Yesterday I finished listening to a Philosophy Talk podcast on "Worship." As always, I enjoyed the intelligent insights of the discussants, hosts John Taylor and Ken Perry of Stanford University, plus guest Daniel Speak of Loyola Marymount.
This Philosophy Talk program had a different feel, though. Usually religion takes a backseat to secular humanism on the show, as befits the emphasis on philosophy (literally, from the Greek, "love of wisdom").
In this case, while Speak didn't broadcast his Christianity at full volume it was an obvious murmur that could be heard to some degree in just about every statement that he made. This put him at odds with almost all of the audience commenters and questioners, as well as Taylor and Perry.
Much of the discussion revolved around Speak's definition of worship. Which was, essentially: Praising the excellence of something, with a view toward making it a fundamental organizing principle of your life.
So what is most excellent? Well, God, according to Speak -- in line with Anselm's ontological argument. God is the greatest, most excellent, most perfect being that can be conceived of.
Hence it makes sense to worhip this marvelous entity, especially since God can respond to your worship. Nature, on the other hand, can't.
So Speak didn't think much of the notion proposed by Perry or Taylor (can't remember which) that the Earth, nature, was the most deserving of our adoration and worship, since it is the ground of our being, what sustains us and makes life possible.
Listening to the discussion, I never could stop thinking of an objection to Speak's stance which seemed so obvious to me, I kept wondering why the hosts didn't keep pounding away philosophically on this point. (A couple of audience members did, to some degree.)
Namely: if the most excellent entity that can be conceived of, God, isn't real, then worshipping it, making it the fundamental organizing principle of your life -- that's crazy.
Well, maybe "crazy" isn't quite the right word. I can understand why it could make sense for someone to fill their head with imaginary ideas which then become the centerpiece of his/her life.
After all, that's what art is all about, using your own subjective mind to create something. But who wants to worship themselves? That seems terribly solipsistic to me. Yet this is what Daniel Speak and other religious believers advocate: worshipping the thought of a perfect being.
Human thoughts only exist within the human brain.
When asked what evidence there was for the existence of the God he reverences, Speak couldn't come up with any. So the worship-worthy organizing principle of his life, God, isn't anything objectively real. It's a concept which he and other theistic believers use to justify other concepts in a dizzying display of circular reasoning.
Personally (as if there is any other way to talk about this stuff), I don't resonate with the whole worship thing. Even when I followed the teachings of an Indian guru, I never felt like I worshipped him. Or God. Or any other divine being.
The Philosophy Talk guys say "Worship is the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for something." Hmmmm. Maybe.
But when I feel reverential and adoring toward the majesty of nature, including the incomprehensible vastness of our universe, that doesn't feel like worship to me -- not in the way this word usually is used. Thus I can understand why Speak considers that there needs to be a reciprocity in worship; the object of our worship needs to know how worshipful we are, and respond in some fashion.
(Or at least be capable of responding to us.)
However, this undercuts his argument for worshipping God. If I worship Lady Gaga, for many people an entirely reasonable act, I can attend one of her concerts and be part of a crowd that she is demonstrably able to see, talk to, and interact with.
Can God do this? There's no evidence of it, because there's no evidence God exists.
So I listened to the Philosophy Talk podcast wondering how the heck such an obviously bright guy as Daniel Speak could fail to see the flaws in his religiously-based attitude toward worship.
His emphasis was on centering one's life around a praise-worthy form of excellence. Yet if this entity isn't objectively real, then we end up worshipping the content of our own mind, an imaginary excellence. That will feel good, since mental masturbation can be as enjoyable as physical self-pleasuring.
I just don't want to worship myself. Or anyone else, for that matter.
But if you want to worship me, feel free. So far I've only got one confirmed devotee: my dog, for a few moments a day, when I reach into a cupboard and grab her favorite jerky treat and chew sticks. As she waits for me to give them to her, I briefly sense a worshipful look on her canine face. For an instant, I'm God to her. Or at least the doofus who hands over valuable treats in exchange for a half-hearted paw shake.
Which reminds me... this You Tube video of a talking dog is hilarious. My wife discovered it and now worships it, along with all other things doggish. Have a look, and laugh: