Silliman's Papers

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Thursday, October 12, 2006

A letter and a few thoughts on atheism


Very interesting. I haven't read all of these yet, but have looked over Turner and McGinn and, rather than waiting for some full fledged response which may never happen, here are a few thoughts.

The thing, I think, that disturbs me about atheists is that they seem to know exactly what God is. They have rejected a very specific idea, one which they don't seem to state and which I don't know.

Augustine asked, "what do I say I love when I say I love my God?" People that say they love God ought to ask this, but people who say they don't believe in God ought to rephrase the question so they can ask it too.

McGinn takes some time to say that for him there is nothing where for other people there is God, that he hasn't replaced God with something else on his intellectual map and that there's not a blank spot on that map where other people put God, but that the map doesn't even go there. I don't see though, that he's willing to say what, exactly, isn't there.

There are a lot of kinds of theists and a lot of kinds of atheists. Not all atheists are angry 15 year olds and not all theists are hicks. To run the conversation as if they were is pointless.

I find it very interesting that Turner - if I understand him - thinks that the theist's question is "why is there something rather than nothing?" Which is the question of ontology. Even down to Heidegger, when people talk about Being this is their starting question.

Some of the continentals talk about ontotheology when they talk about their atheism, like Derrida and Caputo. The talk about ontotheology is very worthwhile in that it, at leasts, is specific about what sort of thing it is rejecting when it rejects God.

To reject ontotheology, where God is Being, is not a specifically atheistic move. Even someone as traditional as Aquinas could reject that God.

I suspect that one of your questions is, how do I read the last line of Wittgenstein's tractatus? I read like this: a) we must speak of what we cannot speak, knowing that we will always be failing but still have to speak; b) what is silence?; c) the inside and the outside are, at least at some points, indivisable, so that speaking will always include not speaking and silence will always have words.

Another problems I have with this debate: I'm not interested in proving the existence of God, either to myself or to you. This is because I take (any interesting) belief in a god to be acting rather than in certainly saying. My belief in God leads me to act in such a way that even if he doesn't exist in any satisfying manner, I would have to act as if he did. In this sense, it would be more correct to say that I hope in God rather than believe in him.

Who can you read who says what I'm saying? Kierkegaard, tho I'm not familiar enough with his works to say what specifically you should read. Derrida, try Caputo's secondary work The Prayers and Tears of Jacques Derrida. Graham Greene, try Monsignor Quixote. None of those actually speak straight forwardly for my "camp," but they are camping here.

I think I should probably say why I act this way rather than some other way, but will for now leave that alone.


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