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 February 2023 

Calling God's Bluff  

I'm entertaining God right now. He takes up the whole couch but He seems to like my coffee. I still say God is imagined but for the nonce, I'm going to go ahead and do the imagining. I expect that, like anyone else, I will get a God who is a super-fied version of my own mind. Mine's a do-thing. I'm in here doing things and having activities like pondering stuff and typing. It makes me feel self-aware. God must be a do-thing too, I imagine. What else could I imagine a God to be? God would be me plus godish powers. He is self-aware that He is God because He is engaging in God-like activities. My God could be reverse-engineered to discover my mind. This one on my couch already knows my gags but he smirks politely anyway. 

While my imagined God is here in front of me, I also want  to imagine the established imagining of Jehovah and then reverse engineer Him to discover the mind that imagined Him. Right off, we can say that Jehovah is also a conscious do-thing. It is imagined that He shows up in a self-aware form now and then and engages in God-ish activities like sudden miraculous changes in reality, implementing Divine and Final unquestioned Justice (smiting) and taking credit for all positive outcomes. What sort of mind does this point back to? Who is this already sounding like? 

My imagined God is of a different sort than Jehovah. He says His name is Barney and there is no way in hell that He would ever intervene in His fabulous causal cosmos. Barney would not give us the perception of Science and then mess it up with miracles. He knows that wouldn't be fair and besides, He doesn't have a plan. Barney says that the bats have left the belfry and it's all up to us now. 

Traditionally, God is nothing like Barney. Should I conclude that the mind that imagined the traditional God is not like mine? As a sciencie-guy, I expect to be at the whim of the way things are now because of the way things were before no matter the way things look to be soon. Destiny will depend on the details. I would feel silly and a bit hypocritical asking Barney to install a favorable outcome in my time-stream. Instead, I remind myself… the bats have left the belfry. 

Unlike Barney, the traditional God has an unfolding plan. God will decide today what happens tomorrow. He intercedes and takes requests for intercession from the faithful. Reality flexes to His will. God makes it all up as he goes along. The world He created would fling into chaos if God stopped making it up every day. Science can never describe a world like that. Everything would have a tolerance of 100+%. This God makes every day a bluff… a line we are dared to cross. He does not want to share what is on the other side. 

Whatever happens, good or bad, in the standard God's creation, He always has an alibi- it's God's Will. Bad things are actually good things that you don't understand and cannot scrutinize. It's God's Plan. From here on my couch, Barney and I can call that God's Bluff. Barney says the Bluff is baloney. I said sure, it's baloney in our universe but other Gods don't believe in causality the way we do. They prefer causalibi. The present must always make the past seem righteous despite consequences for the future. Jehovah seems determined to confine our minds in a stuffy walled-in cosmos surrounded by lines we are dared to cross.  

Unlike a traditional God, Barney encourages us to scrutinize away at His creation so we can find all the understanding we can handle. As many of us know, this actually happens when we treat the world the way Barney wants us to. It makes Him smirk because every time we do, we call God's Bluff. Barney can make Jehovah lay his cards on the table. 

For example, The God Bluff includes a claim that 6000 years ago, Jehovah created the earth and disguised it to look like it was billions of years old. 6000 years is a line we are dared to cross. Barney says that if the facts say it's billions, then whatever. He wasn't paying attention. Call the bluff and see what happens. 

These two imaginings of God could not be more different. Jehovah dares us not to imagine Him. Barney is cool with being around only when I imagine Him and He's fine with not being imagined at all. Jehovah claims that humans are beset with some kind of inner failure that makes self-regulation impossible. Because of this, fear and subjugation will be necessary components of any sustainable morality. Rising to the top of human authority will corrupt anybody unless they are sincerely scared of Jehovah. Barney says don't be intimidated by nuance. We can find empathy for everyone as long as fear and subjugation don't get in the way. But that's the point, Barney. It will get in the way. Two explanations are fighting for dominance of an indifferent reality. 

