Theology: Jerry Coyne's reply

This is a portrait of me, according to Jerry Coyne. :-)
Read to the end to understand!

A few days ago I posted an essay responding to Jerry Coyne's attack on theology. The essay was later picked up by the Science and Non-Duality website. Coyne has now responded to it in his blog. The present post is a reply to that.

After some gratuitous attacks and sarcasm directed at the Science and Non-Duality website, Coyne writes:
Kastrup, who was trained as a scientist (see below) but then jumped the rails and abandoned materialism, has decided that I’m dead wrong—that theology has an object after all, and that he can prove it.
There isn't a single instance in my essay in which I use the words "prove" or "proof." My point was, and remains, that there is a coherent way to think of certain concrete aspects of nature as matching the most common attributes associated with the word 'God.' Coyne creates a straw man here.
"Why Materialism is Baloney" sets off warning bells, but of course that must perforce be the view of someone who’s defending God’s existence.
There isn't a single instance in the book where I argue for the existence of a personal deity. The book consists in an entirely naturalistic account of reality based on the principles of parsimony, logic, and empirical honesty. Coyne would have known this if he had read even a few sections of the book he is commenting on. (Thanks for the free promotion, by the way! As they say, any publicity is good publicity!) My motivation to talk about 'God' was entirely derived from Coyne's own attack on theology. As people familiar with my output know, before now I have even refused to use the 'G' word in public presentations.
Throughout the article Kastrup implies that there is no reality independent of consciousness ... That, of course, is untenable, as there is plenty of evidence about what was going on in the Universe before consciousness evolved.
This is a silly logical fallacy known as 'begging the question.' Coyne is assuming materialism – the notion that consciousness is generated by biological nervous systems – in his argument against a non-materialist ontology. If one argues that the ground of reality (that is, the ontological primitive) is consciousness itself, then nervous systems are in consciousness, not consciousness in nervous systems. Nervous systems are thus images of particular processes in consciousness, which could and did evolve later than other, earlier processes in consciousness. As such, the fact that there is evidence for the existence of the universe before biological nervous systems evolved simply does not invalidate the argument. More on these silly logical fallacies in the video below.

But of course you can further argue that our notion of what happened before brains existed is a construction of those brains; but I don’t think that anybody who is science-friendly wants to go that route.
Neither do I, as is clear from the essay Coyne is commenting on. Did he really read what he is criticizing? Anyway, after this Coyne finally starts to raise points that at least aren't silly:
First, when there is a human being who says she is conscious, we know that that that human exists and is saying those words.  We don’t know the same about God, whirlpools or not. In other words, the existence of a Universe says nothing about either human or divine consciousness. While we can perceive other humans, there is no similar evidence for God. But at least we know that our view of reality is filtered through senses that have evolved (largely to represent reality!), and in real, demonstrable entities.
The notion that inanimate reality is an image of mental processes in mind-at-large is a necessary implication of the starting premise of my ontology – i.e. that all reality can be explained as excitations of consciousness alone (not necessarily personal consciousness, mind you) – and empirical observations. I reject the inference of a whole unprovable universe outside consciousness, on the basis that it isn't necessary to make sense of things and fails parsimony criteria. From this and from the empirically-undeniable observation that brain activity correlates with first-person experience, we can deduce that brain activity is the image of subjective experience (as viewed from the outside). It can't be anything else. Now, from this latter point and the empirically-undeniable observation that consensus reality is a shared experience originating beyond personal awareness, we can deduce that empirical reality is the image of conscious processes in mind-at-large (as viewed from the outside). It can't be anything else. There is no false analogy here. The logic is clean.
In contrast, Kastrup is stuck not only with having to sneak in God via a false analogy, but then with his claim that theology has valid methods for understanding God’s “consciousness” though his creation.  That’s Natural Theology, a discipline that became obsolete with Darwin, though it has had a revival of sorts with arguments about “fine tuning” and “The Moral Law”.
Well, this isn't really a rebuttal of anything. The point of my argument is that there is a place for natural theology. I then proceed to explain what it is and why dismissing it was unwise. To refute this, Coyne has to do more than simply point to the historical fact of its earlier dismissal, which is not in contention. What he does instead is a mere re-statement on his position. I can't begin to imagine where he found any false analogy anywhere near this...
It’s not so obvious to me that these attributes—particularly “omnipotence”—would apply to even a Universal Consciousness. You can see here that Kastrup, desperate to prove his god, is simply making stuff up: throwing out words without considering whether they fit into a logical framework.
According to the premise of my argument, all reality is an excitation of mind-at-large, analogously to how quantum field theorists say that all reality is an excitation of a postulated quantum meta-field. Unlike the quantum meta-field, however, mind-at-large is, by definition, conscious. We can thus conclude that whatever reality was, is, and will be, it was, is and will be the conscious manifestation of mind-at-large. There is a strong and obvious sense in which this is omnipotence, since it entails conscious, operational power over all reality, past, present and future.
Yes, theology tries to find out about God from nature. The problem is that it can’t find out squat, because its methods don’t allow the discernment of truth.
This is an arbitrary statement from someone who is not versed in theology.
That is why, of course, the gazillion different religions on this planet have come to different conclusions about “God’s perspective.”
I am certainly not going to defend religious literalism here, which I probably dislike more than Coyne's materialism. Now, if one looks past the pedestrian literal appearances of different religions, one finds significant, quite fundamental, and even altogether amazing commonalities, as many theologians know. I hereby recommend to Coyne Aldous Huxley's wonderful book The Perennial Philosophy.
How does Kastrup know that the Hindus are wrong and there’s only one God?
Touché! Err, maybe not. Hindu theologians know pretty well that all deities of Hinduism are meant symbolically as aspects of one single immanent and transcendent entity, Brahman. In another correspondence with Christianity, Hinduism also has a Holy Trinity of their own, called the Trimurti, encompassing the deities Brahma (not Brahman), Vishnu and Shiva. Vishnu even 'incarnates' as a man, considered Son of God and named Krishna, which echoes Christ, God incarnate and member of the Christian Holy Trinity.
Kastrup’s argument fails miserably, I think, though it’s not for want of trying.
This just doesn't follow from the foregoing. It's an unsubstantiated claim.
It’s because, like all such arguments, it’s motivated less by logic than by wish-thinking. The man starts with his conclusion—God exists—and then retrofits the arguments to “demonstrate” that. Like all theology, it’s philosophical creationism.
I actually start from the notion (substantiated extensively in the book) that consciousness is a sufficient ontological primitive, everything else following from that plus empirical observations. What Coyne writes above is an empty rhetorical device.

