The Experience of God

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Don Bradley
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Re: The Experience of God

Post by Don Bradley »

Kishkumen wrote:
Tue Jun 14, 2022 9:52 pm
Better than what exactly? If you are waiting for someone to use a materialist framework to convince you that there is a God, you’ll wait forever. Hart does a really good job arguing within his framework
That and then some.

He also does a pretty effective job of showing flaws in the materialist framework. The hefty flaws in the materialist framework don't necessarily lead to a theistic framework, but they should suggest that one might consider alternatives.

Don
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Re: The Experience of God

Post by Dr Exiled »

Rivendale wrote:
Tue Jun 14, 2022 11:20 pm
Don Bradley wrote:
Tue Jun 14, 2022 11:00 pm


Wow. Actually DS has given about as unuseful a characterization of the book as I can imagine one giving. So you may want to check out some other reviewers before relying on this as your basis for not reading it.

Don
I read the book at about the same time as DS did and actually agree with him. Many great minds have postulated that if you can't explain it to a six year old then you really don't understand it yourself. However Richard Feynman probably better characterizes this particular book with this quote.
Feynman was a truly great teacher. He prided himself on being able to devise ways to explain even the most profound ideas to beginning students. Once, I said to him, "Dick, explain to me, so that I can understand it, why spin one-half particles obey Fermi-Dirac statistics." Sizing up his audience perfectly, Feynman said, "I'll prepare a freshman lecture on it." But he came back a few days later to say, "I couldn't do it. I couldn't reduce it to the freshman level. That means we don't really understand it."
.

This is the crossroads we seem to be at. If god requires this type of language for even a hint of what his character is like I just don't know what to say or do. I am college educated and consider myself able to grasp most basic concepts but most people aren't. I agree with Feynman nobody understands a god as portrayed by any literature, any logical syllogism or any scripture. As Feynman once said
“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.” One way we fool ourselves is by imagining we know more than we do; we think we are experts.


People who think they have cracked the god code seem to be doing exactly this.
This is well stated. For me, it seems like anyone who tries to explain what god is, is just guessing since god isn't around for us to observe. We have no information about God other than what people have felt about the concept over the years and when enough people believe these myths, a religion is formed.

It's like trying to explain an historical figure where precious little is known. The last time I went through the temple, years ago, I went through for some person named Juan from Peru born in the early 1700's. No last name, just Juan. Now I could invent some myth surrounding this guy and how important he must have been, and I could get a good feeling from my myth, maybe even start a religion with this guy as the founding prophet. However, it is just myth and the better approach is to remain agnostic about this person. He might not even have existed since we don't have anything other than that this guy Juan supposedly lived in Peru and was supposedly born in the early 1700's.
Myth is misused by the powerful to subjugate the masses all too often.
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Gadianton
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Re: The Experience of God

Post by Gadianton »

Don wrote:He also does a pretty effective job of showing flaws in the materialist framework. The hefty flaws in the materialist framework don't necessarily lead to a theistic framework, but they should suggest that one might consider alternatives.
Don,

Maybe you can explain how it is that Mormonism isn't an example of a materialist framework. At your convenience, of course, as I realize you don't spend as much time around here as most of us do.
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Re: The Experience of God

Post by dastardly stem »

That and then some.

He also does a pretty effective job of showing flaws in the materialist framework. The hefty flaws in the materialist framework don't necessarily lead to a theistic framework, but they should suggest that one might consider alternatives.

Don
I was looking for a discussion. I’m certain there’s more to the book then my review showed. It’s a review after all. I suppose if you’re interest is to get another to read it (Rivendale shared thoughts with me as we read it. So you got 2 of us, although I might have contributed to rivendale’s interest) you’d have something substantive to say. I respected your desire to not discuss it. But, I tried. You did not.

On hart, he really hit materialism hard. He simply didn’t satisfy an alternative. I wonder along with Gadianton how this book was anything but a refutation of Mormonism. I don’t think the book accurately reflects the best atheist positions and fails to offer support for his claim that any atheist or materialist position demonstrates the height of irrationality. And with that I’ll stand by what I’ve said to this point.
“Every one of us is, in the cosmic perspective, precious. If a human disagrees with you, let him live. In a hundred billion galaxies, you will not find another.”
― Carl Sagan, Cosmos
dastardly stem
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Re: The Experience of God

Post by dastardly stem »

huckelberry wrote:
Tue Jun 14, 2022 10:25 pm
dastardly stem wrote:
Tue Jun 14, 2022 7:25 pm


If there is a God I would hope to see him care about something other than himself. That'd be nice to know. I also do not see why god would care about people more than say viruses, as I mentioned earlier. Its all his creation, according to many--even if Hart sees calling god a creator a big ol mistake. To Hart a Creator is not God. God, on his view, doesn't have creations for us to respect. For those who think God's a creator, is it worshipful for us to respect his creations like COVID 19? Or ALS? or sticker bushes? If we disrespect those how do we satisfy God's demand to respect him?

