Thursday, December 17, 2009

Kangaroos and Gods

Ophelia Benson is not the only one who smells a rat:

The whole set-up really is a cheat, and it can't be seen as anything else. We do have faculties that work, and it is beneficial for us that they work, yet when it comes to God we are supposed to do the opposite of what we do the rest of the time. We are supposed to veto our own cognitive abilities and just believe things for no good reason. That's backward. A decent God shouldn't expect that kind of reversal. It's a cheat and it's also an insult ...
Quite so, and beyond that, such an arrangement -- a god who expects us to believe by means of reversing and suppressing our usual truth-finding capacities -- would be a terrible waste in a sort of Maslow Hierarchy sense. Under the assumption that this god exists as presented, we humans, given the way we're constituted, have to expend vast mental energies just to scratch around deeply enough to believe in it.

Whereas if its existence were as perspicuous and undeniable as the existence of the sun, kangaroos, or the city of Madrid, we could devote those energies to higher-order ends, such as not killing, abusing, or stealing from one another. Behaving ethically would still be as difficult as it is now, but we would not have to waste any calories on theological and existential preliminaries: the necessity of billions of words and countless hours of effort would be wiped away, clearing the space for higher pursuits.

We don't need to believe in kangaroos; we can just check the voluminous documentary record, or go to a zoo, or go to Australia; we can simply accept the existence of kangaroos and move on to understanding and/or giggling at them. A god who was more like kangaroos -- living somewhere we could find, with definite habits and appearance, possibly marsupial -- would make more sense than the gods of ancient lore.

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