Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: & / Teaching / Society / Social Epistemology / Cosmology Etc. /

2008 04 01 I must merely sketch a couple of points with regard to god, atheism, theism … hoping to develop them more fully at another time:

I have never doubted God’s existence: I’ve modified my definition more times than even a Hindu could count … I’ve felt “certain” at time1 and time2 and time3 that this that and the other god (including Yahweh) does Not exist … But I ardently assert that declaring that we don’t (or do) believe in “God” is a waste of time and passion; what we should be arguing is how and why we do or don’t believe in secular certainties?

What is it that I’m supposed to not believe in?
Until you can answer that question I can’t tell you
whether I’m an atheist.

Noam Chomsky

2008 07 07 Why do church men assume that if we believe in God we must also believe in their Church? Say we do believe in a church: should we also believe in any church? If you believe in a church of Thou shalt not kill, how can you tolerate a church based in jihad?

If we believe in God, AND we also believe in Original Sin, by what sleight of hand do we believe that men can run a church? Once we catch one priest with a trick up his sleeve, how can we ever trust another priest?

I’ll tell you: by changing the words we refer to them by: by calling our church the state, by calling our priests Mr. President, or Dr. Harvard Economist.

Never mind whether I believe in God: I don’t believe in man! I don’t believe in man’s institutions.

I do believe in god god; I don’t believe in man’s God.

I don’t believe in man’s schools, or universities. Though I see and celebrate that this and that man, Newton, Galileo, is capable of science, I deny that Harvard or Yale or the FBI are capable of science. (And no matter how great Newton was last time, be careful of trusting him next time.)
(Cambridge University earned the right to the concept “science” again and again in Newton’s time; but how about since then? Maybe the church deserved the term once upon a time, but how about since then? Some concepts aren’t inheritable.

Some concepts aren’t inheritable.

Maybe God once loved that Jew; why should we believe he now loves this Jew?

The Metaphoric Nature of All Speech

Whatever I mean by “god,” I try to be careful, in writing at least, in writing declarative prose at least, to modify my definitions as I go. In conversation I frequently switch to the fundamentalist diction of my youth, but only when talking to fundamentalists. I don’t waste time explaining to them the metaphoric nature of all speech: they’re already showing me that they don’t follow it. To them I speak solely from the guise of God’s messenger (really pissing them off, because they keep trying to trump experience with faith, not being able to accept that it’s experience that trumps faith, not versa visa.

Among rational creatures Faith wouldn’t trump experience;
Experience would trump faith.

2008 06 06 I don’t know that rational discussion of any controversial topic will ever be possible among humans (or any other sentient creatures), and I’m not going to blame St. Paul for things not in his control; but I do want to emphasize that St. Paul’s emphasis on faith has given fools a bludgeon with which to smash any rational inquiry before it can get started. Evidence will win in the long run, but any short run can be dominated by ignorant bludgeon wielders.

Schools, governments, churches … are all dominated by ignorant bludgeon wielders: who pretend to be on the side of martyrs bludgeoned in the past, from a fictitious “Jesus” to an actual Galileo. Officials can cite Jesus to interrupt Galileo, and cite Galileo to interrupt Jesus.

More about that too another time: right now I must skip to my pressing itch:

I can’t altogether give “God” up because an indissoluble part of what I have Always meant by “God,” translates as, equals … the Truth! I have no trouble getting rid of the magical god who demands sacrifices and insists on specific taboos; but I still not say that nothing is true.

What I will and do say though, these days at least, is that I no longer believe that man is a reliable judge of truth. Some descriptions, maps, accounts by some thinkers have sometimes been damn good, to the point where the “map” approximates the “territory” almost as well as Ted Williams could hit the fastball. See? It’s not God that I don’t believe in; what I don’t believe in, what I disrespect, is


Now: on this point I don’t differ from many a conventional theologian: but there are still huge differences between pk and say an orthodox Catholic: the Catholic believes that the faithful Catholics, the priests, the Pope … come to make an exception.

In contrast I believe that sometimes some scientists, some philosophers, are exceptions to general human wrong-headedness, but I trust no authority to tell us who is right when. I disrespect Harvard’s judgment here as I disrespect the Church’s; even though I may wholeheartedly agree with a particular Harvard on a particular thinker-searcher, just as I may concur with the Pope on … say St. Augustine: a smart guy, yes, I agree.

What’s been very hard in my advancing age is to give up the idea that God himself knows things: objectively.

In a word: I no longer believe that “God” will be any more infallible at Judgment than you or I are today.

Phrased differently, I don’t believe that time will ever “stop.” I don’t believe that experience will ever cease (so long as existence continues). There is and will be No “final analysis.”

The atheist has all of the rationalizations of the theist:
just without the Santa Claus at the end.

Atheism Scrapbook

What a mess! But these concepts are messy!

With regard to the God of magic, I am an atheist:
with regard to the god of order, I am a believer.

2002 08 I’m back. But a different consideration intrudes.

I am not and have never been an atheist in the sense that I have not denied the existence of God (or gods). (I do deny and have always denied that God (or gods) have the same kind of existence as say, on the one hand, a stone and, on the other, a fish.) (Some gods may exist in the same way that say Huck Finn exists. What? You don’t think fictions exist? (They exist: but with differences: there’s information in their existence.) Other gods may exist the way Achilles, or Socrates, or Jesus, or Buddha exist: “real” people all mixed up with principles, with fictions, with accounting errors, with propaganda, with deliberate disinformation … Still others may exist more starkly as principle: or even as code, as instructions: the way DNA exists.)

