The Spackle God

Brain Spackle“Spackle” is an American genericized word like Kleenex (tissue) and Band-Aid (adhesive bandage).  Spackle is a filler used to repair cracks, fissures, holes and other defects in walls.  And in my model below, Spackle is the supernatural the stuff used to fill your mind where your knowledge is lacking.  My “Spackle God” is the same as the classic term “God of the Gaps“.  I prefer “Spackle God” because it sounds cool and focuses on the cheap stuff that fills the gaps, instead of the gaps themselves.

Since de-converting from Christianity I have tried to make sense of both my former believing-self and now of Christians who still believe.  The Spackle god image to the right is one I have used to make sense of what believers call “God”.  In this model, the red figure stands for the god created by the cluster of supernatural explanations believers use to fill holes in their knowledge.  Being a true skeptic, I have left some white space inside the “God” hexagon to represent a possible actual god.

Over the last centuries, the Spackle god has shrunk significantly and consequently the white-space “possible god” which it supports has likewise diminished.  As scientists have discovered the mechanisms of lightening, floods, earthquakes, famines, and disease once attributed to god(s),  “God” has gotten radically tinier.  Evolution, Physics, Cognitive Science (to mention a few) have continued to shrink the Spackle god and replaced it with much more substantial material.   The strip below illustrates what I think should happen as science and reason inevitably whittle down the Spackle god even further.  The remaining “God” will be pathetic in size and destitute of explanatory power.  But my model has a problem.

The Shrinking Spackle God

Below I show three versions of how I see believers reacting to science’s whittling away of the Spackle god.

  1. The Disillusioned Believer:  Almost no significant god left.  This god may only appear at severe times of trouble, perhaps as a desperate prayer, and even then the ex-believer probably chuckles at themselves.
  2. The Science-Resistant Believer: The anti-evolutionist, flat-earthist, anti-geologist, anti-historian.  You can imagine see-no-evil, hear-no-evil monkeys as another image.  The arrows are their efforts to resist and obstruct knowledge.
  3. The Science-Friendly Believer:  These believers incorporate well-reasoned insights and discoveries for the most part and their “God” only shrinks a little.  Science and reason play a large role in their epistemology.

The Disillusioned

The Science-Resistant

The Science-Friendly

But I have been puzzled by these science-friendly believers who admittedly see their Spackle god shrink yet their “God” hexagon stays relatively inflated.  In this model, their “God” should contract.  I have been pondering and blogging about that phenomena over the last year.  I have wondered why their “God” does not collapse more without the support of the Spackle god.  Finally I think I have a visual model that helps explain why all that white space does not collapse further in the science-friendly believer’s model.  I will share that new model in my next post.  This post has been an introduction.  But before I post, what are your ideas?


Filed under Philosophy & Religion, Science

49 responses to “The Spackle God

  1. John Donaldson

    If your second posting is as clear and understandable as the first I shall be sending both to my son, a fundamentalist preacher. I find it so very difficult to understand his thinking and I know that he has given up in trying to understanding me. I am a formerly disillusioned believer who now finds only the least possibility of there being or ever having been a god or gods other than in the minds of men.

  2. People will believe what they wish to. Religion proves that we are inherently able to keep two or more viciously conflicting ideas in our head at the same time, at least as long as we don’t think about them too much. Some of us feel the desperate need to have our divine safety net looking out for us.

    Then again there’s the fact that smart people will often believe in things like the birther movement or UFOs or in the imaginary 2000 concentration camps in the US just ready to start locking people up. These people think they have the truth, the one true path. To themselves then, they are ahead of the curve and smarter than the others.

    I see this everyday in people I respect and like.

    Blessed Atheist Bible Study @

  3. CRL

    Science resistant believers, by discrediting evolution, seismology (God sent the quake!), meteorology (God sent the hurricane!), and other sciences, create ever-growing gaps in their wall of knowledge, so as to give themselves more places to stick their spackle god.

    They have a problem: spackle doesn’t hold walls up. Once their worldview collapses under the weight of its own contradictions, they build themselves a house of spackle, with no windows or doors. This is known as fundamentalism.

    (of course, most of your science-resistant believers use science to deny science. and it is essentially unscientific to label your opponents as anti science extremists. your average old-earth creationist thinks that they are being scientificand raising reasonable doubts. your average young earth creationist does not think, and instead fervently denies the laws of physics!)

