Wednesday, September 29, 2004

How to Vote 3: Social Contracts and Ethics

In previous posts I have been systematically discussing what kind of social system would seem most appropriate from a non-Christian, perhaps atheist point of view. My conclusion is that from such a perspective, the egoist perspective seems most logical: do that which is in your own best interest. If we formulate self-interest in terms of pleasure and pain, we suggested that a maximum of happiness would result from a system in which fellow egoists agree to a social contract that allows maximal freedom without impinging on the pleasure of others. This entree asks what the ethical system of such a social contract would look like.

Such a system would likely look like the dictum of Thomas Jefferson, "that government governs best that governs least." In other words, the function of law is to keep one person's "pursuit of happiness" from impinging on that of another.

We thus outlaw murder, but perhaps not suicide. We outlaw stealing. We outlaw activities that endanger others, but not necessarily ones that endanger ourselves. In this system, we wouldn't have laws about the sexual activities of consenting adults, hetero- or homosexual. We probably would not have seat belt laws.

It makes sense in this system to have laws that protect workers and avoid things like monopolies and price gouging. This "universal egoist" system is thus somewhat different from a straight utilitarian or pure capitalist system.

A crucial question, and one the founding fathers did not address in a way to our current liking, is who constitutes a person whose happiness counts. In the original Constitution, slaves did not count as full persons; women and children were not given the right to vote either. From an egoist perspective, there is no clear answer as to who would count. I suggested at the very beginning that we might take a "noble" egoist perspective, by which I meant that we would count everyone: men, women, children. All races, the unborn, all ages--these are people we could include. Certainly any that we do not include who have the potential to disturb the egoistic balance are a threat to the system and thus are reasonably included.

America was roughly set up on this model. Settled during a time of persecution, the principal of religious neutrality was set up. American was not to have an established religion to escape the religious persecutions of England and Europe. Rhode Island was thus equally inviting for Anabaptist, Catholic, and Protestant alike. The idea was of course not to squash religion, but to allow each individual to practice his or her religion as made them happy. If one person's practice of religion, free speech, or free ideas threatened the happiness of others, then of course we might legitimately place curbs on it.

This is a sketch of an egoist system that attempts to maximize individual freedom and happiness while minimizing pain. We have conceived it without reference to theism. Since I believe in God and Christ, however, I must now ask what modifications I must make to such a system as a Christian. When I was an egoist, I thought as an egoist, I voted as an egoist.

But when I become a Christian, do I put away egoist things? Next entree: How does a Christian function in this system, or can she?

Monday, September 27, 2004

Side note: Abortion and Voting

If we were voting on whether to outlaw abortion, I would vote to outlaw it.

It is utterly incomprehensible to me that anyone could think it is appropriate to abort a third trimester “fetus” simply as a matter of choice. Don’t they know that this child could survive outside the womb? And how could anyone abort even a second trimester fetus after seeing how far along it is in its development at this point? Even a first trimester fetus looks human and can feel pain in the third month.

So I would vote to abolish abortion if it came to a vote.

But I’m not sure I’ll ever have the opportunity to vote on this issue. I never have thus far, and I’ve voted for the Republican candidate in every presidential election since I was eighteen. I voted for Reagan, and he was against abortion. I voted for Bush senior, and he at least claimed to be anti-abortion by the time he was the Republican candidate (he had earlier been pro-choice). I voted for Bush senior when he lost and for Dole when he lost. Finally, I voted for Bush junior in the 2000 election.

I’ve voted pro-life in every election and even stood on the side of the road with an anti-abortion sign in Lexington, Kentucky.

But no matter who’s elected this year, abortion will still be legal in 2008. The president does not decide this issue, although he or she does have great influence. It’s true… if a president can find Supreme Court appointees who at least look moderate enough for Congress to approve them and if the right legal case comes up and if the Supreme Court votes differently maybe the issue will go back to the states and maybe some of those will prohibit abortions, forcing those wishing to have one to drive to a different state.

Now I’m not defeatist. We should not give up just because it’s a really, really unlikely long shot.

But I do have two other thoughts:

1. You don’t convince people by force—“a man convinced against his will is of the same mind still.” Outlawing abortion at this point of history would probably have about the same success as prohibition had in the 20’s. Alcohol came back with a vengeance and the issue has never come up again. Let’s keep working through Washington, but we better have a pretty good back up plan.