I am and have long been however atheistic in other matters. For example:

I deny

that there’s such a thing as a


that represents God (or any other god)

I see without difficulty that a given church may represent its pontiff, or some specific creed, or even some party of priests. But how does some pontiff, or some specific creed, or even some party of priests come to equal (or equate with) the god? Do we have any evidence (evidence that wouldn’t be laughed at by one not totally epistemologically naïve) that the god claims the church, and says This church Such-and-Such represents me, God So-and-So the way we might say that So-and-So, Esq. Represents me, Who-Ever, in my litigation against My Adversary?

Representation needs to be mutually agreed on. If I say that Britney Spears is my woman, wouldn’t you want to hear her confirm it? Or deny it? So long as gods remain silent, any con artist will have no difficulty in claiming to represent that god: so long as the public is dumb enough.

That is not to say that I deny the existence, the myriad, multiple existences, of organizations and groups that call themselves churches: church, église, kirk … or whatever natural language equivalent.

I am and have long been atheistic with regard to schools.

I deny

that there’s such a thing as a


that represents even-handed competence with any important group of disciplines.

Maybe there’s such a thing as a school, a real school, a good school, for dealing three-card-monte, or for welding, or for sautéing a French omelet. But I deny that there’s such a thing as a school competent to represent mathematics, science, and/or the humanities. (I do not exempt Columbia or Harvard.) I’ll shortly add a new module to go with the many already here in my FLEX section and my biographical narratives and my other school stories.

I am and have long been atheistic with regard to democracy.

Unless you’re very specific in what you mean by a specific polity: Athenian democracy of two and one half millennia ago: an imperial government managed by roughly two thousand adult male property holders: each trained both in rhetoric and combat. My late twentieth-century to early twenty-first century American democracy has shown no competence whatsoever in representing me, for example: a supposed citizen. (How can a coercive entity represent an anarchistic opponent of coercion?)

And so forth. I may go on further with these themes when I next return.

2004 11 10

There’s something I’ve been meaning to say. Suspecting (not sure) that I haven’t, I’ll jot something quick here.

It strikes me that the majority of “religious” must actually be atheists. Or: they fail to distinguish between God and their church’s representation of God: substituting map for territory.

How many religious will sit still for God to conduct Judgment? Won’t they be jumping up ever other second correcting God’s departures from orthodoxy? What will they do when their church is thrown into hell for gross negligence in hearing God’s messages?

I talk about God’s nature; but I don’t say them ex cathedra. If I’m wrong in what I’ve said (as I don’t doubt that I am in much of it), I don’t expect to interrupt God to correct him.

My own atheism, in so far as I have any, has nothing to do with God. My atheism applies to churches, to states, to schools … to cultures.

2005 07 13

Once upon a time there were cultures who cared deeply, to the point of war, persecution, genocide, who their god was. The god was Baal! Or the god was Crow. Whether the god we capitalized was Yahweh or Jehovah — or Allah! — was a matter of importance.

Now I, and I presume any readers, live in a culture that cares deeply about different kinds of labels — democracy, the United States, the West — and doesn’t give a hoot what people call their gods. Gods have gotten way demoted.

Surely you share my sense that most of us are religious; but we are appalled when we come upon fundamentalists of any stripe but our own default creed. We tolerate Jehovah’s Witnesses, but are alarmed at Muslims with their jihad.

Say you believe that there is one god and that his correct name is Allah. Why then: isn’t someone who believes in Yahweh an atheist? No: that’s not how we use the term. He believes in a god, but the wrong god.

The question is: do we exterminate him?

Recent cultures have been proud of their tolerance. In the Middle East, many a culture is proud of its intolerance: at least its rhetorical intolerance.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: any religion that cares about truth should produce its god, show him to all: give everyone five seconds to convert, and kill everyone who doesn’t. And if you can’t produce your god for all to see, then shut up and laissez-faire.

2006 04 21

Belief is a core concern for any society, therefore absence of belief is a core concern: what good does it do to offer a “fair trial” to someone who doesn’t believe that you’re capable of fairness on the best day of your life?

I love it when fundamentalists tell atheists that they’re “in for a big surprise”: the fundamentalist trusts his belief, thinks it will manifest concretely to humiliate the atheist. Similarly I get a kick out of people who think that their disbelief in some specific disproves some other specific: as though a relationship in his mind proves a one-to-one relationship in all circumstances: I don’t believe in God therefore I have nothing to fear from priests, justice systems, angels … cancer …

I’m not developing these ideas just now; just noting them, hoping to budget time to develop them later.

“Believe in” also means endorse; not just accept literally as an entity. I don’t believe in government: that doesn’t mean that I don’t think that there are jails, or capital buildings, or people with “Senator” before their name.

If I don’t believe in God it may mean that I believe he exists perfectly well, but don’t trust him.

If I don’t believe in Jehovah, I might yet believe in Jesus.

or Allah.
or Baal, or Moloch.

I might yet believe in Lillith, or Mary.

I have never not believed in some sort of god (and a few saints too). What I don’t believe is far more serious. What I don’t believe is far more difficult to understand: most people will simply be unable to process the concept:

I don’t believe that:

humans are capable of knowing right from wrong

truth from error
god from devil

I don’t trust God to be able to either.

Oh well, I’m now revising my atheism section, I reread the original module, and see that I said this there, probably better. Then again, here I can expand it, add examples … And maybe repetition of some things isn’t all bad.

2016 12 22 I thought I’d just reread the opening pages of Harris’ Hannibal Rising, but I’m stuck, and in ecstasy. The cannibal makes a note on the subject:

Mischa, we take comfort in knowing there is no God. That you are not enslaved in a Heaven, made to kiss God’s ass forever. What you have is better than Paradise. You have blessed oblivion. I miss you every day.

Cosmology Etc.


About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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