Coyne closes with a proper ad hominem:
Sadly, I was unable to ignore this flea, as I had an attack of Maru’s Syndrome.
Glad you didn't ignore me, Jerry. I feel very jumpy!


  1. I would enjoy the discussions much more if there were less sarcasm. I understand the temptation to respond in kind, but it is puerile.

    1. Com'on, it's fun :) But no, I do acknowledge what you are saying. It's hard to resist temptation...

    2. The problem is, especially in these internet back and forth 'discussions' that feature cut and snips, that they easily take on the tone of a polemic, which tends to *lessen* the impact of a point rather than strengthen it.
      Moreover, I find myself getting wrapped up in who has the better comeback, rather than who has the solid argument. But these are my personal problems, I guess.

    3. These are real problems, but I don't know how to avoid them. All I can do is emphasize content as much as possible, and this I did, despite sprinkling sarcasm in a slightly more toned-down way than Coyne did. Moreover, these are problems of any debate format, not only Internet. You'd have the same in a face-to-face debate, or even worse, since there is less time to think about content.

    4. "...we can deduce that empirical reality is the image of conscious processes in mind-at-large."

      This seems ambiguous to me, Bernardo. It could conceivably mean that empirical reality is the image of conscious processes *as they are experienced by* mind at large. On the other hand, it could mean it's the image in localised consciousness of processes occurring in mind at large. I can't say I'm sure which you mean (though suspect it's the latter), and it may even mean something different from either.

      English is often ambiguous like this: I put it down to the language's paucity of grammatical inflection, so that one sometimes needs to be especially careful with prepositions and qualifiers to achieve precision.

      Sorry to be a grammar Nazi, but I feel precision about this specific point is important! :-)

    5. How silly this Jerry is. Like elementary school. Bernardo please don't waste your time with this child.

    6. >>This seems ambiguous to me, Bernardo. It could conceivably mean that empirical reality is the image of conscious processes *as they are experienced by* mind at large. On the other hand, it could mean it's the image in localised consciousness of processes occurring in mind at large. I can't say I'm sure which you mean (though suspect it's the latter)<<

      Yes, every time I talk of "image of a process" it is the latter! Let me think about it to see if I can write it with less ambiguity. A part of me wants to keep it like this, because it has become my 'standard language' in multiple places... but thanks for the heads up!

