Successful reference and the Flying Spaghetti Monster

January 20, 2016 § 72 Comments

The Flying Spaghetti Monster is a reference to God. Indeed that is its very point: to craft a blasphemous and silly concept of God as a rhetorical way of trying to justify disbelief in Him. It wouldn’t be blasphemy if it weren’t referencing God.

I think there are a lot of people who are successfully referencing God who will be, in the long run, quite surprised at the consequences of their success in referencing God.

§ 72 Responses to Successful reference and the Flying Spaghetti Monster

  • Chad says:

    As for your second part of the response; I don’t see how someone saying that God is an orange in front of me does not successfully reference God while falsely ascribing all His aspects to the orange. The same is true of the made up spaghetti monster. It can reference God correctly, while applying aspects of Him to the wrong being.

    This is a sin of not giving God His due glory and an attempt of theft of God’s aspects/worship to apply them to a created thing.

    Man, as you say, should rightly fear the repercussions of such. Seeing that we cannot take from God’s glory, I shudder to think of what punishment would fall to right the injustice and insolence given to God in the act

  • Zippy says:

    Chad:

    …successfully reference God while falsely ascribing all His aspects to the orange …

    What you are doing here is changing the subject, or really opening a new subject after conceding the point which has thus far been in contention. The claim being addressed is the claim that Mohammedans are not referencing God when they use the word ‘God’ (or Allah).

    That Mohammedans are indeed and truly referencing God when they talk about God is a substantively trivial point — as I and other commenters have said over and over again — at least with respect to the politics/ecumenism of the question (which appears to be what motivates most of the discussion). Certainly other perhaps more substantive discussion could follow. But the refusal to concede that point on the part of some folks is precisely what the discussion has been about thus far (in my case because of its implications with respect to metaphysical realism more generally).

    [Chad: I updated this comment to clarify that ‘the point’ referred not to a point of yours specifically, but to the point in contention in the discussion thus far. – Z]

  • Chad says:

    Zippy,
    Maybe it being such a trivial point is what led to my comments. I do concede that they reference God in the use of the word Allah. I would also say that their successful use of the reference ascribed aspects of God to a false being, idol, or simply nothing.

    Those arguing over the first part of those two statements, I would say, are mistaken. From what I’ve seen of comment threads here and at Edward Fessers, they may be so confused that they’re conflating the two arguments together. Thus, it did not seem off topic to myself, though I can understand it being so to yourself or anyone that does not see them being so…. muddy in their distinctions and thus muddleheaded due to them thinking saying the first is conceding the second

  • Zippy says:

    Chad:

    I would also say that their successful use of the reference ascribed aspects of God to a false being, idol, or simply nothing.

    It isn’t possible to ascribe real properties to literally nothing, non-being. An orange is not literally nothing, and some weird sect might think that God became Orange in some kind of incarnation or transubstantiation. As usual, the existence of weird and perverse imaginary or real examples doesn’t call into question the clear cases; and in the case of Islam, Mohammedans are clearly referencing God in their theology.

    If Mohammedans were attributing the real properties of God to some different real thing that is not God, we ourselves could identify the real thing to which they are attributing God’s properties by picking it out of their theology. That is what idolatry is, and that is not what is taking place here. Mohammedans have not misidentified God by mistaking an orange or a golden calf for God – if they had, we’d be able to show where they have done this in their theology, and identify the specific idol.

    Given that Mohammedans do reference God in their theology, the things they predicate of God are things that they predicate of God. Islamic theology is a theology about God: a perverse and false theology.

  • Chad says:

    Thank you for pointing out that it can’t be of nothing. I left it inthere as a theoretical, which turned out to be wrong as demonstrated.

    As to what being they worship….. My own personal opinion (it is informed but not enough to state it as a belief or fact) is that they worship Satan through their revelation being given to them by an angel of light – Lucifer. The remaining amount of uncertainty is why I desired to show the theoretical possibility first, and discuss that.

    But if a correct reference to God leading to ascribing/worshipping the incorrect being is possible (as demonstrated), this certainly could follow (though not necessarily)

  • Zippy says:

    Chad:

    My own personal opinion (it is informed but not enough to state it as a belief or fact) is that they worship Satan through their revelation being given to them by an angel of light – Lucifer.

