Dissecting God(s)

Gods have guts.  It is said that the parts aren’t the same as the whole, but if you lay a god open and take him apart, you can learn much of how he ticks.  God anatomists, called “theologians”, have discovered these inner workings.  Their dissections have revealed many organs which they usually name with a word ending in “-ology” (Greek for “saying” which, as a suffix means “a branch of knowledge”). To the right is a sacrilegious illustration of just some of the -ologies to be found within the Christian god.  For the anatomist, each of these “-ologies” is a way for them to tell us their views of that issue.  Here are definitions for those not familiar:

  • Soteriology (view of salvation)
  • Eschatology (view of the end times)
  • Christology (view of the messiah)
  • Harmatiology  (view of sin)
  • Bibliology (view of scripture)

Inviting a Christian to dissect their god, may seem offensive at first (just like this picture), but when you show them that even their hallowed Church fathers have done the same (though under the guise of “theology”) then they may forgive your audacious choice of terms and imagery.  Discussing the anatomy of a god can be fruitful.

Many Christians are unaware of the plethora of different opinions that exist within each of the -ologies.  My post called “My Favorite Christians“, lists most the major -ologies and several of the different views.  Here are examples:

  • 4 Soterologies : inclusive, exclusive, pluralist and universalist
  • 4 Eschatologies:  pre, post and amillenialists, and preterism
  • 3 Christology:  high, medium and low
  • 3 Harmatiologies:  original sin, ancestral sin, tabula rasa
  • 2 Bibliologies : figurativists, literalists

With a little  combinatorial math we can see that using just these five traits, we can generate lots of different Christian gods:

4 x 4 x 3 x 3 x 2 = 288  different  gods!

Wow.  And to think, there are at least 20 or more traits (organs) their god has: thus there are thousands of  different gods possible which all bear the name of “Yahweh-Jesus”.  Some of these combinations are unviable, of course, but you get my point.

So, though each god-believer may visualize a similar white-bearded sky-dweller on the outside, with a little dissecting we see that their real inner gods vary hugely.  So don’t let a believer or a non-believer tell you there is only one type of Christianity, there are hundreds and hundreds of varieties — all easily revealed with a little theological dissection.  This sort of exercise is a curse to Religious Prescriptionists.

So don’t get sucked into arguing against a god that the believer does not imagine.  Instead, figure out the anatomy of their god but remember, gods have much more than just organs.  For instance, each god also has a circulatory system (the vibrant connection of their beliefs) and an immune system (polemic style) to enliven their deity.  So you must be careful in the dissection — don’t assume the approach you use on one believer is fair for another — even if their “-ologies” are similar.

Understanding the anatomy of a theist’s god will help you to avoid strawman arguments and it can also help the believer to actually grab responsibility for the creation of their own god.  Don’t be tricked by the word “god”, doing the dissection will reveal a multitude of different creatures.

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Filed under Philosophy & Religion

49 responses to “Dissecting God(s)

  1. Very interesting – I agree that it is important for believers and non-believers not to argue past each other.

    I often find it remarkable that, when cornered, a believer might hide behind the fact that his God defies description, only then to describe him (as benevolent, as omnipotent etc.) with his very next breath.

  2. @ Edward
    Thanx for visiting. “Talking Past Each Other” is the cause of much wasted time on blogs. And you are right: Hiding behind contradictions is a sad refuge of many believers — not only Christians.

  3. Very good points, Sabio. All too often people talk past each other. It seems rather tedious to enter into a religious discussion when you first have to define what it is you believe or don’t believe in order to continue. “But that’s not what I believe” is a common reply. I try to ask a lot of questions during a debate to try to establish the framework of the belief, but it too often gets derailed and I get accused of being condescending just for asking.

    There really is no winner or loser in these blog discussions and minds are seldom changed. I guess many folks get upset when you try to pin down and define what they truly believe. I appreciate your thoroughness with the examination of that belief. Now if I could only understand why people believe what they do.

  4. @ zqtx
    People believe for lots of reasons: community cohesion, illusion of identity, status, and much more. But their beliefs rarely are about what they say it is about.

    Though it is a pain dissecting beliefs, as you state, we must wonder why we dialogue at all. That pain in being careful may help us to realize it is time to stop before wasting too much time.