    7. John, this is just a cultural effort. I am not trying to convince Jerry of anything. He just took my bait; it could have been someone else (Myers, Harris, Dawkins, whoever), for I've on a little fishing expedition lately. I am doing this for the benefit of readers, the _silent_ readers who aren't fully committed to either side, and just peruse these culture wars discussions with a relatively open mind. Materialism and atheism both have unfairly claimed the rational high-ground. I am interested in debating them to show that they actually don't have the high-ground there.

    8. OK, Michael, I just improved the language and hopefully eliminated the ambiguity. Could you have another look?

    9. Sure: I'll hopefully get back to you within 48 hours at the most.

    10. Not a lot to say, Bernardo. It is somewhat better, albeit not exactly how I would have put it. I'd tell you what I'd have said if it weren't for the fact that a). your English is already better than 90% of native speakers, and b). since what you say is in the context of what precedes and follows it, one can usually iron out potential ambiguities.

  2. Hi Bernardo, long time lurker first time poster here. Really enjoyed your book, and agree that Coyne clearly barely skimmed your writing before trying to dismiss you, but can't say I'm really following your new God-centric arguments. Feel like maybe you're introducing too much new material too fast, or maybe I'm just slow, or having trouble with the loaded G-word.
    > brain function is the image of subjective experience. It can't be anything else. Now, from this latter point and the empirically-undeniable observation that consensus reality is a shared experience originating outside personal awareness, we can deduce that empirical reality is the image of conscious processes in mind-at-large.

    I don't really get this. If I'm sharing a dream with other people, Inception-style, why is it necessarily the case that objects in our dream (rocks, trains, etc) are the literal brain tissue of some invisible entity we have no other evidence of? I just don't see where you're getting this conclusion from. Am I misrepresenting your argument, or does the Inception analogy not work?

    Sorry, not sure my question makes sense. I like your stuff most of the time, but here I'm kind of lost, I just don't see how you're arriving at your conclusion at all.


    1. Thinking about it some more ...

      I can see how you might want/need to posit a mind-at-large to go on experiencing trees falling in empty forests, to keep the accounting straight should people wander in eventually and want to know how many trees are still standing - but I don't see why that tree represents the "outside" of MAL's experience in the sense that my brain's neural firings represent the "outside" of my experiences - shouldn't the trees just be something "inside" MAL's experience?

      I thought the core premise of your work was that "there is no stuff", and that consciousness can/does exist without brains to "generate" it. So shouldn't "nature" just be a thought this stuff-less MAL is having - a thought *inside* MAL's awareness, not some kind of opaque scaffolding hiding MAL's actual, inner experience away from where we can access it?

    2. DJ remember that mind at large, ie. primal consciousness, is everything, period. There is MAL (what an unfortunate acronym :( ) and experiences in/of MAL. Here is the simplest model. So work back from your own dreams. In your dream there is no material stuff just characters as dream experiences having dream experiences in your dreaming mind. When you wake up you are in MALs dream as a dream experience having dream experiences as is everything else in what we call the Universe. I hope this helps.


    3. There is only MAL. We are alters -- whirlpools, localizations, split-off complexes -- of MAL. But the moment an alter is formed, it creates a relative duality of perspectives in MAL: the perspective from within the alter and the perspective from outside the alter. These are two different perspectives of the same flow of experience, so they feel different. Not all qualities and nuances are available in both perspectives. This is analogous to how watching somebody's brain while the person is aroused feels completely different than feeling aroused yourself. You see, because you are an alter of MAL, everything you perceive with your sense organs (the rim of your whirlpool) is necessarily an image of conscious processes in MAL, even when that corresponds to other alters in MAL. There is simply no reason to believe that MAL itself will experience a mountain the way you do, since you are locked in the perspective of the alter, and MAL is not. What we call a 'mountain' is, by definition, an alter's perspective of something else. We don't know what that something else is for the same reason that we don't know what arousal is simply by peeking into someone else's brain. Does this help?

    4. I must admit, I still find the "personal vs MAL" slightly difficult to think with beyond the main implications for ourselves as temporary localised patterns in consciousness, probably still because I find it difficult to think of the spatial aspect (senses as the rim of the whirlpool; shared experiences by different whirlpools) which seems to generate in me an idea too much like a 3-d landscape in which we're roaming.

