Friday, June 29, 2007

The God Delusion, Part 2 - The God hypothesis



In the second chapter of The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins defines the concepts that he will later use throughout his book. Concepts such as religion, God, and faith will be defined in quite diverse ways depending on who you ask. I have met many people who claim that science, like religion, is just another form of faith. However, there is an important difference that is always overlooked by people making such claims, namely that scientific theories will change if evidence requires it to. Yes, yes, there is often a lag due to traditions, politics, and economics, but the scientific community did eventually accept that the earth was round, that the earth is about 5 billion years old and that the earth is not the center of the Universe etc. What is faith? Dawkins puts it well in The Selfish Gene:

"But that, after all, is faith? It is a state of mind that leads people to believe something—it doesn't matter what—in the total absence of supporting evidence. If there were good supporting evidence then faith would be superfluous, for the evidence would compel us to believe it anyway. It is this that makes the often-parroted claim that 'evolution itself is a matter of faith' so silly. People believe in evolution not because they arbitrarily want to believe it but because of overwhelming, publicly available evidence..."

Science is not a religion, science is a method in which all the available evidence is organized into theories that hopefully describes and predicts the world as we know it. In The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins treats religious faith as if it was a scientific hypothesis. I think this is the correct approach, however, I know that many people will object and say that science and faith are two separate realms that we should not or cannot mix together. I think that such a view will lead us nowhere. Dawkins defines the God Hypothesis as follows:

"Instead I shall define the God Hypothesis more defensibly: there exists a superhuman, supernatural intelligence who deliberately designed and created the universe and everything in it, including us. This book will advocate an alternative view: any creative intelligence, of sufficient complexity to design anything, comes into existence only as the end product of an extended process of gradual evolution."

One point that Dawkins makes again and again in interviews is that he is not a lonely atheist. In fact it is a fair bet to assert that every human being is an atheist when it comes to most Gods. Not many people believe in Odin and Thor, and if you live in a western country it is also very unlikely that you believe in Shiva or some Voodoo God. In other words, everyone are atheists when it comes to most Gods, we who call ourselves atheists just go one God further… The following sentence I include just because I think it is hilarious. Though while causing me a pleasant laugh it also illustrates how illogical some of the reasoning among theists is:

"The Trinity: Do we have one God in three parts, or three Gods in one? The Catholic Encyclopedia clears up the matter for us, in a master piece of theological close reasoning: In the unity of the Godhead there are three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, these Three Persons being truly distinct one from another. Thus, in the words of the Athanasian Creed: 'the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, and yet there are not three Gods but one God."

Does Christians believe in one God or three Gods? Please inform me someone, cause the catholic encyclopedia fails to enlighten me… This post cannot, of course, cover even a fraction of what is written in chapter two of The God Delusion, there is however one more issue that I find important and that I would therefore like to discuss. Socrates once said that the only thing that he knew for sure for sure, is that he doesn't know anything. It is possible that we are all in the Matrix. For this reason it kind of annoys me when people say that they know that God exists, in my mind that is impossible, just like it is impossible for me to know that God does not exist, or that the theory of evolution is true. Sure, on a regular day know doesn't really mean know, but many Christians claim to know that God exists even after this distinction has been brought up.

I think that God does not exist, I don't know that he doesn't exists, but I don't think it is 50/50 either (in which case I would call myself an agnostic). I put myself in the same category as Richard Dawkins:

"Very low probability [that God exists], but short of zero. De facto atheist. 'I cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there."

24 comments:

Joel Phillips said...

IT IS TIME TO ELIMINATE ISLAM
by Joel Phillips
publisher: www.religiousfreedomwatch.org
owner: American Coast Title www.actfortitle.org

Just watching the news from London is a reminder that weÕre living in an age of terrorism.
And, sad to say, almost all terrorism has something to do with Islam.

Just look at a few:

First World Trade Center Attack: A blind Egyptian guy was behind it. No one contests it.

