Sisyphus in a Pickup (#poem)

yellow pick up truck on grey concrete road
Photo by Derwin Edwards on

If this were a country song,
I’d say I’m so far down
I have to look up to
See the bottom.

I used to get more
Kicks than a horse in a
briar patch, but the old mare
Ain’t what she used to be.

I always heard that
Rock bottom is a lonely place,
But this domain is
Now well populated.

If misery loves company,
She’s become a promiscuous
Polyamorist, and we’re having
A resentment orgy.

We look up at the peak,
And get the idea a group
Of down and outers can climb up
To bring the Gods right back down.

God is in the Details (#NaPoWriMo #poem)

Some see God where
Others see only
Pain and suffering.Screenshot 2019-04-02 at 06.41.56

I read in the news
About a lady whose home
Was destroyed by a tornado,
Except for a closet
She happened to be hiding in.
She called it her prayer closet
And praised the Lord
For sparing it.
She said, “My God is
Awesome! Shout somebody!”

I guess if I believed
My God just destroyed
Everything I owned except
For a prayer closet, I might
Wonder why God had forsaken me,
But we don’t all see things
The same way, do we?

Seeking God in Silence

Painter Fang Min has a series of paintings featuring Buddhist monks seeming happy enough despite an insect perched on or near their faces (you can see examples here and here). When I saw the exhibit in China, a small explanation accompanied the paintings. I Monks jdon’t remember it in detail, and I can’t seem to find it anywhere online, but the story was fairly straightforward. It was about a monk who left the hustle bustle of the city to see peace and tranquility in the country only to find that his meditations were still disturbed by the sounds of the country: farmers working, livestock making noises, and so on. He retreated further away, deep into the woods, but still found the sounds of nature disturbing. Eventually, he fled deep inside a cave to find absolute quiet—except for the sound of a single insect. Frustrated that he still was unable to secure tranquility, he sought out the Buddha for advice. The Buddha told him, of course, that he must seek tranquility inside himself, not demand it from the world around him.

This reminded me of my experiences with the Religious Society of Friends (or Quakers). The meetings I attended were unprogrammed, which means Friends sit in silent reflection receptive to spiritual prompting. Some people refer to this as “silent worship” or a “silent meeting.” This isn’t really accurate, as Friends are expected to speak when moved to do so. Nonetheless, some people would remark on how wonderful some meetings were when they remained especially quiet. On other occasions, some attendees would complain of being distracted by the sounds of people speaking, children, animals, neighbors mowing lawns, airplanes passing overhead, and on and on.

I always thought that if I were to sit in silent reflection, it meant that I would not make any noise, not that I wouldn’t hear any. If I understand correctly, Quakers have the idea that God is in everything and everyone. For me, listening for God is just to listen to whatever happens to be in the universe. I never took it that God could distract me from God. The work is in the contemplation I am doing, not in finding silence.

The composer John Cage said that music never stops, only listening does. To help people listen, he composed a piece that was four minutes and 33 seconds of silence. During that piece, the audience listened to ambient sounds in the environment (or even the sounds of their own bodies). Cage said that anyone can do this at any time. It just takes an aesthetic attitude. He wasn’t trying to create four and a half minutes of silence. He was trying to create four and a half minutes of attention. Some people did not like being forced into a meditative state, but some people don’t like anything.

I suppose some of this depends on what one seeks when one seeks God. Spinoza described God as being infinite and eternal. God occupies every point in space and every moment in time. What then, is not God? Everything in the universe must be God, and God must be everything in the universe. To believe anything else is to limit God’s presence and power. I think this is why Einstein said he believed in the God of Spinoza.

Everything you hear today is the voice of God. Everything you see is the presence of God. Keep your eyes and ears open, please.

Grief and the problem of meaning making

Kurt_Vonnegut_at_CWRU (Photo credit: david_terrar)

I’ve been reading Kurt Vonnegut again. It is a bad habit I started as a teenager. When I began reading Vonnegut, I was a classic example of a depressed teenager, or at least that was how I saw myself.

Looking back, I realized I had many reasons to be sad. Extremely sad, even. A friend had died in a motorcycle accident when a car pulled in front of him in our own neighborhood, and then my uncle, who was 25 years old, died in a fire that consumed the mobile home he was living in. Of course, a few other bad things happened, too, and the world just seemed a little crazy to me, not fair at all.

