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efrique

'To say, "when we say 'God,' we're including whatever the heck it is that atheists believe," is like saying, "When we say 'man' or 'men,' of course we're also including women."'

While this is surely true in one sense, in another, I think it misses the mark.

The statement about men and women is all that you say it is (and annoys the heck out of me when I notice it), but the attempt to include atheists in "those who trust in God" is in some sense a bigger error, because men aren't the antithesis of women.

It is to deny the one thing that makes atheists different from those who can in any sense 'trust in God'.

efrique

Actually, your post brings up one of the points that drives me completely bonkers in discussions with theists: the way the notion of "God" tends to become so slippery. In one sentence, God is this vaguely deist concept (such as when they want to make a 'first cause' argument, or the ontological argument), and in the very next sentence, the entirety of a specific belief system is slipped in the back door (e.g. not just the Ten Commandments, but Jesus, the Trinity, transubstantiation, virgin birth, ...).

I have come to refer to it as "theist bait-and-switch".

[I like to respond "Please explain why the deist figure you were discussing a moment ago implies the characteristics of your particular god rather than any other omnipotent being." ... and lately I also tend to find myself saying at the first mention of God "Please define what you mean when you say that, so that we both know what you're talking about"... but that request is usually ignored; I think the reasons are obvious.]

It looks like I may have to stop calling it "theist bait-and-switch", though. If accomodationists are using the same style of lame argument, I may have to come up with a different name for it.

Sparky

Holy linguistic gymnastics. Make the word god not sound religious? I'm a theist - and to me that just seems convoluted at best. While you can try to define god extremely vaguely, it won’t change what the real, actual and established definition of god is. And no matter how much he tries to define god like this - when government uses it you can GUARANTEE they mean “Judeo-Christian god.” It’s frankly a damn stretch to make “under god” include other religions, let alone atheism. I can go around insisting that “dog shit” means “doughnut” but that doesn’t mean ANYONE ELSE and, most importantly, the people selling me sugary treats are going to go along with that definition.

And proposing policies based on religious belief? Nononononono. That door leads to some severe toxic badness.

When the government uses the word god they are endorsing religion. Seriously - there is no element to the word god that can be applied to anything but religious faith/belief/position/etc. And when government invokes god it is NEVER inclusive. Dancing around that is just living in denial (along with the “separation of church and state has failed” which, to me, screams “waaah bring them back together!!!!” This isn’t an attempt to heal the culture war - this is an attempt by the religious dominionist to WIN it. He may be an atheist but this is the kind of position the religious right dreams of.

Richard

Doesn't "God" necessarily exclude religions which believe in "gods"?

Even if I agreed with him and said, "Fine, universal justice is a 'god'," then what about the Goddess of universal hope? Or the spectacled God of human intuition?

I feel like we need a polytheistic branch of the church of the FSM.

DSimon

And lo, the Flying Spaghetti Monster spread forth his various noodly reproductive extremeties, and gave birth to the Pasta Lords of All Creation:
- Linguinitron, Pasta Lord of technology and painful blisters
- Ravioliwoli, Pasta Lord of creativity and hissy fits
- Macaronixta, Pasta Lord of politics and poor grammar
- Spaghetcetera, Pasta Lord of whatever the other Pasta Lords forget to be Pasta Lords of

And the many Pasta Lords were thus born, and it was really quite good indeed. Ramen.

Val

@DSimon: excellent! (mmm, hungry now, gotta make a sacrament!)

Ebonmuse

I have a feeling that what's motivating Ledewitz is that he really, really doesn't want to have to argue with religious people, and he's hoping he can redefine the term "God" so that everyone will be happy with it and nothing needs to be debated or changed.

Sorry, not gonna happen. The record is clear that this language was injected by the religious right into our public institutions specifically to belittle, exclude and demonize atheists, to show that they're second-class citizens and that people in America believe in the Christian God. It's way too late to whitewash this history by imagining that these verses can be retroactively altered to mean something different. I don't believe in God, and I think it's offensive both to atheists and to believers to try to get around this by redefining that word to make it so mushy as to be meaningless.

Ramel

A little off topic, anyone know a good clear explanation of the ontological argument, I'm not sure I'm understanding what the theists are trying to do with this one. It looks a lot like a 'god exists because I said so' argument, but I'm hoping something that has been discussed by phillosphers for a long time might have more to it.

Tommy

If Ledewitz truly believes this, he's a fucking idiot.

I suspect he just gets his jollies provoking outrage.

FormerComposer

See the Stanford Encylopedia of Philosophy article:

Ontological Arguments

As a further off-topic, the SEP is a great way to waste, er ..., spend a lot of time.

As a further not-so-far-off-topic, I did my HS senior english paper on St Anselm's Ontological Proof. Although that was over 40 years ago, I remember it more as a "God exists because the nature of a perfect being (God) would have to include existence." I can see this being appealing to the fundies since it is essentially, "By definition [of the terms], God exists." BTW, I was already fully an atheist by then so I enjoyed the irony in choosing my topic from something in English history.

Greta Christina
If Ledewitz truly believes this, he's a fucking idiot.

I suspect he just gets his jollies provoking outrage.

Actually, Tommy, he's neither. He's a smart guy, and he's definitely not a troll. I think Ebonmuse is closer to the mark. My impression from this panel is that he's profoundly disturbed by the hostile, hateful, divisive culture wars -- as most of us are -- and he thinks this is a way around it.

