The Monstrous God of the Intellectuals

Regarding the monstrous God of the intellectuals, Philosopher Paul Feyerabend, in Farewell to Reason, offers the following critique, which is centered upon Xenophanes’ critique of the supposed crude anthropomorphizing of the  Greek gods:

‘Far from human’, Timon calls the gods of Xenophanes- and he (it?) is indeed inhuman, not in the sense that anthropomorphism has been left behind, but in the entirely different sense that certain human properties, such as thought, or vision, or hearing, or planning, are monstrously increased while other balancing features such as tolerance, or sympathy, or pain have been removed. ‘Always, without a movement, he remains in a single location’ – like a king, or a high dignitary for whom ‘it would be unseemly to walk now this, now to that place’. What we have is not a being that transcends humanity (and should therefore be admired?) but a monster considerably more terrible than the slightly immoral Homeric gods could ever aspire to be. These one could still understand; one could speak to them, try to influence them, one could even cheat them here and there, one could prevent undesirable actions on their part by means of prayers, offerings, arguments. There existed personal realtions between the Homeric gods and the world they guided (and often disturbed). The God of Xenophanes who still has human features, but enlarged in a grotesque manner, does not permit such relations. It is strange and, at least to me, somewhat frightening to see with what enthusiasm many intellectuals embrace this monster, regarding it as a first step towards a ‘more sublime’ interpretation of the divinity. On the other hand, the attitude is  also very understandable for the remaining human features are features many intellectuals would love to possess: pure thought made efficient by the power of moving everything from afar, supervision, superhearing (for picking up intellectual gossip?) – and no feelings.

As I reflect upon what impels me to post this quote, I realize I am not just responding to the idea that the abstract God of the philosophers is supposedly superior to more personal concepts of God. I am partly responding to criticisms of people like Dawkins or Maher regarding the “vicious” God of the Bible. With that in mind, what I like about this quote is that it makes it quite clear that the God of the philosophers, the God stripped of human passion, is no less a monster than the radically personal, though hard to understand, God of Judaism and Christianity. Of course, according to Dawkins, and the New Atheists, there is no God. So, I suppose that means we are the only monsters in the universe. If that is the case, it sure would be nice if there was someone who could save us from our monstrosity, as we have had a few thousand years and we seem to be doing a really crappy job of it.

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