As per what God demands...I don't know. Its the way it comes off to me--God demands people worship him, according to religion as I've heard it. I still don't know how else to frame it. Why would it be reasonable and appropriate to worship him? Does he want or not want people to worship him? I honestly still can't tell how you view it.
Stem, I need to be cautious as I have not read Hart. Early in this thread I posted some doubts about the sound or theme of his book in which I was probably thinking of another kind of book. My questions which fit some of yours are reasonable questions but people have pointed out Hart provides at least some degree of answer. I reviewed some online material about Hart and he sounds to be in fundamental ways a traditional Christian theologian. I pursued a bit of discussion about how Hart sees creation and redemption as combined . He draws universalist conclusions from that. Now you step up and say Hart rejects God as creator. That sounds so off base that I find it difficult to not think you are misunderstanding Hart. I find your repeated comments about god being nothing as just not fitting the kind of thinking that Hart seems to be participating in. You appear to misunderstand an attempt to distinguish God from finite things.

covid is an evolutionary shift in virus structures.
Hi huckleberry. We can drop any reference to Hart. Please ignore my Hart comments and feel free to answer my questions.
“Every one of us is, in the cosmic perspective, precious. If a human disagrees with you, let him live. In a hundred billion galaxies, you will not find another.”
― Carl Sagan, Cosmos
dastardly stem
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Re: The Experience of God

Post by dastardly stem »

Don Bradley wrote:
Tue Jun 14, 2022 11:29 pm
Dastardly Stem,

I accept that your experience with this book is your experience.

Given that from my readings of the book it is opposite to the circuitous unmeaning nonsense you experienced it as, I can only think this means that the author's intended meaning did not, for whatever reason, get across to you, and to me, that's really unfortunate.

I appreciate that you were willing to read this book. Hopefully there will be other books, ideas, and/or practices that will be more clearly useful to you in your ongoing journey. I know that when I did not believe in God, I still craved a sense of larger purpose and connection ("spirituality") and searched for where I might find that within the worldview I had.

May your own searching be fruitful,

Don
Sorry. I didn’t catch this before I responded. Thanks. All my best to you. No problems here. If I can’t possibly understand Hart, so be it.

I don’t know what larger purpose is. Larger than what? Finding meaning and purpose feels like a lifelong pursuit to me. I’ve learned it’s unlikely I’ll arrive at a settled purpose, and I’m feeling quite ok with that—at least the logic of it.
“Every one of us is, in the cosmic perspective, precious. If a human disagrees with you, let him live. In a hundred billion galaxies, you will not find another.”
― Carl Sagan, Cosmos
dastardly stem
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Re: The Experience of God

Post by dastardly stem »

Rivendale wrote:
Tue Jun 14, 2022 11:20 pm
Don Bradley wrote:
Tue Jun 14, 2022 11:00 pm


Wow. Actually DS has given about as unuseful a characterization of the book as I can imagine one giving. So you may want to check out some other reviewers before relying on this as your basis for not reading it.

Don
I read the book at about the same time as DS did and actually agree with him. Many great minds have postulated that if you can't explain it to a six year old then you really don't understand it yourself. However Richard Feynman probably better characterizes this particular book with this quote.
Feynman was a truly great teacher. He prided himself on being able to devise ways to explain even the most profound ideas to beginning students. Once, I said to him, "Dick, explain to me, so that I can understand it, why spin one-half particles obey Fermi-Dirac statistics." Sizing up his audience perfectly, Feynman said, "I'll prepare a freshman lecture on it." But he came back a few days later to say, "I couldn't do it. I couldn't reduce it to the freshman level. That means we don't really understand it."
.

This is the crossroads we seem to be at. If god requires this type of language for even a hint of what his character is like I just don't know what to say or do. I am college educated and consider myself able to grasp most basic concepts but most people aren't. I agree with Feynman nobody understands a god as portrayed by any literature, any logical syllogism or any scripture. As Feynman once said
“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.” One way we fool ourselves is by imagining we know more than we do; we think we are experts.


