Pantheism and metaphor

Ch. 1: ‘A deeply religious non-believer’

Anyone who has been keeping up with the comments will know that I have been having an interesting discussion (interesting to me, at least) with Isaac Gouy about (amongst other things) the right interpretation of Dawkins’ comments on Einstein. (See, for example, the comments to this post, and this one.) It is part of a wider discussion about whether I have identified Dawkins’ target properly: whether Dawkins really is attacking any and all belief in God (at least any worthy of the name).

Since the debate has got to the point where a longer discussion of the details of Dawkins’ text is needed, I’ve chosen to write a post – it’s less cramped than a comment, and easier to do formatting and blockquoted quotations and the like. Apologies that this therefore comes a long way out of sequence – and that it is more than a little anal. Isaac and I have reached a point in our disagreement where, I think, there is no substitute for showing in detail how I read a passage that he reads differently. I should point out before I begin that none of the following is concerned with whether Dawkins is right (e.g., about Einstein); it is simply concerned with sorting out the meaning of what he says.

Dawkin introduces Einstein on p.33 of ch.1 (in the revised Black Swan paperback edition of 2007), three pages in to the first chapter. He has just finished the previous section of his discussion with the line:

[I]f the word God is not to become completely useless, it should be used in the way people have generally understood it: to denote a supernatural creator that is ‘appropriate for us to worship.’

He continues:

Much unfortunate confusion is caused by failure to distinguish what can be called Einsteinian religion from supernatural religion. (33-34)

A reasonable initial hypothesis, then, is that the purpose of the section on Einstein is to overcome that confusion by making that distinction clearly.

One might also, tentatively, suppose that to use the word ‘God’ in an ‘Einsteinian religion’ sense is on its way to being ‘completely useless’. Dawkins continues with a few references to other scientists who, like Einstein, have sometimes used the word ‘God’ in a way that ‘invit[es] misunderstanding by supernaturalists…’. So Stephen Hawking is not, despite his use of God-language, a religious man; Ursula Goodenough may sounds religious – she even calls herself religious – but she is actually (says Dawkins) ‘as staunch an atheist as I am. The clear implication is that Einstein should be understood in the same way: as non-religious, as a staunch atheist – and, indeed, Dawkins explicitly refers to him ‘atheistic’. So at this point I can refine my initial hypothesis about the text. Dawkins certainly appears to be saying that the Einsteinian religion side of the Einsteinian religion / supernatural religion distinction is to be understood as atheistic, as only using misleadingly using the word ‘God’, and as only misleadingly called ‘religious’. (A little later, Dawkins says the latter part of this explicitly: ‘Great scientists of our time who sound religious usually turn out not to be so when you examine their beliefs more deeply. This is certainly true of Einstein…’ (35, my emphasis).

Next, Dawkins explains what he means by ‘naturalist’ in this context:

An atheist in this sense of philosophical naturalist is somebody who believes there is nothing beyond the natural…. If there is something that appears to lie beyond the natural world as it is now imperfectly understood, we hope eventually to understand it and embrace it within the natural. (34-35)

This definition appears to be offered as yet another clarification of the ‘Einsteinian’ side of the distinction – certainly Dawkins has not signalled any change in topic – and sure enough, a moment later, he refers to the ‘poetic naturalism’ common to the scientists he has been discussing, including Einstein. So, we now have supernatural religion on one side of Dawkins’ distinction, and, on the other, ‘Einsteinian religion’ that is not properly called religion, that is atheistic, and that is naturalistic. It is ‘poetic naturalism’ presumably because it is not averse to using high-flown rhetoric to express the awe and wonder that ‘the cosmos provokes’.

At the bottom of p.35, Dawkins introduces one more term as a further synonym for the atheist, naturalist side of the distinction: ‘pantheistic reverence’. He says that ‘many of us share’ such reverence (reminding us that he has already provided a description of his own deeply emotional experience of awe at the cosmos – an experience that he told us then (32) ‘has no connection with supernatural belief’ and for which he thinks ‘religion’ is not the right word (33)). (Incidentally, Dawkins seems happy to use the term ‘quasi-mystical’ to describe his experience; he will later quote Einstein firmly rejecting the word ‘mysticism’ as a description of his approach. ‘Mystical’ and ‘mysticism’ are such slippery words that it is hard to see this as more than a terminological difference – just as Dawkins clearly thinks that Einstein’s willingness to use the word ‘religion’ does not signal any real differentiation from his own position which eschews the word.)