My confusion was confounded by the fact that I would often hear family members ask one another, “Do you think someone is trying to tell you something?” They searched each devastating event for a message from God. If something bad happened, it was because we had done something wrong. At church, I learned that all the pain, all the trials, and all the trauma was part of God’s plan, even if no mortal could make heads nor tails out of the plan. I hadn’t read Kierkegaard yet, but I was told to take a “leap of faith,” and then I was thrown off a cliff of faith.

Søren Kierkegaard (Copenhague)
Søren Kierkegaard (Copenhague) (Photo credit: dalbera)

So, around that time, I read about Kurt Vonnegut’s unlucky sister. In the prologue to Slapstick, he told of how while his sister, Alice, was dying of cancer, her husband, who was to take care of their children after her death, died on “the only train in American railroading history to hurl itself off an open drawbridge.” It was bad luck—bad enough to make you feel a little depressed.

But Vonnegut always made me feel better about things. He said, “Since Alice had never received any religious instruction, and since she had led a blameless life, she never thought of her awful luck as being anything but accidents in a very busy place.” Although I have received prodigious religious instruction and led a life full of blame, that one line has gotten me though many dark moments.

Over the years, I’ve heard many people tell me that bad things were part of some tortuous plan by some deity or other, I’ve heard that children are only on earth as a “loan” from God, and I’ve heard that God won’t give us more than we can handle. It seems to me that people routinely get more than they can handle. Many people die from stress-related illness or suicide, brought about by despair and a massive inability to cope with life’s tribulations.

Ah, but the people who didn’t survive just didn’t have enough faith to get by. The message I got from this was: “Be strong—or God may kill you.” If I had no faith in the purely accidental nature of bad luck that I learned from the Vonneguts, I am not sure I could have survived my life, which really only has the normal amount of sorrow and trauma. I haven’t been spectacularly unlucky, even by first-world standards.

Thanks to some of the interpretations I have heard of the meaning of traumatic events, I get a little nervous when anyone starts talking about making meaning of suffering. I’m quite happy to believe that suffering is just one of the vagaries of an existence fraught with peril. According to a paper by psychologist Robert Neimeyer and his coauthors, people have an intense need to “make meaning” after an extreme event disrupts their life narrative. Through a process of making meaning, individuals are able to restore a coherent narrative of their lives.

Part of the problem, it seems, is that most people believe the world has a certain moral order, and that people who are good will be rewarded with positive outcomes. So, when bad things happen, we will surely ask, “Why me?” This is a question Alice Vonnegut never asked herself, according to her brother, anyway. The horrible luck she had did not interrupt her narrative because her narrative was one of randomness and accidental events.

Regardless of what narrative one tells regarding the moral order of the universe, many people do see their own moral or spiritual growth as a result of suffering. Indeed, when we meet young people who are self-satisfied and callous, we often think that they will grow as they meet with grief and loss, and that growth will bring wisdom. It is good to know that our loss can make us better people, but I can’t think of a time when I would not give up my personal growth in order to have a loved one restored.

It seems somehow wrong, ethically wrong, to look toward loss as an opportunity for growth, but we do not seem quite so bothered by looking backward to a loss as a catalyst for growth. Herein lies some of my discomfort with focusing too clumsily on making meaning—it almost implies approaching loss by asking, “What can I get out of this?” Alternatively, it invites people to celebrate what they gained from loss. This, in itself, can create moral distress.

To be sure, psychologists such as Robert Neimeyer emphasize accompanying the grief-stricken on their own journey without guiding them down any particular path. People will, naturally, have to determine what their loss means and also what meaning they assign to life after their loss. If they fail to find any meaning, they may lose their lives all together.

In the quest for meaning, though, I hope we can accept that we live in a world full of hazards, and they do not affect us in any rational order. It turns out that some really awful people live rather charmed lives, and the purest and most compassionate people in the world suffer, though not always.

If we have the strength, we put one foot in front of another one more time. And, maybe, once again.

Can we talk?