  5. I get the psychology of why people believe, but getting them to be honest with you and themselves is the tough part. People like to believe in a purpose. People like the security they feel religion offers, whether they admit it or not. People like to belong. I think people truly believe that their god is part of them and when you question that god, they feel like you’re really questioning them and that’s reason enough to get defensive.

    The reason I engage is to try to expose the absurdity of religion and religious thinking. I really feel that religion hinders progress, both socially and scientifically. There’s plenty of history to back up that statement.

  6. Speaking in generalities is a mistake.

    Religion hinders progress.

    Ironically, such non-empirical blanket statements like that themselves hinder progress. I think the part of your frustration is that you want to make the world simple — us vs. them. Religion vs. Non-religion. That campaign is part of what gives you identity, purpose. The irony is palpable.

  7. You’ve accused me of that before.

    Yes, all generalities are wrong. :-)

    Non-empirical? It’s easy to see throughout history where religious ideology has opposed advances in science, medicine and social structures. Not to appear arrogant, but do you need specific examples? It’s not about us vs. them and I have no horse in this race. By that I mean I have no children and no reason for trying to advance any agenda other than trying to present facts over beliefs. It’s just an observation, plain and simple.

  8. It’s easy to see throughout history where [SOME] religious ideology has opposed advances in science, medicine and social structures.

    Religion is not homogenous. Heck, it doesn’t even really exist.
    Non-religious agendas have fought science too.
    I suggest that focusing on exactly what hinders science would be more fruitful than using generalities.

    Yes, I have accused you of generalities before and so I get frustrated when you throw out the same mistaken mimes as if we never had the conversation.

  9. Ok then – in future I’ll try to incorporate more qualifiers.

    So, regarding the above entry on dissecting a god belief, have you had any success with this technique on a theist?

  10. Indeed I have had “success” — I learned of interpretations of Christianity I had never heard and I saw very inspiring ways turn the Christian myths (even thought I can not do them for myself). I also helped others to see the limits of their reasoning. Also I can to points of understanding where we disagree and why and we were both were happy to find the untestable central disagreement point. The dialogue has gone all those ways.

  11. Great post. I’d been thinking about all of the variations lately, but never got serious enough to crunch the numbers. Of course, these are just the major categories too. Flesh out the bones and muscles and lymph nodes with ideas like God’s control of the weather, God’s influence on free will, etc. and you can end up with as many possibilities as there are adherents. Your own… personal… Jesus…

    It seems that no matter how well I know the debater on the other side, I will always stumble into pockets where I begin talking past them. Heck, the same could even be said for many normal conversations. :-)

  12. …and thus is the flaw of the written word. I write “success” to refer to the ability to initiate a fruitful dialogue, and I feel as though you read that to be a form of conquest.

    I guess I must really choose my words more carefully in the future.

    Have a Happy Thanksgiving

  13. “So don’t let a believer or a non-believer tell you there is only one type of Christianity, there are hundreds and hundreds of varieties …”

    Unfortunately, many of the fundamentalists I’ve met are convinced that their version of Christianity is the ONLY one, and all other Christians are either deluded or not real Christians at all.

    This post makes a simple but very important observation: there are so many ways to define God that believers may not even mean the same thing when they refer to God. If this isn’t a case for ignosticism, I don’t know what is.

    Wise Fool — Love the Depeche Mode reference.

    Edward — This has always frustrated me too. For too many fundamentalists, God is anthropomorphic when they need him to be, but when the conversation gets too uncomfortable, they take refuge in abstraction.

  14. @The Wise Fool:
    Thanx, dude. You would not believe how much time and thought I put into the photoshopped image — but I think it aids the post. What do you think?
    And your final sentence is KEY, and shows that you get my point — we all do it!

    If a fundie tells you that all other Christians are idiots or damned, then the conversation is going to be close to finished. I agree, you can only try so hard. I wish I understood the Depeche Mode allusion (but then, I wouldn’t know Depeche Mode if I heard them).

    Nah, I took “success” to mean fruitful dialogue too — I just wasn’t sure if you meant “successful” only if I converted someone to my thinking — because I don’t consider that necessarily success. I believe firmly that we influence each other in ways that have nothing to do with the content of our dialogue — so lots is going on when we talk — there is room for “success” with each player in the dialogue, even if they disagree vehemently.

