Thursday, October 7, 2010

L 5.13

Loftus cites an objection to the ontological explanation of God’s existence in that the western conception of the MGBP would be significantly different than what easterners would conceive. Therefore, the ontological explanation can’t cross cultural boundaries and is ineffective. (p. 82)

This is a common misconception because many people have been misled by postmodernism. Postmodernism is far too complex for a thorough assessment in the context of Loftus’ point but, a few broad strokes can be made.

Postmodernism is a reaction to the conventions of modern era science, philosophy, art, social conventions and authority. In general, postmodernism is pervaded by skepticism especially in regards to traditional dichotomies; right/wrong, true/false, faith/reason, concept/object, etc. In this philosophical system, all human knowledge is conditioned, affected by the social/cultural situation it is derived from. There is no purely objective knowledge. Reality is created by social constructions, not concrete existence or brute fact. According to the postmodernist, there is no common human nature/rationality. There is no common logic. Traditional empiricism determines whereas postmodernism reflects. One of the most central tenets of postmodernism is that there is no purely neutral position from which truth can be observed or known. Postmodernism focuses less on objective states of affairs and more on the mechanisms by which knowledge is obtained. Reality is never directly known. All knowledge is the result of interpretation. Most relevant to Loftus’ point is that postmodernism asserts that there are no true metanarratives (such as the Christian beliefs about the world as derived from the Bible). Metanarratives are often mistakenly used to substantiate truth claims as opposed to those claims being legitimized on an empirical or logical basis. A metanarrative that attempts to cross socio-cultural boundaries constitutes intellectual imperialism, such as when Christians proselytize, which should not be allowed.

Having established some basics about postmodernism, some conclusions can be drawn about it such as the fact that there aren’t different types of logic as Loftus is implying and postmodernism alleges. Logic does not vary depending on context. Many people today have been misled into believing that western “either/or” thinking should be rejected in favor of eastern “both/and” thinking. In other words, westerners typically think that truth is represented by statements of fact where one fact is established to be true over other theories to avoid contradictions. Eastern thinking is said to embrace contradictions and, for the most part, avoid imperial absolutes. However, a thorough study of eastern belief systems shows that even eastern systems evidentially obey logical laws and don’t really embrace “both/and” thinking. Much more can be said about this.

One of the biggest mistakes made by Loftus’ position is that the problem with appealing to eastern thought is that there is no such thing. There are eastern thoughts, as in plural. There are and have been vigorous debates among eastern peoples about whether or not God is differentiated from everything else and whether or not God is personal or impersonal. Some forms of Hinduism resemble western religions where there is devotion to a deity. Other forms of Hinduism look incredibly foreign to westerners and do not have a personal God as the ultimate authority. In sum, Loftus needs to specify what he is referring to. Incidentally, eastern religions that assert that God is impersonal do not qualify as theistic. In other words, “god” is a force, not a personal being. Therefore, the ontological explanation doesn’t even apply because those religions aren’t even referring to a personal being. The relevance of this to Loftus’ statement is that only theistic systems need to be referred to when applying the ontological explanation of God’s existence.

Debating which is more desirable between an impersonal force or a personal God is a different discussion altogether. An impersonal force leaves open the question of why there is something rather than nothing. An impersonal force doesn’t create because the word create implies desire which implies a personal being. We have plenty of evidences that our existence was created. In addition, the issue of morality cannot be answered if everything is the product of an impersonal force. We know morality exists but, a system that appeals to an impersonal force has no source by which to make moral judgments. Many eastern thinkers assert that this life and it’s morality are just illusory. However, we know that the eastern idea that morality is illusory is evidentially absurd and that we must attempt to live by morality as much as possible. Even eastern religious systems that deny this know that a system without morality is unlivable. The cycle of death and rebirth (samsara) based on karma is an example of how they acknowledge that their system is ultimately unlivable because it is a system of morality. If there are no truly good or evil actions, what is the karmic system of punishment and reward based on?

The pantheistic/panentheistic notion of God not being differentiated from everything else invites problems as well. If we are part of the being of God then God suffers the consequences of our choices and this certainly can’t be the case if God is the MGBP. God could be affected by our suffering and vicissitudes. If we commit suicide, does that cause God to suffer? That would make Him less than the MGBP. The larger implication is that if we’re merely part of God, how can we be truly free? These considerations should be sufficient to establish that it is difficult to see how an undifferentiated God is more desirable than otherwise.

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