+ I’d like to try to see at this point what ideas have become available to us so far toward the construction of a response to the Ebon Musings Author (EMA). http://www.ebonmusin...urningbush.html
+ In the first reply to this thread, Reader Andreas Moran [13-01-2012, 06:01 PM] begins with the understanding that "God is love," and adds that "love is not love if it is forced."
He points to two kinds of atheists: those who can't
believe in God (because God is not obvious) and those who wont
believe in God (also because God is not obvious.)
As to the first group, theirs is surely not an irresponsible disbelief. Unlike the second group, they’re not willfully atheistic. In fact it's dubious to what degree any sincere person could be willfully
entrenched in a belief in the face of compelling evidence to the contrary. The situation of the first group is analogous to the inability of the blind to perceive color, or of the deaf to perceive tones, the example given by Herman Blaydoe in his first post in this thread [ 13-01-2012, 06:31 PM ] .
Mr Blaydoe reminds us that color and sound are not “hidden” from the blind and the deaf. Color and sound exist (in whatever form they do) independently of whether any given individual is equipped to perceive them. So both Reader Andreas and Mr Blaydoe imply that God is not hidden—at least not to some.
In fact EMA acknowledges that some theists “believe that miracles are still abundant today.” This acknowledgement in itself would seem to cast some doubt on her claim that God is hidden, thus weakening the central premise of her argument.
The perception of colors or of sounds depends on appropriate sense organs. But there is no organ for the perception of God. There is no “God Sense” that could be likened to the function of a bodily organ.
Strangely enough, though, in her Part 2: Where Is God?
EMA mentions just such a sense, saying that:
Even the most devout theists, even those who believe that miracles are still abundant today, must admit that God's existence is not obvious in the way that, for example, the existence of one's best friend is obvious. God is not the sort of being that one can perceive with one's eyes, hear with one's ears, touch with one's hands. Instead,
believers claim, God's existence is perceived not through the ordinary five senses, but through some additional sense, one that works in a completely different fashion from the other five.
There’s a good deal of ambiguity here. This purported “God Sense” seems to enable one to perceive God as if He were a physical object, yet we’re told that it “works in a completely different fashion from the other five.”
If we’re talking about “sensing” the existence of God, we’re not talking about sensing existing actualities, but in some sense we’re talking about sensing existence itself. The five senses enable us to perceive actualities, things existent in the world of sense. But existence is not itself an actuality. It can't be “sensed” as if it were an object in space and time. Only things capable
of being sensed, can
be sensed. If God exists, He is certainly not a spatially extended actuality.
So it seems to me that we can safely reject the “God Sense,” at least as EMA presents it.
In fact, EMA uses the word “sense” equivocally: first to mean a faculty served by one of the organs of perception, by which we become aware of our environment; then to mean the faculty of understanding, by which we may perceive abstracts and other physically imperceptible objects. It's in this way that we are able to conceive of opposites such as to be loving & forgiving or wrathful & warlike; personal or impersonal; infinite or limited.
EMA does seem to accept that “God is not the sort of being that one can perceive with one's eyes, hear with one's ears, touch with one's hands.” If I’m understanding this correctly, she recognizes the immaterial nature of the noetic essence we call God; which immateriality is, after all, well-established in Western thought. Since she doesn’t provide a reference we can't know which believers she means who assert the existence of a “God Sense” or what they really say, but I hesitate to think that any theist would really suggest that this purported “God Sense” be understood as a physical
sense. Yet it's as a physical sense that EMA (mercifully) demolishes it, accomplishing this for us in two paragraphs. So at least we're done with that.
But the “God Sense” sounds to me more like an innate sense, a direct experiential awareness of God, such as an unborn infant may have. The American Heritage Dictionary distinguishes these under one sense of the word “sense,” where the word means a
recognition or perception either through the senses or through the intellect.
(The case of the infant is clear if we consider the word “intellect” as it's used in Orthodox Christian thought, as referring not just to the reasoning faculty but to the nous,
the intellect itself, apart from any of its activities.)
The God Sense can also be thought of with reference to another sense of the word “sense” namely, a sense of what may be appropriate or inappropriate in speaking about God, as the holy Fathers teach when they say that theological notions and language must be “worthy of God.” The AHD provides two relevant senses of “sense:”
Intuitive or acquired perception or ability to estimate: a sense of timing.
A capacity to appreciate or understand: a sense of humor.
As it happens, there are
professional philosophers such as Alvin Plantinga who (following Aquinas and Calvin) actually do refer to a sense of deity
(SD). Plantinga does so in a book entitled Warranted Christian Belief
. Those interested can read about
the book here: http://www.amazon.co...a/dp/0195131932
and can read the entire book !
(The relevant portion is Part III, pp 139-290.)
Another book on the epistemology of religious experience is William P Alston’s Perceiving God,
large portions of which can be found here: http://www.amazon.co...e/dp/0801481554
(click to look inside).
(I dread reading such pages and pages online, so I personally have not yet tried to read much of either of these books.)
So while EMA seems to offer us a fantasy version of the SD, there is a real-world version that has to be taken seriously. That task needn’t concern us here, since no real version is part of EMA’s argument.
In any case, beliefs are conceptual
objects, not objects of sense. And beliefs about God, like other beliefs, can be arrived at by the processes of reasoning. Certainly beliefs can be acquired in pre-rational ways. Ellen Johnson, for example, then President of American Atheists, claimed to be an atheist simply because her parents were atheists.
But that is not
the way of the Jedi!
And it shouldn’t be the way of the disciples of the Logos, either, as we aspire to be—in fact, I would propose, as any atheist should aspire to be. Although it may seem unduly startling to put it this way, it is in the person of the Logos, the Word & Wisdom of God, that theism and atheism find common ground. Respect for language and reason, and the proper use of them, is the atheist’s theological lifeline.
+ Mr Blaydoe tells us also that If he closes his eyes,
what he was looking at continues to exist; it's simply that he doesn’t see it.
To me, the phrase closes his eyes
seems to suggest a willful turning away from something that he (here I mean the atheist) has in fact already comprehended, something that he can't help “seeing” intellectually, something he metaphorically sees,
yet something to which he deliberately metaphorically closes his eyes
Reader Andreas tells us that
God does not force people to accept Him by making Himself obvious. … If a person had a personal revelation from God of His existence, that person would either believe he had gone mad or would be compelled to know that God exists.
EMA, too, thinks that “an obvious appearance of God would convert many nonbelievers” and that this claim “should be beyond dispute.” Even if only half or a quarter of maybe a couple billion or so atheists & other non-believers (including adherents of non-theistic religions) were converted, that would certainly be a huge number, and EMA thinks that the vast majority
of atheists would begin to believe along with her. EMA goes further: “there should be no argument with the claim that an obvious manifestation of God would all but end the religious confusion so prevalent among humanity.” While that “all but” softens the assertion a bit, EMA is surely being much too naïve here.
EMA doesn’t take into account those theists whose faith is weak and who live as if God were of no concern to them. In addition there are Jews, Buddhists, Muslims, Mormons, Satanists, Agnostics, “Maltheists” and many others all of whom will undoubtedly have some
sort of reaction. Saint John Klimakos says that some (though weak creatures) have made themselves enemies of God (Ladder of Divine Ascent,
Step One). Not only can we easily imagine that those enemies of God would immediately begin working to cast doubt on the revelation, but once a few generations had passed, the memory of the event would fade and the same problems would arise again. That would once again leave the Orthodox as the only witnesses.
So far at least two dubious claims weaken EMA’s argument: first, that God is “hidden” and secondly, that no ill effects would arise from the required theóphany.