    That isn’t what their theology says. Even if the Alcoran was dictated to Mohammed by a fallen angel (a possibility I also consider quite real), they call that angel “Gabriel” in their theology and do not refer to either that angel or the ‘prophet’ Mahomet as God.

    When they say God, they are referring to God.

    if a correct reference to God leading to ascribing/worshipping the incorrect being is possible (as demonstrated)

    I must be confused about what has been demonstrated, because I don’t think that has been demonstrated. Reference merely establishes what we are talking about or referring to — as in the OP, the FSM is a (blasphemous) reference to God. A caricature references the person or thing caricatured; blasphemy references that which is blasphemed; mischaracterization references that which is mischaracterized; etc etc. An understanding of reference which does not allow for the person referencing to be wrong about the thing referenced is nonsensical, because it would follow that we can’t ever refer to things about which we have wrong ideas.

    But (what we are calling) reference does in fact establish what we are referring to: that is what reference means. So this idea that Mohammedans can simultaneously be referring to God and not referring to God is a non-starter.

  • Zippy says:

    A natural follow up would be to say OK, that kind of theory of reference is obviously wrong. So how about a correct theory of reference – what would that look like?

    But that question would be conceding the point under contention and opening a new discussion, now that the point under contention has been resolved: yes, Mohammedans do in fact refer to God when they talk about God in their theology. So what now?

  • Chad says:

    Zippy
    My apologies, I thought it was apparent. If a man is able to successfully reference triangles when talking about a square in front of him, he both references triangles as well as the square in front of him (if not the concept of squares as well).

    This holds over to God. If my example of a man calling an orange a God, did not successfully reference each of those, you would not have been able to respond, as you’d have no point of reference.

    So, while Muslims can be shown to reference God, they can also falsely reference a being other than God, and do so with the same action. The only thing they cannot do, as you demonstrated, is reference nothing. Your statement of it being a non-starter is only true if by “not referring to God” you believe me saying either a self contradictory or to say they reference nothing. I have shown the first is wrong and agree the second would be false.

    So, while they reference God, they also may reference something other than God, and in my opinion they do.

  • Zippy says:

    Chad:

    That is basically a repeat of an example already discussed extensively in the other thread.

  • Chad says:

    Zippy
    So are you denying that, when pointing at a square and calling it a triangle, both the concept of triangle and the square pointed at would be correctly referenced by our hypothetical man?

  • Zippy says:

    Chad:

    As best as I can tell, you are equivocating between categories and particulars.

    In order to incorrectly categorize a particular square as a triangle, you have to (“succesfully”, as they say in the philosophy on this subject) refer to the particular square which you are miscategorizing.

  • I don’t think the FSM dolts successfully reference God. In the City of God, St. Augustine held that Varro, who was basically a pantheist, did not successfully refer to God, and his concept of God was at least close to monotheism, the FSM people are just incoherent.

  • Zippy says:

    I think people have very strange ideas about referring to things, as if there were some mountain to climb in order to successfully do it. You can’t mock people for believing in something – even if they deserve the mockery – without referring to the thing they believe in.

  • Chad says:

    Zippy,
    I’m not sure if you’re seeing that it can apply for anything referenced, as I’ve attempted to demonstrate over multiple comments between the threads.

    If a man tells a class he is going to go over the laws of triangles, and spouts out the laws of squares believing them to be triangles, he is successfully referring to each – for the laws of squares really do exist, as do triangles. However, he is misapplying aspects they both have in common (corners, sides, area, etc) with their real differences.

    In the same way, a confused man who points at an orange and says its God refrences both. Or, if he says the essence of orange is the essence of God, he also refrences both. In your example you linked, you seem to forget that the man who says a motorcycle runs on the flatulence of Asmodeus does, as you say, reference gasoline; yet neglect he also refrences flatulence and another being.

    So, a successful reference to God by muslims does not show that they do not reference something else at the same time. Nor does it show that the primary thing they reference (the orange in the above example) is in fact God. All you have shown is that some nebulous part of their references has been to God.

  • Zippy says:

    Chad:
    You have replaced a very pointy headed and sparse theory of reference with a very promiscuous one, it seems to me. If idolizing oranges and categorizing squares as triangles lets you say what you want to say about Mohammedans, well, then brillig farf snarfoggikin floof prin blurk slorp.