      I can understand why people might visualise MAL's "material" as being like "brain tissue"-type representation.

      (Interestingly, "Mal" is the name of Marion Cotillard's scary woman character in Inception; she's an alter within the main character's mind.)

    5. George at this level of detail I find it helpful to leave metaphors like the whirlpool behind. Once you get the idea that everything is thoughts in MAL and some of those thoughts are characters with 'volition' but more importantly first person perspectives and some of those thoughts are objects (have no perspective of their own) it mostly falls in place for me. In this scenario MAL and each character in MALs dreams have unique perspectives on commonly experienced experiences. Its simply first, second and third person perspective writ large. Everyone experiencing commonalities differently. For example you experience wracking, soul searing inner turmoil, I see a stoic expression on your face with maybe a slight glint in your eyes. Essentially a very partial image of your perspective. Who knows what MAL experiences but whatever it is everything we experience is a very partial image of that. Having said all this I suspect im not addressing your difficulty.


    6. Thanks Bob. Yeah, different metaphors for different perspectives is the way. I played with a few ways to look at this. Basically, when not thinking of your direct experience it makes sense just to chuck out the spatial/temporal aspects and just see it as "unfolding" from the background consciousness, moment by moment. (Because the creation of temporal and spatial elements are actually part of the structure of momentary experience, within a structureless background of open awareness.)

    7. RHC, Bernardo: I get and am okay with the idea of split-off separate perspectives of one MAL, what I don't understand is why we should suppose that all the apparent "material stuff" (rocks, trees) - basically, as I understand it, all the stuff that isn't brains - is in fact some huge superbrain. Isn't this just "consolidationist panpsychism", where instead of attributing a spirit to each individual, apparently "inanimate" object (the "soul" of the waterfall, etc), we somehow and for some reason attribute it to the sum of all objects? What reason is there to think that "the sum of all objects" has its own subjective point of view? The objects in my dreams aren't my brain tissue, or MAL's, as far as I know - why should the objects in "our" waking dream be MAL's brain tissue?

      Spooky Marion Cotillard synchronicity.

    8. Because, unlike your dreams, which are idiosyncratic, consensus reality is shared and runs independent of your personal will or even presence (the world will go on after you pop out of it). So it can't be your own imagination as a personalized consciousness. It must come from a non-personal segment of mind, which is MAL. In that sense, it is analogous to the personal experiences of OTHER people, which are also independent of your will or presence. How do you witness the experience of other people? As brain activity. The brain activity of other people is a part of consensus reality. What else is a part of consensus reality, apparently 'made up' of the same building blocks of experience (we call them atoms) as brains? Rocks, planets, stars and galaxies. Ergo...

    9. The key point is this: other people's brains and rocks and stars are all part of the same consensus reality. They are all made up of atoms (building blocks of experience). They occupy the same space-time framework. Whatever ontological interpretation you place on brains, you can't depart fundamentally from that when you interpret rocks. Now, brains are the _outside image_ of another person's stream of subjective experience. Ergo, rocks and the rest of the universe must also be the _outside image_ of a subjective experiences. Clearly, however, not the experiences of a person. What's left? MAL

    10. OK, thanks, I'm seeing your reasoning more clearly now - but it still does seem like "consolidationist panpsychism" to me, and I don't see what basis there is for assuming the consolidation. Isn't it possible either that brains are somehow unique among objects as being carriers of subjective experience (I have no idea how or why, but they are the only things that I know to have been observed to be strongly correlated with consciousnesses), or that the supposedly unified perspective of non-conventionally-living-thing MAL that you call God is actually any number of sub-MALs/demigods - ie, the soul of the waterfall, the spirit of the stone statue, etc? Or the spirit of the proton, the quark - what basis is there for drawing a line around one supposed non-living entity vs another, in the absence of behaviour we can identify with? Didn't you make a big point in the book of saying we assume other living things are conscious precisely because they're like us?

      Basically, your argument is increasingly seeming to me like panpsychism, with the added assumption (weakness?) that all psyche that isn't represented by human brain tissue shares a unified perspective. I'm open to being convinced though, and appreciate your time thus far.

    11. Bernardo, that phrase, "relative duality", is a powerful and useful one!

    12. DJ watch Bernardo's video on panpsy..

      >that all psyche that isn't represented by human brain tissue shares a unified perspective.
      This is thoroughly confused. I suggest you give our responses a reread and then watch some of the videos on Bernardo's YouTube channel.

