Schelling, Pantheism, and the British Church

I will begin this post with Richard Dawkins – a strong believer in atheism, who believes in the disenchanted view of the modern world, and that arcane mythic belief poisons the enlightenment project, and kills innumerable black Africans.

However, if we examine is argument with a mere hind of closeness, it falls on its head. Dawkins says: I believe only in things for which there is evidence. There is no evidence for the Christian god, nor any other god, therefore I do not believe in God/god/gods.

First, the good part of the argument is the lack of evidence for one god over a different god. He is right to chastise the Christians for not believing in Zeus. However, for Dawkins, believing in Zeus would be rediculous, so we have different stances on the general picture.

Which brings to the main point. Those who believe in God/gods/divine presence, do not need evidence that God exists. God is not a being like other beings, he is at minimum, a radically different sort of being, an absolute being. There could be no evidence for the thing that put the world into motion, and there could be no scientific evidence for a thing which changed the course of the world, as s/he could simply make it so as her hand was natural law, or appeared as natural law. It would in fact be – natural law- because he had created the form of law as such.

It is this absurd for an atheist to argue with a theologen on the existence of God. They merely believe the world operates according to two incommensurable sets of rules.

But Dawkins is smarter than this – he aims squarely at the essential aspect of God – the moral aspect. One thing Gods all have in common is a kinship with humans, a moral relation. “Moral” just means acting akin to the beings we ourselves are, acting in accord with our being, acting appropriately. As liberals we might limit the sphere of moral action to be something quite limited (as in, not infringing on others rights to liberty to conceive and execute their own conception of the good), but they still believe that this limited sphere of ethical judgments is appropriate to the kind of being we are (in their case, the kind of being which determines its own conception of the good). If God is to be God for us, he must bear the moral relation to us that he claims to have. Thus, while no arguments for the existence of God are valid, many arguments against the moral relation born between god and us are valid. The problem of Evil is one such argument.

It is my contention that the problem of Evil is so great that it cannot be solved within normal Christian theology. Any theology which does not call God “infinitely good and infinitely powerful and infinitely knowing” will not necessarily fall to this contradiction. However, if the Christian God exists, and can find me a parking space, and “the winds and seas obey him”, then there is manifest more violence in the world caused by natural causes than any solution could mitigate (except perhaps Spinoza’s, but that is too cold – if God is to have a moral relation to us he cannot sit completely outside the temporal condition).

Thus, rather than be Atheists, I propose, along with a wonderful English Vicar, pantheism. “What if God didn’t do things at all? What if God was in things”. The vicar proposes a notion of God not as an agent but as presence, the “indwelling presence” of things which begs “strict attention” and “love”.

Advantages of taking up a pantheistic view are many folded. Firstly, “God” is equivalent to “Being” (as presence). Sure, presence has specific characteristics because it is God, but these are provable or unprovable, and they are appealing. Also we get to stop believing in heaven if we like, utter rubbish. Most importantly though, we can no longer use dogma to justify any moral judgment whatsoever. The only guide to our moral judgements is ourselves – as presence (as “little gods”).

In other words, pantheism cashes out as whichever moral view you wanted to hold as a humanist, and you can confront with your non-nihilistic humanism any theologian on his own ground. Do you believe in God? Of course! God is what allows things to be as things, god is the character of thinghood – the indwelling presence that things bear. Want to see God? Open your eyes to not merely how things manifest themselves, but the inner conditions of their manifestation. Become attentive to the manifestory character of things. There is God.

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