Oklahoma City: DonÕt forget that McVeigh served in the first Gulf War. There is good reason to think he was recruited by jihadists in Iraq who were active at the time.

9/11: Islamic suicide extremists, forget the other theories. They were Taliban zealots hoping for virgins and palaces in Islamic heaven.

Spanish train bombs: More Jihad extremists, basically the same bunch as the 9/11.

London train bombs: Not the same 9/11 and Spain guys, but British Muslims from Pakistan.

Virginia Tech: This one is so sad. Psychiatry started Cho out. Then Islamic recruiters told Cho he would get infinite sex in Muslim heaven from the 172 virgins so he converted. By trying to destroy Virginia Tech he thought he was attacking BushÕs aggression in Afghanistan.

London night club bombs: Good for the Brit cops, they have caught some of the guys and it is more of these Pakistan guys. Maybe it is time to have a serious think about what to do about Pakistan.

It is no accident or coincidence the bigots who oppose religious freedom are inspired by Islamic thought. Just look at some of the fine people on www.religiousfreedomwatch.org.

EVERY SINGLE PERSON on there is a zealot, bigot or extremist and you will find that most of them have extensive criminal records. Take a look at these criminal records and you will find the influence of Islam. Charlotte Kates: this young woman is a card-carrying member of the Palestinian Liberation Organization. They are kind of the poster child for Muslim terrorists.

Peter Alexander: this man makes hate films. He is also building some kind of an amusement park in the Arab Gulf. Is is clearly doing the bidding of Islamist masters all the way around.

Patricia Greenway: this woman is AlexanderÕs business partner and lover. She likes to live the high life and Arab money helps out there. Word in Ybor City is that she has her eye on an Enzo.

Kristi Wachter: she puts out a daily hate newsletter. She has paid for the theft of materials from churches. She says she used to run a record company but how much money could it make? It seems to me she is getting her money from bin Laden and his friends.

David Touretzky: donÕt be fooled. This man is not a mouse brain researcher, he is a bomb expert. Who is really paying for his research? Could it be the same bomb makers loose in Iraq?

Keith Henson: first, donÕt forget that but for www.religiousfreedomwatch.org this man would still be on the loose. HeÕs not just a bomb expert but a proved bomb maker. And who wants to pay for bombs? Jihad extremists! Who is paying for him to be able to buy toothpaste in jail? Could it be a guy called Osama?

Tory Bezazian: She walked away from her husband of many years to engage in hate activities. Where does she get money? The answer is Islam. She is a directly funded agent of the Los Angeles Koranic Council.

Andreas Heldal-Lund: this man supported Middle East bomber Lars Gule, need I say more?

As to the site, religiousfreedomwatch.org, it is paid for 100% by my company, American Coast Title. I am one of the owners. The other two owners, Frank Berriz and Linda Blood are 100% behind what I am doing as are our parent underwriter Stewart Title.

We also get pretty good support from our employees although it would be illegal of me to impose my political beliefs on them.

Does it surprise you that I am being attacked by Indonesians? Not a coincidence that Indonesia is an Islamic country.

The company is willing to pay a nice reward to the person who will stand up and help me stop them. Please look at my site for details.

Expect without doubt a lot of trouble in Glendale. ThatÕs where American Coast Title is located as well as a dense population of Armenians. The Armenians donÕt like Arab Muslims so the area is getting very tense as the clock ticks down for Islamic terrorism.

So I am calling for the elimination of Islam. Many other religious choices are available. No other religion is associated with state sponsored terror as documented by the US State Department Report on Terrorism.

This is a strong statement but it is time to end these attacks with bombs full of nails and gas. No other group does this. It is all and always back to Islam, Muslims, the Koran and groups like the Taliban and various sleeper cells.

Stand up with me on this one. Stand tall with me against Muslims who commit mass murder hoping for 172 virgins in a palace. Stand shoulder to shoulder with me to stop the next bunch suicidal bigots from burning down your city.

rasmussenanders said...

