Last week or so, two blogs I’ve recently started followed published posts that really ought to be read together, in my opinion.
One is a post called “On filling god-shaped holes with gods” from Polygnostic Ways. I think this post was written by Ardaasura, though I must admit I’m not positive if the blog is solo run or has multiple authors, so I hope I’m crediting properly. Essentially, the author is attempting to find a place to which to map his or her ideas about gods, finding ways to make sense of that which exceeds the determinate nature of the world.
On the other side of the aisle is a post from Unfound called “Metaphysical Therapy“, by Billy Sloan. In this piece, Sloan comes from a different angle – he doesn’t seek gods, but instead wonders if an atheist could, in some way come to believe in “God” (very significant quotation marks) through some exploration of metaphysics – while still being, technically speaking, an atheist.
Both are excellent posts, and, I think, meet in the middle – they both end up exploring the over-determinacy of some kinds of ideas and feelings in a way that’s less revelatory than it is philosophical, but which is also more natalistic than it is purely contemplative.
When Ardaasura speaks of “God shaped holes” and Sloan speaks of an ontological deity that is being itself, they’re both looking for a name for the world beyond the limited scope of human determination – I’m put in mind of Aquinas’ “five ways”, from Question 2 of the Prima Pars of the Summa Theologiae. The philosophical proofs lead to something, though not some particular thing*. Each of these five proofs is primarily philosophical and metaphysical in nature, and ends not with “and this is why God must exist”, but instead says of this “something”: “and this we call God.” It’s a powerful distinction.
The fundamental thing that popped into my head as I read through both articles is that many people are put off by contemplation of the metaphysical or the spiritual or the divine because they think it means assenting to the factual reality of something definitive that cannot be measured by any means we here possess, which is, by definition, logically incoherent. To be “defined” is to be “delimited” – it is to be limited and measurable, marked by clear boundaries as one thing and not some other thing. When you pose “God” as a very specific, complex being made of limited parts, and then grant it powers that require unlimited power and acts in a specific, limited way, you’re asking for a contradiction, or at least, for a shape shifter. There’s a reason some of the great theologians saw much of the Bible as something to be interpreted, full of metaphors who be understood, rather than something to blindly accept as historical fact.
What the authors of these posts are both doing, it seems to me, is trying to figure out how to make sense of what’s beyond our powers to fully master and saying: and this we call god – or perhaps, we could, at least, after some further exploration.
*Note: Aquinas plainly intends these five proofs for those who already believe in what is revealed in the Bible, but as the point is faith seeking understanding, I think it fits here.