The article, while interesting, is loaded with assumptions and logical fallacies which you typically find in the writings of evangelical atheists. For yours and anyone else’s benefit, I’ve provided some notes to chew on.
"God is not a person; God is a mythic personification of reality. If we miss this we miss everything."
How does Down know that? To him it is not even a question that God doesn’t exist.
“And given the nature of our brains…”
According to Dowd our brain is wired in a way that we can’t escape from making up things, such as God, to explain the mysterious. The alternative is not an option, that our brain is designed to understand God from His creation.
“All religions offer maps of what’s real and what’s important.”
The historical Jesus offered no such map. He offered his life as a sacrifice so we could have a saving relationship with the real God. And in the first few centuries of the church many Christians gave up their lives for their faith, and thus were not living out a, “road map”, but their faith in Christ in a fallen world.
“Darwin didn’t kill God. To the contrary, he and Alfred Russel Wallace offered the first glimpse of the real Creator behind and beyond the world’s myriad mythic portrayals of reality.”
This reveals a common logical fallacy of New Atheists, that evolution disproves God and the bible. Meaning that because we have better explanations of how nature works, we now don’t have to have a creator. But what is this, “real Creator?”.
“(Shermer refers to this deep-seated tendency as “agenticity”.) Think of the movie “Castaway” with Tom Hanks. The personified volleyball, Wilson, was the only thing that kept Hank’s character sane (sort of).”
We know from science that even young children can detect agents, or causes of change. So, to Dowd - OR, maybe we really were designed to detect God.
"God" is a mythic personification of reality, not an invisible friend or otherworldly entity .
Again, Dowd offers an idea as if it’s been, “proven”.
“Whenever any story or any scriptural passage claims that “God said this” or “God did that”, what follows is always an interpretation—specifically, an interpretation of what some person (or group of people) thought or felt or sensed or wished reality (life / the universe) was “saying” or “doing,” and almost always as justification after the fact or to make a theological point. Such subjectively meaningful claims are never objective, measurable truth.”
I guess Jesus wished that he had to be tortured and murdered. Or that some of the apostles would suffer a similar fate, or that Christians must go through, “many hardships” to enter the kingdom of God. In other words, the claim simply isn’t true.
“In other words, had CNN or ABC News been there to record the moment of “divine revelation” there would have been nothing out of the ordinary or miraculous to report on the evening news—nothing other than what was coming out of someone’s mouth, or pen, or whatever folks wrote with back then. If we fail to grasp this, not only will we trivialize the very notion of the divine but, more tragically still, we will miss what reality is “saying and doing” today. As I say in the preface of *Thank God for Evolution,”
This is only true if you’ve already assumed that there is no God and therefore no revelation.
Supernatural Is Unnatural Is Uninspiring
Jesus offering himself as a sacrifice on the cross and then raising from the dead is not inspiring? Dowd’s got a high bar for inspiration.
“Everything shifts when we move from a worldview given by tradition and authority to one based on facts and empirical evidence. For example, evidence suggests that the only place that the so-called supernatural realm has ever existed has been in the minds and hearts (and speech) of human beings—and only quite recently.”
The evidence he talks of is that there isn’t a CNN recording of the Resurrection or the parting of the Red Sea. That reveals another logical fallacy of the New Atheists, that the fact that miracles were purported to have been done in the pre-digital age means that they didn’t happen.
Also, we have no scientific model of a singularity, which happened to contain forces that allowed the universe to evolve intelligent life, to pop into existence from ontological nothingness. So, Dowd, like all New Atheists likes to use science to disprove God, but they avoid the hard questions where science has failed them.
"My insecurity comes from something—some power, some force, some inescapable something —other than me. Whatever we may choose to call this reality, it’s beyond belief or disbelief. It just is. We all know it through our experience. It is this inescapable reality that Bultmann calls “God”.
Again, God is taken off the table to begin with, so He inevitably becomes merely an explanation for various unseen realities.
"No matter how much I’d like the pleasure to continue, I can’t even smell lilacs for more than 30 seconds and have my senses un-dulled. I can’t make the clock stand still or a beautiful moment last. Time moves on. Whatever it is that controls the temporal and eternal is not me. Bultmann calls it “God”.
Another fallacy, that because things aren’t, “perfect” God doesn’t exist. But interestingly, Down here accepts that there seems to be some, “force” out there, but he just can’t reject his, “explanation” explanation.
“Another example: because we are social animals almost all of us are driven by a desire for love and connection.”
OR, a loving god who designed us to seek meaningful relationships with Him and others.
“Again, no matter how we conceive what it is that we want to do, or what we think we should do, our conscience ends up pronouncing us guilty of wasted time and lost opportunity, impure thoughts and mean actions. Whatever kind of excellence and success we aim for, we realize, if we are honest with ourselves, that we fall short.”
Yes, we fall short of our perfection. Maybe that guilty conscious was put there to make us aware of that, and that there is perfection because there is a perfect God.
“Now Bultmann has focused our attention: we see an enigmatic power operative in our everyday lives, giving us our life and all good gifts yet also limiting us in nearly every conceivable way, and finally taking our lives away. This is real life! This is reality as it really is, whether or not we like it. There can be no argument whether or not this reality exists. If you don’t want to call it a power, call it a force, an up-against-ness, or simply the universe as it really is. As Bultmann points out in his essay, we are not talking about some metaphysical idea here. We are talking about an unavoidable actuality. Words may fail us, but we all know this reality intimately, personally…Why call this mysterious power ‘God’? Why give the enigma, the mystery that drives us this way and that and hedges us in, any other name but ‘the enigma’, or ‘fate’? Or, if there must be a name, why not equally well ‘the devil’? Doesn’t this power play a cruel game with us, destroying and annihilating? Is not unfulfillment the distinguishing mark of every life? Is not death and nothingness the end?”
Because, among other reasons, a guy called Jesus Christ, whom most scholars believe existed, claimed to be God in the flesh and some of his followers wrote that he performed miracles and rose from the dead. And according to Jesus an evil force exists. And many, like myself, have had our lives changed by following his teachings. The question should be, why doesn’t Dowd and Bultmann call this enigma, “God”? “Unfullfillment” is not how I (or many believers or many unbelievers even) would describe my life. And, “death and nothingness” is only the end for an unbeliever.
“If we call this enigmatic power or force, “the devil”, we are thereby proclaiming reality to be fundamentally evil and untrustworthy. Such a stance toward life can only lead to despair. If reality is seen as evil, then we are estranged from reality. Yet because we are also inextricably bound to reality—we cannot escape it—we despair.”
No, we’re not proclaiming reality to be fundamentally evil - almost noone does that. God calls creation, “good” but we recognize that there is a force in opposition to God.
"Reality is my God, evidence is my scripture, and integrity (living in right relationship with reality and helping others do the same) is my religion.
It seems to have escaped Dowd that his reality is steeped in the teachings of Jesus Christ.
“Indeed, evidence suggests that God has no character traits or personality at all, other than what we embody and/or project.”
Does the evidence really suggest that?
In the words of Frank Lloyd Wright, “I believe in God, only I spell it Nature.”
And where did this amazing nature come from?
“Beyond theism, atheism, deism, pantheism, or even panentheism, this nested holarchical view, which celebrates evolutionary emergence and the fact Universe itself is creative, I refer to as “creatheism” in my book, Thank God for Evolution. However we may refer to it, I believe this evidence-based perspective can move us beyond old arguments and into a new world pregnant with fresh possibilities.”
Well, maybe if he had evidence that God doesn’t exist. But, to me, and most of humanity, the evidence is God exists.