On p.36, Dawkins turns to Einstein’s views in earnest. As he does so, he restates his purpose: he us ‘continu[ing] to clarify the distinction between supernatural religion … and Einsteinian religion’. This helps confirm, I think, the reading that I have been giving so far. In the red corner, we have supernatural religion, which is ‘delusional’ (36). In the blue corner, we have atheistic, poetic-naturalistic, pantheistic-reverential Einsteinian ‘religion’ – something that is only misleadingly called religion at all.

Dawkins now gets stuck in properly to saying where he thinks Einstein fits in all this. He has already made that pretty clear, of course, but he now wants to show that Einstein really does belong firmly on the opposite side of the divide from ‘supernaturalist’ religion, despite his use of what looks like real religious language. So Dawkins begins by giving a string of quotations (on pp.36-37) in which, although he uses the word ‘religion’ or ‘religious’, Einstein sounds unambiguously naturalist. So far, so clear.

Those statements, however, include Einstein’s insistence that he did not believe in a ‘personal God’ – and that is where it is possible that a question about interpretation begins to arise. On the one hand, we could think (as I do) that this simply adds another description to the distinction Dawkins is making – so that in the red corner we would now have delusional supernaturalist religion which believes in a personal God – and in the blue corner we would still have atheistic, poetic-naturalist, pantheistic-reverential Einsteinian ‘religion’. On the other hand, we might possibly (despite Dawkins’ earlier assertion that Einstein is atheistic) think that this moves us away from a simple two-place contrast (supernaturalist versus Einsteinian) to something more complex: (1) supernaturalist belief in a personal God, (2) some other kind of belief in God – a non-supernaturalist belief in a non-personal God, (3) atheism. As I have indicated, I think this latter supposition is unfounded.

Let’s keep going a while, however, before we try to answer that question definitively. After having some malicious fun with quotations from Einstein’s religious critics, Dawkins resumes his argument proper on p.39. He makes it clear that Einstein was certainly no ‘theist’, and then asks whether he was something else – a deist? a pantheist? Dawkins immediately points us to the latter, quoting Einstein saying:I believe in Spinoza’s God (39). He makes it clear that the theist and the deist both believe in a supernatural intelligence (i.e., that theism and deism are simply variants of delusional, supernaturalist belief in God) – and then he turns to clarifying what he means by ‘pantheist’. He has already, remember, used the term as synonymous with his kind of atheism, and he has already called Einstein atheist as well as pantheist. Now, he makes his position crystal clear: Pantheists (i.e., the camp in which we find at least Einstein and Spinoza), he says, ‘use the word God as a non-supernatural synonym for Nature, or for the Universe, or for the lawfuleness that governs its working’. Synonym: i.e., they use the word ‘God’ as a way of talking about nature; they are talking ‘naturalist’ talk, but using ‘God’ language – the language of religion – to do so. Dawkins is, recall, offering this as his definition of the term he has just used to describe Spinoza and Einstein (‘Let us remind ourselves of the terminology’, he says – i.e., let us provide definitions for the terms I have just used): pantheists like Spinoza and Einstein are, he is saying, people who use the word ‘God’ metaphorically. He says this quite explicitly: the pantheists’ God – i.e., the God spoken of in the quote he has given from Einstein about Spinoza – is a ‘metaphoric or poetic synonym for the laws of the universe.’ (40)

For a pithy restatement, hethrows in a phrase that has particular resonance for UK readers: ‘Pantheism is sexed-up atheism’. In other words, Pantheism is atheism that has had its linguistic temperature somewhat misleadingly turned up. (There was a long-running dispute in the UK at the time when Dawkins was writing about whether the government had ‘sexed up‘ a particular dossier of evidence on Iraq, ratcheting up its rhetoric misleadingly.)