  4. In some cases scientific and religious accounts are viewed as compatible, and so the whole wall is also a divine action, no spackle needed. Of course, it would be a fair question to ask what the difference is in practice, if any, between a God who does everything and a God who doesn’t do anything. But it remains the case that for many science-friendly religious folks (including pantheists and panentheists as well as science-embracing theists) God and the hexagon are thought to overlap in a non-competitive way, or are partially or completely identified with one another.

  5. Sabio

    @ James McGrath
    Do you agree that god(s) were used to explain illnesses, volcanoes, floods, diseases in a way they aren’t today by some theists? If so, I call that decreased spackle. Now, new sophisticated science-friendly theists may form some fancy pan(en)theist theories to keep a god of sorts but it is very different from gods of old or how many literalists hold god to be today. Can you agree to that sort of spackling?
    I can see you agree that spackling is undesirable, but I would hope you also agree it has and still does happen.

  6. I had no intention to deny the existence of spackle! 🙂 My point was simply that the popular science-friendly approach in theistic circles seems to be to say that things are “both/and”. If you want to stick to the analogy, you could perhaps say that this approach adds spackle as an additional layer on a wall that is perfectly intact on its own terms!

  7. Sorry, James, I still don’t follow. Maybe a few concrete examples would help. Perhaps giving a few examples of what would count simultaneously as a religious and as a scientific proposition.

  8. I understand your point to be that “spackle God” is God used to explain the inexplicable. And there is a stream in modern (and much ancient) theism that doesn’t regard God as an alternative explanation, but as involved in everything that happens.

    On this view, a storm may be explicable in meteorological terms, but that is not viewed as excluding God directing it; an embryo develops according to DNA’s instruction, but God is still “knitting it together in the mother’s womb”; evolution explains life’s development, but God is viewed as directing the process. What God does is not explained and not considered explicable or subjectable to scientific investigation.

    This may be an incoherent view, but it is a popular one. I think this is perhaps the same thing you are asking: If God is not needed as an explanation, then why invoke God at all? Is that the question you are asking?

  9. I think you are right — that is an incoherent view with the obvious objection that God then also knits devastating malformations in the womb. This is certainly not a god that a Christian pan(en)theism would want to embrace, if I am not mistaken. So we leave that view.

    But I am not really asking a question, I am just trying to illustrate the different ways believers respond when their spackle gods are threatened. In my next post, I hope to elaborate the model and perhaps illustrate why someone like yourself would still use consider themselves a theist and identify with your ancestor theists who held views radically different than your own. I will be fumbling with a model and would love feedback.

  10. Boz

    I suggest that as a science-friendly theist’s knowledge increases, and the gaps for a deity to hide in slowly disappear, and their idea of a deity moves away from an interventionist personal Yahweh, towards a nebulous feeling of shared spirituality.

    also, spackle is a slang term for somthing other than wall-filler.

  11. “I have wondered why their “God” does not collapse more without the support of the Spackle god. ”

    I’m with James McG here, of course. You ask for concrete examples, and your metaphor shows your bias. much like asking the Pirate to give an explanation of God, i like his responses. To provide further support, i point to the Westminster Confession which states that God is immaterial. so in short, God would not just just the spackle, wall, or hexagon in your diagram, but the white space as well. so in short, God can’t collapse even though some people’s idea and view of the universe does.

    does this result in a nebulous feeling of shared spirituality as Boz claims? yeah, in some circles. in others we have a lot of mystery and don’t feel the need to find divine meaning in every single event. sometimes a car crash is just physics. sometimes there is a purpose, but it’s up to the person involved to interpret it’s meaning… NOT for someone to come along and slap meaning over it (like Haiti and the recent Glen Beck crap) which i think is what both Atheists and progressive-religious types are both against.

  12. S, I’m quite curious now as to the next illustration, especially with the conversation from comments.

    I really want to predict something, but I know the dangers in prognostication — guessing can really muck up a religion.

    Ah, I’ll try anyway:
    Does the blue hexagon inflate then? And the spackle disappear? Which kind of means they aren’t trying to patch up God in the gaps but they are still clinging to the concept of God. (I was going to say the word, God, but in Christianity ‘word’ and ‘God’ can get way too hairy after all). Really this is just McGrath’s point in redux I guess, but it kind of forms nicely with ID, which is a fun brain-tease but very close to ‘non’-sense.

