't be a good argument anyway. Exactly how does the notion that we tell ourselves comforting stories to help us cope with life an argument for the existence of the divine in any form?

Joseph Hinman (Metacrock) said...

Well she doesn't say "this is my view" but clealry does say that the moer sophisticated view is the God beyond God and that the literalism of the guy in the sky screwed up the ability of religious people to argue on par with modern scinece,

Now if you don't get that out of it you cant' read. since you dno't seem to get it you must be an atheist and atheists can't read. all atheist have reading comprehension problems and cant think things though.

Of cousre if you were sharp you would not be an atheist. as atheism is for idiots.