Knowing the un-Knowable

How Pride in pretending sustains belief

Of all the gods that ever lived in the minds of men that have come and gone, the one with the most staying power never even showed up. The others—ousted by the unknown god that doesn’t do anything, can’t be approached, proven, described nor touched. Even our own imaginations that created him cannot imagine his omnipotence, for anything we can imagine or explain, he must be bigger, staying above the fray of explanations way—for the sake of the profession it must remain this way.

Curious sky—NE Washington

In Acts 17, Paul hits a masterful homerun on the first swing: “Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious.

For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, To The Unknown God. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you”

So thus it is—Paul begins the religion of contradiction with a contradiction. He claims to know the god that can’t be known, condemns superstition by introducing the most blatant superstition in known history. They took the bait! Hook, line, and sinker and have poisoned lowered the minds of humanity to prideful pretending. They know something they readily admit they don’t know—“God is naught but in the minds and yearnings of insecurity”. But to pretend to know what can’t be known, certainly has a tidy little smugness about it, doesn’t it (wink)

Author: jim-

One minute info blogs breaking the faith trap.

30 thoughts on “Knowing the un-Knowable”

  1. There actually were altars to “the unknown god” or more properly “unknown gods” or “an unknown god” in Greek cities. This was not to the god that Paul was talking about though. They were put there to worship any god that the city did not have an altar for. Any god that might have worshipers visit the city, or that may have been left out. It was basically a way to cover all bases. The author of Acts used this fact as rhetorical device to segue into a speech he put into Paul’s mouth. This sort of thing was pretty conventional in literature of the time. There is a dialogue of Plato where a particular landmark associated with a story is used to start the conversation and move things into the topic Plato wanted to write about. In the Epistles “Paul” or the writer is far less kind to philosophers and pagans when he does address those groups(or rather writes to his followers about them).

    Christians are very fond of rhetorical tricks, I will grant that. Just a little vagueness in the wording or a lack of knowledge on the part of the reader of Acts might have some think that the Athenians had such altars to actually worship Paul’s god. I doubt a Christian leader would correct that mistake if a congregant got the wrong idea. A lot of early Christian arguments relied on this sort of thing, along with stating blatant falsehoods as fact, using forged documents for citations, quote mining, and using allegorical interpretation as proof. I mean, Clement of Alexandria used Odysseus tying himself to his ship’s mast as a prefiguration of Jesus. Another Clement argued that the Phoenix(the resurrecting bird in a Hellenized fable derived from an Egyptian myth) proves the principle of the resurrection .

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    1. It was well played on the weaknesses of tribalism. The writers thematically play the strengths and weaknesses. Fear and pride. I’m sure he let them know that everywhere else people believed in the unknown god and knew him through his spirit. You feel that? That’s the spirit of god working through me. Playing on hormones and pluralistic ignorance.

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      1. I think the opposite. A strong sense of tribalism would have sent someone like Paul away. No strong community would let someone come in and tell them what do to and how things are. In this part of Acts Paul is not very successful with the Athenians, they mostly ignore him. And in the epistles, it says to stay away from philosophy. Paul was the one going around saying “there is no Greek or Jew, Scythian or foreigner, no man or woman, we are all one in Christ”. Christianity was meant to appeal to the people of the cosmopolitan cities of the Roman empire with no real tribal or national identity. The Roman machine took that away from many people. Especially the underclass and slaves in the cities, the only identity they had was being the dregs of society. And what does Christianity teach? That such people are the righteous poor, and the kingdom will come for them. They will get to be set above all others when that happens. And no effort is needed on their part, all that is needed is to repeat a simple creed and believe it. Their troubles and position do not matter, because soon Jesus will come pick them up and end the world.

        I admit that I have a low opinion of Paul in particular. The worst reading in the whole Bible for me is the epistles attributed to him, and Acts. I prefer the massacres and intolerance of the Old Testament to Paul. The epistles are full of dishonesty and twisting of words or whole phrases, to the point that I can’t see how anyone with sense(and Old Testament knowledge) would have ever paid attention to them. Paul took things and gave them completely different meanings than they actually have, and promoted blind faith over anything else because that was the only way to get anyone to hold to his teachings.

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  2. I know a secret! But I can’t tell you what it is, because then it won’t be a secret anymore. So don’t tell anyone that I have a secret. Now you have a secret too!

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          1. Heh. Heh. Heh! I’ve forgotten all the elements of the secret hippie handshake. It took at least 30 seconds to complete. If you couldn’t complete it correctly you were probably a narc. But even undercover narcotics agents learned it somewhere, and people paid for trusting it.

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  3. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told by believers that they know God intimately, have a relationship with him and even hear him speak. Then when I ask for evidence of that, they say he exists outside of this realm in a place where testing for him isn’t possible. He lives supernaturally somewhere “up there.” It can’t be proven. It is impossible to test for it. It’s simply a “believe it on faith” thing, yet we are called foolish for doubting. Silly me, I thought something so obvious would have some sort of evidence to back it up.

