Rationalizing the same God
January 16, 2016 § 108 Comments
Without getting into a full blown theory of language – as something expressed in language itself, a full blown theory of language may be intrinsically problematic, at least qua something expressed in language – I will simply observe that we often use words to refer to things out there in reality.
When we refer to a thing out there in reality using language, what we are doing is similar to pointing our finger at a bird, or a rock, a tree, another person, some numbers in a ledger, a book, a diagram, etc. We are concretely acting, using our material corporeal faculties, in order to assist another person in seeing or perceiving the objective thing to which we refer.
In this sense it is manifest that Christians and Mohammedans are both referring to God when we use our various words for God. The notion that monotheists refer to two different gods when they each use their various words for God is self contradictory. Referring to a thing is not the same as asserting a complete or even partial theory of the thing to which one refers. When I say “What the Hell is that?” I am referring to something or other by ‘that’: something or other about which I may know very little, and about which I may well have very mistaken beliefs or perceptions.
The question ‘do we worship the same God‘ is therefore malformed, because the emphasis is on the objective referent of ‘God’ not on the meaning of ‘worship’. The phrase ‘the same God’, understood as a reference used by monotheists, contains the contradictory notion within it that there might be more-than-one only-one God. Every monotheist necessarily refers to God when he uses his word for God.
So asking ‘do Christians and Mohammedans worship the same God?’ asserts a contradiction and then asks what follows from that contradiction. It is no surprise to find that people disagree over what follows based on their own extrinsic commitments and biases. Anyone who reads here regularly should realize by now that a contradiction implies everything and its opposite all at once, and when people reach various conclusions from contradictory premises what they are really doing is rationalizing: presenting a putative justification for something which they believe or assert for reasons entirely extrinsic to the doctrine which they are invoking to justify that belief or assertion.
To rationalize is to present arguments for a belief or assert rhetoric in favor of a belief apart from the actual reasons for a belief. Rationalization is a kind of lie: it proposes that we should believe Q because of P when P is not an actual reason to believe Q; or that we did Q because of P when P was not actually the reason we did Q. Rationalization proposes, as true, an actually false causal relation between P and Q.
A truthful, non-rationalizing answer to the question ‘do Christians and Mohammedans worship the same God’ is that the question is self contradictory. A more interesting question is ‘do both Christians and Mohammedans actually worship God?’
Modern people are post cartesian subjectivists/materialists, so when we use a term like ‘worship’ we tend to retreat to the purely subjective. What defines ‘worship’ in these discussions tends to be the purely subjective intentions (begging the question in favor of strict post cartesian dualism) of the person doing the ‘worshiping’. If the person thinks that his actions, including his acting by praying in a certain manner, constitute ‘worship’ in the requisite sense, well then that is ‘worship’.
But there is only one sufficient way to worship God: the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Other people, including non-Catholic Christians, may well ‘worship’ God in a sense. And if they are baptized they belong to the communion of those actually worshiping whether they themselves believe it or not — there is that distinction between subjective belief and objective reality, again.
However just because something is labeled ‘worship’ it does not follow that it has the objective qualities essential to worship. Defective worship may still be worship in a sense, just as a play-acted wedding is a wedding in a sense. A merciful Father may well generously treat something that is not actually worship as though it actually were worship. Or He may not.
But there is certainly a sense – the most important sense – in which play-acted worship is not really, objectively, worship.