  15. Sabio — He’s refering to the song “Personal Jesus” by Depeche Mode.


  16. Thanx, Ahab, I just spent 20 minutes listening to Depeche Mode — now I know why I never heard of them. I have heard the music but only on the radio right before I channel it. :-)

  17. @Sabio
    Oh, I thoroughly enjoyed your photoshop work on this, and the analogy is great too, as these five -ologies are the primary organs of a Christian belief structure. Nice work. Of course, I wouldn’t be surprised if believers took a slight offense at God having a frog-body. ;-)

  18. As you might have guessed, I love this post. A personal beef of mine is the use of the word “god” capitalized and singular. To me this is akin to using ghost the same way. “Do you believe in Ghost?” “We all follow the same Ghost.”
    The breakdown list is quite thought-provoking. Helpful. Think I’ll bookmark it right now for future reference — further thought.

  19. @ Wise Fool Thanx. Yeah, I thought of doing a dissection on a cartoon of Neptune but then I was talking about live-dissection (like we did in medical school), not dead. We are analyzing the currently used gods. Also, I thought of putting a human body there, but the gods are mythical chimeric creations anyways, so why not a frog body!! My son laughed and told me I was a sick puppy — but you could tell he liked it. Maybe it is just the boy in me.

    @ Andrews Glad you enjoyed. Capital “G” in Ghost is a great analogy! This post is a preface to an upcoming planned post (if I ever get there) where I will discuss another “-ology”.

  20. JSA

    This is a key concept in the Bible. Scriptures use several different names for God, and the names change depending on who is interacting with God and their personal perspective. This isn’t an accidental detail; it is very deliberate. Both the OT and NT say that none of the names that people use for God (not even YHVH) are the true name. The true name of God is known only to himself. This is why the Jews vocalize “Adonai” when they see YHVH printed on the page.

    Some minor issues:

    1) Theological lines may not be the most useful dissection points. If your goal is to show that different people have different perspectives on God’s attributes, it makes more sense to dissect based on the people who are doing the perceiving. That’s why the Bible often disambiguates with phrases like, “The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” — it’s more natural to dissect based on which person’s God it is. Andrew has written on this a number of times, and I assume that’s why he chose the name “MyGod” for his blog.

    2) I don’t think the math is very helpful. It gives a false sense of precision and could confuse people into thinking of this as an arithmetic issue involving discrete quantities. If we really want to use math to model this issue, combinatorics is not a good way.

    3) I don’t think you are actually saying that there are 288+ distinctly separate gods that people believe in, but there is a danger of people reading it that way, so I’ll explain why that would be mistaken. Suppose you believe your boss is a Republican, and your co-worker believes that your boss is a Libertarian. Perhaps the boss is even lying to you both, and secretly votes Democrat. That doesn’t mean there are 3 different bosses, although it’s OK to say so in a poetic or metaphorical way. I assume you’re using poetic license here, kind of like the Walt Whitman quote in your sidebar.

    3a) The poetic license wears thin if you start dissecting too small. For example, people might have different beliefs about your boss’s taste in soft drinks, and might have different beliefs about whether or not your boss intends to fire or promote someone. If you dissect small enough, you can always arrive at exactly as many perspectives as there are people doing the perceiving. Does that mean that there as many bosses as there are people who have met him? It’s kind of fun to say so, but it’s obviously not real. If you prefaced every water cooler conversation with, “We can’t really talk about the boss, because there are too many bosses”, people would think you were unhinged.

    3b) Of course, there are cases where people’s different perceptions should make them think that they are talking about different people. Maybe your boss has an impostor who is running around confusing people. But dissection is obviously not the right way to distinguish between a different perspective and a different object being perceived.

    4) The whole issue is somewhat moot when talking about “God”. The word “God” is already a catch-all that stands in for Adonai and the other names, which stands in for YHVH, which stands in for “I am that I am” and the unknown name. Focusing on the fact that “God” is imprecise is essentially the same as replacing the word “God” with “G-d” when writing — rather superfluous.

  21. @ JSA
    I am going to take your comment in little bites:
    I don’t understand what you are getting at with all the various names of God (Adonai, Elohim, YWHW, ha-Shem, G-d, g*D, or whatever). I agree that the name does matters not if I think of it as only a pointer and as used by different people. But how did you see that fitting with my post?