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    1. I’ve been in a long convo on a Catholic blog and the same banter goes on and on. I asked what they thought about all the neurology research that is showing that belief is merely hormones and perceptions and projections of self—It’s all in our heads and can be reproduced in a lab. No member of any faith can see the errancy of their own, but they can certainly see it in the other denominations. All four of them quit responding. They want to believe so badly they just walk away.

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      1. Whenever logic (or even just common sense) is introduced into a conversation, most believers tend to deny it or walk away. Is it so hard to entertain the idea of being wrong? If someone is so convinced they are correct in their beliefs, challenging them shouldn’t be a scary proposition. But believers are told not to test God. Why? Because it angers him? No. It’s because the people who wrote the words we read in the Bible knew that testing and challenging would lead to the truth. So no peeking behind the curtain.

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        1. I just read one of the more curious things I’ve ever seen on a blog by someone who occasionally posts here, where he tried to prove that over confidence equals incompetence. His intent was to claim that because an atheist is confidant in their disbelief, it implies that their very confidence indicates that they are incompetent. He spent many paragraphs trying to argue that in an attempt to discredit atheism, in arguments couched in quasi-legalistic terminology with a few choice terms lifted from philosophy thrown in for good measure and, well… No, I’m not going to go down that road because I don’t want to be insulting but oh my, he spends so much time and energy trying to prove that a person’s confidence in their own knowledge indicates that they don’t know what they’re talking about. It was a real gem of obfuscation and misdirection in an attempt to undermine the credibility of atheism.

          He reminds me of what Ben just said up there, trying to use logic and philosophy to oh so gently pick away at atheism and atheists. And in the process, although he doesn’t seem to know it, his own arguments, when applied to his own writings, places him firmly in the same camp with the “over confident” atheists he is trying to oh so gently discredit.

          The problem is that when you try to prove the unprovable, you don’t have any, well, actual proof. The apologists quickly descend into a convoluted, self referential system of argument, laced with circular reasoning, either consciously or unconsciously hoping that by overwhelming the reader with their excessive verbiage the reader won’t realize that there is actually nothing there.

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            1. Oh, sure, why not? I came for the full argument, not the 5 minute (he said wondering if anyone gets Monty Python references any more). I rather expected he’d come across this as I was writing it and start lobbing quotes and references at me and that would get mildly annoying and considered not posting it.

              The problem with legal scholars and philosophers (and from what I noted while skimming through his blog he is both) is that they are both working in a system that is designed from the ground up to persuade the reader to accept a particular point of view, even if it means dancing around the truth or even concealing it entirely. Granted, the legal system was intended to discover the truth, but that very quickly became – oh polluted, shall we say, by people with a particular agenda they want to push. Law has morphed into a system whereby the politically powerful attempt to influence the system and force a society to accept their own views of what it should be, usually to their own personal advantage. Laws are specifically passed not so much to protect the innocent and punish the guilty, but to influence behavior and opinion these days. And as for philosophy, I spent way, way too long sitting in philosophy classes, writing papers and trying to decipher the deliberate obfuscations of allegedly brilliant men and women, only to find that they were basically talking through their hats.

              BTW: If you’re ever bored some night and want to see just how silly philosophy can get and how convoluted and even bizarre it can be, I highly recommend Existential Comics at http://existentialcomics.com/ It’s had me almost rolling on the floor laughing many times. But then I admit I am, well, a bit weird.

              The current one explains existentialism. Great fun, existentialists. Well, no, they aren’t. Never invite an existentialist to a party. All they do is sit there talking about the inevitability of death and the ending of all your hopes and dreams while they sit in a corner weeping bitterly.

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            2. I gave up on philosophy a while ago. Apart from some ideation, nothing has changed. We see the wisdom but here we are, a religious society impressed by wordiness.

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          1. Well to be fair there is evidence that suggests that scientists who are more uncertain about predictions they make, are more often right than those who are absolutely certain.

            The problem with the argument here is that it seems that theists are often much more sure about their beliefs than I am of mine because they lack the appropriate skepticism.

            But clearly prediction is also much more different than facts. I mean I am 100% confident that George Washington was the first president of the U.S., so this can’t make this fact less true because of my confidence. The studies about prediction and expertise simply mean there is value to skepticism. Skepticism doesn’t seem to be part of the fundamentalist mindset.

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            1. Maybe it is that uncertainty that opens them up to see things outside their bias. Of course mixing the supernatural claims as facts turns me off. He acts like I just don’t understand, but it is that understanding that makes us leave. We totally get the neurology, the hormones, the array of biases, and the awareness that comes with that makes it pretty obvious he doesn’t “know” but feels.

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          2. I love this. I call it apologetic gymnastics! They like to say that the lack of evidence doesn’t mean lack of god when, of course, it does! Watch as they try to reconcile the unreconcilable. They pass through what look like painful, illogical somersaults in the process and walk away feeling like they just taught us something or showed us a thing or two.

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