Rediscovering Theism

Photo Credit: Raphael Goetter via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Raphael Goetter via Compfight cc

Change is never easy.

When I started questioning my beliefs and distancing myself from church, I felt quite alone. Then I found a community that welcomed doubters like me, who had the same questions as I had, who felt the same way I feel. And I thought I had come home.

I immersed myself in various atheist and agnostic books, videos, podcasts, agreeing with many of them, and even writing my own articles (as regular readers of this column know very well) in a similar line of thought as them.

Many months ago, I got acquainted with a member of our freethinking community, Gelo, and although we have never met in person, I found him to be an impressionable and reasonable fellow. There was one major problem though.

Gelo was a theist, and a Roman Catholic at that.

For those who don’t know my background, I studied in a Catholic school all the way from my elementary years until college, and even after that, but I have never been a Catholic.  I was a Bible-believing Evangelical Christian, as was my family. I was immersed in Protestantism vs. Catholicism arguments way before I gave up on the whole thing altogether.

And yet Gelo’s ideas do not necessarily fit the mold of what you would hear from CBCP proclamations or Sunday sermons. He agreed that my objections about God were valid and that he agreed with them, however, he claimed I was hitting a straw man – a caricature of God – and not the God that classical theists like Thomas Aquinas understood and wrote volumes about, and that even the concept of God I understood as a Christian was wrong.

He says in a recent blog entry entitled, Christmas Post:

“Intelligent people rightly find illogical the proposition that such a being (or beings) exists. And the problem is that both the religious and the skeptic have little time to parse through the metaphysical obscurities — or, as Dennet would say, “deepities” — of theology in order to get a better conceptual framework with which to view God.”

In other words, he is contending that most atheists and agnostics are arguing against an idea of God that the truly intelligent theist finds as illogical as they do. The problem, however, is that most atheists and agnostics do not even take the time and effort to understand what classical theism is all about. They like hitting the easy targets because well, it’s so easy and convenient to do so.

He continues:

“Unsurprisingly they are left ill-prepared to see Him as nothing more than a divine tinkerer, or, more famously, as Paley’s watchmaker. This is why we often see a theology that is more akin to that of Pat Robertson and Kirk Cameron than to that of Alvin Plantinga or Edward Feser.”

Gelo suggested I read a book by Edward Feser, a philosophy professor who was once an atheist but later also turned to theism and is now a Roman Catholic, which I did and found fascinating although I would have to read it again because a lot of the philosophy went over my head.

So anyway, after several months of putting that book down, I have decided to revisit classical theism in more detail and may even write about it in future articles. I have found out that I understand best when trying to make other people understand what is in my head. It’s like the principle that the teacher also learns when he teaches.

Change is never easy. I have built a comfort zone around the fact that I have gained some notoriety in being that “atheist” writer, so this may come as a surprise to some of my readers. But I have said before and I will say it again: I am committed to neither theism nor atheism. I am committed to truth by way of reason, logic and evidence, wherever that may lead.

So I don’t know where this will end up (or if it will ever end, for that matter), but it’s going to be one hell of a ride.

 Originally published in Sunstar Davao.

Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Violent Reactions? Send me an email at andy@freethinking.me. View past articles at www.freethinking.me

 

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9 thoughts on “Rediscovering Theism”

  1. Hi Andy. Congratulations on being a true freethinker. I discovered Feser about a year ago and he has really challenged my thinking. Plantinga is another theistic philosopher I’ve consulted with profit. Sometimes I feel like you. I don’t know it it will ever end.

  2. Hello Andy. You wrote the following statement: I am committed to neither theism nor theism. I am committed to truth by way of reason, logic and evidence, wherever that may lead. I wonder what is truth to you and how the use of reason, logic and observations wherever that may lead but not the truth. There is a kind of philosophy which I think is atheistic–the philosophy of Ayn Rand which is Objectivism. According to that atheistic philosophy, reason, logic and observations are the means in knowing the truth.

  3. Hi Mr. Uyboco. I always read your articles during my free time and I enjoy them. By the way, I was a Christian but became an atheist. However, I became an agnostic after two years. I am against religion and don’t believe in “miracles”. After reading “Rediscovering Theism” I do believe that there is more to “believe only in things that you can see or explain” as what scientists and atheists say. Now I have some questions that I really want to ask and I hope that you can answer them.

