Friday, October 30, 2009

Brief Review of _A World Full of Gods_ by John Michael Greer


I have never seen a philosophical case for classical polytheism (CP) until I read this book. This is evidence of the complete dearth in the philosophical literature about this approach to the world and the divine. One could argue that CP is one of the most popular approaches to the universe that has ever existed, particularly when one considers the many religions that have embraced it, such as those of the Greeks, the Romans, and the Northern Europeans.

Classical polytheism is to be distinguished from neo-Platonic polytheism (PP) in that CP, unlike PP, does not claim that all of the gods are simply different forms or faces of one God or divine being; rather, for CP, the gods are separate and distinct from each other. In addition, there is no omnipotent God under whose authority the Gods and Goddesses operate.

The book seems to take a threefold approach. The first strategy is to show that classical monotheism (CM) is no better served by the classical arguments for God's existence than CP is--the arguments support CP at least as well as CM, and even sometimes better (as in the case of the teleological argument). The second strategy is to show that the classical atheistic arguments (such as the argument from evil) are more of a problem for CM than for CP. The third strategy is to suggest that CP is a better explanation for the diversity of religious experience than is CM or naturalism.

Regarding the first strategy, I believe that Greer's treatment of the theistic arguments is generally uneven. Some of the critiques are not entirely persuasive, but he often makes perceptive points. I won't get into the details of it all here. It would become tedious!

Regarding the second strategy, I generally agree with Greer. I think that the theist could respond successfully to some of Greer's claims about the argument from evil's force against theism, but his general point remains safe.

Regarding the third strategy, I find this to be the special contribution of his book. I am delighted to see that Greer does not fall into the common yet confused view that all of the religions are "saying the same thing." In fact, his bold recognition of the incompatibilities of the religious experiences in different religions inspires him to suggest that there really are many Gods and Goddesses, and that they are communing with humans in different ways. There is not one mountain with many paths to the top--there are many mountains. He even goes so far as to say that there may be different afterlives for different people.

The idea is that CP is the best explanation for the diversity of religious experience. I think this idea is worth some serious thought and this is the most interesting thing that Greer does. I believe that philosophers of religion should discuss this idea with some rigor. I'm not here to say whether he is right or not, but I would maintain that there are other explanations that are good enough that they could disqualify CP as the only reasonable explanation. For instance, CM could claim that some people are deluded by Satan or an evil force. Naturalism could claim that it is all self-fulfilling prophecy. CM could have an element of self-fulfilling prophecy in its explanation in addition to the idea of being misguided by a malevolent force. Perhaps the diversity can be explained by having contact with angels or metaphysical beings who are servants of the one God. I can't say which one one must accept. I encourage a discussion about all of the possibilities.

Greer goes on to give an excellent discussion about CP and its attitudes about a variety of issues including ethics, religious practice, and spirituality. This book has given me insight into CP that I never had prior to reading this book, and this discussion is well worth your time if you have any interest in religions that emphasize CP strongly (as opposed to PP) such as Druidism and Asatru.

I tend toward deism. I believe that God does not interfere with the operations of the world in which we live, but I am open to the idea that God communicates with us in subtle ways. I tend toward the idea that humans sometimes get peeks into the other side of things, and that they tend to interpret the little bits that they see in terms of their own categories of thinking. I also believe that many people are insane, hallucinating, or self deluded. Perhaps religious experience involves all of these factors and more. I don't, however, feel compelled to think that I must postulate a multiplicity of Gods and Goddesses to explain these phenomena. Nevertheless, I find Greer's approach novel and worth considering even if it is ultimately rejected.

Thank you, Mr. Greer, for opening up a fruitful and interesting discussion in the philosophy of religion.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Politics

A little philosophy inclineth man's mind to liberalism, but depth in philosophy bringeth men's minds about to conservatism.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Blasphemy

Here is an opinion worth reading:

http://blogs.usatoday.com/oped/2009/10/column-just-say-no-to-blasphemy-laws-.html

The free marketplace of ideas is a brutal place. Once in, be expected to be criticized, evaluated, judged, ridiculed, mocked, and embarrassed.

I am willing to be mocked for my ideas. I am an adult. That's what adults do.

No religious idea on earth has some kind of a right not to be criticized or mocked. That includes ideas from Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism, and deism.

Islamic countries have laws to prevent blasphemy against Islam. We in the West shouldn't have blasphemy laws about any religion. Not even Christianity enjoys this privilege in this most Christian of countries. Why should any other religion?

