Theists and atheists define God consistently

Agnostic (A) theist. And what is your mindset?

Evolutionary history of religion (s)

After the refreshingly turbulent and mostly really good epistemological debates about “purposes in nature” I would like to try a lighter, literally playful and perhaps even humorous topic today. Would you like to? So then…

My happiest childhood memories include afternoons, evenings, and nights as a director of fantasy role-playing games. At times with several playgroups (“parties”) I was allowed to dive into the universes of the black eye, from Shadowrun, but above all from (Advanced) Dungeons & Dragons. We not only created characters and worlds that were as “believable” as possible (each in their “system logic”), but also debated rules, questions of chance and of course the eternal questions of good and bad on school routes, schoolyards and wherever else we could find time . We plunged some parents into deepest worries (which is probably a privilege of young people).

Credit: Franganghi / Wikimedia Commons

 What does it mean when a story develops “by accident”? AD&D dice set


Since then, fantasy role-playing games and their computer, book and film offshoots have spread much further - millions, soon to be billions of adolescents ask (for reasons that can be researched evolutionarily) about “fantastic” products and are (also) shaped by them. And the venerable tradition of “Game Studies” (unfortunately still underdeveloped in Germany) has long been exploring the history of philosophy of fantasy games and their social, biographical and epistemological implications!

Philosophical review of a formative time. Dungeons & Dragons in the focus of philosophy.

I particularly remember the intense discussions about the “attitudes” in Dungeons & Dragons. In the early versions of the game, characters were divided into just three categories: good, neutral, or bad. But then - as you can read in the above book by Jon Cogburn (Ed.) - from the successful Elric cycles about a “broken” fantasy hero, another three-way division flowed into the game system: Chaotic, Neutral or Righteous (more precisely: lawful ) (Lawful). Starting with the 2nd Edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons (AD&D), “Gesinnung” unfolded in a literally exciting 2 x 3 series, which allowed a total of nine pairings.

This “nine” allowed for much more gripping and complex characters! So an orderly paladin (righteous good, RG) could represent the highest ideals of virtue and chivalry! But there was also her no less lovable sister, who didn't let rules stop her, but stole from exploiters and tyrants to her heart's content to help the poor and the oppressed (Chaotisch Gut, CG). Many a dark devil or vampire was known to be bound by his word - but would try to interpret it in a dark way (Righteous Evil, RB). On the other hand, how much the orc tribes of Ulu’dur cared about agreements, you could never know - their compliance with the rules was just enough to maintain something like a dark hierarchy (neutral evil, NB) etc. etc.

“Alignments” in Science-Religion Debates

For a while now, I have been following with some fascination that the “attitudes” are beginning to fan out in the science-religion debates that are raging across the Internet. In the beginning there was almost only the three-part series atheistic - agnostic - theistic. But increasingly, discussants are beginning to differentiate positions by differentiating their scientific position and their lifeworld-existential position. For example, the creationism critic Thomas Waschke describes his attitude with the sentence that he considers it to be logical “to be agnostic and to live as an atheist” (AgAt).

Others believe that atheism necessarily follows from science (AtAt, including many so-called “new atheists”) or, conversely, that science, rightly understood, leads to at least one intelligent designer (ThTh). I think that science cannot in fact give any definite knowledge about “God” and that people can therefore existentially be atheists, agnostics or theists. Examples even come to mind for atheistic theists: For example, creationists who teach that the “world knowledge” of the sciences is a test of whether we “nevertheless” believe against all (sham) evidence (AtTh). And conversely, there were and are people - e.g. in Gnosis - who believe in the creation of this material world by an evil deity (such as a demiurge) who should be rejected in order to gain true insight. The Raelians, who strictly reject the existence of a creator god, but believe in creation by scientific-technological aliens, probably belong in this category. (ThAth).

In any case, the duplication of the two categories could obviously allow a more precise representation of one's own position.

And so that we understand each other correctly: I don't mean that the atheism-theism line can be compared with the good-bad line of fantasy. I rather see a startling similarity to the chaos-order-rail: Atheism implies the emergence of space and time from chaotic coincidence, theism the presence of a (timeless) legislator or even a legislator.

Personally, by the way, I would see myself as an agnostic theist (AgTh): I mean that we cannot grasp any reliable knowledge about space and time from the sciences on the basis of our mammalian brain - in this respect I am agnostic like Thomas Waschke. However, I find - coming from a non-denominational family - that it is precisely this that gives us the inner freedom to be existentially religious, to take the “leap into faith”, as Kierkegaard described it, for example, and thus can also accept God.

Which “mindset” would best suit you?

  • Posted in: General, Terms - Symbols, Citizen Science, Fantasy, Basics, Little Wisdoms, Love and Passions, Net Culture (s), Philosophical Questions, Rights and Law, Game Theory

Dr. Michael Blume studied religious and political science and did his doctorate on religion in brain and evolutionary research. University lecturer, science blogger & Christian-Islamic family man, author, including "Islam in the Crisis" (2017), "Why Anti-Semitism Threats Us All" (2019) & "Conspiracy Myths". Has also experienced and survived a lot in crisis regions, representative of the state government BW against anti-Semitism. For many years he has blogged weekly on "Nature of Faith" in order to make religious studies accessible and open to discussion.