Saturday, December 01, 2007

Grad School and God

It's been a really long time since I have written. Granted, Harley may be the only person to have noticed, as I am new and only sometimes interesting... but here goes Jewbiquitous, you new method of procrastination!

This may seem paradoxical, but the vast majority of divinity school students could not care less about God. Granted, this is not a true religious institution but an institution of religion. My university prides itself as being uber academic and empirical evidence means everything and conviction close to nil. Perhaps as it should be -- I know if it were the other way around I'd high tail it back to the east coast. However, would it kill us to show phenomenology (briefly, studying religion from the side of or inside religion) a little respect? Why do the Godless chose to study the exact theologies and communities they largely reject? Because its freaking fascinating.

However, I have been wise in choosing philosophy. I can talk about God in a million different theological or rational frameworks and accept or destroy God at will based upon my superhero like rational skills. (hah!) In my line of work, God is a concept just like subjectivity or beauty or thought itself. I can say Kant's idea of God is flawed (this is a what if, I'd rather not argue this point) in the context of Kierkegaard's philosophy/theology (hat tip nature boy) and it really does not have to mean anything but a grade to me.

But eventually philosophy has to mean something. Ideas matter. Or at least I like to tell myself that. You can turn on the evening news and hear watered down Enlightenment ideas being spewed that may seem passe in philosophic circles but are still in full swing in the actual social world. So in that case, don't we have a responsibility to show a little respect? If i say God is bullshit based upon a logical proof or scientific fact (uh Dawkins) and would it really matter to you?

There is always a theological answer that trumps reason, if the individual cares more about theology than science. I don't know how familiar y'all are with Christian theology but Schleiermacher might have had one thing correct- our feelings and intuitions matter and they do not always line up with reason. But then he went and ruined everything by saying Christianity is absolute (and it almost always is... unless you are reading Maimo or something). My new grad school friend who I will call truth man, would just say that feelings are a result of complex actions and chemicals in the brain. Well yes. But that is a really boring way of experiencing the world. If I am just a series of complex chemical interactions, they why would any of this matter at all. Because it feels like it matters. And I truly believe life is mostly about getting through it without causing too much harm to anyone, especially ourselves. But I digress, the point is... sometimes its just nice to have a little love with my morning helping of rational proofs.

So if some of you out there believe in God and want to write books about God's love... I will be interested to read that. Perhaps. But in the end, I'm probably just another critic.


Yehudi01 said...

The amazing thing about G-d is that He is ok with you searching out the deep, hidden things. He wants to meet you there and go on that journey with you..after all, He created that part of you that desires absolute truth...Good luck with your search!

Anonymous said...

God does not exist, and there is no cosmic meaning to be found. Of this I am as certain as one can possibly be of anything. Meaning comes from within, as a result of human reflection and purposive activity.


Zie said...

yehudi01, I respect your convictions but unfortunately your statement is theological and that is not what I am going for. And rooster, i hear you as well and agree that cosmic meaning can not be 'found.' However, it can be sought, and can exist outside of our reasonable inquiries... as the definition of noumena is something intangible outside of our sensible abilities.

Alas, I have no academic interest in proving or disproving God's existence. Rather, I find it interesting how God does or does not appear within existent or future philosophical etc systems.

Personally, I am neither believer, atheist or agnostic, but rather someone who enjoys pondering the possibilities. God is not a deal maker or breaker for me.

But alas, that was not the point of my post. I do love encouraging "God talk" though:)

Anonymous said...

Why do you equate 'meaning' with noumena? That's a loaded assumption. Also, I am pretty sure that Kant's talk of the noumenal world is where he goes off the rails a bit. -TR

Zie said...

I do not equate meaning in life with "noumena," noumena is equated with meaning in life by the billions who practice religion. They are the one's searching, I see myself as someone who is analyzing their answers.

Many believe Kant goes off a bit whenever he gets to noumena, or God for that matter. I am using the term not really within the context of Kant but of how it was used in the phenomenological schools (chicago school, wach, eliade, etc). They were all basically crappy and at best crypto-theologians, but their discussion of noumena as "the unknown" usually in reference to God was just useful for me here. I prefer to understand, or at minimum listen to lived realities before i squash them with external systems of logic, etc. But as I have said before, I am not a strict empiricist, or any sort of social scientist. So these "lived realities" for me come in the form of philosophy of religion or theology. So in that sense, I suppose I am just as interested in theories that reject noumena, as those that depend on its influence.

Anonymous said...

Well, you did say that meaning can exist outside of our reasonable inquiries. My point was that, sure, religion searches for meaning in the the unconditioned,unknowable, noumenal "world" that it has invented; but it fails to recognize that whatever meaning it finds is its own doing--it has failed to find existential satisfaction in its own self-conscious, self-constituting activities, because it does not realize that the meaning it finds is a meaning it has created for itself. So it persists in humiliating itself by positing all sorts of myths and superstitions. The search for meaning is one of the (very) few redeeming things about humanity. However, locating meaning in the unknowable Beyond is a sign of mental immaturity.


Zie said...

Wow. well i could agree with a lot of that if you left out "humiliation" and "mental immaturity." Not only is that elitist, but it completely alienates the majority of this world. That was my point. Those sorts of "ivory tower" arguments re: religion are never useful. There is as much bias to unpack in your statement as there is in a religious person's testament of faith. My point is that the definition of mystery or noumena is that it is unknowable by empirical research, logic, etc. It doesn't threaten me that people construct complex societies and theologies to get to what they perceive as "truth." What bothers me is when believers or atheists seek to destroy or limit the range of possibilities of human inquiry... would you say plato, hegel and kant were mentally immature?

Anonymous said...

Plato wrote 2400 years ago.

Kant's God was a postulate of practical reason that made possible the object of the moral law (the highest good). We are only allowed to believe in God from the "practical standpoint," and there is significant disagreement whether Kant's God was anything like the God of monotheism or whether it was simply am abstract symbol the point of which was to explicate the unity of reason.

And Hegel quite explicitly denied that anything exists in the Beyond, and saw the truth of the religion as the truth of the immanent spirituality of reason in the world -- in other words, Hegel was making almost exactly the point I was making in my post. I concede that he would not have called religion humiliating or immature.

What is the nature of our disagreement? I don't criticize religion on the grounds that it searches for meaning (in fact, I think that religion was historically necessary as part of our philosophical development). I criticize religion on the grounds that it makes false claims. That might be contentious in some circles, but in a conversation between two aspiring philosophers it strikes me as trivially true.

Also, I don't fault you for studying the beliefs of religious people. I am just stating my own firmly held conviction that they are wrong - a point you don't explicitly deny. So again, why does it seem that we are arguing when I don't think that's the case?


Anonymous said...

Also, in terms of trying to limit the realms of human inquiry, I side with Einstein: "I believe in an open mind, but not so open that your brains fall out."

Zie said...

haha. fine. I could debate you on Hegel and Kant here but that might be pointless... ok, i cant help myself- both found a necessity for a universal, eternal or at best outside of our world being/concept/metaphor whatever. My point is they were explaining the "unknown" in philosophical terms that seem more palatable to us wannabe philosophers. But i would say most theologians/religious types do the same thing, but with an agenda. All are descriptions of what is outside of our scientific or empirical knowledge. they were just smart enough to make it sound scientific.

our disagreement comes down to what it usually come down to: truth claims do not offend me, because I don't really care if anything is true in an objective sense. Other people are more sensitive to this matter. Hegel made a lot of truth claims that can not be tested outside of his own logical forms. He found cosmic meaning in absolute spirit. Some people find that in Jesus or a million other God types. The answer always says a lot about a thinker/person.. that is my point :)

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