The new atheists, most ironically, do ‘religion’ a great service by their (kamikazi) attacks on ‘god’. Looking at the history of monotheism we see that a concept of ‘god’ was never absolutely essential! And the whole confusion over ‘god’ has undermined both traditional god-religion and the new atheism designed to undermine that. Hard to digest, but in terms of the ‘eonic effect’ and its model, the issue isn’t really ‘god’, if only because the whole discussion is gibberish: a subset of polytheism with one god in the pantheon. It is worth taking a look at the Zoroastrian pantheon and the way it also morphed into monotheism (and a male god).
If we examine the larger history we see in the Axial Age a mystery that transcends both theism and atheism, religion and secularism… And if we examine the ‘eonic model’ we see a clear distinction between ‘free agency’ and what we can call ‘macro’ action in a category of its own resembling ‘evolution’ but also mixed with the intimations of the spiritual.
This distinction is a warning to religionists that they made up their own religion based on a mystery of interaction with a…what, ‘macro’ process. Religions are made by man, but mainly in the context of the larger emergence of civilization. But those who attack religion are also prone to a related error: by exposing the beliefs of now seemingly primitive men they only dispose of the human version of religion: the larger context isn’t touched. Perhaps that is why the earliest traditions that entered into ‘proto-judaism’ were reluctant to speak of ‘god’, standing back to point to IHVH for ‘Jehovah’. It is thus more or less clear that in the macro type of ‘evolution’ of religion the question of ‘god’ is the human response to a larger initiative that remains unknown, although in retrospect we can begin to see it a larger perspective of global multiplicity. But the Israelites saw clearly that a ‘humoungous something’, pointed to as IHVH, could remorph history and influence events.
The strange irony is that the perception of what one had thought of as ‘god’ is only understandable if we set aside naive god notions. The resemblance of the stories of Jehovah are so ironically similar (in principle) to the actions of the divinities in the pagan Iliad that we can see that monotheism is a phase in transition, to what?
We need to reopen the question of ‘god’ and see what it is to be understood there. But it is a question like that of the ‘noumenal’ in Kant: we are challenged by the limits of metaphysics. And it seems to modern minds that the simplest answer to to be done with all of that via an assertion of atheism. But so far that has not produced any real clarity to the basic issues. As noted, once you sweep away ‘god’ beliefs, the core material begins to stand out as more comprehensible in a larger context.
We could put it this way: what ‘entity’ could produce the Axial Age? The sheer scale is almost inconceivable and we see thus the natural way that the ancient Israelites correctly noted truly spectacular actions occurring in their recent past up to the Exile: it was entirely natural to call something on that scale ‘god’. But that was a transitional understanding. A modern atheist strangely can’t advance understanding. His sole contribution is to challenge the abuse of ‘god’ talk that has devalued the currency of monotheism. Like the bee they have one sting and expire.
In any case the question of ‘god’ should be put on hold as cosmology expands to include a far vaster superphenomenon, the universe. Theology isn’t going to help there. Rather it was Kant who produced the right post-theological response with his discussion of antinomial debates and their metaphysical liabilities.
And the question of ‘god in history’ has devolved into a genuinely novel research/theory issue: that of the ‘eonic effect’. The latter exhibits a mindboggling short list of attributes of ‘god’ (in our minds), but the short list is not the long list, so the implication is false, and we are stuck trying to figure stunning global phenomena like the Axial Age. The confusion is forgivable here: how do you explain the isolated phenomenon of Israel/Judah from around -900 to -600, followed by its stunning collapse into Exile where it was blended with a similar emergent process of Zoroastrianism. By -400 the ancient Israelites, now back in their stomping grounds could find no other explanation for the ‘facts of the case’: a humoungous something that could move whole nations. We know of no such process and the attempt to posit an ‘omnipotent’ something was actually far more logical than a putative sociology of religion produced by modern ‘scientists’. So we see how a sense of monotheism was suddenly in the context of a set of facts, and the race was on as the hounds chased the rabbit ever receding into the catch as can of theological presumptions. Man as his understanding expands with science thus rediscovers all over again the mystery that the Israelites turned into the world’s most classic cargo cult. To this day it confounds theists, atheists, and buddhists, no less. So even as we sign a compassionate pax vobiscum to the creators of monotheism we must realize are not out of the woods yet, may in fact be entering the woods all over again.
Munzerians of the world, unite, …