The case seems clear: Dawkins is not distinguishing pantheism from atheism. He is not going back on his earlier claim that Einstein was an atheist, nor his earlier use of the word ‘pantheism’ to describe a form of atheism. He is continuing to do what he told us he has been doing all along in this section: clarifying his distinction between supernatural religion and Einsteinian religion. And, with apologies for the repetition, that distinction clearly runs like this. On the one hand, there is delusional, supernatural religion that (normally? always?) asserts the existence of a personal God – a ‘supernatural intelligence’ – and that comes in at least theist and deist forms. On the other hand, we have atheist naturalism, which at least sometimes comes in the form of poetic naturalism – i.e., one that tries to express the awe and wonder that the cosmos produces – and that poetic naturalism at least sometimes comes in a form willing (misleadingly) to use the word ‘God’ to express the awe and reverence it feels. Dawkins can use ‘pantheism’ to refer to the whole of poetic naturalism (as on p.35, where he includes himself, as one who feels reverent awe at the cosmos, amongst the pantheists), but he can also (perhaps more characteristically?) use it to refer simply to this latter subset: the atheist naturalists willing to use the word ‘God’ to express or convey this reverent awe. The pantheists are using the word ‘God’ as a metaphor, as a poetic synonym for nature – they are, after all, atheists.

Dawkins next, on p.40, illustrates his point with further quotes from Einstein in which Einstein uses the word ‘God’ for himself (rather than as a borrowing from Spinoza). These are examples of Einstein ‘using “God” in a purely metaphorical, poetic sense’, Dawkins tells us – i.e., they are simply examples of what he has been describing for the last two paragraphs as pantheism. We, the readers, might want to make a distinction between these Einstein quotes (e.g., ‘God does not play dice’) where the word ‘God’ is simply being used as a dispensable figure of speech (Dawkins, rightly I think, says that ‘God does not play dice’ can be translated as ‘Randomness does not lie at the heart of things’), and cases where atheists use God language to express the awe and wonder they feel at the cosmos – but Dawkins clearly feels no need to make such a distinction in this context.

Finally, Dawkins makes it once again abundantly clear – as if we needed reminding by this point – that he regards it as deeply misleading to use the word ‘religion’ to describe this Einsteinian side of the equation. and just as misleading to use the word ‘God’. He clearly regrets Einstein’s choice of terminology, even if he accords the content of Einstein’s views ‘deserved respect’.

So, let me summarise. In the red corner, we have supernatural religion, which is properly called religion, which really asserts the existence of God – and which is delusional. And in the blue corner we have ‘Einsteinian religion’ which is actually (a form of) naturalist atheism, which is not really religion, which uses the word ‘God’ only poetically and metaphorically – and which we can call ‘pantheism’ if we really want to. ‘Metaphorical’ and ‘pantheistic’ uses of the word ‘God’ are not two different uses of the word God: all pantheist uses of the word are metaphorical, and the only metaphorical uses Dawkins has considered are pantheist.

I simply can’t see any other coherent way of reading the section.

All this means that, certainly at this point in his argument, ‘supernaturalist’ does not, for Dawkins, name a variety of religious belief in God. It is simply his name for religious belief in God. He excludes from it at this point only forms of belief in God that are not properly called belief in God at all – because they use the word God only metaphorically, and are in fact forms of atheism. Later on, he will also exclude religions like Confucianism and Buddhism (59) – because, presumably, they (at least as normally understood) don’t include belief in God at all, and so are simply irrelevant to what he is saying – hence he says that ‘there is something to be said for treating these not as religions at all but as ethical systems or philosophies of life)’ (59, my emphasis).

When Dawkins explains, therefore, that he is ‘talking only about supernatural Gods’ (41), and when he says that he is ‘not attacking any particular version of God or gods [but] God, all gods, anything and everything supernatural‘ (57, my emphasis) the only things that the word ‘supernatural’ is ruling out are any versions of belief in ‘God’ which are really forms of naturalist atheism – forms where the word ‘God’ is only used poetically, metaphorically, and utterly misleadingly. I can simply see no way of reading those statements as meaning that he is excluding from his attack some forms of religious belief in God, some form of belief in God that uses the word ‘God’ appropriately and that desrves to be called religious.

So, when it comes to the question of God (and ignoring discourses or philosophies or so-called religions that say nothing about God): on the one hand we have atheism (which can sometimes, misleadingly, borrow the language of religion, specifically the word ‘God’, even though it is not anything to do with religion). On the other hand we have religion properly so called, which is the realm of supernaturalist belief in God, the realm of delusion – and Dawkins’ target. The latter is defined both negatively (as any discourse about God that is not really naturalist atheism in disguise) and positively (as belief in a supernatural intelligence, as belief in a personal God – and, later, as belief in a delusional form of quasi-scientific explanation). When it comes to the question of God, ‘supernatural’ for Dawkins is synonymous with ‘religion’, ‘religion’ is synonymous with ‘supernatural’.