    The only other idea I can come up with is maybe removing the hexagon and just having the spackle left. It’s understood to be a human-creation, it works as a ‘filler-for-now’ concept with the recognition that change will be needed in the future, but for now the concept will do (again, the contradictory mental state blossoms).

    I know a minister that uses the phrase “The God within” a lot. I think it’s his best attempt at negotiating the contradictions. But, to me it sounds like a literary turn of phrase as much as a workable worldview…

  13. Tim Smith

    Perhaps as a mediating view it would be helpful to consider Stephen Jay Goulds notion of non-overlapping magisteria. Gould’s suggests that due to the social and historical evidence that science and religion have, each in their own way, a pedigree of magisteria ( defenders) of sufficient merit to defend their separate realms. that we should accept the coextensive nature of this arrangement. Discourse is of more benefit within rather than between magisteria. Let us not answer religious questions scientifically or scientific questions religiously unless we remind ourselves of this intrinsic tension. The religious and scientific walls are both intact or both spackled to the degree to which their constituent members say they are. Jesus in Luke 13 did not venture to explain why a tower fell on the people of Siloam. His response was within his magesteria. I have no doubt that similar examples could be quoted from the sayings of other faiths. I imagine that a scientist in his lab engaged in the business of science does not have to be humming hymns while doing his work, nor need he bring his microscope to the pew.

  14. @ Tim & Luke (and James),
    I think people are seeing this post as a Science vs. Religion post. This is an introduction to a coming post that explains more. It is really not meant to be too controversial (Except, of course, to Anti-evolutionist. But I am fortunate not to have the science-unfriendly theists visiting my site).

    Religion was used in the past to explain things that we now know how to explain by NATURAL causes, not supernatural. End of story. Any of you still think gods or demons makes volcanoes erupt and storms happen or cause disease?

    Oooops, I just realized, you probably still want that to happen in some way, don’t you? You want to call preachers who declare Haiti’s disaster punishment from God bigots, but inside you are saying, “Gee, but maybe ….”

    You are right Tim, other faiths got it wrong too. Ooops, Luke, you are right, I am showing my bias. When natural explanations suffice, I don’t add spooks for decoration.

    Anyway, hang in there for the enhanced model — I am sure it will expose much more of my biases.

  15. “Oooops, I just realized, you probably still want that to happen in some way, don’t you?…”

    wow. no. those are might big assumptions you’re putting on my brain.

    looking forward to the enhanced model.

  16. dreadpiratescetis

    “Religion was used in the past to explain things that we now know how to explain by NATURAL causes, not supernatural.”

    God be not natural? That be news to me.

  17. Sabio

    Does your god, Yahweh, decide to cause volcanoes to erupt and viruses to eat a sick child’s brain?
    I am somewhat sympathetic to a non-interfering pan(en)theist god which does not generate all this inconsistencies. But I am talking about the obvious controlling theist god(s) of thunder, storms, pestilence and war. We all know what I mean. “God” is used in many ways — part of the meaning of my post. We need to be clear to really communicate. Sound bites won’t help us. My point, some of you theists still hold to the sort of deity that wracks havoc on humanity and blessings when not feeling jealous, sad or ignored. Are you one of them? Please try to give a straight forward answer.

  18. @ Andrew
    Thanx for playing along. I like your phrase “filler for now”. I look forward to your eval of the next installment.

  19. I’m not sure if anyone has said this before, but I’ll tell my view anyway.

    The believers I’ve met (not sure if they’re science resistant or not – sometimes they are, sometimes they’re not) doesn’t waver in their beliefs, despite the fact that I constantly point out arguments against their god(s). The reason? They don’t even think that there’s a hexagon to begin with, or at least the hexagon is infinite in size. No matter how much I prove, they’ll always think that there’restill other possibilities that their god(s) could work in some non-understandable way, and which has not been disproven.

    As an example: if I say that disasters are easily explain by natural phenomena, they’ll just say, well, you couldn’t disprove the possibility that God is behind the natural phenomena.

    That’s a bit like the science-resistant believer, but instead of refusing to accept science, they accept it sometimes. However, since their hexagon is infinite in size, it can never shrink in size, and their spackle god can remain as large as ever.

