Sean Carroll at Cosmic Variance makes a good point, buried in a discussion of recent books, about why religious discussions can get so confused: in the West we have two “only gods” disguised as one.
“The problematic nature of this transition — from God as ineffable, essentially static, and completely harmless abstract concept, to God as a kind of being that, in some sense that is perpetually up for grabs, cares about us down here on Earth — is not just a minor bump in the otherwise smooth road to a fully plausible conception of the divine. It is the profound unsolvable dilemma of ‘sophisticated theology.’ It’s a millenia-old problem, inherited from the very earliest attempts to reconcile two fundamentally distinct notions of monotheism: the Unmoved Mover of ancient Greek philosophy, and the personal/tribal God of Biblical Judaism. Attempts to fit this square peg into a manifestly round hole lead us smack into all of the classical theological dilemmas: ‘Can God microwave a burrito so hot that He Himself cannot eat it?’ The reason why problems such as this are so vexing is not because our limited human capacities fail to measure up when confronted with the divine; it’s because they are legitimately unanswerable questions, arising from a set of mutually inconsistent assumptions.”
Read the whole thing if you dare, including Carroll’s view of how these rather different monotheisms evolved out of polytheism, and have since been uncomfortably coexisting in successive traditions. It’s interesting even if you aren’t buying everything that Dawkins and Carroll are selling.
The comments, which are even longer than the post, include this at #119: “The reason for god isn’t to explain what is observed, but to explain what is observing.”