People who think they have cracked the god code seem to be doing exactly this.
Awesome. Bringing in Feynman adds The perfect touch. All this talk about “you don’t understand his complicated prose and high caliber philosophy” seems to miss the point. His inability to speak to his intended audience is the problem. I see I could have just left it as you said it, rivendale.
“Every one of us is, in the cosmic perspective, precious. If a human disagrees with you, let him live. In a hundred billion galaxies, you will not find another.”
― Carl Sagan, Cosmos
dastardly stem
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Re: The Experience of God

Post by dastardly stem »

Dr Exiled wrote:
Tue Jun 14, 2022 11:46 pm

This is well stated. For me, it seems like anyone who tries to explain what god is, is just guessing since god isn't around for us to observe. We have no information about God other than what people have felt about the concept over the years and when enough people believe these myths, a religion is formed.

It's like trying to explain an historical figure where precious little is known. The last time I went through the temple, years ago, I went through for some person named Juan from Peru born in the early 1700's. No last name, just Juan. Now I could invent some myth surrounding this guy and how important he must have been, and I could get a good feeling from my myth, maybe even start a religion with this guy as the founding prophet. However, it is just myth and the better approach is to remain agnostic about this person. He might not even have existed since we don't have anything other than that this guy Juan supposedly lived in Peru and was supposedly born in the early 1700's.
Hah. Applicable thought. Admittedly my favorite part of the temple was letting my mind run down made up stories about the people typed out. It got me through it.

Couldn’t agree more. I honestly don’t think hart is as complicated as defenders want him to be. I reread Carroll’s The Big Picture this past week. I mean the absolutely stark difference in being able to simplify things between the two is as stark as it comes. And Carroll has dozens of refutations of Hart without even trying to directly respond to him.
“Every one of us is, in the cosmic perspective, precious. If a human disagrees with you, let him live. In a hundred billion galaxies, you will not find another.”
― Carl Sagan, Cosmos
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Gadianton
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Re: The Experience of God

Post by Gadianton »

I read two reviews of Hart's book, one good and one bad. The glowering review from Christianscholars.com convinced me reading the book would be a waste of time. Sometimes that happens. For instance, Reverend Kishkuman's favorable review of Witnesses convinced me that I probably wouldn't be able to sit through it, even for the sake of morbid entertainment.

That being said, in the case of Hart's book, not because the book is a joke, it's probably pretty good for what it is, I just don't think that what it is will tell me anything radically new.

These quotes sum up the greater part of the review:
reviewer wrote:The “New Atheists” write sophomoric books caricaturing religious belief, and their fans gather before atheist self-help preachers and employ a rocking band to set the mood. David Bentley Hart believes that the new atheism fits very well with the spirit of our shallow, consumer civilization.
reviewer wrote:When the New Atheists rail on religious belief, they are rarely if ever speaking of any God affirmed in any version of classical theism.
reviewer wrote:Hart contends that modern religious fundamentalists and atheists, alike, are working with a concept of “God” that is more akin to what ancient peoples, even the ancient Hebrews, referred to as the “gods.”
I'll quickly note in the spirit of my challenge to Don in my last post, that Mormons are working with a concept of "God" that is more akin to what ancient peoples believed, and rejecting classical theism is something Mormons wear as a badge of honor.

Anyway, that brings us nearly to the end of the review. I've never read a New Atheist book, in fact, I've never read a book by an atheist arguing against God. I will end up agreeing with most of what Hart says about New Atheism, I'm sure. I'm aware of the definition of God from classical theism. I understand the bounds of the discussion.