Thank you for your comment Joel,

Although I do agree with you that Islam seems to create a lot of extremists and that probably most of the terror acts that occur may have a link to Islam I don't think that is enough grounds for selectively targeting Islam claiming that their religion is the worst.

I think that the catholic church, by their condom opposition and lies about condoms effectiveness are responsible for many deaths in Africa, and as far as I know the Hindu religon doesn't exactly create heavan on earth either.

My statement rather than "eliminate islam" would be "don't be afraid of discussing religion and pointing out to the public where religion causes problems". People should have the right to believe what they want.

Alfonso said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alfonso said...

Hey Anders, Margit recommended your blog, and I'm highly impressed. Really good posts, very articulate and are right up my alley.

I just wanted to clear something up. Agnosticism isn't about being 50/50 on whether god exists or not. It's not about believing that there's a 50% chance that he exists.

Agnosticism strictly states that there is no evidence or undeniable truth to prove god's existence. Agnostics claim either that it is not possible to have absolute or certain knowledge of God or gods. Knowledge requires fact, evidence or some type of irrefutable truth. Therefore faith (which you have clearly defined as a belief which can be maintained regardless of fact or any supporting evidence) is independent from truth, facts or evidence.

So in essence we have, people who have faith and those who don't. Religious people or atheist, respectively. And then we have people to don't have evidence or facts to prove god's existence (agnostics) and those who say they do. Gnostics claim to have proof of god existence and to be holders of irrefutable truths about god.

But in the end, most believers are agnostics as well. That's because they have no evidence or irrefutable truths to support gods existence, in fact, they don't need to have any cos they just believe.

So it's perfectly acceptable to be a religious agnostic (agnostic theism), or an atheist agnostic.

If my explanation is too confusing due to my questionable writing skills please check some of these links:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agnostic

Truth, Belief and Knowledge (Epistemology): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epistemology

Yes I know, wiki is not the most reliable source. But you can always check out the sources from which those articles were composed.

Sorry, misspelled you name the first time I posted. :/

rasmussenanders said...

Thank you for the compliments Alfonso. I really liked the pictures on your blog as well ;).

Concerning agnosticism I suppose there must have been a "semantic mismatch" between our two definitions. Wikipedia says

"Agnosticism (from the Greek "a," meaning "without," and Gnosticism or "gnosis," meaning knowledge) is the philosophical view that the truth value of certain claims—particularly theological claims regarding metaphysics, afterlife or the existence of God, god(s), deities, or even ultimate reality—is unknown or, depending on the form of agnosticism, inherently unknowable due to the nature of subjective experience."

When I am talking about agnostics I generally refer to people who claim that there is no evidence for God and no evidence against God, hence there is no way you can know nor make an educated guess. I do not belong to this category. Though I do not think there is definite proof that there is no God I think that most observations indicate that there is no God, therefore I rationally believe that there is no God, but I don't think it has been proven.

The way I define it you cannot be a religious agnostic, since religious people go beyond the 50/50 statement which I think defines agnosticism, but again, I think it is a sematic issue...

Alfonso said...

"Though I do not think there is definite proof that there is no God I think that most observations indicate that there is no God, therefore I rationally believe that there is no God."

Well, the distinction has to be made between irrefutable fact or evidence, and faith. You accept there is no way to prove gods existence, and you don't believe in God. But someone else might say there is no way to prove that god exists, and still believein god.

So truth and belief are independent aspects (epystemology). I mean, you can either have evidence or not. And then you can believe or not. But faith can stand alone without evidence.

More recent definitions of agnosticism try to separate truth and belief. Agnosticism and Gnosticism (the latter, arguably) would handle the truth, and being religious or not would correspond to the belief part. That's the reason I mentioned epystemology.

I understand why you refer to 50-50 people as agnostics. But people who are like that, although agnostics, are not the only type.

