What’s up with the New York Times? In a single day they published not only Robert Wright’s accommodationist op-ed, but also a piece by Nathan Schneider on Anselm’s ontological proof of the existence of God.
The proof, which would come to be called the ontological argument, purports to demonstrate the existence of God from ideas alone: the concept of a God that doesn’t exist wouldn’t be much of a God. A true concept of God, “a being than which nothing greater can be conceived,” would have to be a God that exists. Therefore, God exists.
This is one of the dumbest of all arguments for God, though many theologians (and a few readers of this website) seem to find it pretty sophisticated. But not Schneider, who demolishes it in just a few words:
I started to remember the echo of Kant’s devastating complaint against Anselm: existence is not a predicate. God seemed to disappear.
So did this make Schneider an atheist? No way!
I was reminded it wasn’t God’s existence that plagued Anselm — of that, he had no doubt — it was the phrasing. Modern arguments and evangelists and New Atheists have duped us into thinking that the interesting question is whether God exists; no, what mattered for Anselm was how we think about God and about one another.
Ah, those nasty New Atheists again, duping us all by claiming that the question of whether God exists really matters to people!
And Schneider shows handily that if you don’t like the answer, the best strategy is to change the question and obfuscate:
Setting off for a new place, I was saddled in the past, in what I had been and done. My conversion, and with it God, is not a thing I can live down, but something I’ll always have to live in, through and around. The very fact of it, that it happened at all, is a proof for its own ongoing existence.
UPDATE: Over at EvolutionBlog, Jason Rosenhouse is equally puzzled.