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Those Poor People! Mark Kleiman Needs to Learn Theology from "Galaxy Quest"

Mark Kleiman attacks P.Z. Myers:

The Reality-Based Community: Atheistic bigotry and religous metaphor: Meyers, it seems to me, is just the flip side of Michael Gerson. Meyers furiously denounces as false the sort of childish religion that Gerson exemplifies but that thoughtful worshippers of every persuasion have always despised.

Religious thought, writing, and speech, at its adult level, is always metaphorical. "Humans are created in the Image of God," taken literally, is nonsense, if you remember that it is a part of a religious tradition that says that God is an infinite, omniscient, beneficent, immortal being "without parts or passions," which is the opposite of finite, finitely rational, ethically challenged mortal beings with physical bodies and emotional drives.... (Of course religious writers don't generally assert that "God" names a metaphor rather than an entity, any more than the actor playing Hamlet looks at the audience and says, "I'm not really the Prince of Denmark" or any more than a Pynchon novel carries a disclaimer on the title page, "None of this stuff really happened.")...

[I]f, like anyone who has thought deeply about these matters, you think of God as an especially potent metaphor (or, to put in more flowery terms, "a mystery to be understood only in part, and then by faith") — if you think that, then the whole debate is pointless. Both Gerson and Meyers are just being silly: it's two blind men debating the nature of the elephant while groping around different parts of a Land Rover.

There is a movie, Galaxy Quest, in which a group of aliens--Thermians--kidnap some out-of-work actors who had starred in a 1960s space travel show, and ask them to command their forces in a war of self-defense. The actors try to explain that the TV broadcasts the Thermians have picked up--what the Thermians call the "historical documents" are not fact but fiction, and make reference to other TV broadcasts, like "Gilligan's Island." "You don't believe 'Gilligan's Island' really happened, do you?" the actors say.

The Thermians shake their heads and murmur: "Those poor people."

I suggest that Mark Kleiman turn on his cable TV channels, and watch: UCLA Religous Studies professors' God-talk is a metaphor for concepts and ideas our monkey-brains grapple with; the God-talk of cable TV broadcasters and watchers is of a very different order--it's talk about an entity that sounds an awful lot like a three-year-old's view of an abusive father: the entity that personally hardened Pharoah's heart, slew the firstborn of Egypt, and with his strong right hand and outstretched arm, with signs and wonders, led the people out of Egypt. The God-talk of the philosophers is not the God-talk of the Pillar of Fire Repentance Tabernacle. Not at all. To call them both "religion" is an abuse of language

They are out there, frantically running from auction to auction looking for Lot 49 or busily writing to the government of England begging it not to execute Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. There are an awful lot of them.