So it would be innacurate to label oneself as only agnostic, because that would still leave the "belief" part up in the air. I consider myself an Agnostic Atheist because I don't have proof or any irrefutable truth as to god's existence (agnostic), AND I don't believe in him (atheist). But if I said merely that I was agnostic and nothing more, it might mean I'm a hardcore religious zealot. Who knows, unless I specify my position on belief as well.

So in other words, we both are Agnostic Atheists.

On another note, thanks for checking out my blog. I do some writing as well, but I haven't done it in a while, but your blog has inspired me to take up on that as well. So thanks for taking your time writing these posts. I'd like to see you tackling themes outside faith, evolution, biology, and postmodernism (btw, although I completely agree that some postmodern writers are posers, there is some good postmodern literature). I haven't gone through your whole blog, but it must be interesting to see what your thoughts are on other matters as well, even mundane things that people don't really think about in depth.

Cheers.

rasmussenanders said...

Hello again,
So what you are basically saying is that in order to call yourself an atheist one must have irrefutible evidence that proves God does not exist? Did I get that right?

If so, then we simply have different definitions of atheism. According to your distinction I am indeed an agnostic atheist, however, according to my own working definition, which I think is the more widespread I am an atheist.

I think there is a lot of evidence suggesting that God does not exist. We can explain how humans came about, prayer doesn't work, and no miracle has as far as I know convinced the experts of anything supernatural. Does this prove that God does not exist? No, there are alternative explanations. Yet I see these observations as indications that God does not exists, they certainly don't suggest that he/it does exist.

Therefore based on the available evidence I lean towards believing that God does not exist even though I don't think the evidence is conclusive. It is like a murder trial where evidence is accumulating for one side. The judges can rarely be completely sure, but on a continuous scale they can get pretty close.

Dawkins, in The God Delusion, defined six categories of belief. Like him I would place myself in category seven, and hence call my self an atheist.

1 Strong theist. 100 per cent probability of God. In the words of
C. G. Jung, 'I do not believe, I know.'

2 Very high probability but short of 100 per cent. De facto
theist. 'I cannot know for certain, but I strongly believe
in God and live my life on the assumption that he is
there.'

3 Higher than 50 per cent but not very high. Technically agnostic
but leaning towards theism. 'I am very uncertain, but I am
inclined to believe in God.'

4 Exactly 50 per cent. Completely impartial agnostic. 'God's
existence and non-existence are exactly equiprobable.'

5 Lower than 50 per cent but not very low. Technically agnostic
but leaning towards atheism. 'I don't know whether God exists
but I'm inclined to be sceptical.'

6 Very low probability, but short of zero. De facto atheist. 'I
cannot know for certain but I think God is very improbable,
and I live my life on the assumption that he is not
there.'

7 Strong atheist. 'I know there is no God, with the same
conviction as Jung "knows" there is one.'

Milorad said...

Very interesting theme!

I am theist and I do not care what category of belief some would put me in. My surrounding is Ortodox Christian and I am in too.

I was a-theist near 35 years of my life (now I am 46). Some life crisas make "must think different, not only by parent-learned way" to me.

I cannot (and must not!) convince one to believe. Because real high feeling of faith come on personal way. But I can and I want to say some helpfull facts:

If You ask any of physicians (scientist) what is Cosmos made of, he could say: 99.99999999 percent of nothing (just empty space) and 0.00000001 percent of matter located into stars, planets, dust ...

Next - what is that matter made of? Atoms - he would say. And forth - atoms made only small percent of matter - again we have most of empty space and just little part of something "solid".

Next - look at the atom - little nucleus made of protons and neutrons, and electrons that cycle arround at radius that is much longer than nucleus.

Next - atomic physicians know that there is no "finals" - quarks, leptons, neutrinos ... are lesser particles of protons, neutrons and other. Noone is assured that this is end of story.

Next - all of those "elementary particles" are - what? Solid matter? Energy? Wave? Noone scentist can says exact answer (and I believe never will). "Energy" is expresion that most of people like to use. Some could say: "Everything is true." or "All of these are simply Idea, Mind."

