have never really understood this question, though it gets asked fairly frequently. There seem to be at least two interpretations of the question: do you have faith in God? And, do you affirm the existence of God?
I don’t propose to spend much time on the first interpretation. Personally I see no evidence for an active and personalised, interventionist monogod represented in monotheism. The second question, however, I find impossible to answer.
Here’s why. Limitations of any kind are not supposed to pertain to such deities. A story I once heard told in the House of Lords a few years ago has stuck with me. The story goes that during the English colonial intervention in India, the chiefs of the Anglican Church met with representatives of the Hindu religion at an equivalent level and said, basically, we don’t want any trouble right? But we just can’t get our heads round one point about your religion, so need you to answer one simple question before we can guarantee that. Do you believe in one god or many?
The Hindus could not answer because, they said, we cannot limit god to singularity or multiplicity. The separation between them is part of illusion. To say god is one limits god, who can never be many. Similarly, to say god is many means he can never be one. Who are we to limit god to one side or the other of the one/many divide?
Similarly, it seems to me equally ridiculous to limit any god to what we call existence. To get round the paradox that God must have a creator, theists argue God must therefore be infinite and eternally transcendent. Yet by insisting on the mere existence of such a force limits it to just one side of the dichotomy existence/oblivion, presence/lack. Like Schrodinger’s cat, such a force must exist beyond such rationalist dichotomies.
I cannot affirm the existence of even a non-interventionist monogod, for to do so would limit such a force to a kind of prison it cannot, by definition, be held by..
Just thought I’d post an interesting sub-polemic Against Empathy, by ace Yale psychologist Paul Bloom, which I read last year when the world was a different place. I remember thinking, in that phantasmagoria we call 2014, that while I wasn’t convinced at all by Professor Bloom’s application of his firm stance against the false guide ’empathy’ in the political sphere, on the everyday personal and/or professional sphere his argument seemed more solid. I especially liked the importance of the distinction between ’empathy’ and ‘compassion’. The article didn’t disappoint when Buddhist practitioners appear, their brains being scanned by psychology labs to find out what conscious compassion looks like, as brain data.
Last night’s The Ascent of Woman (BBC2) did a fine job of demonstrating how the recent trend for monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam being the main ones) merely inherit a somewhat older tradition of patriarchy.
The systematic oppression of women for which they have become famous, a system of male domination, of our very discourse, imagination, as well as politics and ethics and law, in short of society ‘itself’ in fact seems to have emerged with the transition to settled, agricultural civilisation, itself a fairly recent innovation in human affairs. Continue reading “A bad day for religious patriarchy”
“That the Subjects which are Protestants may have Arms for their Defence suitable to their Conditions and as allowed by Law. ” – English Bill of Rights, 1689
“A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” US Constitution, 2nd amendment, 1791
Your homework this week is to compare and contrast these statements from English and American statute.
On becoming an undergraduate, I soon looked up Karl Marx’s well-known, and often quoted remark on religion: the opium of the people.
Nuance and subtlety drift over time. We may assume Marx dismisses religion as a soothing crutch, or more pejoratively as a harmful addiction. But we can assume nothing from one out of context quotation. For Marx and his world in 1844, opium’s connotations would have been so different from ours, it seemed to my new undergraduate brain trite and naive to assume anything at all about Marx’s remark. Besides, Karl’s pipe was tobacco-laden. It’s just a metaphor. I wanted to look at the whole text of the remark, and to understand, without prejudice, the whole argument.
The remark comes from Marx’s Introduction to his Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right (1844), which begins:
For Germany, the criticism of religion has been essentially completed, and the criticism of religion is the prerequisite of all criticism.