  • DeNihilist says:

    And you do know that more and more it is legal to get your drivers licence photo done with a colander strapped to your head, so long as you are a Pastafarian.

  • Zippy says:

    DeNihilst:

    I don’t think the colander you are referencing is the True Colander.

  • Zippy says:

    Chad:

    Just to make my point clear (though it seems as though I might as well be typing jabberwocky, for all the mutual comprehension that is taking place, as this is far from the first time I’ve made it): you are still conflating categorization/characterization – and, equivocally, ‘reference’ to categories – with reference to a particular actual thing. You are using the word ‘refer’ not just with respect to the particular actual thing to which we are referring, but to (mis)classification, (mis)categorization, etc.

    Wherever I say “reference”, you should interpret that to mean ‘reference to a particular’. A particular real thing, not category of things.

    That equivocation is what all of the insane ‘descriptive theory of reference’ sorts do. These theories fail to distinguish between making reference to a particular actual thing and description, viewing the former, circularly, as some sort of exercise in sufficiently carrying out the latter.Then argument goes on interminably over what is and is not a description sufficient enough to have accomplished reference to a particular. If the description is sufficient it results in ‘successful’ reference, and we know that it is sufficient because it resulted in ‘successful’ reference. So arbitrary conflict over what is ‘sufficient’ in the description ensues.

    Whether or not we have a great theory of reference ourselves, it is clear that that kind of theory of reference is circular.

  • Zippy says:

    And if we are having a discussion based on a circular descriptive theory of reference we might as well not bother. It is like carrying on a discussion in Jabberwocky.

  • Chad says:

    Zippy
    When I say, “essence of orange” that is a particular. The same with the definitions of any geometrical object. There is only one real thing for those, even if they are not a material thing (in fact, largely because they are not a material thing, in the same way we know each soul is unable to be duplicated due to the fact that the matter it informs would be identical).

    Categorization only occurs if I am trying to say if something adheres to an essence or counts as a triangle, square, etc. Something that I certainly did not bring up.

    As you said, references are easy to make. An individual reference to a thing is easy. What is hard is to determine the composition of individual references a single action may make.

    But you seem to want it both ways – that the flatulence of Asmodeus references gas and yet, somehow, not flatulence nor Asmodeus. In which case the statement would be a random assortment of words, unable to be parsed by anyone. And yet we know what you reference.

    To claim references do not work this way would destroy any use of allegory or parable to reference God. They reference God and give us knowledge of him specifically because they also make reference to things other than God that our created minds can grasp.

    So, again, showing that Muslims make reference to God does not show they reference nothing but God. Nor does it show that they are not ascribing the glory of God to a created thing; much like our confused motorcyclists are ascribing the properties of gasoline to the flatulence of Asmodeus.

  • Zippy says:

    Chad:

    When I say, “essence of orange” that is a particular. The same with the definitions of any geometrical object.

    Not in the sense meant here. The essence of orange is not a particular orange.

  • GJ says:

    Zippy:

    I think people have very strange ideas about referring to things, as if there were some mountain to climb in order to successfully do it.

    It’s so difficult, you see, to pierce the phenomena-noumena barrier that our conception must be so right to achieve it.

    And we Christians can be so confident that we know enough about God to successfully refer to Him despite Paul emphasising in 1 Corinthians that we don’t know all that much.

  • It just occurred to me that [an assumed monotheistic] Pastafarianism might actually be a less problematic example than Islam is with respect to this “the same God” stuff.

    The latter has a great deal of content, and the former almost none. If their assertion is that differences of opinion about characteristics implies a failure to reference the same entity when using the same name, then Pastafarianism gives them almost no differences of opinion to work with. Islam at least says that God can’t be a Trinity; Pastafarianism makes no such claims.

    That’s the whole point, actually: The main specific difference between the FSM and a certain form of creationist God is the Noodly Appendage.

  • Zippy says:

    Jake:

    The latter has a great deal of content, and the former almost none.

    Underneath this there may be lurking the antimatter to the matter of descriptive theories of reference.

    In descriptive theories of reference you can’t succeed in referring to a thing unless you present a sufficient description of what it really is. How do we know that the description is sufficient? Why, because it succeeds in referring to the thing in question, of course!

    In the mirror image, reference fails when you assert enough wrong things about the thing to which you are referring. How do we know that we’ve reached the critical mass of incorrect characterization required to break reference? Why, because reference has been broken!

    Of course, if we aren’t really referring to it anymore then how can we be mischaracterizing it?

    The outcome here, of course, is “this is a fundamental problem with descriptivist theory” not “here is a replacement theory of reference to fill the void left by the descriptivist cancer we’ve just excised from our thoughts.”

  • Zippy says:

    GJ:

    It’s so difficult, you see, to pierce the phenomena-noumena barrier that our conception must be so right to achieve it.

    Yes — moderns are quite literally out of touch with reality because of their (sometimes explicit but usually implicit) metaphysical priors.

  • c matt says:

    If a man tells a class he is going to go over the laws of triangles, and spouts out the laws of squares believing them to be triangles, he is successfully referring to each – for the laws of squares really do exist, as do triangles. However, he is misapplying aspects they both have in common (corners, sides, area, etc) with their real differences.

    But his referent remains “Laws of Triangles” – that is the object of the talk he gives, even though the content of it is the law of squares. He still thinks, and he is still referring to the Law of Triangles, although he gets it wrong. In fact, if his referent was not the law of triangles, but the law of squares, his talk would be accurate in your example.

  • Mike T says:

    The Gnostics accused us of worshiping the demiurgos under the mistaken notion that the demiurgos is the supreme creator. So we have that argument for Islam as well. They may say their Allah is God, but it is possible to hold the thought that the being you are referencing is God when in objective reality it is really Satan, the Demiurgos, etc.

  • Why do we care what the Gnostics thought? They were wrong about the nature of God; I don’t see why I am forced to believe that they were right about some other problem.

  • Mike T says:

    Well for starters because just pointing to an alleged deity and saying “yeah yeah, I worship the supreme creator too” doesn’t make that true for the simple fact that we have to examine that which you are labeling with your words.

  • Mike T says:

    Jake,

    Thought experiment:

    Satan appears to a backward pagan people with a coterie of demons who masquerade as their household and tribal gods. Satan proceeds to humiliate them in front of the people and claim that he is God and they are his wayward creations.

    Satan proceeds to teach them “Satanism” which is a fairly twisted version of Judaism that has enough good in it left to not be obviously wrong.

    A Christian missionary shows up and teaches them about our religion and debates with them.

    Question: as a factual matter, do they worship the same deity as us?

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:

    The Gnostics accused us of worshiping the demiurgos under the mistaken notion that the demiurgos is the supreme creator.

    That is because they were polytheists: that is, they denied the existence of God. Polytheists and atheists don’t believe in God. To them God is not actual, he is merely a character in a story like Gandalf. Folks who insist that Mohammedans and other monotheists aren’t even referring to God when they say “God” are themselves treating God as though He were nothing but a character in a fictional story.

  • Zippy says:

    If merely referring to God at all were anywhere near as difficult as so many are making it out to be, and if incorrect understanding of doctrine were so easily capable of breaking reference, then no child or person with a low IQ or whatever could ever manage to pray to God. They would be intrinsically incapable of succeeding in even making reference to God and would always be praying to some sort of imagined idol or storybook character.

    We could have a contest to name this concept of such a difficult-to-even-reference God. “God of the storytellers” or “God of the solipsists” or something, a concept of God for people so wrapped up in their own minds that they can’t tell the difference between fiction and reality.

  • Chad says:

    C matt
    Fine. If you want to call other references “objects” for an arbitrary reason, thats fine. Under your reasoning I could say the Muslims reference God while the object they’re talking about is Lucifer.

    I fail to see what you’re trying to accomplish by changing multiple reference to one being a reference, one an object.

  • Zippy says:

    If I say “Chad is a turnip” I am referencing Chad and mischaracterizing him. As long as Chad fails to recognize the distinction between referencing and characterization, though, discussing this subject with Chad will be approximately as productive as discussing it with a turnip.

  • Mike T says:

    That is because they were polytheists: that is, they denied the existence of God.

    Having read a good chunk of gnostic scripture about a decade ago, I think that is an incorrect characterization of their views.

    Folks who insist that Mohammedans and other monotheists aren’t even referring to God when they say “God” are themselves treating God as though He were nothing but a character in a fictional story.

    That’s why I proposed the “thought experiment.” If the devil were to effectively masquerade as God to ignorant people and set up a religion for his purposes, the people would be in a weird state in which they are both intending to reference the supreme creator (God), but are factually following Satan in their worship and lives.

    So as a formal matter it would be inaccurate to call Muslims devil worshipers, but the entire metaphysical structure of their religion from its supposed revelation, to its rituals is oriented to something other than God. He may be truly a monotheist and believe that the being he references is the Father, and that may be his intent, but the being he is factually serving is not the creator.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:
    Welcome aboard.

  • Mike T says:

    The fact is that Mohamed was visited by a spirit that gave him spiritual teachings that denied the divinity of Christ. The Apostles are unambiguous that such a spirit is a demon, not an angel of God. So the most charitable thing you can say about Islam is that it “merely slanders God.” However, if you take a less charitable outlook you could also conclude that the character of Allah it describes bears a far better resemblance to the devil than the creator.

  • Mike T says:

    Welcome aboard.

    ?

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:
    The entire controversy is not about the structure of the Islamic religion, where its revelation came from, etc. Everything you say about that is completely, utterly beside the point. Nobody is actually arguing about those things. The descriptivists keep raising those things as a distraction from what is actually in contention.
    The controversy is over whether or not Mohammedans actually are referring to God. You crossed the line into conceding that they in fact are when you said

    …the people would be in a weird state in which they are both intending to reference the supreme creator (God)…

    When Moslems refer to God they are in fact referring to God. That is all and entirely what has been at issue.
    So welcome aboard.

  • Mike T says:

    Actually the issue at hand is whether we worship the same God, not reference the same God. At least if your post is in any way in reference to the one on W4 (timing and all that).

    And on the matter of worship, that is a tricky thing because facts matter as much as intent. If a man claims Moloch is the One True Creator and sincerely believes it, to the point of being a “monotheist for Moloch,” he is still factually worshiping Moloch instead of the Creator.

    Islam is a masterful delusion in that respect because, examined through Christian eyes, it so clearly is utterly satanic yet manages to successfully blur the line between slandering God and putting the devil in God’s place.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:
    You might want to go back several posts and re-read what I already said about worship, and the phrase “worship the same God”, in my first post on this subject. Because it seems like you are going on as if we haven’t already discussed these things several posts and hundreds of comments ago.

  • Mike T says:

    I probably should 🙂

    On that note, I will just add that we can probably agree at least that the ordinary man’s purpose in asserting that we worship the same God is not in service to the truth, but to avoid having to judge which vision of God is actually true.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:
    Search the comment threads for the term “ecumaniac”.

  • Mike T says:

    They don’t call you zippy for nothing.

  • If the devil were to effectively masquerade as God to ignorant people and set up a religion for his purposes, the people would be in a weird state in which they are both intending to reference the supreme creator (God), but are factually following Satan in their worship and lives.

    So as a formal matter it would be inaccurate to call Muslims devil worshipers, but the entire metaphysical structure of their religion from its supposed revelation, to its rituals is oriented to something other than God. He may be truly a monotheist and believe that the being he references is the Father, and that may be his intent, but the being he is factually serving is not the creator.

    Pretty much! The object of their worship is God, but what they *do* can be utterly wrong because what they believe about the creator is wrong. Which is why the whole argument is kind of a smile on a dog — the answer doesn’t change what we should do or why.

  • Mike T says:

    The object of their worship is God, but what they *do* can be utterly wrong because what they believe about the creator is wrong.

    The way I see it, there are two facets that must be considered:

    1. What they intend to worship.
    2. What they factually worship.

    It is clear that Muslims intend to worship God. What is not clear is that the deity they identify through their religion is the actual creator. For Christians, the factual aspect is problematic because apostolic teaching on spirits that communicate with us and that deny Jesus Christ. The “angel” in the cave denied the divinity of Christ. It stands to reason therefore that the best thing can be said about Islam is that it slanders God gravely. The worst is that it slap’s God’s name on Satan and elevates him to the position of creator in a kind of Wizard of Oz kind of fashion.

    To me, that is what makes the issue so tricky and the ecumenical “we all worship the same God!” shrieking so wrong-headed.

  • Chad says:

    Zippy,
    I think we’ve gotten off track – mainly due to my exploration of ramifications (as I see them) of your laws of reference as expressed. I agree that Muslim’s reference God, I simply don’t see any but arbitrary reasons why they would not reference more than God – as far as I can tell my views are in line with Mike’s sentence: “Islam is a masterful delusion in that respect because, examined through Christian eyes, it so clearly is utterly satanic yet manages to successfully blur the line between slandering God and putting the devil in God’s place.”

    I’d lean towards the second for the average Muslim, but with the former for educated theologians/philosophers of theirs that certainly do understand some aspects of God.

    Anyways, my comments to date have been attempts at exploring both the ramifications of my own thoughts on it, as well as your stated positions. At this point I need to step back and think the matter through – I think by narrowing down on the term reference I lost sight of Object – in that the object Muslims may be speaking on could be Lucifer, but the references they’re making while speaking about it are God.

    Thank you for your patience to date, and your conversation.

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:

    The way I see it, there are two facets that must be considered:

    1. What they intend to worship.
    2. What they factually worship.

    Then you still see it wrong.

    You should really stop using the word ‘worship’, because that isn’t even what the dispute is about. And you are still confused about the question of reference, because you keep conflating it with worship (or ‘worship’), with the origins of Moslem beliefs and practices, and with actual Moslem beliefs and practices. All of those things (other than the bare monotheism) are irrelevant to the question of reference.

    When a Moslem says “Praise be to God” right before beheading the infidel, he is in fact referring to God in that statement. It isn’t that he intends to refer to God but really refers to something else. Reference to something real – and God is as real as it gets – doesn’t work that way. He really does refer to God in that statement.

    That fact about reference doesn’t say anything about whether what he is doing actually praises God, etc. He may indeed be following instructions recited to Mohammed by a demon when he beheads infidels in the name of God. But he is still referring to God, not to the ‘angel in the cave’, when he says “Praise be to God”.

    Now, the fact that he is referring to God when he praises God right before beheading the infidel doesn’t really imply much of anything practically important as far as we are concerned, when it comes to figuring out how to get along or not with Mohammedans. And I’ll just suggest that it isn’t at all clear that the objective blasphemy involved redounds to his benefit, such that if it were actually idolatry that would be better for him morally or whatever. As far as the substantive matters that have people all het up are concerned this whole issue is, as Jake said, a smile on a dog.

    But the explicit or implicit theories of reference that folks are invoking in order to say that he is not referring to God are important, because they are part of the anti-realist insanity of modernity and people really ought to take the infrared pill and get the anti-realist nonsense out of their systems.

  • I think your choice of “worship” and “serve” is helpful here.

    It is clear that Muslims intend to worship God.

    Then they do.

    If they are worshiping X, then they must refer to X; “Praise to you” where “you” doesn’t refer to anything is not praise at all.

    If they intend to refer to X, then they are referring to X. “Praise to you, almighty creator” is a reference to the almighty creator.

    So as long as we’re agreed that their intended reference to the almighty creator is an actual reference to the almighty creator, their intended worship of the almighty creator is, in fact, directed toward the almighty creator.

    But does it serve the almighty creator?

    If they intend to worship the creator when they say, “Praise to you, almighty creator. I offer this child as blood sacrifice in your name,” then they do worship the creator, but they certainly do not serve him.

    Unless I’m mistaken, this is, in fact, a worse horror than I had previously realized: God actually can get genuine sacrifices of children, offered to him, through genuine worship, directed at him, by people in the service of Satan. I don’t know if I can imagine a more ghastly perversion of worship.

    I really feel gross now.

  • Zippy says:

    Jake:

    I’ve suggested a number of times now that the fact that Mohammedans successfully refer to God might make their concrete actions (or some of their concrete actions, in particular their abominable actions) worse than if they were not successfully referring to God.

    But if anyone did notice I don’t think anyone has actually commented on the suggestion.

  • I suppose that if I were really paying attention I would know that. 🙂 But yes, I can absolutely see how that would be worse. The realization just now was a bit of a shock.

  • DeNihilist says:

    So Zippy, are you stating that as a Pastafarian, the colander that adorns my noggin is nothing but a finger pointing to the True Colander? That though I cleanse my sacred pasta through said colander, it is only a metal object that signifies a greater colander? Are you trying to say, that though I worship my colander thrice weekly, I am not worshiping the same colander as the Petulant Refried Bean Deity?

  • Alex says:

    I think the issue here might be that people may still be thinking that this is a nomenclature issue. That when the Alcoran describes “Allah”, it is really describing the devil with the addition of factually wrong ideas, such as him being the creator of the universe. For instance, if I and everyone in my city called eggplants “potatoes” and I told my father “I am going to make potato parmesan tonight.”, there wouldn’t really be a reference to potatoes. We would just be using a different name for them, and a name is just an accidental property.

    There are two issues here, however. First, the Alcoran ascribes to Allah with capacities that are essential of God. Only God can be the creator of the universe, not anyone else. Because of that, we can say that it definitely references God, even if it was confusing Him with the devil.

    Second, it is actually really hard to argue that the Alcoran is confusing God with the devil, and not just ascribing to him false properties or ideas. To know if that was the case, we would need to have some kind of substantial knowledge about him, and I don’t think anyone in this world knows him like that.

  • King Richard says:

    I have come late to this party as it frankly baffles me that it is controversial.
    Ask a Jew what God is and he will say some variation of
    “The unique creator of the universe”.
    Ask a Christian what God is and he will say some variation of
    “The unique creator of the universe”.
    Ask a Muslim what God is and he will say some variation of
    “The unique creator of the universe”.
    Talk to theologians of the various religions and there will be differences in a number of areas but at the core more agreement than you might think, which boils down to ‘unique creator of the universe’.
    Ask some bright 12 year olds of each faith who have received routine religious education and there will be differences, some errors on theological points, but at the heart they will say ‘the unique creator of the universe’.

    You might think the moon is made of cheese.
    Bob might think it is a dragon’s egg.
    Sally might think it is a mirror.
    They are all still referring to the moon.

  • Patrick says:

    I think it’s 100% a mind trick. I recognize the truth of it, but my mind still rebels and tries not to understand. If everything you see or know or believe is a concept, then of course God is going to be a concept. And if you as a Christian believe that Truth exists and believe what the Church teaches, then you’ll think, “well, two contradictory concepts can’t both be true, so the God of Islam isn’t God, but a false concept. MY God-concept is true because the Church says God is a Trinity. But you don’t say it that way because, in your mind, concepts are reality, not concepts, so you don’t even acknowledge them as concepts. You speed past that and start arguing. Other people are talking about reality, but you’re talking about concepts.

  • GJ says:

    Part of the problem is the damned ‘but how is it relevant to us???’ attitude towards theology (and exegesis) that is spreading uncontrollably.

    No need to carefully consider ideas about language, identity or reference (or context) but we must get something that is relevant to our lives, and quickly! We need something to distinguish Us Good True Believers from Them, the Heathens!

    Everyman is impatient, and many learned pander to them, and the cycle repeats.

  • KR,

    That has been my impression as well. The discussion has baffled me. This seems very straightforward to me.

  • GJ says:

    malcolmthecynic:

    I have been musing over this for a while, and I believe it is primarily a Protestant problem. The need for a fast, easy, and quick distinction between True Believers and Heathens is ecclesiological, and Protestants tend to have relatively terrible ecclesiology (I say this as a Protestant), which is why the Catholics seem to have fewer or no problems with the question.

  • Mark Citadel says:

    FSM is juvenile in the extreme, and a debasement of the far more academic atheistic talking point, the necessarily existing lion. However even that is easy to counter using apologetic tools.

  • Zippy says:

    Folks who are baffled by the contention that Christians and Mohammedans are not both referring to God when we say “God” – who find the fact that there is any controversy over the point in the first place strange, because of course and obviously we are all referring to God – are what modern philosophers call “naïve realists”. The name implies that we are benighted intellectual plebes, and if only we knew as much as our informed analytic betters we would adopt one or another of their crazy theories. Of course some naïve realists have actually had a peek under the hood of modern descriptive theories of reference and have concluded that they are pretty much all nuts. I recommend reading Kripke’s Naming and Necessity not because you will walk away with a good analytic theory of reference but because you’ll get introduced to what all the hubbub is about and read a solid critique of descriptive theories of reference from an “insider”, if you will – from an analytic philosopher.

