Monday, October 12, 2015

Thank God for Atheism!

I really need to clear the spindle. Somewhere along the line the cosmic flow was bottlenecked, such that I have at least a dozen books strewn around the desk, either partially or totally unblogged. Granted, some of them aren't especially blogworthy, but even the worst of them has a few nuggets. Maybe I'll start with those and work my way up, because I can eliminate more of them that way. A less cluttered desk is a less cluttered mind.

Which reminds me: some people think this song is about God (Good Old Desk). Apparently it's just about a desk. But I think it's really about his piano. Before he was almost famous, he worked the graveyard shift in a bank, but had a nine-to-five job as songwriter with a publishing company. His "office" consisted of a small cubicle with a piano. So his desk really was his piano.

Anyway, another thing that contributes to the backblog is that I end up not blogging about things contemporaneously. The whole operation runs more smoothly when I blog about what I'm actually working on.

At the moment I'm reading a book called Essential Theological Terms, but there's not much in it worth blogging home about. More like taking my medicine or getting inoculated so as to avoid future heresies. Or completing my continuing education units for my cosmic bus driver's license.

Here's a book on Genesis which we've sporadically referenced. The best thing about it may be the cover shot of the cosmos, because that's how I picture it -- like a dʘnut with a space of light in the center -- the vast space of the divine Nothing. It conveys the idea that God is at the center, and that the further from this center, the darker things get -- whether morally, ontologically, epistemologically, aesthetically, or politically.

And only man can see and understand what we just said, for "God speaks directly only to human creatures. The others [in Genesis] have no speech directed toward them at all." They are -- like all creatures -- spoken, but only man is both spoken and spoken-to.

Twice God addresses human beings as you, which he couldn't do if we didn't share an I with him. This I to I communication goes to our intimacy with the creator, with the creation, and with each other, for man

"is the speech-creature par excellence. This is the one to whom God has made a peculiarly intense commitment (by speaking) and to whom marvelous freedom has been granted (in responding)."

In a sense, freedom is founded upon our freedom to reject God. To put it conversely, if we couldn't reject God, then we wouldn't be free. Which means quite literally that the atheist can only thank God for his atheism. Again, if God doesn't exist, only He knows it. Sounds like a joke, but it is one of those statements we can know with absolute certainty. In order to rule out God, we'd obviously have to hear it from the source. Otherwise it's just a rumor.

Now that I'm thinking about it, could it be that the primordial catastrophe described in Genesis is really just a description of what happens when man becomes man? What I mean is that there is this (literally) infinite gap between all of creation -- including all its sublinguistic creatures -- and man.

Although there is of course continuity, there is also a kind of absolute wedge between us and the rest of creation. You could say that the ultimate wedge issue is Creator/creation, but the penultimate one (which is an analogue of the first) must be Man/world (since we always transcend the latter, even while being immanent in it).

The text describes this from a number of different angles, including language, law (only man is conditioned by a non-genetic Ought), relatedness (it is not good that we should be alone), knowledge (we get to name the other creatures, which implies knowledge of their forms or essences), awareness of evil (AKA the wily serpent), a nonlocal soul (which God blows into us), and the reciprocal freedom to blow him off in return.

Now, in a weird way, if not for man, then God is absent from the cosmos. In other words, only man can be conscious of God, i.e., render God present. "There is one way in which God is imaged in the world and only one: humanness!" There is a fine line, however, between this and idolatry. Man is analogous to the moon, which has only reflected light. But if we forget that, we can become lunatic moonbats and worship the wrong object.

But "God is not known through any cast or molten image. God is known peculiarly through this creature who exists in the realm of free history.... The contrast between fixed images which are prohibited and human image which is affirmed represents a striking proclamation about God and about humanness."

And it is surely a premonition of what is to come, i.e., the Incarnation, in which image and likeness are mutually illuminated in the same body. In order for this to happen it must first be possible for it to happen. Therefore, we might say that man is ultimately the possibility of God (in a manner of speaking).

Man has freedom and authority over the other creatures, but the first implies responsibility while the second implies truth. Thus, man ought to exercise power as God does, a "creative use of power which invites, evokes, and permits. There is nothing here of coercive or tyrannical power..."

And like Jesus, "the one who rules is the one who serves. Lordship means servanthood." How much you wanna bet Ben Carson would understand what was just said, whereas Barack Obama would regard it as a cow does a poem?

So, "The role of the human person is to see to it that the creation becomes fully the creation willed by God."

This whole perspective is cosmically revolutionary, such that it turns the cosmos bright-side up: "The text is revolutionary. It presents an inverted view of God, not as the one who reigns by fiat and remoteness [cf. Allah or the left], but the one who governs by gracious self-giving."

By the same toking, "It also presents an inverted view of humanness," because human beings "are not the chattel and servants of God [cf. Allah or the left], but the agents of God to whom much is given and from whom much is expected."

3 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

In a sense, freedom is founded upon our freedom to reject God. To put it conversely, if we couldn't reject God, then we wouldn't be free. Which means quite literally that the atheist can only thank God for his atheism.

I had occasion to think this morning, that in some ways God isn't all that different from the little voice that comes out of the GPS to give directions. Or rather, vice versa, inasmuch as the GPS knows how to tell you where to get where you think you want to go, but it is up to the driver to follow the instructions or not. If you don't, usually the GPS will simply think of a new way for you to get where you are going. In a similar way, Man has been gifted with some fairly simple directions (and no small number of Still Voices and opportunities for course correction along the way) to reach our final deustination; but it is up to each of us to listen or ignore. At our peril, either way...

...

As to the post as a whole, as usual it is full of Yes.

10/12/2015 10:25:00 AM  
Blogger whitney said...

I've been thinking about this topic recently. Most non believers see man as just another animal and everything from man is seen as just a product of evolution. Thinking this makes it possible to ignore man's uniqueness. That uniqueness is problematic for the atheist, so it has to be obstructed, and the animal/evolution argument is effective but the comparisons invariably end up being between inherent natural skills and creations of man. Whale song is amazing and beautiful but it's not a telephone. Ant colony's can be complex and vast but they still aren't comparable to civilizations that rise and fall over thousands of years. Non believers will make these arguments and even though they are nonsensical because they are still better than admitting man is unique. I can understand that. Admitting man is unique can take a person down a path they may want to avoid.

10/12/2015 07:09:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"Man has freedom and authority over the other creatures, but the first implies responsibility while the second implies truth. Thus, man ought to exercise power as God does, a "creative use of power which invites, evokes, and permits. There is nothing here of coercive or tyrannical power...""

That's how we know if one is really for freedom or if, like those on the left (and some on the right) of the political spectrum, they are for coerciveness and tyranny.

10/13/2015 07:38:00 AM  

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