Tag Archives | Deism

Dancing On Pinheads

Many people have at some point heard, or are at least vaguely familiar with the question, “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” – a reference to the pointless theological debates that consumed much of European academia during the latter half of the Middle Ages.  Although it turns out this particular phrasing was most likely never actually discussed (not appearing in print until hundreds of years later as a retroactive jab at Thomas Aquinas and his “scholastic” brand of philosophy) it continues to serve as a handy metaphor for any dubious intellectual endeavor lacking in apparent practical value and without any foreseeable means of resolution.

Questions of this sort, while no longer at the forefront of serious scholarly inquiry, haven’t completely subsided in the modern age, especially in the United States where we have the unusual distinction of being by far the most religious of any advanced, industrial nation.  As the so-called “culture wars” rage on unabated in the run-up to the 2012 presidential election (with back and forth volleys ranging from Rick Santorum’s failed candidacy to President Obama’s recent declaration of support for gay marriage), the subject of religious belief and its role in American politics has been pushed to the forefront of national discourse, and with it has come a revival of interest in a wide range of formerly obscure ideas relating to God and his role in the universe.… Read the rest

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