To somewhat continue my over-arching theme, in the spirit of unoriginality, there is an often mentioned distinction among critics of theism which nevertheless is frequently forgotten. Perhaps because to keep it in mind at all times would prevent a great deal of soapbox mounting (a favoured activity, since we never forget that, as we necessarily see the world from our perspective, we believe ourselves to be its centre). This largely occurs because it is an axiomatic step which, once passed, makes little difference to the apparent nature of a debate. However, once passed, the debaters may not entirely be discussing the same thing.

The distinction is one of exactly what one is concerned with when discussing why one is or is not a theist. My own concern is almost exclusively ontological or metaphysical: I am concerned with the nature of the world and what constitutes it. Which is not to say the other side, that of the social/moral/psychological nature or implications of the debate are of no interest, simply that they are entirely secondary. For many others, of course, those for whom personal revelation, political expediency, or social cowardice are significant, the order is reversed.

If the distinction is not acknowledged (and it is a crude, non-exhaustive distinction, merely to flesh out two obvious sides) then meaningful discussion is curtailed if not rendered impossible. In debate with someone convinced that religion underpins morality, such that society would degenerate with the rise of atheism and secularism, my overawing concern that the consequences of this are at least moot if not irrelevant next to the priority of understanding how the world is constituted probably seems jaw-droppingly obtuse. Life and society have an immediacy to them, after all.

To me, of course, the idea that people would commit to potent and consequential judgements affecting people up to and including the level of their life’s value, without first having taken arduous steps to come to a reasonable and evidence-based understanding, as best we have and can, about the nature of the world, is at least equally obtuse. Further, though, one could claim an obvious sense in which those who are not ontology/empiricism-driven are far more likely to succumb to error, this might also have to be done on the basis of evidence. And, while this contention is amusing enough to risk raising a mouth’s corner, it can be pointlessly countered.

Finally, I essentially lied above, in saying what my exclusive concern was. Atop my own soapbox, speaking to the world of which I am the centre, I simply prefer a heavier-duty bludgeon to back up my own revelations when challenged. As for each of us, they are simply right, because they are ours.


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