There is no space provided for readers’ comments on the British Jesuits’ website, where members of the Society of Jesus can evidently preach to their flock without fear of interruption. They evidently prefer a one-way traffic of ideas. “Six feet above contradiction” as we used to joke in the C. of E. when a parson up in a pulpit made some particularly contentious statement. Well, this is a Christian/atheist blog, so I shall comment here on P. K. Knott’s piece “Godtalk: atheism and belief”, delivered on 31/3/2016 and readable in full at jesuit.org.uk.
This online sermon is quite short, but even in the limited space available the writer’s thinking in quite convoluted. He manages to repeat himself and contradict himself several times over in a few short paragraphs. I hope the use of the term “Godtalk” in his title doesn’t imply that God is talking through him or we’d all better take cover: if the creator and sustainer of the universe is this confused, it’s definitely time to get worried! The question crept into my mind: “Is the writer male or female?” Then I recollected “It’s the Jesuits, stupid, how could PKK be a woman?” I suppose we should have pity on them, even encourage them, as they are almost an extinct species, and in spite of their checkered past, I think it would be a shame if the Jesuits were to actually die out.
Astonishingly, Knott starts by conceding the atheist case, admitting that
– God cannot be captured in our thoughts,
– God cannot be pictured inside our imaginations,
– All language about God is inadequate;
Wow, way to go Mr Jesuit, we’ll have you in the atheist camp yet! You won’t be the first, and you certainly won’t be the last. You describe God as ‘ineffable’, why not just admit that he’s ‘absent’?
In spite of the above list, the writer is sufficiently sure of his ground to affirm that, nevertheless, God is
– a person without a body,
– able to do anything,
– creator and sustainer of the universe,
And, we can know him.
(No surprises there. I won’t go into the subject of “If God is all powerful, why does he allow…(make your own list)”)
Then comes a catch-all phrase, a sleight of hand, a conjuring trick so that he can ridicule atheists. He even uses the word “conjure”. Knott says that God is every aspect of every thing. Precisely what that means he doesn’t say, because it is not an evidence-based claim, it’s wishful thinking. It’s a working hypothesis abandoned by most people long ago.
Atheists apparently have an “incapacity” to imagine the existence of an omnipresent God. This is in spite of Knott’s earlier claim that “God cannot be pictured inside our imagination”. He blatantly contradicts this point of view a couple of sentences later when he describes a “religious high”, whatever that is, as being when we have a strong imaginative sense of God’s reality. This is the opposite of when he, Knott, “lies in bed and cannot conjure up (sic) any feeling that God exists.” This he attributes to a weak imagination. It sounds like he’s a closet atheist at these times.
Well, either God can feature in our imaginations or he can’t. You can’t have it both ways. As one of the despised atheists in question I should like to suggest that God is merely a product of the human imagination and has no objective existence at all. Perhaps if Mr Knott spent longer in bed he might lose the “feeling that God exists” altogether and adopt a more rationalist viewpoint.
The confusion, self-contradiction and lack of logic in this sermon are quite staggering. That’s why I have chosen to call this Post “Jesuit mumbo-jumbo.”