Where we should really apply our greatest efforts is in wooing people to our position rather than shooting them. Our culture is more sensitive to children than probably any culture has ever been in history. That is the door we need to get them to walk through. We will prevail when we win their hearts and minds, not when we shove the angry animal into a corner (P.S. this tactic works better with foreign countries too).

2. It makes sense to have a pro-life person in office regularly because of the behind the scenes influence such a person has. It is good to have Supreme Court justices who lean our way. But it doesn’t make any sense to vote only on this issue or even primarily on this issue. Abortion will be legal in the United States for a very, very long time no matter who we elect for the next twenty or thirty years. There are far too many other issues that the President does directly impact to let this be the deciding issue.

I believe Bush has done a lot to help the pro-life cause these last four years, so I’m not feeling like this is the issue I need to cast my vote over this time. I’m far more worried about the international instability Bush has brought through his vast miscalculations and ultimately irresponsible foreign policies. The anger of vast portions of the world toward us will not even begin to subside until he is no longer in office.

There is no objective measure by which anyone could seriously claim that the world is a safer place after the Iraq war. I can hear it in Bush’s voice when he makes this claim—he hopes but deep down knows it’s not true. I do truly hope that Bush’s shot in the dark, his fanciful long shot, turns out for the greater good of the world and the Middle East. I’m praying for this, because I think it will take God’s intervention. My hunch is that our history books will look back on him in puzzlement—the history books of other nations will be less positive.

I cannot help but feel that we have given just the spark some future madman or dictator needed to emerge as the nemesis of ten or twenty years from now. Need I remind anyone that the Reagan administration innocently and inadvertently played a significant role in the formation of bin Laden in the 1980’s in Afghanistan? And Reagan’s involvement in that region wasn’t preemptive!

Ironically, I’m worried about the economy with Bush in office. I say ironically because we Republicans are usually the ones to control wild spending. I understand that 9-11 and other catastrophes have hit our economy hard. But Bush’s involvement with Iraq is also having a negative impact on the economy, and Bush doesn’t seem too worried about how high the deficit is going—and how quickly.

There are other issues I’m concerned with that we Republicans are not very good at. I’m not dismissive about environmental issues. And I just don’t have confidence that a man with his pockets deep in oil is going to work hard to free us from oil dependence. I want to see more incentives for alternate fuels and technological improvements to rid us of the need for foreign oil.

And the world is going global, period. There is no stopping this process. It is happening and will happen no matter what. An administration can resist it. It can be isolationist for eight years. But the wiser course of action is to be there with maximal impact on the formation of global structures. There will be a world court that will have greater and greater authority, and I pray we have a lot to do with what it looks like.

The deaths in Haiti after Jeanne show that concerns over repopulating trees are not the talk of overly sensitive moron “tree huggers.” And I don’t know enough about science to have an informed opinion on global warming, whether it’s a legitimate concern or not. But you can bet I’m not going to dismiss it just because it’s a more “Democratic” issue. WOW! I am aghast at the stupidity of deciding an issue of such potentially catastrophic consequences on the basis of the “clique” I belong to. This is the kind of stupidity that religion and politics are often made of--and that I refuse to be a part of.

Objections to gun control are similarly dumbfounding. Let’s see, what reason could anyone give for not having a waiting period before we sell someone a gun? So I can run out and get one quickly while someone is robbing my house? In case some President declares martial law and brainwashes the National Guard and I need to get a gun really quickly? My jaw drops open in complete speechlessness that I am even having this (admittedly one blog-sided) conversation!.

Both the Republicans and Democrats have strengths and weaknesses. The nature of the beast makes it almost impossible for any one party to have the best position, let alone the Christian position, on every issue. The best we seem to be able to do is to bounce between them, soaking up as much good as we can before giving the other party a chance to correct the mistakes of the previous one the next go around. Bush has given us a good four years of one-sidedness on many issues. He has done it with such gusto that it might not be a bad time to balance him out a little.

I want to change the world’s position on abortion if I can. I am infinitely thankful that these lost babies go directly to heaven (at least in my theology). But a vote for Bush will not change the law on this one, I promise you. In the end, I don’t see how we can reasonably say abortion comes anywhere near being the issue to vote by in this election year.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

How to Vote 2: Natural Law

The phrase "natural law" is used in various ways. When it comes to ethics or morality, people can use it in reference to some moral structure built into the universe.

I personally have never been able to make sense of the idea that people have some sense of right and wrong either built into the human conscience or into the universe. Whether you accept evolution or not, survival of the fittest seems to be the modus operandi of life.

To be sure, as a Christian I believe that God often intervenes in the causal chain of events of the world. I believe in miracles and I believe in prayer. How God does this is a mystery to me. Does He in some way work through the causal chain, having built in the appropriate causes from time immemorial? This does not seem likely to me. It seems much more likely that at times He introduces new "stimuli" to the system of the world, calculated to answer our prayers or effect miracles.

But despite God's interventions, an unprejudiced survival of the fittest seems more the rule of the game. If we want to speak of a "natural" law, it seems to me that it is this: the cleverest and the fittest tend to survive while the less fit, less crafty don't. Those who turn the other cheek only survive if the oppressor does not kill them or if they live in an environment that rewards them by calling such an attitude virtuous (e.g., I doubt Ghandi would have lived long under Ghengis Khan). I of course believe God will reward them in heaven, but on earth this is the rule unless God intervenes.

How should an atheist then live? In general, an atheist should be an egoist--they should do whatever gives them the most pleasure and least pain over time. From an atheist's perspective, it is difficult to see a problem with Nietzsche's superman or Machiavelli's prince. If an atheist has the power to do whatever brings him or her pleasure without bringing pain--murder, stealing, genocide--it is hard to argue logically against it in terms of their perspective.

However, most atheists do not have the power to murder or steal and experience long term pleasure. Most of us are not rich enough or clever enough to do these things and not get caught or escape the wrath of the vengeful. The genius of the seventeenth century "social contract" was the way it set up a system of corporate egoism. We set up a system of freedom that allows each individual to do whatever pleasures him or her within a structure that restricts only when my freedom might impinge on the pleasure of others.

Killing or stealing might be to my individual advantage, but it is almost certainly to the displeasure of someone else. We set up a system of so called "justice" with police and armies to enforce the rules for the mutual benefit of all. We set up a bill of rights and a system so that we can have maximum freedom and maximum pleasure.

This system seems to bring about the greatest good for the greatest number of individuals. It seems to me to negotiate natural law in the way that brings maximal benefit to all. Since I and most of us are neither clever enough nor empowered enough to keep others from oppressing us, it is in our best interest to perpetuate this system.

How should an atheist vote according to natural law? A rich, pychopathic, genius atheist should do whatever he or she can get away with. But for the average atheist a system under such a social contract seems ultimately more beneficial. If the structure were in question, it would ultimately be in our best interest to try to perpetuate it. However, within the existing structure, an atheist should vote for whatever he or she perceives to be in his or her greatest interest.

If I invoke stereotypes, a relatively poor person should generally vote Democratic, unless there are specific issues or individuals that give them great pleasure or pain. Those with greater means should probably vote Republican, again unless specific issues or individuals give them great pleasure or pain.

Next entree: The Social Contract and Ethical Expectations

Side-note: Musharraf on Iraq

Musharraf is of course the leader of Pakistan. He is not neutral, and I do not take his words uncritically. Nevertheless, this interview, which you can find at, has a ring of truth to me. I read between the lines and find confirmation of everything I think about Bush's foreign policy as it comes to Iraq. As I told a sympathetic German Methodist in Tuebingen who was distressed at the increasing deaths of American troops back in April: "Er hat nicht gewusst, was er macht"--Bush didn't know what he was doing.

Musharraf: It's not the issue of capturing Saddam Hussein. I don't think. There's a bigger issue involved. The deeper issue is the Muslim sentiment. The Muslim sentiment of all political disputes involving Muslims, where Muslims are being seen on television, daily, being killed. Palestinians, we see every day what is happening there. All these are images which have created an antipathy against the United States in the Islamic world.

Brokaw: President Bush called on Israel to freeze the settlements, to withdraw some, and to treat the Palestinians with more humanity. Do you believe he didn't go far enough in dealing with the Israelis?

Musharraf: Well maybe. I'll give him a little leeway for the elections are coming up. But what I would like to say is we have to resolve the Palestinian dispute. And who can? It is United States and President Bush.

Brokaw: What you're saying is, even if the United States is successful in Iraq, and that's still a very large and open question--

Musharraf: Yes.

Brokaw: It won't resolve the issue in the Middle East for this country, unless more is done about Israel?

Musharraf: Absolutely. I am --

Brokaw: And did you tell that to the president?

Musharraf: Yes, indeed. I've told him. We are fighting terrorism in its immediate context. That's not very far-sighted.

Brokaw: You think there's enough dialogue about that in this country?

Musharraf: I don't think so. And that is why I get sometimes disappointed. I am continuously saying that.

Brokaw: Do you think the American war against Iraq was a mistake?

Musharraf: Well, I wouldn't comment on that [bold, mine, KS]. But I will certainly say that it has complicated the issue.

Brokaw: In your part of the world.

Musharraf: In the Islamic world. In the Iraqi region. In the Middle East.

Brokaw: Made it worse for America?

Musharraf: Yes.

Brokaw: What is the role, as you understand it now, of Osama bin Laden in al-Qaeda? Is he still the mastermind of operations and still running it on a day-to-day basis?

Musharraf: I don't think so at all. Because the running of such an international organization needs communication, needs contact. And if he communicates, he's heard. We've got all the means.

Brokaw: Mr. President, you may not have heard this. But in the Democratic Party in this country, there is a great suspicion at many levels that you know where Osama Bin Laden is, and that he will be captured just before the American presidential election, so that he will be a trophy for you and for President Bush.

Musharraf: I think that's quite hilarious. I know that this is a feeling. There's some people even in Pakistan who ask me this. How can anyone imagine this? Here in this world, where you can't hide anything. The media, you people are so active. Everyone is everywhere.

Friday, September 24, 2004

How Should a Christian Vote?

I'd like to follow a train of thought in the next few posts. On the one hand, my question may seem to have an obvious answer to many Christians. But I wish to be more systematic than just thinking about an individual election. I wish to consider the age old question of the relationship between church and state, between the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of earth.

Where one begins is not without consequence. Some would say that we will not reach the right conclusions if we do not begin with Christian presuppositions (e.g., Anselm, Kierkegaard). This may be. Perhaps I will waste my time to start where I plan to start.

I wish, however, to start by bracketing my Christian presuppositions and begin with what seems to be the default position that a human being might take--the egoist position: what answer is in my individual best interest. I do this because I have not received a personal revelation from God to answer this question. And no part of Scripture addressed a democratic society and the individuals thereof directly.

After I have explored an egoist train of thought, perhaps a somewhat "noble" egoist train of thought, I will then put my Christian hat back on and see what modifications I must make to my prior conclusions. Perhaps Kierkegaard will be waiting for me then, laughing to see such sport. Perhaps he will tell me that I have only wasted my time until I have taken a leap of faith into my Christian presuppositions.

The game is afoot. Next entree: "natural law."

Kerry and Flip-Flopping

I will not be appearing in any political debate in the near future, but I feel confident of one issue that will come up in the soon-coming Bush-Kerry debate: Kerry's so called flip-flopping on the issues. If I were Kerry, I think I might respond something like this:

Your [Bush's] campaign has done a good job of pushing that flip-flop angle. I had to laugh at your commercial with me windsurfing going back and forth with the waltz music in the background. I'd give whoever came up with that one a raise.

Of course I could accuse you of the same thing before the war. You shifted from one rationale to another trying to make one stick. Was Iraq importing uranium from Africa? No, that one didn't seem to work. Did Iraq have close ties with Al-Qaeda? No, one meeting when bin Laden hated Saddam Hussein doesn't pull it off. Liberate the Iraqis? Well, a good goal, but nobody wants to sacrifice 1000 Americans unless our safety is really at stake. Weapons of mass destruction? That one seemed to work the best. And although it turned out there weren't any--in fact that they couldn't have hurt a flea--well, that was the one that really convinced people like me in the Senate to vote with you on the war.

But I'm not going to accuse you of flip-flopping, President Bush. I'm not going to accuse you of flip-flopping because throughout all these variations your underlying inclination was always clear: you wanted to go to war. And underneath all these comments of mine that you have spliced together in your ads to make me look flip-floppy are also some fundamental inclinations I have too. I don't like to send Americans to their death, and I think our money is better spent helping struggling Americans than bleeding our economy overseas in a costly conflict that not only did not directly bear on our national security, but that actually has made the world less safe for Americans, both here and particularly abroad.

Regardless of the political winds of the moment. History will not look kindly on you, President Bush. Our grandchildren will shake their heads in puzzlement and shame for the disgrace you have brought us in the world.

Anyway, I think I'd respond something like that. Good day.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

More Beheadings

I heard yesterday that two abducted Italian women, aid workers, may have been killed in Iraq by insurgents. Meanwhile, two more Americans have been beheaded and a British man is pleading with Blair for his head.

These images are of course infuriating. Only by the grace of God will I even be able to contemplate loving my enemies on this one. My more natural desire is for our military to blow up places like Fallujah.

I'm not going to use these feelings to complain about how our military is prosecuting the war. I'm 100% behind our military. That's not to deny that they may have made some tactical mistakes. I think it was John McCane who said that they they should not have backed off once they entered Fallujah until they were in control of the city. I know I couldn't do any better. Even if I think going to war with Iraq was a mistake--the timing in particular--we are there and have a moral obligation to see the Iraqi people through.

So how does this bear on how I will vote?

On the one hand, I probably agree with Guliani that Bush was the right person to have in office on 9-11. What I mean is, I support the move we made against the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afganistan. I'm not fully convinced that Gore would have "gone in" like that.

But I wish Gore had been in office in the lead up to war with Iraq. Will we have lost as many soldiers in Iraq as we lost people on 9-11 before that mess is through? And what of the killings we will experience for the next thirty years from the bin Laden's we have created from our action there?

So again, what about the future? Who do I want to be in after the next 9-11, if there is one?

I'll admit that it's a hard question for me. On the one hand, surely America will insist on tracking down those guilty for any such attack. Can we really imagine that a Kerry will have any choice but to pursue anyone guilty of such atrocities? I think no matter who is in office, the people will make sure that justice is pursued.

But I'm frankly not interested in attacking any other countries. Do I want Bush in office because I know he'll attack other countries while Kerry won't? HA! No way! Do I want Bush in office because I know he'll use any attacks on us as an excuse to attack tangentially related countries, resulting in further depletion of American lives as well as further deficit increase? Probably not.

In the end, I suspect this is a good time to have someone in office whose disposition is against going to war. Frankly, while Bush can't admit it (political suicide), I suspect he himself wouldn't go to war with Iraq if he had it to do over again. He had visions of peaches and cream and "I love you American liberators" dancing in his head. I suspect he's actually learned a few things on this score. You can bet he will think a lot harder before he launches a war against any one else--including those forces that may actually be threats to our future.

Monday, September 20, 2004

ISTEPs and more two-dimensional Bush-think

Today my step daughters began their week of ISTEP. On the one hand, I applaud the idea of accountability for progress and the importance of setting good standards for our educational system. No group should just be given public money without any accountability for how they use it.

But just as with the war on Iraq, Bush's policies reflect good intentions but a lack of the kind of depth of understanding we expect in a president. It's like the difference between figuring out physics in a vacuum and then doing the same experiment in the real world with friction and other complicating factors. In Iraq, Bush's ideal scenario took little account of the way real Arabs think--he expected them to think like middle class American Westerners.

His "No Child Left Behind" promotion shows similar two dimensional thinking. It's okay for someone like me not to know that our teachers spend half their time dealing with discipline problems in the classroom. It is okay for someone like me not to know that you will never reach these kids until you have addressed the "baggage" they come to school with. It is okay for someone like me not to know how much time our teachers spend just trying to maintain order. But I expect more of a president.

Every teacher wants their students to learn--the problems are in reality much deeper. Like Iraq, you can't solve these kinds of problems by holding a gun to someone's head. You can beat a child or a Muslim until they do want you want them to do, but you will face several lifetimes of anger and even worse behavior in the long run for it. You can tell our teachers you will fire them if their students don't pass, but in the end you're really punishing the good guys.

It's okay for someone like me not to know that standardized tests are often poor indicators of real progress. It's okay for someone like me not to know that such tests often assess things with a bias toward white Americans. It's okay for someone like me not to think about unintended consequences like teachers now taking large portions of class time filling out assessment paperwork--taking away more teaching time. It's okay for someone like me not to realize teachers would now spend a great deal of time "teaching to the test" out of fear, creating a climate not of understanding but of jumping through hoops. It's okay for someone like me not to anticipate such things and be more profound in the way I set up accountability.

But I expect a president to be smarter than me.

I see a dangerous trend in Bush here that carries over to many areas. He has good intentions and good goals. But he does not have a deep enough understanding of reality to get to the goals. His path of choice is a big stick that in the end creates more problems than it solves. You might expect such thinking from someone like me. But I expect more of a president.

Friday, September 17, 2004

Two Legitimate, Conflicting Goals for Tax Cuts

I am not an economist. I have never taken a course in economics. But I have a few hunches, hopefully at least semi-informed hunches.

One hunch is that there is actually more than one legitimate reason to give tax cuts. The problem as I see it is that these two goals, while both legitimate in their own right, actually tend to work against each other. As might be expected, partisan political rhetoric typically does not carefully distinguish between the two goals. The result is the typical confusion of politics.

The first goal is to stimulate the economy. The idea is that if we give more revenue to the right individuals and businesses, the businesses will spend it in ways that increase their profitability and the individuals will buy more goods, also benefiting the economy. This is classic Reagan Republican trickle down economics.

Toll roads seem to me to be great illustrations of how taxes have a way of shooting an economy in the foot. Take a few hours on the turnpikes and toll roads of Florida or Ohio and you will have a long boring trip with few choices for food. I usually time my eating for before and after I get on. The number of cars is also much lower than other highways.

Now go on an interstate. Not only is the traffic prohibitive sometimes, but you'll find McDonalds and countless other stores mile by mile. I don't know the numbers, but I suspect that states make more money off the sales tax on the interstates by far than from the tolls on the turnpikes.

I don't know enough to discount the theory that targeted tax cuts can stimulate the economy. It at least seems like Bush's tax cuts coincided with a rather quick change of directions in the recession. But to have this effect, such tax cuts presumably are given to those with the greatest financial influence. And there is a certain common sense to the idea that you deserve the money you work for more than someone you have never met who maybe is not working at all.

But a second goal is also legitimate, namely, to alleviate the burden of those under the greatest economic pressure. Many of us believe there is a certain moral responsibility on the part of those who are "blessed" to share their blessings with those less fortunate. And if you don't believe in such a moral responsibility, the purest examples of capitalism in history have sometimes ended in bloodshed and revolution--let alone an increase in crime and general discontent. If you don't buy the moral argument, it is to the utilitarian advantage of everyone to empower those under the thumb of fate.

Tax cuts to releave the burdens of society are also legitimate and beneficial to society as a whole. But the groups such a tax cut targets are unlikely to help the economy. Indeed, tax cuts of this sort seem more likely to burden the economy.

So what conclusions do we reach if these hunches are correct? One is that none of the politicians are very clear about these conflicting goals. Democrats accuse the Republicans of hating the poor when their goal is to stimulate the economy. And Republicans accuse the Democrats of having no other interest but taxing and spending.

Maybe the two groups need to take turns... of course no one can tell what a person's economics are anymore, despite their party.

Just some thoughts...

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Bush, Impulsiveness, and Iraq

A report came out today sketching out three possible outcomes for the next year and a half in Iraq. The best case scenario was a tenuous peace much like we have today. The worst was civil war.

Bush has admitted that he miscalculated the resistance we would face after the war. I remember Wolfowitz telling a congressional panel that nobody anticipated that we would face such opposition from the grass roots people.

Of course he's way wrong. LOTS of people warned them that this would enrage the Arab world. Most Middle East and Iraq experts warned them of these things. But they, the idealogues of Washington, closed their ears to the informed outcries. Everybody wants democracy, they said. Everybody wants freedom, they said. How ignorant of history and of the glasses our own culture bequeaths us!

And I voted for Bush the first time! I voted for him because I thought at least "what you see is what you get." But the world situation has changed drastically since 2000.

What I see and get is a dangerous person, not because of his intentions, but because his understanding of the world is shallow. Keep your friends close and your enemies closer? I would rather have a person of nominal faith in charge with basically good goals and an in depth understanding of cause and effect, than an idealistic person of faith who mistakes his own two-dimensional thinking for that of God.