Barney and Jehovah are incompatible and so are the cosmii they are imagined to have created. Barney's bats are bots in Jehovah's world. Jehovah cannot mess with Barney's unbridled causality. Jehovah decides how destiny will be fulfilled. Barney says destiny will eat anything in its path. I do not suggest there are two universes to choose between. There is one universe with two sets of expectations in the minds that inhabit it. Likewise, there is one human brain design with two different sets of expectations of itself. There is the mind that imagines Jehovah (or another legacy brand of God) and the mind that imagines Barney (or whatever).  

On the whole, our minds probably have equal lusts for personal power. Barney and Jehovah each offer their own distinct brand of empowerment and self-expansion. Jehovah says power comes from making other folks not dare to cross your lines. Then, as your self-worth expands, you can make it up as you go along and nobody will question your story. Barney says power comes from understanding things for yourself and from knowing how to do things. As mentioned before, minds are do-things. We are expanded by learning more things to do. 

Shirley we all inherited and are copies of, with some variations, the same physical brain. How are we selecting which God to imagine? We're I ever inclined to imagine a God, I know why I would want to imagine a God like Barney. I remember starting out with Jehovah but life was full of things that inspired me to imagine Barney instead. Maybe I'm just biased, but how? I'm wondering why anyone would want to imagine a God like Jehovah. Wouldn't anyone find it confining? 

I'm sure that Barney would say that's a stupid question that should answer itself. Confining? Like a shoe that doesn't fit? No, it's all those lines I'd be dared to cross. I'd want to cross them. Barney asks why. I imagine it is because I can and I'm not afraid of Jehovah. I called His Bluff. Besides, I was raised in a world where Jehovah was a toothless tiger. He was everywhere but not much of a threat in public school. I remember being encouraged and taught how to cross those lines. 

Barney says, "Didn't you notice that calling God's Bluff came at a price? If I cannot have lines to cross, you cannot either. Are you sure that you do not have lines that cannot be crossed?" Barney was getting heavy and sank further into the couch. 

I suppose I might have a few forgotten lines not to be crossed in a box in the garage but I would promise to be ashamed of them. I aspire to be a beacon of self-inflicted virtue. That's no bluff. Barney whispered, "unless… " and fell silent. 

I'm suppose to finish that? The only way my aspiration could be taken as a bluff is from the perspective of a world where only a bluff is possible. A world sustained by the ultimate bluff about how the cosmos works. But there sits Barney setting an entirely different example. The question becomes, why does God need to bluff His way through our lives? The answer and the need to bluff must lie in the minds that imagine Him. If God can have lines then so can we. God's Bluff gives us the confidence to make things the way we need them to be as we go. Why stop there? 

If you can pray to God to change the future, why can't you pray to God to change the past? Bluff can become history. Who could tell the difference? Bluffing was a resource and not a failing. Having one's bluff called was the only threat of failure to be had. In many societies, bluff-callers are rooted out and silenced. This is as God would have us do. We set the model for God who then conveniently sets the model for us. 

At a personal level, God grants forgiveness and a clearing of conscience. It's a bluff about the need to be forgiven within a bluff about whether you've earned it. Once forgiven, we don't need to sort it out or learn to live with any fallout because our minds are washed clean. Relief comes from knowing that you will never need to call your own bluff. God has extended His causalibi upon you. Once separated from culpability, one can comfortably pursue any escape from the consequences. Culpability as a threat is unique to humans. I don't think other animals worry about long term culpability. Only humans see a need for forgiveness. Where do they see it? 

Barney reminded me that all animals bluff for their survival. That should put bluffing deep into our evolutionary ancestry and make it something that our brains are primed to do. Unlike animals who bluff about the present moment, humans can bluff about their past and future. We can think about the past and future and orchestrate them to our needs. Animals can learn from the past and anticipate the future but they can't think about an alternate past and future. It is a line their brains cannot cross. Humans crossed it when we developed an additional perception that can follow and supervise our thoughts. It arose in an animal kingdom where bluffing for self-interest was routine. A new talent for perceiving a bit of the past and future had to start with what we already were. Which was usually, scared and seeking any way to be safe. 

