Status Update on God
Theist? Nope. I don’t think so. Still in the “don’t believe” category.
But I wanted to reflect on something that I think has been the case for a while. It’s about phrasing and language.
Sometimes, a commenter (like Bonnie, who is quoted below) will make a comment like this:
…you and [God] will have much to talk about together, if you decide that he exists.
The first thing about language that I would point out is that it either a) doesn’t seem to me that one can just “decide” that God exists or b) maybe “deciding” isn’t something that is a conscious process? Either way, it’s not a choice thing. And I would like to point it out every time, but I’ve been working on not doing that as much (although this post is an exception), because it apparently is obnoxious.
But that’s not really what I was going for here. Instead, I’m going to describe a fact pattern, and you can determine what this should be called, or what I should label myself:
1) If someone speaks of God as a real entity, then I’ll speak back when them as if God is a real entity.
When someone like Bonnie says, “You and God will have much to talk about together, if you decide that he exists,” I take a bit of time to get past the “decide” shibboleth…but once I’m past that, I think, “OK, sure, that will be a quaint conversation.”
What does that mean, that I think such a conversation is a possibility? Is that like saying that I accept that God exists?
So, my disbelief these days sounds more like, “It’s possible that a being such as God exists, in the same way that it’s possible a person named Quangyang Yu exists.” In the billions of billions of people on this earth, it could be possible. But whether such a person exists is of little to no concern to me, because I don’t know Mr. Yu (or would that be Mr. Quangyang?) But even more, it’s not just that I don’t know Mr. QYY…it’s that I don’t know of Mr. QYY. After all, even if I don’t know a celebrity figure like Barack Obama, I know of Barack Obama. He is in my perceptual vantage of People Who Are Actually People. Mr. QYY is purely hypothetical. But I mean, not purely hypothetical. Though I don’t know Mr. QYY or know of Mr. QYY, I think that if I did a VLOOKUP of the billions and billions, at least one person would match up.
Maybe the same is true with God?
That raises the question: what does it mean to say one believes in God? Is it just the most minimal sense that if one did a VLOOKUP across the entire universe, one would find a match? Is it in the slightly more intermediate sense that one knows “of” someone, like I know “of” Barack Obama (though I have never met him)? Or is it only in actually knowing someone, like I “know” Bonnie? (Ignoring that on the internet, no one knows you’re a dog.)
But that gets me to the next thing…
2) I take more people’s statements (somewhat) at face value.
I’m pegging this all on the “somewhat” (I’m definitely not a person inclined to believe anything…), but I’m going to say that if certain people I know are speaking of God as being a real entity, then I’ll take them somewhat at face value. In this sense, God is like a mutual acquaintance of ours — except I have never been introduced. I guess this is what it means in Mormonism to “believe on the words of others.”
I still wrap a lot of subjectivity in this…it’s one thing to take a theist’s statement at face value by assuming that because they speak of God, that means God exists…and it’s another thing to take the statement as a statement simply that they believe that God exists (where that belief, and whatever experience is behind it, is certainly a powerful thing.)
With subjectivity comes room for unreliable narrators…a game of telephone where at the end, the message always gets mangled. I know that there are a lot of people who raise the diversity of mutually exclusive deity concepts as evidence against God…and I also know there are people who raise the analogy of blind people feeling different parts of an elephant, describing (with their limited awareness) what they believe to be very different things.
Are all theists talking about the same thing, but just taking away different conclusions? How much of it is them bring themselves to the equation?
I dunno. Is Obama a radical black separatist Christian/anti-theist atheist/radical Muslim born in Kenya?
So, I don’t know where I’m at as far as that…but my disbelief these days sounds more like, “OK, so I haven’t met with God, and he doesn’t seem to answer his phone, but he can call me if he wants.”