    And so, your opening line of:

    This is a key concept in the Bible.

    made no sense to me. I still can’t figure out what “This” means in that sentence — as relating to my post, of course. Somehow I guess it might fit in with Minor Issue #1, but I thought I start small by asking for clarification.

    We’ll discuss the other points after clarify (or not) this point.

  22. George 'Toad' Shope

    Why is I get the feeling your picture was a hint to me? :o

    Otherwise, awesome dissecting. :D

    Ribbit :)

  23. JSA

    Well, if you’re dealing with Christians who believe that there is only one true view of God, I’ve found that it’s helpful to show them that their Bible contradicts them.

    The names of God are basically just descriptions of how particular people perceived God, not identifiers like “Sabio”. For example, when Hagar was saved from death, she chose the name “He who sees me”. Sometimes the descriptions even conflict — for example, is Christ a lion or a lamb?

    Not only does the Bible show that different people operate with different descriptions of God; it seems to be a very important feature of the scriptures. Since the names of God are descriptions, and since the Bible says that only God knows his true name, then any Christian who claims to know the one true description of God is contradicting his Bible.

  24. The Hindus were right: Shiva has many appearances. But I am not discussing the 4 blind man feeling the elephant. Here are examples:

    So when one Christian tells us all are saved and another tells us that only 144,000 will be saved, then they are both right — they are just seeing different sides of YWHW infinite sides which are non-comprehensible, right?

    Or if one says the Bible is literally true and the other says it is only metaphor and nothing, including the resurrection, really happened then –>

    Are you saying we can all assume it is all the same because YWHW has infinites presentations to different people and each little piece is just their own incomplete view.

    Is that your position? If so, like several of your other views, I am not familiar with it. In other words, I am trying to dissect your god now. And if you allow all these simultaneous contrary positions to be true, we can’t talk theology or about your god. I can see why that would be a very comfortable position. But it is not the position of most of the Christians I know. But the, that is why we are dissecting. There are lots of different Christian Creatures out there. Your category on this epistemology would be a big -ology difference (not trivial) and warrant a separate chamber of its own in the bug collection.

  25. JSA

    Those seem like pretty good example of the 4 blind men and the elephant to me. One guy focuses on God being a lion and concludes that only 144,000 will be saved. Another guy focuses on God being a lamb and concludes that everyone will be saved.

    The point of the 4 blind men and the elephant wasn’t that “they are both right”, to use your phrase. The point was that they’re all operating on incomplete information and end up making mistakes.

    BTW, your soteriology example seems analogous to two employees speculating about whether or not their boss is going to promote or fire a colleague.

  26. @ JSA
    OK, well, I see you fit in another box. Thanks again for sharing your flavor of Christianity.

  27. JSA

    I don’t remember sharing my flavor of Christianity, and I’m pretty sure I contain multitudes, but you’re welcome anyway.

    I would be interested to hear what you think of the original points 1-4 that I raised.

  28. @ JSA
    I think if we are not understanding each other up to this point, we may not make progress. Here are my replies, though:
    (1) I disagree
    (2) I think the math is a helpful teaching tool
    (3) I think others understand to point of the post clearly
    (4) See my first reply

  29. @JSA To this reader it seems you are bending over backwards to save the idea of one god. Bordering on special pleading about what the bible actually says (a lot of different books saying a lot of differing things, really). Yours is a very liberal, inclusive interpretation of notions of god. How do you know yours is the correct interpretation vs. the fundamentalist of any stripe saying, “No the god-elephant is all ears, with absolutely no tail!”? I see no persuasive reason to accept one stance or the other. In fact, I reject both.
    As for the boss analogy, that fails. For we have public, verifiable knowledge of the existence of a boss. In this case diverging statements about said being could be viewed as pointing to different experiences/characteristics of him.
    With a god, however, ALL we know about him/it in any verifiable/factual way are statements made about this supposed being in text or spoken word. So to say differing perspectives aren’t reflective of different beliefs about a god but rather different conceptions of the same god involves making one massive assumption.

  30. JSA

    @Andrew – Not at all. It’s possible that there is no god, multiple gods, or just one god. I’m not taking a position on the matter.