14 Thoughts on “Pantheism and metaphor

  1. It is perhaps worth restating my criticism of this aspect of Dawkins’ argument. I think this distinction is a conceptual dead end, that makes the interpretation of religious thought and practice harder.

    If my interpretation in this post is correct, something like the following seems to be happening: Dawkins can see that Einstein is clearly not a supernaturalist believer in a personal God or supernatural intelligence, and therefore he concludes that Einstein must belong on the other side of the divide: Dawkins concludes that Einstein is a naturalist-atheist, and all his God language is, and can only be, purely metaphorical.

    This argument only works if you assume the distinction he has set out is watertight. My argument when I discussed this material was that there was a strong possibility (I still wouldn’t put it more strongly than that – I have not done the research) that Einstein belonged on neither side of the distinction – and that, should that be true, Einstein will be in good company: Spinoza doesn’t belong on either side, Maimonides doesn’t belong on either side, Aquinas doesn’t belong on either side, quite a lot of classic Christian, Jewish and Islamic theology doesn’t belong on either side. (You’ll see in my previous post that the Dominican theologian Herbert McCabe -see – claims not to belong on either side).

    This claim will, of course, look like obfuscating, weak-minded and mealy-mouthed special pleading if you think Dawkins’ distinction is sound. On the other hand, if you think it true that some or all of these people simply don’t belong on either side, you’ll probably agree with me that Dawkins’ distinction is a badly designed straitjacket.

  2. Thanks for this helpful explication Mike.

    As a lengthy aside (one that I think is particularly relevant in light of McCabe’s comments), Nicholas Lash has some interesting things to say about the notion of supernaturalism in a recent book of his. At the beginning of chapter 2 of “Holiness, Speech and Silence: Reflections on the Question of God”, he writes the following:

    “… [I]t is not easy to think Christian thoughts in a culture whose imagination, whose ways of ‘seeing’ the world and everything there is to see, are increasingly unschooled by Christianity and, to an alarming extend, quite hostile to it. The situation in which we find ourselves is, I have suggested, one in which, if Christians wish to retain the use of the word ‘God’, they will undoubtedly be misunderstood, because the word has now come to be the name of the members of a class of actual or possible things or entities of a particular kind, a kind that some people call ‘divine’ and others (displaying their ignorance of the history of the word) ‘supernatural’.

    If this is what ‘gods’ have now become, then, as already mentions, orthodox Christians, Jews and Muslims share with atheists a _dis_belief in gods, for none of them believe such things exist. (And the fact that this way of putting the matter will probably puzzle many readers is an indication of the depth of our predicament.) If, on the other hand, Christians were to discard the troublesome little word ‘god’ from their vocabulary, they would render unintelligible the narratives which give them their identity, cutting themselves off from the long and complex history of the uses and misuses of the word, a history which may, nevertheless, contain irreplaceable clues, of inestimable importance, as to the way the world goes and as to our place and destiny, within that world, as human beings.”

    The ‘history of the word’ to which Lash refers is briefly summarized in the notes at the end of the chapter:

    “Perhaps it might be helpful to say a word about that sideswipe against contemporary uses of the term ‘supernatural’. Originally, the word was used adjectively or adverbially, to indicate the condition of creatures enabled, by God’s grace, to act beyond the capacities of their given nature. As I have often pointed out to students, if you come across a rabbit playing Mozart on the violin, you can bet your bottom dollar that that rabbit is acting supernaturally. Rabbits have not got it in them to play the violin. Moreover, things being the way they are with human sinfulness, if you come across human beings acting with consistent kindness, selflessness and generosity, the same assumption is in order. We simply have not got it in us to be that virtuous. On this account, it is possible that creatures, graced by God’s enlivening gift, may act supernaturally. God, alone, cannot be supernatural, cannot act supernaturally, for what would graciously ‘elevate’ or heal _God’s_ ‘nature’?

    In time, unfortunately, people forgot all this and, having decided that all that there is in the familiar world, the world which we inhabit and explore, may be lumped together under the one word ‘Nature’ (which rapidly acquired the capital initial letter), they described those who supposed that, over and above this real world of nature, there are forces and entities of some other, higher order, as postulating the existence of ‘supernatural’ beings, the very head or chief of which is the being which religious believers know as ‘god’.

    In other words, this fundamental shift in usage of the concept of the supernatural (which shift, from the start, rendered religious belief suspect of superstition) was, albeit unintentionally, pregnant with atheism.”

