Saturday, February 7, 2015

Follow up from last night

So I got to thinking of this interview with atheist philosophy of religion guy (I'd call him a philosopher of religion, but he might take offense) Stephen Maitzen. The quote is actually from the blog-writer, not Maitzen, so I won't discuss the man himself to much. Any way, it goes:

"And I know from my own personal experience I mean when I lost faith in god I was begging god to respond because I didn’t want to lose my faith. And I know when I was travelling one of my friends was really struggling with the same thing. She said, for years I’ve been calling out to god and just please speak to me I want to know who you are and she just got nothing. I remember one night she just wept and I just can’t imagine a loving god who wants to relate to the human beings that he created to relate to refusing the desperate cries of people who really want to know him. I think it makes a lot more sense that he’s just not there"

Part of me thought that my example of the boy longing for a girl he finds it hopelessly optimistic to think likes him in return resembled the pathetic-ness of this sort off scene, which I'll admit isn't far from something I experienced when I was, like 20. I don't want to make it seem, though, that I couldn't have had this kind of breakdown at any other time, it's more that I turn those feelings inward so they manifest as stomach pain rather than tears.

But anyway - divine hiddenness isn't relevant here, because I'm not talking about what God should or shouldn't do if He exists and what we should infer or not on the basis of what He doesn't do that we think he should. I'm not a theologian or a philosopher, and I don't think there's any point in debating most things of this nature. Instead, as I said, I'm trying to make a psychological point - one about pessimism and optimism, and more particularly, about anxiety.

Take what Hume says about whether the sun will rise tomorrow:

"Matters of fact, which are the second objects of human reason, are not ascertained in the same manner; nor is our evidence of their truth, however great, of a like nature with the foregoing. The contrary of every matter of fact is still possible, because it can never imply a contradiction, and is conceived by the mind with the same facility and distinctness, as if ever so conformable to reality. That the sun will not rise tomorrow is no less intelligible a proposition, and implies no more contradiction, than the affirmation, that it will rise. We should in vain, therefore, attempt to demonstrate its falsehood. Were it demonstratively false, it would imply a contradiction, and could never be distinctly conceived by the mind. (An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding)"

What Hume really means here is to dismiss most metaphysical thinking - he isn't saying we shouldn't rely on the sun rising tomorrow; rather, the mere fact that it isn't impossible that the sun will not rise doesn't mean we should trouble ourselves to prove it is so. In the same way, for Hume, just because miracles are not impossible doesn't mean we should take them seriously - it is enough that they are extremely improbable (for Hume, in part because they are reported by people who are not white European men).

But anyway, it really is possible that the sun should not rise tomorrow. The Earth may be blown up by a meteor tonight. It is unlikely, it is possible. This is where I mean to bring in pessimism - for a pessimism of sufficient extremes, the mere possibility of such a thing will manifest in anxiety. People are not always rational, and the underbelly of the mind is certainly not rational. If it seems too good to be true that the world should endure another day, part of you will believe it won't.

Now, I am not trying to make a statement about the arguments in favor of God's existence or not - again, I think there is no point in discussing that sort of thing. What I am saying is that even if it could be supposed that one found such arguments rationally persuasive, even if it were only by a kind of delusion or error of judgment, stronger subconscious rebuttal to them than any skeptic can provide is already pre-made in the mind - the fact that they argue for something very good, and for some, good things seem impossible regardless of how much or little sense they seem to make.

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