  20. Tim Smith

    Science can neither prove nor discredit God/gods. Theists and atheists both know this. There are no slam dunks in the land of “in the beginning.” All models are underdetermined! The halls of science need stucco as bad as the cathedral/temple walls need spackle. NOMA!!

  21. I live with a science-friendly believer. This particular one, I think, remains religious by inertia. He’s a black-and-white kind of person who is either master or slave, and once he decides to obey, he doesn’t question orders.

    Example: I am the colour person when it comes to decoration. If I decide to paint the walls magenta, he’ll follow like a robot. That’s how he follows his religion. He doesn’t question. He doesn’t reason. He does it just because.

    But I think underneath his obedience mode is a deep fear of punishment that makes him rationalize anything that contradicts the tenets of his faith.

  22. @ Darren
    Maybe my next model will incorporate a little of what you point to.

    @ Tim
    To “prove” something, you need definitions — operative definitions. And there ain’t no operative definition for “God”.

    @ Lorena
    Indeed, the constitutional (personality) component in belief (or lack of questioning) is huge. People do the same for politics and sports. We largely fool ourselves in thinking we hold our positions for conscious, decisive, thought-out reasons.

  23. dreadpiratescetis

    “I am somewhat sympathetic to a non-interfering pan(en)theist god”

    Ye do not have a good working definition of panentheist. That view is inherently interfering as all things happen within God who is yet transcendent. God is still more than the total of what we see and know put together. There is still out there. I don’t know about the two problems ye scribe, the kid with the brain eating virus or the volcano and where God is in those events as they happen. I do know that God is there some how and where God is seen is dependent on those experiencing the volcano and child which is what James, Luke, and I be talking about.

    Do things have transcendent meaning? Always. Are we correct in our defining the transcendent meaning? Rarely.

  24. @ Pirate

    I think I see where you are coming from. The Sanford article indeed tells me that most modern concepts of panentheism are crafted by Christian theologians making efforts to explain howh their god interacts with the world.

    But if you read down in the article to the history section, it describes both the Hindu Upanishad and Taoist ultimate realities as having other panentheist forms. But those forms would not be compatible with an emotional deity who constantly interferes with reality while keeping a partial ear to the pleading of humans.

    But I never like to argue definitions. So, when we dialogue, you can let “panentheism” stand for your emotional god who is way bigger than and includes all of reality and manipulates it depending on his whim. And it is obvious I am not sympathetic with this but with the Taoist and Upanishadic versions.

    I hope that aids communication.

  25. Tim Smith

    You are correct that there are no operative definitions of God. Everything is, so to speak, “on the table” except the table itself, that which stands outside of the scope of an operative definition. A ‘thing’ that is operationally definable presents a publicly repeatable and desired effect. If the ’cause’ of said effect is of such a nature that it escapes the boundaries of scientific positivism, repeatable measurement, consistently workable hypothesis, etc, then we should move from things to be defined ( definiendum), to things to be analyzed (analysandum). Concrete examples? Love, time, justice, beauty, all manner of discrete qualities, etc, etc: God. Analysis can be open ended but it does not lend itself to operative let alone stipulative definitions. Some ‘things’ we operate on, some ‘things’ operate on us, some ‘things’ necessitate a two way interaction. NOMA

  26. dreadpiratescetis

    I think we be agreed. I am unfamiliar with yer Hindu and Taoist panenthesit forms. I do see you biting your thumb at me in yer statement “stand for your emotional god who is way bigger than and includes all of reality and manipulates it depending on his whim.” Ye can’t be that petty can’t ye? If we shall spar then draw ye blade! Me God does have emotions but never acts on whim. All is known and seen to God but reality is not manipulated upon whim. God both influences and is influenced by the world. I be using a more Process Theology outlook in this area of theology which states that God is essentially the soul of the universe although distinct from the world. The idea of God as the soul of the world stresses the intimacy and direct relationship of God’s relationship to the world, not the emergence of the soul from the world.

  27. @ Tim;

    Your god is declared to have made demons flee into pigs and commit suicide, to wipe out thousands of unbelievers, to cause floods, to kill people for lying about their tithes etc…

    Abstractions like Love, Time and Beauty are not reported to have such qualities. Religions want to make empirical claims all the time and then run for cover behind abstractions which are beyond definition when convenient.

    @ Pirate:
    Your “Process Theology” or any other philosophical packaging has to explain the odd coincidence of your god looking very human (well, most bible writers want him that way). Oh yeah, I forgot, we are made in his image.

    If you have a god which doesn’t do the things I just wrote to Tim (above), and is universal (as you wrote) then your Process Theology has created something I am unfamiliar with. Does your god answer requests to heal sick children, stop droughts and destroy evil?

    Note to both: My post is explaining something different than this discussion. I don’t mind pursuing a little further, but I do hope you realize that this is not something I had intended with this post. I would hope even you Christians that read my post would agree that the phenomena of a Spackle god is out there. Do you?

  28. dreadpiratescetis

    Ye scrawlings betray an inherent literalism with the texts. Yer hermeneutic could use some work. And since ye are big into the Eastern religions, I was reading about the Dali Lama today and he writes about the Mahayana principle of the four reliances. These are 1. Reliance on the teachings not the teacher; 2. Reliance on the meaning, not the words that express it; 3. Reliance on the definitive meaning, not the provisional meaning; and 4. Reliance on the transcendent wisdom of deep experience, not on mere knowledge.

    My God answers prayers but not in the way that we would think. Sometimes it’s not curing the body with the illness, it’s providing healing and acceptance in the mind or in the family. Religion at it’s best is all about relationships. God does not look human, but God does have emotions and is effected by our actions and vice versa yet both are their own agents.

    Thar be my two pence from a man o’ the sea. As to your question of the phenomena of a Spackle god, i agree, ye are very correct. Where I be having the issue is when ye state that ye be surprised that when the spackle shrinks, God still remains. This betrays, at least to me, yer own view that once science enters the picture God goes away and is unneeded and I be saying that this is simply not the case. We may have similar views on science yet I will not become like you nor do I expect ye to be like me which in yer original post, seems to be what ye are expecting.

  29. Tim Smith

    My original point was that point that we can “neither prove nor discredit God/gods.” Your response to this was that to prove that God/gods exist you need operational definitions . Are you missing the point that I was agreeing with you on this? My next response concerned operational definitions. Here again we agree but my caveat is that things not scientifically measurable (defined) are nontheless analyzable in other ways. Things that play such a tremendous role in our lives (Time, Beauty and Truth, God) cannot be so summarily dismissed as ‘abstractions’ we (I) “hide behind.” Why the polemical response when we agree? How many operational definitions are applicable to other sacred texts? See my point? A thing that is non-definable operationally is not thereby discredited. That is all I’m saying. p.s. Mentioning Disillusioned, Science-Resistant & Science Friendly categories would seem to invite scientific/religious juxtapositions. You set the stage Sabio.

  30. While I’m a more non-interventionist/Taoist style of Christian as I can never say HOW God intervenes, I gotta go with Tim and DPS. Sabio, ya do sound more polemic than usual in this conversation. feeling frustrated as the convo hasn’t gone the way you planned? or something else?

  31. @ Luke, Pirate & Tim
    I hope my next post answered some questions. This post, as I have said, was only an introduction. Using the model in the next post, perhaps I can better address questions.

    @ Pirate
    My hermeneutics are fine — it is the hermeneutics of Christian believers. They treat the Bible differently than other works of fiction. Liberal Christians, since there is such a huge variety of you, are hesitant to state exactly what they do believe the Bible to truthfully say. Make a list or promises you think your scripture offers and ways I could know if they are true.

    Your last paragraphs reveal that you did not understand the purpose of my post. Hopefully the next post helps. I think this was also part of the issue with Tim and Luke. Perhaps an error of my poor writing.

    @ Tim
    Things like Time, Beauty and Love have been thoroughly explored by scientists unafraid to be intimidated by sacred abstractions. Their explorations and experiments have revealed much to us about our uses of these abstractions. The same has happened with the analysis of God. See the web site: Epiphenom

    To all, pls continue the dialogue on the next post, if you will.

  32. Sabio, I think Luke 10:25-37 is a good example to consider. It illustrates in story form the principle of love for “neighbor” in a way that refuses to define that category in any narrower fashion than “put yourself in that person’s shoes and if you would want to be helped, then help.” The story is not factual, and I can’t think of any objective standard by which the principle it communicates can be evaluated in terms of its being “true” or “false.”

