Groping God

by David Hayward: click to see his post

by David Hayward: click to see his post

David Hayward, an excellent progressive Christian artist, put up this cartoon yesterday in a post called “Theologians and the God Guessers”.  James McGrath, also a progressive Christian and amazing religion professor, loved the message of Hayward’s cartoon and put it up on his blog in a post called, “Are We All Insane“.

I wish I could draw and put up a refutation-cartoon. My imagined cartoon would illustrate something history has shown us time and again:  That the blindfolded people are not feeling (seeing or hearing) a GOD, but instead they are feeling the real world and creating gods from their blindness:

  • When they see a volcano, they imagine an “angry god”.
  • When they hear lightening, they think “dangerous god”.
  • When they see an illness,  they think “cursing spirit or demon”.
  • When they lose a war, they “punishing god”.
  • When they see someone saved in an accident where many are killed, they think “Angels!”.

You get the point. People create gods to make up for lack of understanding, to gather followers, to comfort themselves and to manipulate others.

History is replete with religious professionals calling for unity of religion.  These ecumenical efforts have been seen to fail century after century not only in Christianity but also in Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and more.

These pleas for combining sects is often made by weaker, smaller or threatened sects. As in most things religious (and political …) the rhetoric is lofty and hides very different objectives.  Is progressive Christianity small, weak and threatened — of course it is.

I think progressive Christians are having a fantastically good impact on the religious world. On the other hand, in the process they often reinforce a lot of nonsense too. All religions aren’t trying to describe the same thing. Gods aren’t the underlying reality that we are all trying to feel.

McGrath and Hayward both discuss humility on their posts. McGrath implies that it is arrogant to assume that there is no god. But isn’t it ironic that most of the theist gods supposedly created from humility actually became war gods, political tools, and ways to manipulate with threat of damnation.

Is that humility? Is that blinders off?  No! I will take reality anytime, thank you. And I will continue to call out efforts to create sanctimonious manipulative images to satisfy the gaps of our blindness.


Filed under Philosophy & Religion

8 responses to “Groping God

  1. I think you know very well that I’ve been an outspoken critic of the turning of forces of nature into gods, and the preservation in modern thought of the views that result from that. And I am an outspoken critic of any view that conflicts with what we actually know about reality. And so I am not sure what your criticism is, exactly, or why it is that you think that you have somehow grasped the entirety of reality with your blindfold removed, while others like me are presumably still groping about in the dark.

  2. Here’s my take on that cartoon

  3. @ James McGrath,
    You are very right about your advocacy for science.
    But what made you ask me, “you think that you have somehow grasped the entirety of reality with your blindfold removed, while others like me are presumably still groping about in the dark.”
    I don’t see how that follows from my post.

  4. Well, perhaps I’m not clear on why you are criticizing those who are arguing against precisely what you seem to be arguing against here.

  5. @ James McGrath,
    Certainly you are not saying:
    (1) I stand up for science
    (2) You support science
    (3) Therefore you should not argue against me
    I am arguing against the message of this cartoon.
    I agree with you when you wrote:

    “But we can say with some confidence that our perspective is limited.”
    — James McGrath

    And I don’t know any pro-science person who would begin to doubt that. It is common sense.
    But the cartoon says, it is limited and what we are fumbling around groping is GOD. Which is nonsense. Well, without defining “God” is some very knotted way, that is.
    Then, James, in your post you say:

    Ironically, while there is a long history of religions emphasizing this – that human beings are not God or even gods, and so do not fully comprehend all that there is to know and understand – in our time, a different form of religion has run rampant, one which replaces the traditional emphasis on humility with confident claims to knowledge.
    — James McGrath

    Your sentence above is very long but it seems to say:
    (0) Our perspective are limited [your prev. quote which I agree]
    (1) Religions long teach we are not God
    (2) Religions teach God knows everything
    (3) Therefore Religions [using the God model] teach us we don’t know everything.
    (4) Now a new rampant religion teach us to be confident about our claims of knowledge.

    But James, you don’t tell us what that “rampant religion” is. But we can guess.

    Then you say,

    if there is something that we can know for certain, beyond our own existence, it is that we don’t know everything else, and are often wrong.

    I can’t even begin to unpack what that is suppose to mean.

    Are you saying, “Look, if we tell you there is something beyond our own existence and tell you it is God, and you doubt it, then you aren’t humble and just belong to that rampant religion.”

    See my confusion, James?

    Because that is exactly what your first challenge on this post seems to imply too.

  6. Your post focused on the confidently-asserted ideas of God that the cartoon criticized. And as you say, there is much we agree on. The cartoon emphasizes that, if there is any reality that deserves to be referred to as God, it is not something that humans have or can fully grasp, and thus about which confident, much less violent, claims are inappropriate. Could you perhaps clarify what you disagree with in that message, and then we can take it from there?

  7. @ James McGrath,
    I have the greatest difficulty untangling your sentences — and your last comment is no exception. Probably my fault. But you have not acknowledged anything I wrote above. Why don’t we start there? So me you understand what I wrote.

  8. Edward Jones

    [deleted by Sabio — violation of comment policy: unabashed self-advertising and absolutely no interaction with the post — arghhh]

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