In recent months (perhaps years, now), it seems the religious and irreligious are divided more severely than ever. In response to demands that intelligent design be taught in schools or that evolution not be taught, writers such as Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and Richard Dawkins have taken religious thinkers and writers to task, attacking religious thought with unbridled enthusiasm. Their writings serve more as a rallying cry than as discourse and, as such, probably exaggerate the true gap between believers and non-believers in our society. Some of the religious seem equally enamored of raising arms against the other side. The Terri Schaivo “debate” quickly devolved into nothing more than grandstanding, posturing, and provocation for combat. With no background knowledge of our society, one would think pluralism had only happened moments ago and that any kind of discourse between the two sides (indeed, there are far more than two sides, but such nuance is invisible at the moment) is impossible. A little reflection, however, will remind us that the United States, while not quite the rich and diverse mosaic some dream it has been, is a country that has managed discussion between divergent groups in the past. The founders of our country were both religious and secular. Although a fair amount of strife resulted, discussion and compromise were always seen as real possibilities. It is possible that a way forward still exists.

When asked who would be an authority on matters of morality, most members of the public, in the United States at least, would first mention members of the clergy. More sophisticated individuals might know to mention theologians specifically. Few people would think to mention philosophers, especially not secular or, worse, atheistic philosophers. In The Elements of Moral Philosophy, James Rachels says:
“It is not unusual for priests and ministers to be treated as moral experts. Most hospitals, for example, have ethics committees, and these committees usually include three types of members: healthcare professionals to advise about technical matters, lawyers to handle legal issues, and religious representatives to address moral questions.”
So, most people in the U.S. believe morality and religion are inseparable. Rachels refers to Plato’s Euthyphro to question whether God’s morality is arbitrary or rational. If actions or values are good only because God commanded them, then morality is arbitrary, or so the argument goes. If God commanded actions and values because they are good, then God’s morality is rational. Rachels quotes Gottfried Leibniz saying that the latter must be true. He says, “For why praise him for what he has done if he would be equally praiseworthy in doing exactly the contrary.” If God’s actions are rational and not arbitrary, then any rational person should have an equal ability to examine moral questions on the basis of reasoned argument. Rachels’ argument is that atheists and secularists should be included in moral discourse.
It is surprising, then, to find that the theologians Rachels felt have an undeserved place of privilege in moral discourse should complain that they have been left out of moral discussions, particularly with regard to bioethics. Courtney Campbell writes, “One unfortunate aspect of civic bioethics . . . is its incivility, including incivility toward religiously grounded opinions.” He also warns that religious bioethicists cannot retreat to the academy as, “the academy exhibits its own forms of intolerance toward religious expression.” Rachels and Campbell appear to be living in two different worlds, one hostile toward the secular and one hostile toward the religious. Authors on both sides declare that they must fight to be included in the discussion and be heard over the tyrannical forces of the opposing side.
Certainly, each side is correct in at least a surface view of discourse in the United States. Most people in the United States are religious, and their religious values are reflected in the public sphere. Some religious groups have shown clear forms of intolerance for opposing views. On the other hand, many professional philosophers are secular or atheistic, and a condescending attitude toward religion is perceptible to even beginning students in philosophy. Philosophers are a small minority, indeed, but their voices are disproportionately loud in the debates over bioethics, at least in part because they have made some provocative claims. How is a religious person to speak to a philosopher who claims it is permissible to kill babies and disabled adults but not animals? The fact that such a question is even asked must be enough to make some religious writers feel dialogue is hopeless.
James Gustafson describes three styles of religious discussion in medical ethics. The first is based on autonomy of religious views; most people would generally associate this view with an assertion of religious authority. When asserting authority, one is likely only to sway those of the same faith who feel compelled to follow the authority of its leaders. This is, of course, an important part of the moral work of many theologians, but it does not engage the wider community. The second style stresses continuity with the wider community. This style seeks to make religious positions intelligible both to those within and beyond a specific religious community. For example, a Catholic theologian may publish and article or give a speech intending to make the Catholic position on social welfare or just war comprehensible to non-Catholics. In doing so, some non-Catholics may come to agree and join with Catholics in support of or opposition to public policies. The final style is interaction, which is the only style in which the religious interlocutor is open to revising his or her original position. The interactive style is not for every writer or every occasion, but Gustafson notes that it is possible and can provide a space where the religious and the secular can converse about matters of medical morality.
