Although many will be tempted to say neither, most will explain that his or her god is more along the lines of a personal loving kind that is all-powerful, all-knowing, everywhere, part of yet separate from the universe and time, as well as a benevolent and loving entity. But do these poor misguided folk realize that this kind of description is considered by theological authors of sophisticated theology to be far too simplistic to accurately describe a sophisticated and modern understanding? We wouldn’t want to confuse a simpleton’s understanding – which is often the target of gnu atheists – with the much more sophisticated ones much more impervious to the drive-by criticisms thrown, we are assured repeatedly by religious apologists, inaccurately by atheists.
So let’s see if you can tell the difference:
1) The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.
2) The‘orthodox’ theological view – namely, that God is an inhuman, inexplicable, intangible, unlocatable, unthinkable, pointless, non-creating, uncommunicative nonentity.
If you chose the latter to be the sophisticated one, you’d be right according to Terry Eagleton. But there’s a wee little problem with that: such a deity offers us nothing to back up questions of morality, meaning, purpose, and values. Such a deity can have no implications about how we are to tackle issues of gay marriage, female priests, contraception, and so on. Yet the religious voice on matters of ethics is granted a widespread hearing as if what is said is naturally endowed and informed by religious belief. This can only be true if god is more like #1 or the simpleton’s version.
So we have a conundrum: either Dawkins’ funny little introduction used in the first description is the god of most christian believers, in which case the criticisms offered by New Atheists are properly targeted, or the voice of religious believers on matter of ethics is based on the simpleton’s unsophisticated theological version, in which case the the criticisms offered by New Atheists are properly targeted. Either way, the sophisticated theology offered by the Eagletons and Armstrongs of the world is as much a tiny outlier in the active religion practices by the vast majorities of believers as much as it is irrelevant as well as incapable of adding anything of interest in matters of morality, meaning, purpose and values.