Step 2 In Rational Theism

The problem of work

This problem comes directly out of the Dancing Tribe issue in one of my previous tales. The Dancing Tribe tale basically sums up the rational analysis of belief like this: The only rational thing to do when confronted with theism is to either pretend to believe until you go mad or you actually have a mystical experience, or to resign on questioning the issue all together. The reason is that if the theist tells you you need to believe in order to get your empirical evidence, and you cannot disprove existence (which is the case), then you either believe or stop questioning. The problem with this is that the Dancing tribe is not actually doing anything, and the atheist feels that they both ought to be and that he is doing something. I will now use another allegory to highlight his fault again:

A man comes across a poor, thin man on a mountain road who is scooping water from a well and pouring it onto the stones of the road, making it quite slick, and depleting the well. The man stops the beggar and demands an explanation. What are you doing?! What does it look like? I m scooping water from the well and pouring it on the stones! Why? You re both depleting the well and making the path slick. The man looks at the well, then at the stones and replies Yes, I guess so... Well then stop! Someone might slip, or they might need the water for themselves or their animals I agree, but I will not stop Why, what in the world do you think you re doing? I m scooping water from the well and pouring it on the stones! But what purpose does that serve except to cause a nuisance It will get me and everyone who slips into heaven That s foolish! Why don t you just let people up the mountain in peace? Why can t they find their own way to heaven?

They can find their own way to heaven, but some people choose not to inquire about that mystical side of life. They are just in not doing so. But because they do not inquire they will be quite unprepared for the End. I am simply giving them a way into heaven, because they won t go by themselves. Knowing the story of the Dancing Tribe the man knows it is futile to argue about the existence of heaven, the End or any sort of merit in wetting the stones. Seeing that the man is seriously pondering the matter the beggar continues, And what is so important about climbing the mountain that you would deprive an old man of his religious duty? Well people go through here to get to other markets, to trade and to connect. It s a livelihood for many... in fact it is a livelihood for many more than just one beggar. Perhaps, but perhaps that one beggar is saving them all. According to the agnostic (the one who does not quest towards God, but makes no conclusions) the beggar is justified, for if he has empirical evidence that God wanted him to wet the stones for the people s salvation, then he should do that. The man is justified only in leaving the beggar to his wetting unless he also has empirical evidence that God does not want the stones wetted. Therefore if the man is agnostic he should leave the beggar, if he s a theist he should leave him if he has the same conclusion, and should stop him if it is opposing (this is another problem that will be tackled later). If the man is an atheist, he still has no conclusion to draw from the beggar s actions because he cannot say that the beggar is not doing work, only that he is not doing the work the atheists and agnostics value. He cannot say the beggar ought to do the work valued by the non-believers because he cannot prove that the wetting of the stones is futile, only a believer could propose that.

There is another use of the word work in philosophy. When a philosopher says theology does no work, or inadequate work they are often talking about intellectual work, explaining basic ideas. The allegation is that we do not need God to explain the universe or how we should behave. Here is another explanation of the flaws in this thinking:

Transcendence exists, God is both transcendent and imminent, and He told us transcendence exists because of His own empirical evidence. Says a believer in God (Transcendence here means some mystical logos that flows beyond the universe) If you trust empiricism you cannot say this is a flawed method; the man empirically witnessed God s attestation to the empirical evidence of transcendence. If you trust mysticism you already believe in the transcendent, so there s no need for argument. So we have a table like this: Mystics Agnostic about transcendence Idolatry etc

Believers in God

Abrahamic etc.

Agnostics about God

Buddhism etc.


(Do not get offended by this table, it is merely allegorical)

So the only rational objectors to transcendence, who can make the argument that transcendence DOES NOT exist, are those who have it on godly authority that transcendence does not exist. This again goes into theological arguments about the knowledge and nature of God and polytheism etc. In any case the agnostics cannot conclude non-transcendence unless they are believers and thus the argument of transcendence is purely theological. So here is one thing that theology, the God theory, does that non-theistic philosophy cannot do. In case the anti-theist wants more than one example you can simply answer any of his questions on Godly authority and he will have to rebut your theology before any philosophical claims can be made (eg. Killing babies is good because God says so can only be tackled at a theological level since God s essential existence cannot be disproven). Theology therefore does not only do some intellectual work, but does necessary intellectual work. One must understand the nature of God (theoretical or otherwise) in order to argue about Him.

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