J. Bryan Hehir discusses the role of the “public church.” In examining the proper role of Catholic bioethics, he notes that the Catholic Church “defines civil society as both an audience for its teaching and an object of its pastoral care.” From this prospective, theologians and others are obligated to engage the wider, pluralistic public on important matters of morality. He says that religious writers must be prepared to contend with a pluralistic society, a secular state, and a liberal philosophy of law. He notes the success of Martin Luther King in addressing the public on moral matters using rational argument that was not free from religious significance. However, biomedical issues seem especially intractable, particularly with regard to issues related to sanctity of life (e.g., abortion, suicide, euthanasia).
Given the steadfast opinions of individuals on both sides of the abortion debate, many have advised Catholic writers to focus attention on the ecclesial community. Hehir finds this dissatisfying as he advocates a public church, not a church that restricts its reach to its own enclave. He says, with some apparent pride, “The strategy may ultimately fail, but the failure will be that of a public church, rather than a decision by a once-public church to retreat within a purely ecclesial definition of its role.” The question is not whether the church succeeds or fails but whether it fulfills its duty to society as an object of pastoral care.
Hehir moves to another issue that may seem to be less of a problem for discussion between the church and the secular public: public access to health care. While religious language may be used to discuss health care, the general public can certainly understand the positions of the church, and the issues are not nearly so intractable as discussions of abortion, for example. On the surface, it seems that the church would be obligated to support efforts at providing heath care to all, but Hehir sees a problem. Many proposals for public access to health care include provisions for publicly funded abortions. He suggests that multiple strategies could be adopted but not in his short essay. Fortunately, Andrew Lustig expands on the discussion of health care rationing and reform, but the problem remains frustrating. Lustig recalls Christian teaching that demands universalizing love and care for one another, which would seem to require support for public access to health care, perhaps even globally. Nonetheless, he notes that U.S. bishops oppose any health care package that includes abortion. He calls for religious writers and others to invite their religious values to drive arguments expressed in non-parochial, or public, terms. He sees a possibility that religious values will “work their leaven upon the world” indirectly. How is a secularist to respond?
Two secular philosophers, Peter Singer and Peter Unger, have devoted much of their attention to the ethical use of the world’s resources. Both are motivated by a value shared by all Christian writer’s I am aware of: a value of preserving the lives of those who wish to live. Admittedly, some Christian writers would want to preserve lives in cases where someone might want to die, but it is possible to bracket that concern while discussing our individual obligation to others who do want to live. Singer and Unger both argue that taking care of the world’s most vulnerable people is an individual responsibility for everyone. While they both eschew religious language, others have pointed out that only Jesus seemed to have an ethic as demanding as Utilitarianism, requiring all in affluence to give to any who need assistance. Singer and Unger are both Utilitarians (a frequent straw man for non-Utilitarian ethicists) and argue that the interests of all must be considered equally (for Singer, the interest of animals must also be part of the calculus).
On the point of health care in particular, Singer questions the claim of Christians to value all lives equally. He challenges the notion, saying that to value all lives equally would mean spending as much money to save the lives of the world’s desperately poor as we spend saving premature infants and those in the last stages of life. Many of Singer’s positions are anathema to Christian thought and tradition, but on this point common ground seems possible. While not responding specifically to Singer and Unger, Edward Langerak gives an example of a kind of language that is distinctively religious yet still capable of engaging secular philosophers. He notes that religious covenant requires individuals to love their neighbors. He acknowledges that “the problem has usually been that people’s sense of obligation is too minimal for covenantal flourishing.” He quickly adds, “But some special covenants seem especially prone to encourage a ‘savior’ mentality in which persons lose themselves in a bottomless pit of others’ needs.” His language is decidedly religious, but it echoes secular arguments against the Utilitarian calculus. Both the Utilitarian and covenantal ethicist can “bury the self in the bottomless needs of others.”
James B. Tubbs grapples with the question of obligation to strangers. Tubbs exclaims, “Yet Jesus goes beyond the claim that needy strangers should be regarded in the manner in which God regards them. He suggests, in fact, that the needy stranger be regarded as the Son of Man himself!” Tubbs emphasizes this point further by admonishing that the encounter with the stranger should be seen as an encounter with the divine. He then moves to an examination of what it means to be a neighbor. He declares that our moral life is dependent on relationships with others, but he leaves off the discussion of what this relationship demands of us. It would not be difficult for the Utilitarian to agree that strangers shape our moral lives, but it seems more difficult for Utilitarians to turn away from what our relationships demand of us. In any case, it is not religious language or hostility to religious thought that prevents Utilitarians and religious writers from becoming interlocutors. One has no difficulty imagining a discourse on our obligations to strangers between the secular and the sectarian. A certain degree of consistency is of value in any moral tradition.