    13. RHC, I reread your responses and I feel like I understand and agree with what *you've* been saying. I also went and rewatched the video you linked to, and felt like I understood what I thought it was saying the first time I saw it. And I've seen all the other videos on Bernardo's channel, and read MIB.

      It's really just Bernardo's use of the word "God" lately that I find I don't get (even when somewhat “sanitised” as MAL), and things like this (from his response in this thread):

      >BERNARDO: How do you witness the experience of other people? As brain activity. The brain activity of other people is a part of consensus reality. What else is a part of consensus reality, apparently 'made up' of the same building blocks of experience (we call them atoms) as brains? Rocks, planets, stars and galaxies. Ergo...(...)Ergo, rocks and the rest of the universe must also be the _outside image_ of a subjective experiences. Clearly, however, not the experiences of a person. What's left? MAL."

      Is this not his way of saying that rocks are like MAL's brain tissue? When did atoms become “the building blocks of experience”? Isn't that straight panpsychism, grounded in materialism (“building blocks”)? What happened to “there is no stuff” (direct quote from MIB)?

      In the anti-panpsychism video you linked, Bernardo very specifically said he thought there was nothing it was like to be this statue (that he was holding) - but now he seems to me to be saying that all atoms are MAL's brain tissue - which should, it seems to me, imply that there *is* something it is like to be that statue.

      My understanding of the whirlpool metaphor, up until this new God-talk, had been that it meant that MAL is somewhat aware of rocks and statues, but maybe in a different way than I am. It seems to me to be a totally different situation to say that MAL actually *is* those rocks and statues - that (direct quote from Bernardo, here) “rocks and the rest of the universe must also be the outside image of a subjective experience. Clearly, however, not the experiences of a person. What's left? MAL.”

      In the video, he seems to me to draw a distinction between “secondary excitations” of mind (which represent spun-off subjective viewpoints of mind) and “primary excitations” of mind (mere perceptions, as in a dream, which lack subjective viewpoints) - but now he seems to me to be saying that all excitations are aspects of the big localisation that is MAL. In effect, he seems to be saying all primary excitations are the secondary excitations of MAL.

      In fact, starting at 24:42, Bernardo says that panpsychism makes “matter the matrix of all consciousness”, whereas his formulation of idealism is the opposite - it makes consciousness the matrix of all matter. But now he's saying atoms are the “building blocks of experience”. Isn't this a complete turnaround?

  3. I found this exchange between the two of you in the end kind of demoralizing; partly for the reason expressed by Anonymous. Don’t get me wrong, you almost always way, way, more restrained than your opponent’s and God knows I’m as guilty of the gratuitous insult as the next guy; but I think in the initial stages of paradigm break up people really want and need the side of change to take the moral high ground. IMHO I think you should consider this as it can only help the cause of getting people to even begin to consider Idealism. People, at least in the US, are so sick of inflamed ideological posturing that it shuts them down.
    Mostly though because I think you are going to hit an endless wall of pseudo-argument like this. No matter what you say it’s going to be mangled into a zombie, straw man version. His whole response was a series of false deconstructions and High Filtering so he could slot you into familiar but irrelevant positions, that in his mind he had heroically vanquished, like Saint George and the Dragon before. I bet if you looked at enough of his past writings you could almost flowchart this out and write a program to construct his responses for him. "If the word God is used anywhere in the essay go here..., if the word theology is used, insert paragraph 22 etc.. He couldn’t care less what you are actually saying. I keep looking forward to somebody giving you a really tough time of it based on what you actually are proposing! After I might add having the self-awareness to hold their own arguments to the same standards they hold yours, in the same damn piece. This seems to happen over and over with these guys. They are such card carrying True Believers and so astonishingly unaware of it.
    Anyway as I’m sure you will agree, the most fascinating part of his essay is that he felt the need to call you a flea. A flea for Gods-sake! Hilarious. After spending all those words preaching to himself, and essentially not responding to you, he obviously considered this his concluding moment of triumph. What a wit!


    1. Thanks Bob! I toned down the sarcasm some more. I just left one bit now, that I think is justified because it actually works as a reply to a criticism Coyne raised (it's about Coyne's confessed inability to understand certain parts of my argument). And as for the flew... wasn't that a pearl? I could hardly hold my enthusiasm when I read that... :-))))

    2. I think maybe you would have been better to write a short, few-paragraphs response rather than pick the points up one by one. Basically, summarised his errors, clarified your position in response to that wording. Easier said than done, of course, but there's something about the "to-and-fro" approach that internet conversation generally encourages, that steps away from the discussion and focuses on the person. (Maybe no response was required here.)