    1.) Why is it that there is death? Why is it that living things die of old age? Now, I know that recently a certain specie of jellyfish was found to be immortal, but if it suffers injury it might die. And also, why do we need to take in food, water, oxygen, and why do we need to sleep? Why can’t things just live without any of these? Now I know that I can find these answers in Google, but I want to know what you believe in.

    2. This question is really weird, but since you are an open-minded person I have the courage to ask you this. Would you entertain the idea that probably we are in a way “god” himself, just wanting to experience life in a universe with laws that he himself created? That he just wants to experience life like in a video game where you choose a character with unique “powers” and “attributes”, so that’s why there is no such thing as perfection because it becomes “boring” so there needs to be some “thrill”? I know it’s strange but as they say truth is stranger than fiction.

  4. 1. Why there is death? The answer I could find in reason is that without death then our world will be fully congested. Another is that that is the very nature of life. Life has a certain limit of period of existence. Living things wears out its ability to act without limit. The process of eating, taking in oxygen, water and sleeping are self-generated acts for the maintenance and survival. If the living organism fails on those action it will surely die. That is the exact meaning of life.
    2. I considered man as the God, religion is looking for. Why? Because we are the highest possibility or we have the power to create things out of the materials at hand. Our mind is the power that is God in us to experience the highest possibility in our world.

  5. Thank you for your reply, Mr. Patagnan.

    Just another question, and please bear with me:

    Why can’t the universe create life which does not reproduce but also does not die?

    You are an atheist, I assume?

  6. Hi Le Roi,

    Thanks for reading my articles. As to your questions:

    1) The naturalistic response is to say that things decay and die but going with your jellyfish example, if we can find a way to stop that decay or to somehow regenerate and keep on renewing our cells then we would theoretically go on living unless we decide to terminate our own consciousness. If you’re hinting at some kind of “higher purpose” of death though, then I’d have to say I really don’t know.

    2) Yes, in fact, that is the subject of the article I wrote on “A God I Can Believe In.

  7. My final question for you Mr. Andy:

    What are your thoughts on Deism? If I’m not mistaken Einstein was a deist and Antony Flew, one of the most famous atheists changed his belief to Deism during his last years.

  8. Your final question? Are you sure? I don’t mind answering more. 🙂

    I have no problems with Deism. Einstein himself confessed that he was more of an agnostic, but he wrote that “the idea of a personal god is a childlike one…I prefer an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being.”

    In an interview where he was asked about the existence of God, he responded this way: “Your question is the most difficult in the world. It is not a question I can answer simply with yes or no. I am not an Atheist. I do not know if I can define myself as a Pantheist. The problem involved is too vast for our limited minds. May I not reply with a parable? The human mind, no matter how highly trained, cannot grasp the universe. We are in the position of a little child, entering a huge library whose walls are covered to the ceiling with books in many different tongues. The child knows that someone must have written those books. It does not know who or how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child notes a definite plan in the arrangement of the books, a mysterious order, which it does not comprehend, but only dimly suspects. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of the human mind, even the greatest and most cultured, toward God. We see a universe marvelously arranged, obeying certain laws, but we understand the laws only dimly. Our limited minds cannot grasp the mysterious force that sways the constellations.”

    I sometimes find myself thinking the same way, that it is very possible that all of this was produced by some intelligence far greater than our own. Yet, it seems quite improbable that this same intelligence would be the vindictive, petty, and childish character found in the Old Testament.

  9. Thank you for your response to my comments. Here is my response to Mr. Uyboco’s latest comment. It seems to me you underestimated the function of the human man. I do not considered it weak intellectual understanding just because man has not yet fully understand the whole nature of things. The mind is not weak to understand the nature of things. It is the function of the mind to understand every thing that there is in our world or universe. Not having fully understand the world (yet) does not mean the mind is weak. The mind is strong and powerful enough to understand the nature of things. That could be seen in the knowledge acquired by science. Our knowledge is to be considered in hierarchal in structure and that it keeps on expanding as long as man exist. Yes, we do not know yet much about the world, but we have the power to do so and acquire knowledge. There is no limit in knowing and understanding the world. We do it slowly and keep on expanding.
    My response to Le Roi de Tondeaux’s question: Why can’t the universe create life which does not reproduce but also does not die? Like I said, the nature of life has a limited time of existence. None livings things stays forever like rocks, metals, and the subatomic particles.

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