I have focused so far on obligations to strangers as it seems to me to be the most pressing medical issue for everyone. More than four million people die each year from starvation. Millions more die from treatable or preventable diseases. While academic bioethicists grapple with deep quandaries regarding patients and the role of the doctor at the bedside, most of the world would be improved greatly by having the luxury of becoming a patient rather than another statistic. War and its always-attendant famine kills far more people than withdrawal of treatment from impaired newborns or cessation of treatment for the cognitively impaired. This is not to dismiss the importance of discussions over transplantation and other hard questions, but the easy questions may be a good place for secular and sectarian interlocutors to begin a discussion. An infinitesimally small number of people discussing bioethics and medical humanities would claim that the loss of life is insignificant. Whether the author values life because it is a gift from God or because it is something individuals have developed an interest in maintaining, life is something to be preserved, at least in the cases where the living person values his or her life. Given the almost universal agreement with this statement, it seems that philosophers, theologians, and bioethicists of every stripe could work together not on whether life should be preserved but on how public policy can be shaped to help those who need medical care and cannot procure it. It has perhaps been avoided too often because the task is more daunting than deciding at what moment a dying person becomes a corpse with organs suitable for donation. Nonetheless, if we are to encounter strangers as our neighbors, we must gird ourselves for the struggle and prepare for a significant shift in how we view our fellow sufferers in the world.
If a discussion of helping the world’s neediest individuals seems possible among people of many faiths and philosophical dispositions, Leigh Turner’s example of blood transfusions will have us despair that no discussion is possible in other areas. To be sure, people from many backgrounds would agree that blood transfusions are often required to prolong lives. Many would see providing transfusions to be an obligation of the highest order. Turner points out that none of this rhetoric or consensus of most bioethicists will be of interest to Jehovah’s Witnesses. Turner warns, “Principlist and case-based approaches to moral deliberation typically exaggerate notions of common morality.” The point deserves consideration. It is naïve for any bioethicist to assume that any argument, no matter how well reasoned, will be accepted by all. Turner accuses bioethicists of ignoring the elephant in the room, but this conclusion may be rash. It could be that bioethicists, aware of the elephant in the room, persevere in the hope of lighting one candle rather than cursing the darkness.
It is no question that philosophers and theologians often talk past one another. Many religious concepts cannot be put into a language common enough for the secular and the sectarian. This should not mean, however, that the conversation should not begin. The “public church” should make its beliefs as clear as possible to even an unreceptive audience. The public intellectual should do the same. Resistance should come from all who have the strength of their convictions regardless of whether those convictions come from religious moral traditions or reasoned argument and reflection. Speaking one’s conviction publicly and arguing for it is itself a moral act. Tolerance and respect for diversity do not require us to stifle our voices. They require us to accept that other individuals have the same right and obligation we have to express their deeply held convictions and beliefs.
Public policy, on the other hand, must reflect the greatest respect for individual beliefs and convictions that cause no harm to others. To be sure, it is not easy to decide what beliefs cause harm to others. The case of blood transfusions from the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ point of view is a reminder that sometimes harm seems quite different when seen from different vantages. I personally am concerned about harm done to animals. I realize that most do not consider harm to animals to be harm at all. I join the relatively small group of individuals, mostly but not exclusively secular philosophers, in explaining why much of the harm to animals seems not only cruel but unnecessary. I have learned that the stronger claim that animals should not be harmed or used in research is almost universally rejected, but many people of various faiths and backgrounds accept that cruelty is an evil. Deontologists and virtue ethicists both reject cruelty to animals as a bad habit that could lead to cruelty to humans. Thus, Kant and Aquinas both reject direct obligations to animals but see humane treatment of animals as an indirect obligation to humans. Those with sufficient openness have been able to discuss this subject with respect and results. Globally, a shift toward more humane farming is underway even as factory farming continues to be the most profitable means of producing food.
We can and must engage one another in discourse with respect, tolerance, and courage. The debate will not always produce an answer that is accepted by all, but the lack of debate will always produce frustration and power struggles. Bioethicists are in a position to model such discourse for the larger society. This will require leaving the enclaves of institutions and entering the public sphere in a more visible manner. We must take care to live by the principles we espouse. Peter Singer has been criticized for donating only 20 percent of his salary. He admits he could do more but also points out that it would not be necessary if everyone living in affluence would give only one percent of her or his income. We have achieved nothing near this level of giving, but aid organizations did see a spike in donations after Singer’s essay on world poverty appeared in the New York Times. It is certain that atheist Singer managed to engage the religious with his argument. Discourse can have positive results.
Ronald Carson writes, “In covenant, one receives others as one receives a gift—in trust—and one passes the gift on in response to need, with due regard for the recipient, and without calculation.” Our fellow ethicists are in need of respectful interlocutors just as our fellow humans are in need of medical assistance. As bioethicists, medical humanists, and responsible human beings, we can help provide insight, assistance, and advocacy. We can join and be fully engaged in a moral community. This is the task at hand.