    In your February 17 post (Why Bother?) you welcomed suggestions for something other than _The God Delusion_ that would be fun and productive to read slowly online. This brief yet dense book from Lash, which indirectly addresses many of the problems inherent in Dawkins’ book, might be a worthy candidate.

  3. Isaac Gouy on March 20, 2008 at 9:34 pm said:


    > … if you come across a rabbit playing Mozart on the violin …

    rabbit seen doing what a rabbit is never seen doing -> supernatural

    human seen doing what a human is never seen doing -> supernatural

    What’s the premise? We never see “human beings acting with consistent kindness, selflessness and generosity”.

    Is “consistent” hedge enough for Nicholas Lash to throw out all the examples of human kindness, selflessness and generosity that we repeatedly see?

  4. No, I don’t think that is quite the premise, though I admit that in this brief extract Lash does indeed make it sound like it is. I find it an initially bewildering passage).

    The theological claim Lash has in view is the claim that all consistent human kindness, selflessness and generosity (of which there are many, many examples) is to be read by Christians not as an independent human achievement, but as a gift: something that human beings are first given before they pass it on. To put it in theological language: it is a matter of grace.

    (Imagine someone kind, selfless or generous confronted with a misanthropic, selfish miser, and saying ‘There but for the grace of God go I’. That’s more-or-less the idea.)

    That does not tells you anything about how prevalent Lash thinks kindness is, or where he thinks selflessness is most likely to be found – so he is not heading towards the claim that, say, generosity is extremely rare except among Catholics, or something.

    And Lash is absolutely not saying that the kind of giving he is talking about consists in some kind of continuity-breaking intervention, zapping otherwise malevolent human beings into stances they would not otherwise take. That would be to slip over immediately to later uses of the word ‘supernatural’ which refer to something ‘outside’ the ordinary causal weave of the world, interfering with it. The giving that Lash is talking about takes place primarily through the ordinary weave of relationships and involvements in which human beings are placed. So while we may not be able to say (this side of science fiction) what would give an ordinary rabbit the remarkable skill Lash describes, but we can say rather a lot about what might be involved in a human being getting given kindness, selflessness and generosity.

    Note that, Lash is not here at all concerned with justifying this claim about the grace-fulness of human kindness, selflessness and generosity. Such a justification would involve at least (positively) showing how this view emerges as a natural way of seeing all kindness, selflessness and generosity within a Christian way of seeing the world, and how it might have certain advantages over other ways of understanding kindness, selflessness and generosity, and (negatively) how such a claim doesn’t involve making obviously silly sub-claims about where or how often such kindness, selflessness, and generosity are to be found, or about what prepares people for acting in those ways. Those are themes Lash does address elsewhere, but they’re not his game in this footnote.

    And Lash is certainly not even beginning to suggest that there’s some kind of argument for the existence of God buried here – he’s not saying ‘people are kind; that’s inexplicable; therefore God must exist…’ After all, to treat human kindness, selflessness and generosity as given to human beings through the ordinary weave of their relationships and involvements is actually to insist that they are in some way explicable.

    All Lash is doing is saying that older uses of the word ‘supernatural’ involve pointing to something that is received rather than achieved, something that is a gift rather than an automatic possession, something that lifts people to what is possible rather than leaving them in what seems inevitable. The rabbit comment is not there in order to say that human kindness is as vanishingly improbable or as inexplicable or as dependent upon some bizarre and extraordinary (and probably illegal) tinkering with the subject as would be Mozart-playing ability in a rabbit. The rabbit comment is, instead, simply being used in order to clarify the fact that the word ‘supernatural’ is being used in this way.

    I wish he’d made that a little clearer, though: I have the advantage of knowing other stuff that he has written, and I don’t blame readers new to Lash from thinking he’s talking rather strange nonsense at this point.

  5. Isaac Gouy on March 21, 2008 at 12:29 am said:

    > I don’t blame readers new to Lash from thinking he’s talking rather strange nonsense at this point

    I’ll save my breath to cool my porridge.

  6. Isaac Gouy on March 21, 2008 at 2:29 am said:

    > Incidentally, Dawkins seems happy to use the term ‘quasi-mystical’ to describe his experience …

    quasi- seemingly; apparently but not really

    > We, the readers, might want to make a distinction between these Einstein quotes … but Dawkins clearly feels no need to make such a distinction in this context.

