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    and a very merry zagmuk to you, mr. president..., 2006-12-14 13:25:30 | Main | we write headlines..., 2006-12-19 12:38:37

    think thine self out of thine bag, and by that ye shall know me:

    I can't let this one slip away:

    For Judeo-Christianity, God is not a person in the sense that Al Gore arguably is. Nor is he a principle, an entity, or ‘existent’: in one sense of that word it would be perfectly coherent for religious types to claim that God does not in fact exist. He is, rather, the condition of possibility of any entity whatsoever, including ourselves. He is the answer to why there is something rather than nothing. God and the universe do not add up to two, any more than my envy and my left foot constitute a pair of objects.

    Got that? Let's repeat the chorus:

    He is, rather, the condition of possibility of any entity whatsoever, including ourselves

    Oh lord, oh lord, I have not the faith to disbelieve that Dawkins may have failed to sufficiently address the anthropic principle for the Betrand Russell reading public of Terry Eagleton, or that His Editors may have failed to recognize this specious example of what one supposes must be the "nuance" Dawkins lacks in his understanding of his own confirmation hearings in the Anglican Church. But so has the doubt been sown and so shall it grow for to make benefit the fantastic bounty Terry Eagleton someday shall harvest for His Editors, that only after this single seed has fully germinated will the whole become deeply appreciated as a big fat prank.

    In the meantime: nobody seems to get it, not least of all Dawkins.

:: posted by buermann @ 2006-12-18 05:39:33 CST | link

      Religious affiliation appears to me to be the organizing tool before it's the justification in, for example, the process of going to war. Same as with scientism or Enlightenment fundamentalism. None of the ideas seem to do any of the initial driving. But they put a plausible veneer over fear and greed.

    posted by Scruggs @ 2006-12-20 10:45:04 | link

      An Assemblies of God mega-church goer and a quaker, say, have very different conceptions about what god is. I guess I would ask whether those differences help explain why the one is going to a massive steel complex to be preached at like an ant and the latter shows up at their friends' meetings expecting a bit of a wait before reaching a quiet consensus.

    posted by buermann @ 2006-12-20 12:46:03 | link

      The mega-church complex is the most efficient way to deliver a sense of grace, social services and economic networking opportunities to people without much time on their hands who have been repeatedly dislocated. I would say the conceptions formed there have to be delivered and "consumed" without much time for reflection because of the numbers needing to be served. Their appeal when there are alternatives available comes from the same security of knowing that a cheese-related product in New York will taste the same as one in Kansas. A Quaker meeting is hard work and offers little in the way of certainty. It's community that can't be delivered in uniform slices.

    posted by Scruggs @ 2006-12-20 14:44:20 | link

      Sure, though I'd quibble over your flow of causality between the easily consumable and the numbers served. Maybe we should talk about Dawkins and his impolite attacks against the enlightened modern-deist types on that score.

      I wasn't really thinking about the point of sales, though, but the way the ideas impacted how their institutions were organized, which I would suggest has ramifications when it comes to their being put to use as veneers over fear and greed. It's a lot easier for a bunch of snake oil hawkers to take over calvinist AoG assemblies than a quaker meeting.

    posted by buermann @ 2006-12-20 15:51:22 | link

      Central to the megachurch is grace without a need for works, and any works themselves as preparation for struggle. There's no contemplative element beyond how best to serve. It's primarily combative. On the good end of that, there's Habitat for Humanity, what a friend of mine calls the work of "evolved baptists". What there is of the Calvinist strain is achievement-based promotions in comforting hierarchies.

    posted by Scruggs @ 2006-12-20 16:52:45 | link

      "grace without a need for works" is central to protestantism in general. It was a rejection, in the first place, of the Church's policy that on top of accepting Jesus you had to buy your way into heaven, as such, the deed to your estate was the "works". That sort of behavior on the part of the papacy was sending many of the faithful to an unnecessary damnation. In the modern church, were I still a member seeking grace, on top of any shrivelled up kernel of faith I had to offer I would also be required to say 12 hail maries and thus atone by my "works".

      I don't know of any Christian denomination that demands what you and I think of as "good works" for atonement.

      The usual difference in ideas between one end and the other is the conservative denominations place authority in the Bible, while radical and liberal denominations place the authority in the life and actions of this Jesus guy.

      Do you think, say, the latter need a plausible veneer for anything?

    posted by buermann @ 2006-12-20 19:53:45 | link

      A quibble over Bible authority: the interpretation that appears most useful is the one with authority, and is measured in ways any "secularist" would find familiar. The Biblical literalists rarely do much more than pretend to be something other than cherrypickers. The growth in numbers and power makes the interpretation correct after the fact for the leadership. But even career sophists need to have a veneer available. Very few people like to feel as though they're engaged in something morally and intellectually bankrupt. The congregation needs things that powerfully offsets any qualms.

      Which brings me back to grace and works. For some protestants, grace is matter of choice. One can choose it and turn away from it. For others, you've got it whether you want it or not. No laws of man are relevant to the condition and, ultimately, the laws of the church can become irrelevant (hence all the schisms). The former are freed up for a perfect relativism, which needs no plausible veneer. But the megachurches provide one anyway in the form of social services and the opportunity to be of service in a large community. My hypothesis is they've run up against human nature, which thrives on a sense of altruism.

    posted by Scruggs @ 2006-12-21 00:36:24 | link

      Your position seems to be that people never think, but are a collection of drives that seek out immitations of thought to justify their satisfaction, with the process never working in the reverse. Ergo a new idea that pre-dates the expression of new drives - as occurs e.g. during a schiism or reformation or revival in religious thinking - is simple post-hoc justification for pre-existing hidden drives, and so a
      world altering
      set of ideas over authority become nothing more than a quibble: what really mattered was that Luther and his ilk simply desired that their shit stop stinking.

    posted by buermann @ 2006-12-21 11:03:17 | link

      I think people in movements and polities are less driven by ideas than might be immediately apparent, and that the ideas shift pretty quicky into rationales. For example, there doesn't appear to be any sound reasoning, nor any ideation beyond a cunning snatch and grab, to the way the recent Medicare scheme was cooked up. There was no ideology to it, certainly. It was greed. Political players cherrypick and graft bits and pieces of things into what they plan to do already. I doubt Bush or Cheney have ever read any of the books that informed Wolfowitz's thinking, and his own thinking doesn't appear to have survived the demands of coming up with something his bosses could use. The problem as I see it is structural. It takes really exceptional people to hold to anything remotely like a set of ideas. Which is how you wind up with coherence only at the fringes and mainstream movements following paths which are obviously entirely counteproductive and self-destructive.

    posted by Scruggs @ 2006-12-21 13:05:55 | link

      Well, we know Bush was taught that the "world tries to change us from the outside in", and that he believes he has been changed from within by something greater than the world. I think the idea that he believes God is a gut feeling has some explanatory power.

      What's the difference between an idea and a rationalization? Whether we believe it or not? Rationalizations can quickly become ideas, too, then.

      I'm not being maximalist about this and niether are you, so maybe the difference is just a matter of degree. In the emergence of human institutions it just seems to me the ideas behind them are gonna generally be about as important as the political economies.

    posted by buermann @ 2006-12-21 15:12:32 | link

      And then, once established, the political economies take over.

    posted by buermann @ 2007-01-09 01:19:57 | link

    go ahead, express that vague notion

    your turing test:

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