With our newly emerging experience in thought, we can take a few steps abstractly, into the past and future and anything else we can imagine. We can perceive more things to be scared of and be scared of them in a greater context. In response, a bluff can become a fantastic contextual fabrication. At the same time, we can also use our perceptiveness to piece together an actual understanding of the world. Long before anyone discovered a reason not to combine understanding and fabricating, we combined the two using fabrication to stitch together the bits and pieces of our acquired knowledge. Having this kind of perception made us develop a need for perceiving a full story and not an abyss of mystery. We were creating our own lines not to be crossed. We treasured those lines and happily stayed within them. They protected the bluffs. The bluffs made us feel safe from whatever was on the other side. 

Barney says our evolution has always involved crossing lines of limitations and, when the right change comes along, moving on with new abilities. This includes, in the present day, a line that some of us have crossed and some of us have not. 

For the sake of those who have not, do we stick with the old established Jehovah format? Do we acknowledge that any society we can imagine will be filled with folks who will prefer it? If we put it to a vote today, asking the question "Do we call God's Bluff?", they would vote no. Barney enthusiasts would say that we are facing an impending doom and it is long past time to call God's Bluff. What is the problem? 

I should be asking Barney but I forgot I was imagining Him. The problem is, God's Big Bluff protects and sustains the billions of little bluffs He encouraged. Bluffers are terrified of Barney and bluff that He is controlled by Satan. I re-imagined Barney and asked if there was even the slightest chance that He was controlled by Satan. He gave off an eerie green glow and said "What difference does it make if I was? I still wouldn't do anything. There's no plan to corrupt. The bats have left the belfry. All Satan wants for you to imagine is getting me more coffee. The point is, bluff-callers want to make Jehovah as impotent and pointless as I am." 

That's right, Barney, just like you. If God no longer decided our fate on a daily basis, tomorrow's forgiveness will never come. The bluffers must be rooted out. All bluffs must be called. Nothing must be called the truth until the cards are on the table. That will make a Mighty God mighty useless. Right, Barney? 

"Wrong, coffee hoarder. Jehovah can lay His Cards on the table and still be a Mighty God for He lay not in His Cards but in His Bluff. Even after calling all cards He still has one more to play. The causalibi card trumps all the cards by declaring that the table is crooked and rigged. Unlike the truth, the bluff is a fabrication and is easily stitched back together if it tears but Jehovah Himself is the bluff you can never call except for yourself. It is asking other minds that imagine Jehovah to become just as impotent, pointless and dis-empowered in society. You would make their minds into refugees in their own brains." 

C'mon, Barney. Fess-up and I'll pour more coffee. You're saying the bluff is not so bad if it is all you got? I could not live with myself if I knew that was all I had to work with. 

Barney held out his mug. "Okay. Take another step and scrutinize your words. If the bluff was all one had to work with, how would one know that was all they had to work with? The moment you know it is all you have, you will know that it is not all you have. Knowing it is not all you have would come from you having the ability and the desire to take the step that crosses the line." 

Well of course, I thought. The first one out of a burning house sounds the alarm. But Barney is saying the whole meaning of the bluff changes when seen from the other side of the line. The house that I, a bluff-caller, want to live in is burning. Bluffers believe they can keep the house burning forever. Or however long it takes to drive out the bluff-callers. From their side, Science looks like trading God's bluff for a godless bluff made by hopelessly defective humans. We cannot share the house unless one side dominates the other. Put us on an equal footing and we start kicking each other. We are each other's greatest threat on a primal level. 

For bluffers, the Bluff is not a bluff that it is not a bluff. It is an appeal for a modified truth. The perception of a deception requires a perception of an unchangeable truth that must be concealed behind it. Without the latter, a deception is a potential truth that depends on what God decides about the future. God might think you deserve it and let you keep it and who in Bluff World is going to tell you that He hasn't. Or, if your God is like Barney, you know it is about fourteen billion years too late to ask a favor. The bats have left the belfry. 

Barney could see that I was beginning to imagine taking a nap on the couch. Or so I imagine because He was gone. All that was left on the couch was a big puddle of coffee. 



up next- What George Will Said