From the author: why this book?
Because, quite frankly, it seems almost self-evident that modern religious laypeople quietly harboring doubt, and those openly skeptical as well as those who have already backed away from today’s Church (the so called “nones”) deserve a fresh perspective on what many contend is a declining (Christian) Church and its depiction of divinity; the book in the author’s view offers this, in its somewhat variant, non-polarized pragmatic point of view. In simple terms, people are looking for answers to questions the Church hasn’t, won’t or can’t, satisfactorily provide. Others, firm believers, nonbelievers and religious professionals, will be if nothing else curious to compare their firm base of beliefs with those the book offers. Shots—literarily speaking— from the latter will be fired; outrage—for a time—will ensue, until they read the fine print.
There are generally three types of religious opinions. 1- Belief in a god, or God; 2-disbelief in a god, or God; 3- unsure what to believe. We typically refer to these as believers, atheists and agnostics. Most books about religious “truth” are generally from the point of view of the first two. Both may make good appearing arguments for their cases, but neither is or has been able to prove, rationally, their positions. That’s the on-going historical truth of the matter. As such, the case either for or against the reality of God (as most understand the concept) goes nowhere, and hasn’t for centuries. Most such writing is, in effect, singing to one’s own choir.
God vs. The Idea of God takes a different tack. Its hypothesis is that trying to rationally establish either the positive or negative position on the reality of God, while perhaps laudable, is futile. Not an intellectual waste of time, necessarily, but I would suggest that under what man is intellectually capable of knowing, of understanding of the unknown—possibly even the unknowable— at this point in its development, it’s unlikely. Furthermore, and more to the point, it’s unnecessary. Why not?
Because, if you consider it, the persuasion and impact of religious influence is based less on any supposed but unproven reality, than upon the conviction of the very idea—the perceived need, if you will— of the divine. Think about it: how can you benefit from or be distressed about a God that no one can prove has a reality aside from what we think about it? God, from what we have been able to rationally determine, is simply an abstract conception, an “idea” you either believe, don’t believe or don’t know what to believe? Divinity is what we think, and what we think about are ideas; Faith, or lack thereof, is what we experience, contingent upon the strength and personal meaningfulness of the idea.
Does this make the god question nothing but an individual subjective myth? Not at all. But it does imply that both why and what we individually and collectively think about God—the strength or weakness of our faith—is based upon the pillars supporting belief in the idea, i.e., the Bible and Church teachings. If either, or both, of these are becoming less credible in the context of what we know and understand today, the “idea” formed from these sources weakens. Faith is impaired. Personal religious doubt is the result, regardless of the rational truth, or not, of the idea itself. It is the Church’s responsibility to preserve the credibility of its pillars of belief. In the context of modernity, this appears increasingly difficult. Unless this is correctable, our collective faith can only continue to weaken, further impairing the idea of a (Christian) God. That’s not a good idea!
I’ll try and explain why not in a future post.
TRH February 2018