  33. @ James

    Nice stories abound in all sorts of literature, from many traditions — religious and secular . But this is not the stuff that makes doctrines that sets people apart. These are not the doctrines that make promises of eternal life and riches.

    The parables you choose is the benign stuff of the Bible, but you know very well that we could choose some very nasty stuff and some obvious false promises and much more controversial material. The common accusation toward liberal Christians is this sort of nice verse picking, no?

  34. @Sabio.

    Liberals and mystics tend to see validity in the stories and experiences of others.

    Conservatives often say that one cannot pick and choose. But that is obviously a hypocritical lie, and while it may be directed at liberals it is in fact a self-condemnation, since no conservative Christian avoids picking and choosing. The only people who can persuade themselves they are not picking and choosing are those who are not that familiar with the Bible’s contents. But from the liberal perspective, trying to hold on to what is good in a tradition while jettisoning what isn’t is what we ought to be doing – even though with hindsight it will inevitably prove to be the case that either we were not radical enough and should have revised our understanding even more, or cast overboard things that ought to have been discarded. But since we cannot fully see the tangled web of influences upon us, is there anything better we can do than to simply become as aware of our heritage as possible, and to attempt to examine our traditions critically?

  35. @ James
    I love stories and parables and see their value as moral vehicles.
    If I ever keep up with my Mahabharata posts, I could post great stories from there too. But I personally don’t use it to form a theology. It is the theology use by the vast amount to Christians that is disturbing. Hanging on to the heritage seems to me to re-enforce the ugly stuff. A radical departures seems more effective though I know that is not the path you have chosen.

    Your posts and this comment put a lot of weight on the word “heritage” — that is part of what my next post calls “Tribal god”. My father wished upon me a heritage of hatred for other races and I rejected that. Valuing a heritage for its own sake seems mistaken. Maybe I am just confused because I immersed myself in several heritages over the decades and have made my own. My children will have to learn to drop the heritage I gave them and make their own too.

  36. @Sabio, I certainly agree that valuing a heritage for its own sake, simply because it is “tradition,” is problematic, although I think we all also pass through periods in our lives when we feel like rejecting anything that seems “traditional.” In the end, I think we all find things we value in what came before us and things we find abhorrent. But as a former fundamentalist, I know that it is possible to persuade oneself that one has repudiated “the world” and that “we” are refusing the influences of our cultural context, deceiving ourselves as to just how much cultural influences nevertheless shape our thinking. And so I’m not certain that “radical departure” takes most people as far as they’d like to believe it does – any more than determination not to grow up to be like a certain parent serves on its own as an effective means of avoiding that happening. I think our children will have a heritage from us, and it may include encouragement to make choices for themselves, but even that can be a heritage they get from us. These webs of influences are so entangled, that I feel like I would be dishonest if I were to deny the profound influence that Christianity has had on my life, even if I modify and even repudiate elements of my own tradition. But that’s just how I see things – and it may be that my perspective on this is problematic. But I’ll bet you that, if that is the case, the variety of influences on my life that I’ve just been discussing will be part of the reason for my failure to see things more clearly! 🙂

  37. @ James

    I agree a great deal with most of your insights and am sympathetic to your choice. But, here and on your blog I think you go too far when you say,

    “I feel like I would be dishonest if I were to deny the profound influence that Christianity has had on my life …”

    Do you feel Sabio has gone too far?
    I try not to deny the influence of anything in my life. I think my blog shows that. But it doesn’t mean I need to keep embracing those influences just because they influenced me.

    Otherwise, your argument would say that everyone should stay in the indoctrination of their birth.

  38. @Sabio, I’m not at all saying that one should stay in the indoctrination of their birth. But I am saying that we are all indoctrinated through parenting, upbringing, culture. We all have a worldview, and even those who make a conscious decision to leave a religious tradition carry some of it with them – even if sometimes it is largely a negative imprint. And just as one doesn’t escape the “influence of the world” by becoming a Christian, the reverse process is also not fully effective.

    But I wear the label of liberal Christian because I believe it fits me, because there are things I value in the Christian tradition even as there are things I’m happy to revise and rethink. And I’m fully aware that there are others who think much as I do and would differ with me on little more than the question of whether to wear that label.