  4. Hi. This is anonymous again, and I'll start using a my name (or at least part of it).
    I appreciate that fact that this comment section is actually read and acted on -- that you've re-written parts of your post! Very nice.
    This is a general suggestion that may be helpful only to me, but I'll give it anyway. I am not a trained philosopher and thinking hard and carefully about something does not come naturally. In my work I often use visual aids to explain and understand data and ideas, as they are often much more powerful than either text or a table of numbers -- people have innate abilities to recognize patterns and such. I found that trying to reconstruct from this post your arguments, his counter arguments, and your responses from the text alone pretty tough, and it occurred to me that at various points a viz might have framed the issues very neatly, and it would have clearly shown that either your position or his position was untenable. David

    1. You read my mind: I was just thinking that a diagram or two might be useful: was even beginning to play around with ideas. If I come up with anything, I'll post it (if it's possible to post images?)

    2. Well, I'm not alone :)
      Mr. Kastrup, is it possible to post images?

  5. Another comment about choosing your people to criticize with perhaps a bit more discretion.

    Jerry Coyne seems to be, by the account of many, almost a caricature of a reasonable thinker.

    I don't know if you're ready to take him on, but i suspect a major challenge for you would be to counter Ed Feser's dualism with your idealist view. But perhaps you'd say well, hardly anybody knows of Feser.

    But there are very respectable, intelligent materialist writers (Thomas Nagel, who as far as I know is not yet a panpsychist) and especially scientists like Carl Zimmer who may get more attention than Coyne and many others - Zimmer gets stuff printed in the Times and elsewhere. Or how about Steven Pinker? These are genuinely intelligent thoughtful people who are deeply committed to materialism. If you could engage with them it would do an enormous amount to raise awareness of your ideas, and most likely, they wouldn't indulge in silly insults which in turn would not tempt you to respond in kind.

  6. ALL: I updated the text based on your comments. Thank you for the feedback! The essay is now sufficiently changed that it may deserve another read. The main change is in the tone (as per your feedback). A few other changes were made to make the text clearer and less ambiguous. No changes in substance, though.

  7. Coyne is clearly a blithering idiot. We should be laughing instead of bothering to argue. He seems unable to even read your book without making major errors. These people have such naïve views that it makes one wonder if they're in the right profession, and should not have gone for something less intellectually demanding, .

  8. There's some very thoughtful commenting going on here. Hopefully I won't drag down the overall quality too much. What we need to realize of course is that Jerry Coyne is a very, very busy fellow, and when one is that busy, one can't be bothered to understand anything about the position one is attacking. Whether it's the precious seconds it takes to Google your name, Bernardo, or the minutes it would take to simply listen to one of your thoughtful and easy-to-follow YouTube videos that trace the development of your ideas, or heaven forbid the hour it would take to read a chapter in one of your books... No way, man. Showing the respect to one's debating opponent by taking the time to learn what he's actually saying is just nutty when one has an ax to grind.

    In his allusion to 'Hindu' polytheism, I feel that Jerry Coyne is further exhibiting his unwillingness to learn anything about world views differing from his own, even when those world views are the products of millennia of deep thought and profound experience. Although many atheists would probably agree with me in saying that religions have often caused irreparable harm I suspect that many atheists and materialist are more deeply infected with western religious ideas of the divine than they realize (and how could it be any different, really?). When attacking Any idea of a transcendent reality, it's as if they feel the only idea of transcendence worth attacking is the one we westerners are all too familiar with: a god who is removed from that which he creates; a god who watches, judges, and punishes; a god who is absolutely humorless. This latter trait, so sweetly ironic, is the very trait this unlikable deity shares with so many of those who deny his existence. The atheists I truly respect are the ones who can admit to the beauty to be seen in a great cathedral, the awe to be felt in a piece of overpowering music, or the depth to be comprehended in profound philosophical thought, while at the same time intelligently stating their opposition to the very systems that produced those works.

    A quick review of my post reveals the presence of sarcasm. I've no idea how that slipped in. Sorry, everyone.

    1. I shouldn't worry about it too much: I've seen a lot more sarcasm than your show! Besides, it's hard to disagree with what you say here.