I love my atheist friends, but most of them are arguing about the G-d they learned about in 6th grade, and they…

 I love my atheist friends, but most of them are arguing about the G-d they learned about in 6th grade, and they think somehow that’s adult level of discussion.

“The question isn’t a scientific one, about which things exist. It’s a philosophical one, about what existence is and on what it depends.”


  1. Grant Meadors

    How is it any different from Plotinus’s Enneads, which was, I admit, a beautiful and reasonable book?

    I’m quite sympathetic to pantheism and panentheim. In the modern discourse, I identify as atheist, because monotheism (and to a much lesser extent polytheism) went to some unpleasant places post-Constantine.

    In your experience, are most monotheists actually thinking in terms of high-level, monistic, emmanant terms? I certainly know some who are, but there are quite a few who seem not to. It is against the latter category that Jerry Coyne et al write. And for the former, I think metaphysical philosophy has made a smooth path into much greater lucidity over the intervening seventeen centuries since Porphyry set the Neo-Platonic perception to papyrus.

    Burkeman tries to address this point in the last paragraphs of the article, but I think he’s making a second category error.

    He says atheists only attack the “superhero” god, and that the god-as-existence god is another category altogether. Well, then why are we referring to them by the same name? This isn’t like the dumbed-down evolution he gives as a reflective example. The deity of some of the Mutakallimun and the Doctors of the Church seems utterly different from that to which is prescribed in liturgy.

    Well, I’ve already almost friends over this issue, so I don’t want a fight. I just wanted to say not all under the atheist banner are uncultured. I know a non-trivial sampling of classic theology, even though I keep hearing that just one more theologian would change my mind.

  2. Justin Swanstrom

    No, I don’t think one more theologian would change your mind. It doesn’t work that way. You believe what you believe, and if you’re honest with yourself, you won’t change easily.

    I’m fortunate to have very many theist friends. Almost all of them draw on either some variation of Paul Tillich’s “Ground of Being” (whether they’ve heard of it or not) or Hinduism’s “Ultimate Reality”. I know a few Neo-Platonists, but that’s generally something people come to through study, not instinct.

    On the other hand, most atheists I know (not all of them) still think in terms of the Superhero G-d. Disliking that, they never investigate further.

    What I particularly like about this article is that it challenges atheists to “up their game”. Instead of just taking potshots at the low-level stuff, it challenges them to actually understand what other people believe before telling them they’re stupid.


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