    That doesn’t mean you’ll walk away with a theory that is true to reality though. Most modern folks would rather adopt a nutty monomaniacal theory than just admit to being naïve realist plebes like all the sane low status ordinary people. (Exhibit A: Darwinian evolution).

    I regret to inform you that this positivist tendency infecting your mind is literally cutting you off from the real world. If Moslems aren’t praying to God when they pray then neither is a 60 IQ Downs kid. Whether God finds their prayers pleasing or not is another matter entirely, of course, but this denial-of-reference business is anti-realist nonsense.

  • Zippy,

    I agree with what you’ve said about the errors of descriptive theory. But my point about FSM is that when atheist nitwits refer to FSM, they are in fact referring to a fictional (does not really exist) character in their own minds. They’re only referencing God in the indirect sense that all polytheist and atheists reference God.

  • Zippy says:

    ArkansasReactionary:

    Good point.

  • When I argued the point at W4, I only discussed the case of a hypothetical sincere Pastafarian praying to the Flying Spaghetti Monster. He would be referring to, and therefore worshiping, God.

    If we’re referring to the FSM generally, we’re referring to a concept — the Pastafarian concept of God — rather than to God himself.

    But that, again, is the point. The Pastafarian view of God only explicitly contradicts the Christian creationist view of God in two ways: He is made of pasta, and he has a Noodly Appendage with which he messes with the world to make it look like it’s older than it is. The FSM’s purpose is to play the same role of God in the Pastafarian view as the Christian God does in the Christian creationist view.

    He is not a non-god who is analogous to God; he is a real (though satirical) view of God that is analogous to the real view of God held by some Christian creationists.

  • Zippy says:

    It may be that a caricature intended to cast doubt upon the existence of something – something which in fact actually does exist – is some sort of special case.

    But I’m a naïve realist, so that doesn’t really bother me. I don’t have a general theory of reference from which to carve out special cases in the first place; I just know that referring to really existing things vs concepts doesn’t work the way that the folks asserting their theories think it works. If it weren’t for the realism/anti-realism angle to the topic it seems possible that it might have actually bored me to death by now.

  • miketbme says:

    You might think the moon is made of cheese.
    Bob might think it is a dragon’s egg.
    Sally might think it is a mirror.
    They are all still referring to the moon.

    Another man might stand with them and say that it is a large, metallic structure that man visits on a regular basis. In reality, though his finger points at the moon, he’s actually referring to the ISS because that is the existing thing which corresponds to his words.

  • Zippy says:

    There is more than a little space between the possibility that reference can fail or break or be mistaken, and the notion that reference is so fragile and difficult to accomplish that Mohammedans aren’t even referring to God when they say God.

    The next (implicit or explicit) descriptivist to comment on this subject has to explain why a 50 IQ Downs kid who credulously believes the FSM story is not praying to an idol, but the Mohammedan is praying to an idol. Crickets are still chirping, and the descriptivist blindness has reached an acute stage of tediousness.

  • Mike T says:

    I know there is. I actually came to agree that in principle Muslims probably are reasonably referencing God, despite the nature of their religion.

    However, Islam has just enough clues that it is a monotheism like Atenism that honest men evaluating it should question whether the formal system itself references God or not. A monotheism founded on a pagan religion does not so much mischaracterize God, but ascribe God’s attributes to someone else. That would be like someone saying Jesus is not the Son, Peter is the Son. There is only one true Son of God, but if you point to Peter and call him the Son of God, then you have clearly failed to reference the actual Son of God.

  • Mike T says:

    So I think we have two questions:

    1. Does the Muslim reference God?
    2. Does Islam itself, in its history and formal teaching actually reference God?

    I would say yes to the first because Islam is deceptive, and say that it is quite possible that #2 is “no.”

  • […] – really that person at all [*].  Zippy the blogger imagined as a winged unicorn in one sense does successfully refer to me, of course: but successful reference probably accomplishes substantially less than meets the […]

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