Freedom of thought and speech is far more important than religious sensibilities, yet I continue to be amazed about how much the Left is willing to compromise on this fundamental issue except in the case of Christianity, which is continually abused with glee and abandon by the all-of-a-sudden-respectful-of-solemnly-held-religious-beliefs-as-long-as-they're-not-Christian Left.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Global Warming as Religion

Take a look at this story from the BBC entitled "What Happened to Global Warming?":

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8299079.stm

I don't know, for a fact, that global warming is not happening, although I grow increasingly skeptical all the time. One thing I can say, however, is that Global Warmism (hereafter "GW") serves as an ersatz-religion for many people in the world today, particularly among the world's Left. In this essay I will use the term "Global Warmists" to refer to those people who are particularly passionate activists in the movement to sharply reduce carbon dioxide emissions by man in order to prevent worldwide catastrophe.

I am not a member of any religion, but I do believe one thing--if you need to worship something greater than yourself, then you should worship the Creator rather than the creation.

GW has a number of features that strike me as somewhat religious in character. It seems to have some analogs to Christianity (and other religions, especially Christianity's fellow Abrahamics).

Whereas Christianity has a God, GW has Earth/Nature/Gaia. One sins in Christianity by disobeying God, and one sins in GW by having a carbon footprint.

In Christianity, we are all born with a flaw--the tendency to sin and disobey God. In GW, we are all born with a flaw--the tendency to impact the environment in some way or other.

In Catholicism, one can confess one's sins and perform the appropriate penance. In GW, one can pay for carbon offsets.

Christianity is a religion of prophets such as Moses, Abraham, and Jacob. GW is a religion of prophets like Al Gore and Barack Obama. The GW prophets speak with the authority of Mother Earth and ask us to obey. Sometimes they demand that we do and use the authority the State to force us to, much as the Church once did.

They both look forward to a transformation of the world. In Christianity, this blessed condition cannot happen in the here and now. In GW, this blessed condition can happen in the here and now, provided that we can force greedy humans to permit it.

Both are, in some ultimate sense, faith based and not falsifiable. They both make claims that cannot be disconfirmed in the believers' minds by any empirical evidence; indeed, sometimes their faith is actually strengthened by counterevidence.

Both have a tendency to engender a great deal of passion and missionary fervor in their believers. Many believers are tempted to be highly judgmental of nonbelievers. The only difference is that Global Warmists are far more conspicuously preachy and annoying than Christians these days. They also demonize their opponents with a great deal of religious fervor.

Religions have often had a tendency to punish blasphemy and marginalize blasphemers. Christianity has done this in the past, Islam does it today, and GW does it currently with enthusiasm.

Religious people often believe that people who criticize their beliefs are motivated to attack God and are thereby evil. Global Warmists often believe that people who criticize their beliefs are motivated to attack Mother Earth and are thereby evil.

Christianity has a terrible place of punishment in the afterlife for those who merit a stay there. Oh, how GW must wish that it had this!

Christians have an evil one named Satan. Global Warmists have an evil one named Man.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Previous Posts

I recently changed my blog name and URL. To see some older blogs, please visit http://spiritualconservative.blogspot.com/.

A Conservative Deistic Approach

I have spent a great deal of time studying religion and philosophy. I have spent years attending religious services of a variety of religions, especially those of Hinduism. I have found myself completely unable to believe in the reality of any miracles, whether they be of a man raised from the dead, a man who received the Quran from Allah, a man who lifted Govardhana Hill above his head, a boy who was born from his mother's side, and so on and on. I also have no commitments about an afterlife, a judgment, reincarnation, or anything else of that nature.

I also cannot believe that God's existence can be proven by means of philosophical argument. I also don't believe that it can be disproven, either.

So what do I do? I believe in God because I need to. Yet I don't believe in a God who performs miracles or suspends the natural order.

So what do I need? A practice that enables me to develop a relationship with God. But how to do that completely outside of venerable and sophisticated religious traditions?

I decided to take a look at my psychology. I can't feel tender feelings for an abstraction, so I visualize God to myself using Hindu imagery. I focus on the embrace of Radha and Krishna and chant their names, since that is the only religious practice I have performed that serves my religious needs so well.

Yet I am not a Hindu. I am a deist. I wear cow leather, especially for my motorcycling needs. I rarely, but sometimes, eat chicken or fish. I am not Indian, nor do I feel any pressure whatsoever to become Indian. I keep my name and my culture. I love my country of the United States and feel very close to my American heritage. I appreciate Christianity for everything it has made possible here. I am a conservative/libertarian right winger. I can't fit in with any group entirely.

I expect nothing from God. I never perform prayer to ask for any favors. I only chant powerful names that humans have given God. A name is so much more intimate than a title. I hope that it deepens my relationship with the God that I need so much.

From Christianity I learned about God's boundless compassion. From secular humanism I learned about strict standards of evidence and avoiding superstition. From Asatru I learned about the heathen European warrior ethic and the Nine Noble Virtues. From Hinduism I learned about God's tender love affair with the creation. So now what am I supposed to do? Approach the Mystery with humility and love. Try to live like a hero. Reach for the stars, yet know that this world can never satisfy our longing for God.