    What I’m saying is that the leap from “288 different theological permutations” to “288 different gods” is illogical. All 288 permutations could be explained under any of the 3 potential realities: no god, multiple gods, or one god.

    If you want to find out whether two or more people believe in the same hypothetical god, theological permutation isn’t even close to the right way to do it.

    The nature of the empirical evidence is irrelevant. People get irrational when they talk about religion, which is why I encourage people to model the problem in a non-religious context. Modify the analogy in any way you wish, using non-religious characters and scant evidence that is heavily in dispute. Maybe an ancient letter claiming to be from a lieutenant of Alexander the Great?

    No matter how you tease the scenario, you cannot come up with a scenario where 288 permutations of interpretation prove 288 distinct entities. That’s because you cannot rule out the “no entity” or “one entity” interpretations – or, indeed, any number from 0 to 288 inclusive. And you can’t rule them out, because permutations are the wrong way to model the problem.

    (2) I think the math is a helpful teaching tool

    @Sabio – Of course math can be helpful. It’s your math that’s not helpful. You modeled it the wrong way. I didn’t think you considered yourself a teacher of mathematical modeling.

  31. @ JSA
    You are doing the same distracting thing that John Barron did. You are focusing on small points and avoiding the main point.

    Many Christians argue about the attributes of their god. Their split and form new denominations over it. They tell non-believers why they are so wrong exactly in those terms. If you want to stay clean and claim no attributes (though I have heard you rant about hell and predetermination), then be my guest. This post is not for you.

    As my post said,

    Some of these combinations are unviable, of course, but you get my point.

    But it is obvious — either you don’t get the point, or you want to be distracting, insulting or argumentative. We have had a run of several post in this tone. I will not engage your distractions, sorry.

  32. JSA

    Many Christians argue about the attributes of their god. Their split and form new denominations over it.

    Yes. And sometimes that is evidence that they have different opinions about the same god, and sometimes it is evidence that they have distinctly different gods.

    If we want to dissect something, we have to carve it at the joints, not count the superficial features. The permutation approach is akin to counting the feathers on a turkey and multiplying by the weight, and concluding that we’ve dissected a million turkeys.

    FWIW, I think if you model it properly, you probably end up with somewhere between 2 and 12 gods inclusive. Nowhere near 288. Sorry if you consider that to be a “small detail”.

    If you want to stay clean and claim no attributes (though I have heard you rant about hell and predetermination)

    That’s why it’s wise to model the issue in a completely non-religious context. You seem mistrustful of me because I claim to be a theist, and your professed atheism could be plausible basis for people to suspect bias in your reasoning. It’s easier for both sides to trust the motivations of the other if the religious context is isolated.

    But it is obvious — either you don’t get the point, or you want to be distracting, insulting or argumentative.

    It wasn’t my intent to be insulting or distracting, but I was obviously presenting arguments. Sometimes I have a hard time detecting when someone is interested in having their reasoning critiqued versus when they are more in the mood for validation and encouragement.

  33. @ JSA:
    I think those Christians who feel that “knowing their god” is important, this dissection post will ring a bell. Those Christians who claim their god has any of these qualities and are willing to condemn those who disagree with them, will feel this post as possibly offensive. And, as you see, those Atheists (many former believers including myself), will realize that this presentation is very useful for undoing some wrongheaded thinking. If it is not your wrong headed thinking, then this post is not for you.

    Implying I am pleading for validation and encouragement is another example of insulting tone. I will not dialogue with that.

  34. @ JSA
    This post is similar to my Envisioning [Abstract] Nouns post which takes some of it out of the religious sphere. This post’s methods could be applied to Buddhists, Patriots and even Atheists (to some degree).
    The point is: we can’t take for granted the commonality of people who just happen to be using the same abstract word.

  35. JSA

    Are you thinking that “God” is an abstract noun? I think that “god” and “Buddhist” would both be common nouns, while “God” would be a proper noun (which doesn’t mean there is only 1 God, BTW)

    I suppose an atheist could claim that God is an abstract noun, but I’m not sure that works. Mickey Mouse is a proper noun, not an abstract noun, right?

  36. @ JSA
    First, I want you to remember the main point of my last comment:

    The point is: we can’t take for granted the commonality of people who just happen to be using the same abstract word.