    So have you gone too far? Not far enough? I have no way of knowing. But I certainly agree that we should all be selective in what we embrace from the influences on our lives, and should try to become aware of those influences so that we can avoid accepting them unreflectively.

  39. Tim Smith

    You stated that “Things like Time, Beauty and Love have been thoroughly explored by scientists unafraid to be intimidated by sacred abstractions.” I am aware of this. Many conundrums remain and they go to the heart of this whole matter; we must agree to disagree.

  40. Boz

    Tim Smith said: “Science can neither prove nor discredit God/gods. Theists and atheists both know this. There are no slam dunks in the land of “in the beginning.” All models are underdetermined! The halls of science need stucco as bad as the cathedral/temple walls need spackle. NOMA!”

    supernatural entities can be disproven if they are:

    (1) internally inconsistent (e.g. omniscient and omnopotent and able to change its future actions)

    (2) their clamed actions are explained. (e.g. disease-causing demons and the germ theory of disease)

    also, noma is disproved with one example of the religion in question making a claim about the natural world. e.g. the effect of intercessory prayer.

  41. @ James McGrath

    I deeply appreciate your patience in this conversation. I agree with your first paragraph. I understand your second paragraph and am sympathetic. Concerning your third paragraph:

    If you are not certain that I have not gone far enough or gone too far, this means you must have some means of discernment. It is those standards that I am interested in. For if you are not certain, then you have some doubt that perhaps it would have been better if I remained a Christian or if apostate Hindus remained Hindu. What is it you use to judge?

    I personally think that belief in a deity has absolutely NO consequence in the well-being of a person per se. I sort of feel you might feel the same- though I doubt you love coming out and saying it straight forwardly without all sorts of academic caveats. (smile) Do you?

    But I do believe love, compassion, transcendence and these principles are important to capture in one’s inner life, even if not using religious themes. I understand that for James McGrath it has been easier or better for you to stay in your Christian tradition while challenging it from the inside — a task I admire. But for me, Christianity was restrictive and I could not re-interpret it into liberal terms fast enough to stop my exist. And not, after exposure to many traditions and seeing all the false ideas that any buy in to Christianity would seem to support, is to off-putting for me. Besides, I am very blissfully comfortable in naturalism. So if I could reveal my entire life and mind to you, how would you decide if I went too far or not?

  42. Sabio, I think the short answer is that I, from my perspective, cannot judge whether you’ve gone too far or not far enough. I’m skeptical of my ability to judge rightly whether I have gone too far or not far enough, never mind trying to do the same for anyone else. All I have to offer is my own perspective, in (hopefully humble) conversation, in the hope that my perspective will help you grow just as your perspective helps me to do the same.

    [+ assorted academic caveats 🙂 ]

  43. @ James
    Then we are in agreement. Well, at least I think so.
    Smile !

  44. Earnest

    I, for one, love the Spackle God! Finally a perfectly valid explanation for what goes on in my own head.

    The idea is so simple yet generated so much text in response….

    People, it’s just an image to explain an emperical phenomena going on in the heads of Believers like me who are having terminal deterioration of the strength of their faith. As science expands to explain the universe around me with more and more detail, my Spackle God must shrink within my finite view. Perhaps the Spackle God is infinite, I just can’t tell from here where science is becoming steadily more dominant in my world view.

    I keep Spackle God around like others keep a teddy bear from childhood, it’s old, dirty and smelly but its presence evokes such great memories it’s hard to part with it.

  45. @ Earnest

    Glad you liked the model. I was hoping it would click with some people. The Teddy Bear analogy made me smile.

  46. I guess everyone has different ways of looking at the Universe, and perception is a powerful thing… but I’m sitting here wondering about significance of the fact that no matter how much anybody tries to convince me otherwise, I’m certain there ARE no hexagons… in my eyes, those are OCTAGONS! 🙂

  47. Lealander, I elated to know that my diagram has convince you of the true 8-sided nature of God. But you will note, as God is gutted and shrinks — loosing all her superstitious filling — she appears (due to the LIMITS of perception) as a circle to non-believers. 🙂

  48. Only 8 sided? blasphemy! It is written that God is a hexapentacontadictagon (or a dihectapentacontahexagon to the uninitiated)

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