    You’ve beaten-it-to-death enough that I’m not sure whether or not Dawkins “feels no need to make such a distinction in this context”, which means I’m no longer troubled by the way you applied “purely metaphorical, poetic sense”.

    Would you say that pantheism is “purely metaphorical”?

    > It is part of a wider discussion about whether I have identified Dawkins’ target properly: whether I have identified Dawkins’ target properly: whether Dawkins really is attacking any and all belief in God (at least any worthy of the name).

    Let’s try and clarify:

    1) “[You] don’t think Dawkins is talking about any and all Gods” (“Which God”

    2a) But you do think /Dawkins thinks/ he is talking about any and all Gods;

    2b) As long as “any and all Gods” is qualified by “at least any worthy of the name”

    Is that where we are?

    > When it comes to the question of God, ’supernatural’ for Dawkins is synonymous with ‘religion’, ‘religion’ is synonymous with ’supernatural’.

    To me this is just putting words in Dawkins mouth – the only interesting question is what are you trying to achieve by doing that?

    > I think this distinction is a conceptual dead end, that makes the interpretation of religious thought and practice harder.

    If Dawkins was interested in “the interpretation of religious thought and practice” then that might matter to him – he isn’t, he isn’t a theologian manqué.

  7. I’ve said my piece on this now. If what I’ve said hasn’t convinced you, I can’t see any point in rehashing it. If you can supply an alternative way of interpreting Dawkins words that makes coherent sense of what he actually says, I’d be interested: as it is, I (rightly or wrongly, but honestly) simply can’t see any other way of interpreting what he says than the one I have given.

    If Dawkins was interested in “the interpretation of religious thought and practice” then that might matter to him – he isn’t, he isn’t a theologian manqué.

    Strange: I thought the book made some claims about what religious people mean by the word ‘God’, why they believe in that God, and what implications that belief has. That doesn’t make him a theologian. It does mean he is offering an interpretation of (a central aspect of) religious thought and practice.

  8. Isaac Gouy on March 21, 2008 at 3:41 pm said:

    > I can’t see any point in rehashing it

    The point of writing 1, 2a & 2b was to check that I actually understood what you were saying – if 1, 2a, & 2b captures it fine, if not I’ve misunderstood your meaning.

  9. Yes, 1, 2a and 2b are fine, but with one slight hesitation. The ‘any and all gods’ phrasing that I borrowed from Dawkins might make it sound like I was simply envisaging a list of gods, with some of them being covered by Dawkins’ account, others not. Whereas it is not so much a list of gods as a list of forms or aspects of belief in god. So I’d probably rephrase:

    1. I don’t think Dawkins has identified an essential aspect of all belief in God

    2a. I do think Dawkins thinks he has identified an essential aspect of all belief in God

    2b. As long as ‘all belief in God’ is qualified by ‘at least any worthy of the name’ (i.e., at least any that is not actually a form of atheism).

    Here, some x counts as an ‘essential aspect of all belief in God’ if any belief in God worthy of the name will be characterised by x, and if any belief in God worthy of the name stands or falls by x – such that a disproof of x will constitute a decisive blow against any belief in God worthy of the name.

  10. Isaac Gouy on March 22, 2008 at 5:55 pm said:

    > I’d probably rephrase

    That’s a lot more straightforward (and not very close to what I understood from your previous statements).

    My guess is that you go further:


  11. Well, certainly I’d see the explanatory hypothesis thing as one big part of it – but by no means the only one. I’ve said various things in earlier post which are echoed in the McCabe quote in the previous post and the Lash quote above.

  12. Isaac Gouy on March 23, 2008 at 5:05 am said:

    > doesn’t belong on either side

    Neither metaphor nor possible thing because “After all, is our idea of God anything more than personified incomprehensibility?”

  13. Not at all sure about “possible thing” as description of one side of Dawkins’ distinction; still less about “personified incomprehensibility” as description of what Dawkins’ distinction misses.

  14. Isaac Gouy on March 23, 2008 at 5:16 pm said:

    (Sorry that wasn’t at all clear.)

    “possible thing” – “… the word ‘God’ … the word has now come to be the name of the members of a class of actual or possible things or entities of a particular kind …” (the Lash quote above)

    “personified incomprehensibility” – “… the mystery of how come there is anything instead of nothing …” (the McCabe quote in the previous post)

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