    Now, concerning your question: “Abstract vs. Concrete” is just one of several fuzzy classification of English nouns. Another classification is “Proper vs. Common”.
    I will quote wiki for you:

    Concrete nouns refer to physical entities that can, in principle at least, be observed by at least one of the senses (for instance, chair, apple, Janet or atom). Abstract nouns, on the other hand, refer to abstract objects; that is, ideas or concepts (such as justice or hatred).

    I won’t bicker with you the classification. But point out that my daughter used to have imaginary geese she talked to. Were they concrete or abstract? I think of them as abstract but again, I won’t bicker over that. When some Christians describe themselves as having “ a personal relationship with Jesus“, I chuckle at that because they are using the word “relationship” in a very unusual sense, just as my daughter had a “relationship” with her geese. Words are pliable, until they are used to argue then you need to agree to some extent.

    Which takes me back to the main point — take the word “abstract” out if it pleases you.

  37. John

    I enjoyed this post (and the discovery of the many others you have)! I am, by the categorical sense of the word, a Christian. However, not in the sense that many view it, from the outside or the inside of the many circles that claim to have some ownership of the “truth,” by what ever version they have adopted. My “version” if you will is one of continuous discovery – one that often lands me not in conflict with the transliterations of the scriptures, but in conflict with the “believer” and the “non-believer”. Some would ask why I believe at all then, if there is so much dissonance, and I often tell them that I don’t believe that the science of medicine should be thrown out just because a practitioner made a mistake – the problem is the practitioner, not medicine.

    In fact, my discovery was by accident. I was not raised in a church, I was raised in poverty and among alcoholism. I was not raised under prejudice to believe that believer vs. non-believer was something to understand. But I was raised to understand, to seek knowledge, to keep an open mind, but to have the courage to stand for something. So one day, a storm of common sense realization hit me, opening up the possibilites and setting me on fire to an exciting but rarely accepted understanding to the logical sense of Christianity. Already, I know those last four words have the biases on high gain. I would ask “why” at this point. Because nine time out of ten, it’s because the quasi-practitioners have poisoned the well as well as the biased observers – in other words, the stereotype and bias derived are focused not on the logical sense of the message, but on the practitioners and the assumptions derived through the typecasting. Many resort (including some famous and vociferous atheists), to using the Crusades and other mismanaged claims of ownership as the reason to disavow any validity (besides just the problem of their biased opposition to any existence of spirutality).

    This is only one of the components up for debate, but the applied assumption is erroneous on many levels, as it isn’t measured acrossed all groups, but only upon those who they are in opposition to. ie, the “beliefs” of communists became so religious that they sought the erradication of opposition and the control of the subserviant population – defining the living practices of the people. The argument then shifts to the literation of the word religion with obvious intents to eliminate the collective agreement principle as one of the primary meanings of “religion.” I propose that all things that have an influence on the order of conduct and integration among the people is in the very essence of the word, “religion.” The proof positive of this is the recent “hope and change” view of how a certain order of politics would bring about a societal change. The belief was so magnified, that many people put that hope for change into the elevation of one single human being. Keep in mind, these “changes” are not base in science, but in a dogmatic approach; even to the degree of absolute belief without proof of evidence.

    As you can see, I’m not the stereotype poster child for christianity, and love the discussions. But for those that are the typecast models, I say that in every group, the very same representation is present, whether in religion, politics, business, etc. Because most people follow the ideals and strive to match those ideals in the expression of their lives. Some to justify their beliefs, and others to reinforce their beliefs. That to me is all symbolism and much of it falls under the categorical definition of religion, for the traditions lead to the reinforcement of the belief for the person or the group.

    If I don’t stop now, I’ll fill up pages of reading, so I’ll leave at this –
    Thanks for your wonderful blog!


  38. @ John: Yes, you have yet another flavor of “Christian”.

  39. “Understanding the anatomy of a theist’s god will help you to avoid strawman arguments and it can also help the believer to actually grab responsibility for the creation of their own god. ”

    -wise words. I often find myself having to resist getting painted as a fundamentalist and having to set fire to all the strawmen. I would love to take responsibility for my God, but getting there is often the hardest part.