I just think he's intensely and profoundly mistaken about that. (Or, to put it another way: He is not a fucking idiot. It's just that his proposal is fucking idiotic. :-) ) His proposed solution is a Band-Aid on an axe wound... and it's not even a real Band-Aid. It's a picture of a Band-Aid.

the chaplain
We can't take this question out of its political context. We can talk all we want to about how "God" can mean a nebulous philosophical concept of creativity and goodness... but that sure as shit isn't what the religious right means by it.

Absolutely right. I know a good number of conservative Christians, and many of them really believe the "Christian nation, one nation under a Christian god" crap. They vehemently oppose removing the offensive phrases because they believe such removal is removing their God from American life and culture.

exrelayman

@ DSimon & Val

Please cease your delusion. The 'eat me' meme was utilized by Christianity before FSM. And others before Christianity - and the beat goes on.

Ben

Even if "god" can mean something other than god, that's not how people—theocrats, garden-variety Christians, assorted government types—use it. When they say "God," they mean "God," not "goodness" or "justice."

So what good is the statement "God can mean different things from what we all think it usually means"?

Silliness.

Dale

Slippery slope.

Big Brother.

War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength.

If the government is allowed to use a convoluted, arbitrary, re-defined version of the word "God", then what's to stop it from doing the same with other terms? Changing a term so as to neutralize its political bite is tantamount to suppressing dissent. In other words, if "God" is altered to mean more or less nothing, then people can no longer argue about it, and the government is free to inject into it whatever political poison they desire. The next step is easy: redefine "war", and now no one can speak out against any conflict the nation enters into. Redefine "freedom", and... oh, wait, that's already been done. Redefine "ignorance", and presto! It's 1984.

I know I sound like a conspiracy theorist nutjob, and in fact I've done so intentionally. My point is that even a far-fetched argument like the one I just made still seems to carry some weight against Ledewitz's outlandish proposal. Creating a new meaning for the word "God" is just a bad idea any way you slice it.

J. J. Ramsey

"The record is clear that this language was injected by the religious right into our public institutions specifically to belittle, exclude and demonize atheists, to show that they're second-class citizens and that people in America believe in the Christian God."

Errm, I thought that it was injected before there was a religious right as we know it. The modifications to the Pledge, for instance, date from the 1950s and were meant as a slam against the godless Commies.

BTW, on the ontological argument, there's a quote from Flew before he turned deist that sums up what's wrong with the argument quite well:

"Say, if you like, that by the word God we are to mean 'a Perfect being'; and then go on, if you must, to gloss this Perfect as itself meaning--among other things 'possessing the perfection of existence'. Manoeuvre how you wish and for as long as you like with the definition. Still you will not have taken one single step towards establishing that there is actually any being such that this word so defined can there correctly be applied." (God: A Critical Enquiry, 4.10)

WScott
The statement about men and women is all that you say it is (and annoys the heck out of me when I notice it), but the attempt to include atheists in "those who trust in God" is in some sense a bigger error, because men aren't the antithesis of women.
Interesting point. In the same vein, it could be argued that there is a history of using man/men to refer to the human race as a whole. (I'm not defnding it - just pointing it out.) I'm aware of no such history of a non-religious use for the word god.
anyone know a good clear explanation of the ontological argument
Actually, Skeptico just did a good piece on it: http://skeptico.blogs.com/skeptico/2009/08/ontological-argument-for-god-rebuttal.html
Solar Hero

C'mon y'all, even Dawkins has said he accepts Spinoza's God...which is really nothing more than Wittgenstein's definition of the world: everything that is the case.

If you are a rationalist, you believe that the universe can be figured out rationally, and the fact that that is so could be called a "god."

What is interesting to me is that certain branches of Buddhism is atheistic -- is this, then, not a religion?

Greta Christina
If you are a rationalist, you believe that the universe can be figured out rationally, and the fact that that is so could be called a "god."

Could be called a god. But isn't, by the overwhelming majority of people who use the word.

You could call shit "ice cream," too. But I don't think the government should rewrite the FDA regulations accordingly.

Jon Berger

Completely off-topic, but the business about "When I use a word, it means exactly what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less" is from "Through the Looking-Glass," not "Alice in Wonderland." It get cited a lot in legal briefs and court opinions.

teammarty

He is deeply disturbed by the culture wars and his answer is surrender. "Sit down, shut up, and pray or else" sounds no less disgusting when coming from an Atheist.

Bill Baker

Greta says= "Are you fucking kidding me? You can define "God" in a way that isn't religious? God and gods is the whole freaking foundation of religion. It's practically the definition of it"

That's a false presumption and a strawman. There are atheistic and agnostic religions. And to believe in God does not mean belief in religion. I am as irreligious and freethinking as they come, and...I believe in God, a minmialistic Deiestic one of course, and not with 100% certainty, but I do believe in it{I call myself an Anti-theistic Agnostic-Deist}. This is a common sign of the ignorance of many atheists, agnostics, deists and other rational freethinkers to assume God and religion are neccaserily tied together and that religions neccaserily are god based, it's a mistake that anyone who actually took even a small look at how many religions there are and have been and how many have no gods, and how deism is a non-religious viewpoint.... Read More

Anyways, other than this point I agree pretty much all else that said and I stand with her on it, God{not even a deistic one, and not even one that is just a term for whatever the fuck a person wants to lvie by or worship- ie: the idea that whetver you base your life in is your god- BULLSHITE!} does not belong in national documents, pledges, secular institutions, on money, and so on. We're in 100% agreement on this fact.

In Reason:
Bill Baker

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