Next - when You reach 40th, You may say - some of my today's atoms I can recognize - they were also in my body where I was baby. Some of them I shall see tomorrow in My garden, some in river, some in far sea. Food that You eat today, yesterday was in ground, the day before was in some other people (You?), and the day before come from universe as dust or sunny beam. Whole Cosmos is unity, You can achieve this on many ways. Matter become energy, energy give shape to matter, atoms can be (and are) modified and created.

Where are we in that process? Where are electromagnetic and other fields in that story? What is (scientific) difference between living man 5 minutes before and dead human body now? ...

I truly believe in Creator. Because I feel like part of Himself (every day more and more). Do You call Him - God, or - Endless Inteligence, or Cosmos, or other? It is not of importance. Important is: When You feel as part of universe and universe as part of You, You are on good way to spent life at it's full potential.

Trinity is (on my oppinion) only product of human limits in thinking and expressing - three different ways to understood God's appearance and activity. Or - three ways (dimensions, methods, ...) of God's Creation? It is not important to me now. One day in future, I hope that I will understand, but I probably could never explain.

In some of religious books You can find something like: "God can be found only with intelectual and emotional efforts, not with telescope, chemical analysis or electrical instrument."

Today's religion is not opposition of science. Science is one way of knowing world, Faith is other. If someone throw away any of those, his life is in deficit.

And, please, think some different about Faith (Believeness) on one side and Church on other side. Church is made by people, people communicate most by language, language can be confused and inaccurate. Cosmos communicate by all of senses and, above all, by emotions. Some of realy saints maybe were never come into church (I am not saying: "Do not go to church!". No, go to church, but keep Faith in Your mind and soul wether You are in church or not).

My english is maybe poor, but I believe You will understand. And I hope that I did not missed the theme.

Peace on You!

Bill said...

Mr. Rasmussen,

I should know what it was that Socrates said, because I have a B.A. degree in Philosophy. But Socrates probably said he knew that he was ignorant, not that he know that he didn't know anything. Nobody can both know something and know nothing at all. The word "some" means "at least one," and The word "nothing" means "not anything." So I contradict myself if I say that although I know at least one thing, I don't know anything.

Bill said...

Mr. Rasmussen,

I should know what it was that Socrates said, because I have a B.A. degree in Philosophy. But Socrates probably said he knew that he was ignorant, not that he knew that he didn't know anything. Nobody can both know something and know nothing at all. The word "some" means "at least one," and The word "nothing" means "not anything." So I contradict myself if I say that although I know something i.e., at least one thing, I don't know anything.

Bill said...

Mr. Rasmussen,

I should know what it was that Socrates said, because I have a B.A. degree in Philosophy. But Socrates probably said he knew that he was ignorant, not that he know that he didn't know anything. Nobody can both know something and know nothing at all. The word "some" means "at least one," and The word "nothing" means "not anything." So I contradict myself if I say that although I know something i.e., at least one thing, I don't know anything.

Bill said...

I'm sorry, Mr. Rasmussen. I didn't mean to post thee copies of the same comment. Please delete two of the three. Thanks.

By the way, if you'd like to correspond about the Trinity, I'll do my best to explain the Catholic dogma about it.

Bill said...

Catholics believe that although there are three divine Persons, there's only one God. God is like a triangle because a triangle is one object with three angles in it. Each angle is every other angle because it's an angle. Just as you can distinguish among the angles of a triangle , you can distinguish among the Blessed Trinity's divine Persons.

Here's another analogy. Imagine identical Siamese triplets, Frank, Steve, and Henry, who stand for God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy, the Trinity's three divine Persons. Since Frank, Steve, and Henry are genetically indistinguishable, Steve, who stands for God the Son, can say, "If you've seen me, you've seen Frank, i.e., God the Father. Each triplet, each divine Person, can say the same about every other divine Person because the divine persons are equally divine. In a triangle, each angle is just as much an angle as the other two angles. But there's still only one triangle.