  40. I think I’ve read this post from you before, S. That being said, I think the deity/dissection picture is awesome.

    Here is one of my favourite images for explaining part of the god thing (not mine, but I wish I had made it :-) ):

    And, just a personal shout-out to JSA for mentioning my slogan. My use of “my God” is at best still in rough draft form and isn’t meant to point to a specific deity. It isn’t supposed to suggest there even is such a ‘creature’ but instead expose our motivations behind using such words.

    For a long time I thought debating theological matters was like arguing with light bulbs. But I’m trying to change my mind. Getting people to consciously explore their motivations might just be one of the healthier things we can do.

  41. @ Luke,
    Sorry, I didn’t really follow that.

    @ Andrew,
    Debating in terms used by believers can be helpful — but you have to be willing to play their game for a while. My daughter had make-believe invisible friends called “geese” she used her hands to pretend when they talked to each other. If I talked about them as real geese she would let me join in and learn stuff about her (not the geese, of course). The analogy is similar.

  42. Earnest

    @ JSA: the 288 that Sabio uses is simply an easy way to demonstrate a fragmented kaliedescopic reality of something that some insist is an immutable singularity. The exact number is immaterial. Taking Sabio to task on the number itself is a bit petty.

    @ Sabio: this essay is truly worthy of the fatwas that are surely tagged to your blog by now!

  43. @ Earnest
    Yes, his picking on the math was an unnecessary diversion. I had a caveat that explained the point.
    But My diagram was not meant to say, “Therefore, god is a multitude.” It was meant to show how such gods are obvious human creations.

  44. JSA

    @Sabio – I’ve already explained why your “caveat” was worse than useless. It is positively harmful to clear thinking. As I said:

    If we want to dissect something, we have to carve it at the joints, not count the superficial features. The permutation approach is akin to counting the feathers on a turkey and multiplying by the weight, and concluding that we’ve dissected a million turkeys.

    You caveat would be akin to saying, “Sometimes the permutation is not viable”.

    You caveat implies that some of the permutations are viable, and even gives the false impression that there is a balanced and thoughtful way to judge permutations, when that’s not even the right way to look at the problem.

    And, as I said, that’s just a small issue with your post. I haven’t even begun to point out the big issues. A bigger issue is that the different perceptions of God are almost always irrelevant to discussions of belief. For example, when we’re discussing whether or not the universe was created by an intelligent being, a common cop-out is to say “Was it the Muslim God, the Jewish God, or some other God? There are so many!”. In fact, it’s irrelevant — either there was a teleological creator or there wasn’t.

    In almost every case where someone tries to bring up the “diversity” argument, it’s a smoke screen to attempt to escape clear thinking. In this post, for example, I was pointing out a methodological error in your thinking that has absolutely nothing to do with religion (it applies to dissection of any proper noun), and you repeatedly tried to turn it into a discussion about which flavor of God I believe in. The fact that you would attempt to divert criticism of your math and logic by assuming that its about “flavors of god”, suggests that it’s a deep seated reflex.

  45. @ JSA
    I still think you are incorrect. Best we move on.

  46. Sabio there is all sorts of wickedness and mischief in this thread. Upon further dissection, I have discovered pneumatic spirits but they don’t seem to be god pieces. Could this possibly be? Hope you are well.

  47. @Cris
    Indeed. The problem with doing dissections is staying sterile. All sort of vapors, phlegm and bile can escape into the room. I wish I had the power of Jesus to tell these spirits to jump into peaceful swines and drown themselves in the sea. But alas, this is the danger of mere mortals doing divine surgery.

    Hey, we are still waiting for you to fix your site — November (the promised date) has come and gone. I’ve got to catch up on my reading there.
    Thanx for dropping in. Next time, a bit more substantive feedback would be coveted should you be in the mood.

  48. I apologize for the hit and run; I have been mono-focused on writing a book and my agent and co-author have had me under the gun. My blog, and everything else in my life, has taken a backseat. That said, some of the comments in this thread are not my cup of tea; I can’t stand theological and/or sophistic argumentation. Your patience is admirable!

  49. Christians are a little more difficult to deal with since their beliefs and interpretations of the scriptures are so varied. You have fundamentalist, librealist, etc. It’s always a good idea to find out what denomination they belong to and what it is that they believe on a case by case basis. With around 45,000 sects and denominations worldwide it’s like trying to debate 45,000 different people on the same subject who have different opinions on the matter.

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