The Big Metaphor in the Sky

WolfinWolfsClothing's picture

I avoid using metaphoric non-entities like 'spiritual' as much as possible -- they connote nothing, and are well defined as such. By using terms like this to describe qualitative states/experiences, we lend credence to their LITERAL being, due to the fact that a large percent of those we are talking to (mistakenly) classify the 'spirit' as an actual, extant entity. We have plenty of language to use that does not evoke such non-sequitors and misguided inference on the part of the audience -- as a rule (and as a rational mind) avoid pitfalls such as 'spiritual'.

Mind you, this is when speaking in rational terms -- and as an atheist and rationalist, I tend to default to this mode of communication when expressing myself and particularly when broaching subject matter that may be mistakenly interpreted as literal.

Stick to the concrete for accuracy -- if you are getting poetic, let your imagination and linguistic latitude makes for better expression than, say, a DVD manual.

I encounter this problem constantly in my various dealings with irrational (religious/spiritual) minds --they seem to have difficulty (or lack the will to) discern metaphor from concrete. Take the definitions used for the supposed 'spirit' we are supposed to all posses:

1. The inner light
2. The soul
3. The Ka
4. A tongue of flame
5. A ghost/shade/spectre/phantom/poltergiest

as you can see -- and as Descartes failed to -- all we have are metaphors defining metaphors. There is no concrete qualitative, or physical state/entity defined. This is much along the lines of circular logic, but of course, the religious mind is used to such contradiction and paradox. Take another example...God:

1. The Father
2. The Creator
3. The King
4. The Great Spirit
5. He who Is
6. Lord
7. Eternal being
8. The Giver of Life
9. Begotten
10. Yahweh
11. et cetera

While all of these seem to describe an actual entity in the poetic sense of description, they connote nothing, and all simply point to each other as a clarification of definition. Put conversationally, we might overhear this:

ATHEIST: "What is God?"

THEIST: "He is the creator of the universe."

ATHEIST: "No -- I didn't ask you what 'he' has done, I asked you what it is. What is it comprised of? What physical properties does it exhibit?"

THEIST: "God is the eternal being; and his comprehension is beyond that of man's limited faculty."

(Note: The theist, upon being pressed, has already regressed to a position of Agnosticism -- claiming that god is beyond man's comprehension)

ATHEIST: "If he is beyond man's comprehension, then how can you know that he exists? Aren't these two things mutually exclusive?"

THEIST: "Wha...?"

ATHEIST: "Think about it. If I told you that an invisible pink unicorn exists, and that I was sure of it, but I couldn't point to anything tangible that the term 'invisible pink unicorn' was tied to -- just a bunch of metaphors and aphorisms that are logically equivalent to simply saying 'invisible pink unicorn', would you believe me?"

THEIST: *head explodes*

The point is this: Stick to the concrete when describing things in a concrete way -- when someone asks you 'what exactly do you mean by ___?', then reference actual existing entities in your description. Look -- poetry is fine with me, and yes, creative and imaginative descriptions improve our society (what the hell was TS Elliot talking about when he wrote of ragged claws scuttling across the shores of silent seas, anyway?), but if you are CLAIMING THAT A NON-ENTITY EXISTS, AND CAN'T POINT TO ANY DIRECT, CONCRETE DESCRIPTION OF SUCH AN ENTITY, THEN MAYBE YOU SHOULD RETHINK YOUR CLAIM, YOU LITTLE MATHEMETICIAN.


--Louis Repucci

Louis Repucci