Frank, Steve, and Henry make up one object, too, because they're attached to one another. They use many of the same internal organs.

One problem with the Siamese clone analogy is the each clone has his own essence. So maybe Saint Augustine gives us a better analogy when he say that the mind has three faculties: intellect, will, and memory.

To defend the dogma about the Trinity, I would need to say much more than I can say in this comment. But please, friend, if you're going to study philosophy, theology, or both, please get your information from a source much more reliable than Dawkins's books. He may be a fine zoologist, but to me, he seems philosophically incompetent.

rasmussenanders said...

Thank you for the comment(s) Bill.
I think that comparing the trinity to a triangle or to siamese twins does not take away the obvious contradiction in saying that "they are truly distinct and yet they are one". That sounds like positing square triangles to me.

Are the siamese twins in your example one or are they seperate or both? I think that they must be either or because claiming that they are both is just contradictory. It depends on how you define one. If you say that something which is attached is one, then they are one and not distinct. On the other hand, if we define an individual as someone with a personal brain then the siamese twins are distinct.

Only if you use different definitions simultaneously will you get something which is both distinct or divided and "one" at the same time.

Bill said...

You're welcome, my friend.

In the Siamese-triplet analogy, the genetic sameness of Frank, Steve, and Henry stands for the divine nature, because the divine persons are equally divine. Just as Frank Steve, and Henry have the same genetically determined properties, the divine persons have rhe same God-making properties. The dogma about the Trinity doesn't say that although there are three Gods, there's only one God. It says that although there's only one God, there are three divine persons who have the same divine nature.

Let's change the Siamese triplet analogy slightly. Imagine that Frank, Steve, and Henry use the same brain and the same organs. Would that one brain mean that they were only one person? Trinitarian doctrine says that the divine persons use the same divine will, and the same divine intellect. So if that's true, and if Frank, Steve, and Henry can use the same brain, you've just helped me improve my analogy.

Since I'll need to think more deeply to give you an adequate answer, I'll write you again soon. I'll do that partly because I want to tell you about some problems with functionalism, the best physical theory about the mind.

Today, most philosophers of mind reject mind-brain-identity theory, partly because they think that it's too reductionistic. By the way, my cognitive science professor, Dr. Ron McClamrock, believes that Dawkins's thought is too reductionistic.

Anyhow if you're familiar with first-order predicate logic and analytical philosophy, I suggest an article by Dr. Peter van Inwagen who's a Protestant physicalist about the mind.

van Inwagen, Peter. "And Yet They are Not Three Gods but One God." "God, Knowledge, and Mystery: Essays in Philosophical Theology." Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1995.

z said...

one of the key questions in the Trinity issue is the definitions of
'person'
and
'nature'
(namely: three persons in one nature)

Z said...

By the way, today i'm asking non-catholics about whether they think that someone not believing in Trinity should call himself a catholic:

http://enklabloggen.blogspot.com/2007/10/frga-till-icke-katoliker.html

Beda said...

Anders:

I suppose you would find statements about, say, wave-particle duality problematic, but not incomprehensible: this also seems to disobey the law of the excluded middle (a thing is either something, or not something). But we all live with it anyway. So the question is: why do you find similar language when applied to God more problematic (if you do!)?

rasmussenanders said...

Thank you for the comment Beda!

The wave-particle duality is indeed a very absurd theory. I have written a little bit about it in my post on pragmatism:

http://rasmussenanders.blogspot.com/2007/06/pragmatism-whether-theory-is-true.html

The wave-particle duality was indeed somewhat incompatible and doomed to begin with. Now, light is decribed as wave packets which to some extent make a bridge bringing the concepts together.

It is important to keep in mind though that even if it was absurd, the wave-particle decription was extremely accurate and useful for most practical purposes - it has been extremely successfull in predicting the environment. Therefore it has been used as an approximation of nature.