What does it mean to believe in God?

When I ask what it means to believe in God, I am really being superfluous, because it is impossible to say what it means to believe in God without first answering what it means to believe. Stating it means to believe something is notoriously difficult. One hypothesis is that beliefs are thoughts about facts that occur to us in the form of sentences. For Descartes, thoughts that weren’t expressed in language were not thoughts at all, though they may be passions or feelings.

The first objection, though, may be that not all thoughts or beliefs are actually expressed in sentences but that they could be. For example, most everyone believes that a regular-sized automobile is larger than a normal basketball, but few people ever express that belief in the form of a sentence. It is averred that someone holds the belief if they would answer “yes” when asked whether a car is larger than a basketball. We might complicate things by asking whether a dog would believe a car is larger than a basketball, and it seems many dogs act as if they believe cars are bigger than basketballs, but they can’t express it in a sentence, even when queried.

So, is it enough to “act as if” something is true to substantiate belief in that something? Back to the original question, can we say someone believes in God if that person acts as if God exists? So, we might say someone believes in God if we see them praying, avoiding sin, or something else. On the other hand, we might run into serious conflict. Most people claim to believe in God and that God will provide a blissful afterlife. In other words, they express these beliefs in sentences. Their behavior, on the other hand, tends to reflect a general dread or terror of death or the afterlife. The behavior of many but not all self-proclaimed believers would indicate that they think death is the finality of life or the beginning of an awful punishment rather than a reward for a life well led.

Or, perhaps, these same people sincerely proclaim their belief in God, but their actions reveal a hidden belief that their lives have not been properly spent.

Conceptual difficulties regarding God

Many people are committed to the idea of theism. When a person claims to be a theist, though, we learn nothing regarding the person’s position to any particular conception of God, so all we know about this person is that she prefers to not be described as an atheist. Some people are intentionally vague claiming only that there is “something bigger than myself” or that there are universal mysteries that the human mind cannot comprehend. Others claim that they cannot conceive of ethical principles being true without the existence of some God, so God must exist in order to be good. It is not possible to prove these claims right or wrong because they are incoherent.

When one refers to the mystery of the universe, for example, what claim can such a person possibly make by this statement? The universe is, indeed, quite large and complicated. The human mind has many limitations that prevent any accurate perception of the universe. We can imagine that there is a mind that can perceive the universe, but we cannot imagine constructing any argument or test that would give evidence of this infinite, or at least quite large and complicated, mind. The only thing as large and complicated at the universe is the universe, unless we conceive of God to be larger and more complicated than the universe, then the mystery would be how something smaller than something else could come to be called the universe, for “universe” seems to be an all-encompassing term. If God is larger and more complicated that what we know is the universe, then the universe is not universal, and God is the universe, whatever that may be.

Now, we can claim that God does encompass all and also claim that with out limited minds we can observe and understand at least parts of God (the part that commands or desires us to be kind to one another, for example), but when we observe things in this way, we must always be aware that God’s observations may not look at all like our observations of even small and simple matters. Unfortunately, humans cannot see any perspective other than the human perspective. We could even challenge this view further and say that one cannot perceive any perspective other than one’s own.

The fact that we have perceptions, though, is evidence for some that God is necessary. All perceptions must come from somewhere, so there is a source for all of experience. Some call that source of perception God, but reasons for calling it “God” are not readily apparent. This appears to be motivated only by desire for something that can be called “God.” That our perceptions exist cannot be denied, for we cannot deny what we are experiencing. It seems natural to assume that all perceptions (and everything else in the world) has a cause, but this is a notoriously problematic claim.