The remaining parts of the review:
Yet, “it cannot possibly be the case that there are only contingent realities” unless we want to affirm an infinite regress.
I've heard of the cosmological argument. Does he have a revolutionary take on it?
Hart contends that attempts to make sense of human consciousness “in materialist terms frequently devolve into absurdity
Rubs me the wrong way like crazy. The Philosophy of Mind may be the most active area of analytic philosophy in the last 60 years, and all the good material against "physicalism" -- which is what we call it now, not materialism -- is written by other atheist philosophers with no interest in God. Will Hart's rejection of physicalism be more profound than the atheist (naturalist) David Chalmers? Daniel Dennett himself rejects reductive physicalism. All the New Atheists do, I think, Pinker is the other guy whose framework wouldn't make sense in reductive physicalism. Chalmers rejects the weakest versions of physicalism, but the thing is, none of the alternatives are enhanced by God. The first issue here is the very issue of why philosophy of mind is a philosophical discussion and not science discussion. One example. Richard Rorty and David Lewis both have fun examples of encountering aliens wired totally different than humans. Maybe their biology is so different (maybe even machines? Dennett) or their mannerisms that we're at a loss of ascribing a first person experience to them -- do they feel pain, etc? How would you prove that they do or don't? For that matter, how do you know other people have a first-person experience? Shared biology (Sober) or behavior; hardly proof, but without it, what? Now, how would God help settle the problem of other minds aside from declaring the other mind sentient? That other minds is a vexing problem that science probably can't solve and that philosophers can debate forever, doesn't mean it's a limitation of a variety where God helps. Compare to suddenly finding your car keys. In principle, that is a gap that God possibly explains, even if we hold a high bar for a standard of evidence, I can imagine God explaining a physical anomaly far easier than I can imagine God solving the problem of other minds. In physics problems, God intervening makes sense in principle, in philosophy, the principle is the thing we don't understand in the first place.
but also a very convincing case against some of the most popular apologetic programs among evangelicals, such as young earth creationism and intelligent design.
Thank you for that, at least.

The stuff on Tillich the reviewer mentioned would be my weakest point. But I can also look up Paul Tillich in the SEP. It's also least likely to find broad acceptance among Christians as Stem noted.

Also mentioned is the transcendental argument, which is the most garbage argument for God ever conceived. Gets minus points for that.

Not mentioned is the ontological argument, which in my opinion, is the only argument for God, and the only proper way to define God. One thing that I can respect about the ontological argument is that it was actually conceived of by a theologian and original to theology, it isn't high philosophy somebody else thought of aped to the cause of God. I'm not going to defend that argument in this post as already this is long, I realize the ontological argument sounds totally silly, but, just putting it out there that if I were to go back and question my atheism, I'd start by reviewing the ontological argument.
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Re: The Experience of God

Post by DrStakhanovite »

Don didn’t address this to me, but I thought it might helpful to comment on it:

Don Bradley wrote:
Sat Jun 11, 2022 9:48 am
You mentioned the idea that you "could be missing something." Would a reasonable way of looking into this possibility be to check into, say, the general regard in which David Bentley Hart is held as a scholar, the general regard with which Yale University Press is held in academia, and the general tenor of reviews by those whose field is philosophy?
Hart is generally seen more as a theologian with a certain degree of philosophical competency. In the world of analytic philosophy (which represents the majority of philosophy departments that are English speaking, and a substantial minority of European departments), Hart is nearly unknown. In the specific field of philosophy of religion, I’ve never seen him discussed or even mentioned. I’m less in touch with continental philosophy (a substantial minority in the English speaking world, and the majority of departments in Europe), but I have a hard time imagining him carrying much currency with that crowd. I know that Thomistic philosophers (represented in Jesuit schools and other Roman Catholic institutions) interact with him on a regular basis.

None of the above entails Hart doesn’t have anything meaningful to say on philosophical topics or that he doesn’t have any philosophical ability. Hart has spent far more time in the history of philosophy and drawn a lot of inspiration from Ancient Greek and Hellenistic philosophy, the classical Islamic philosophers, and the Jewish mystical tradition than he has wrestling with the contemporary issues in metaphysics. This is probably why Hart’s book resonates with Kishkumen, because their interests are much more aligned.

Most important though is the fact that Hart’s book really isn’t addressed to philosophically minded atheists. I think Hart’s material would be good to begin a conversation with/on materialism (more appropriate to call it physicalism nowadays), but if you just outright compared it to the mature expressions of materialism/physicalism seen in a Jaegwon Kim or a Ned Block, it would be like bringing a potato gun to an artillery barrage.

And why should Hart have to address a Kim or a Block? Neither of those guys exert any meaningful influence on popular expressions of atheism and they never really address the topic of theism or religion in general. They are simply not a threat in the sense Dawkins or Hitchens are, because they are too busy to be the kind of public figures that write editorials weighing in on culture war tripe.

You could say the same with any other contemporary philosophical topics that Hart touches on. Does this book represent a meaningful contribution to the field of philosophy? No, but I don’t think it was intended to be and probably shouldn’t be judged by that metric.
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