The trinity theory has no such success. It doesn't predict anything and there is no evidence supporting the theory. That is why the trinity concept fails...

Beda said...

Hej!

So, on the Trinity: it is, first of all, a true dogma: it is central to Christian belief.
Like most of the important dogmata, it *emerged* rather than appeared on a plate ready-formed. One can chase its origins from the bible (where it is never presented in any dogmatic sense) through the early fathers such as Justin Martyr and Tertullian up to the 4th Century Cappadocian Fathers such as Gregory of Nyssa and so on. It should be noted that the dogma was defined in relation to conflict; ie the various christological disagreements of the early centuries: things that everyone agrees rarely get defined!
The full-blown view thus emerged after a long period of reflection, experience and argument. This already suggests that it is rational: a collective response to the experiences of the early church, as they tried to make sense of it in the light of scripture and tradition.
Like most of the major dogma, its principal force is negative rather than positive: ie it excludes various views that became seen to be incompatible with the central Christian message. And the other trouble for us today is that it is couched in the terms of classical Greek philosophy, ie substances and so on.
What is it meant to get at? One can best see this by seeing what it excludes. First, it excludes the idea that Jesus was God. Ie the early church felt that the phrase "the creator of the universe suffered and died on the cross" did not reflect their own experience of this event. Second: it excludes monarchical modalism, ie the idea that the one god is presented in three different modes: sometimes as father, sometimes as spirit, sometimes as son: the relations between father, son and spirit of the bible were seen as being inherent to God, not merely a sort of historical convenience. Thirdly, it excludes adoptionism or "dynamic modalism", the idea that Jesus was a man who became incorporated into God at the resurrection or whatever. All these came to be seen to be incompatible with the central Christian revelation and the church's experience of it.
What, then, does the dogma actually say positively? Perhaps the best view of this is John Damascus, who talked of the "perichoresis", ie the circulation of the divine life in the persons. In other words, the three persons of the Trinity are distinguished only by their relational aspects: the Father is the Father of the Son, and through him sends the Spirit.
Rather than being empty words, this view of God is of profound importance; one that has largely been neglected in the West, to the great detriment of western Christianity it should be said. For it is a profoundly communitarian view: God is not a sort of solitary distant tyrant, but is revealed in his essence as being relational and loving. The God of the Trinity is thus not one of power but of love: love is not narcissistic but mutual and relational. Christian salvation in this view is therefore not of the individual, but of the community, or rather, humans are revealed by this to be also aimed for loving communal relation, not for positions of power. As John Donne wrote:
"No man is an island, entire of itself
every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main
if a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were,
as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were
any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind
and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls
it tolls for thee. "

In this light, the dogma of the Trinity is as urgently applicable now as it has ever been.

Anonymous said...

"People believe in evolution not because they arbitrarily want to believe it but because of overwhelming, publicly available evidence..."

Do you know this or think this? I have met evolutionists at Dawkins' web site who get supremely pissed if you dare punch any holes in their precious theory. I think (don't know for sure) that you are an exception. You seem to have an open mind.

Bill McEnaney said...

Anders, I've read each early Socratic dialog because I hold a B.A. degree in philosophy. So I'm sure that Socrates never said that he knew for sure that he didn't know anything. If he did say that, he contradicted himself.

You're thinking about when the Delphic oracle told him that he was wise. After he thought about that for a while, he concluded that the oracle meant he, Socrates, was wise because he knew that he was ignorant. If he knew that he was ignorant, he knew at least one thing.

Bill McEnaney said...

Anders, a post ago, I should have said what you may already know: Socrates talks with the Delphic oracle in an early Socratic dialog. If you haven't read the Penguin Classics anthology of those dialogs, I hope you'll read it's thoroughly enjoyable.

rasmussenanders said...

Thank you for the comment Bill,

And thank you for clarifying, what you say sounds plausible and I will change my own version next time I tell it.