Wednesday, August 02, 2006

God is a Metasyntactic Variable

If you are a programmer, you know them as foo and bar, among many others.
If you are in business making anything, you are making widgets.
If you're just a John or Jane Doe from Anytown, think 'Pronouns' and keep reading.
For example:

foo(int bar){
if(bar>10){print bar;}
}

Is an example of how to write a function and use if statements. (Notice how I'm giving an example of giving an example, this may be important.) foo and bar are common metasyntactic variables, this is a programmer's way of telling the reader the words foo and bar aren't important, I'm writing about some other level of abstraction. It might not be so important what the program is doing, but how it does it.


It's not just that God can mean different things to different people, that you make it just a common variable. It's that God actually means 'this word is standing in for a higher level of abstraction'. By itself it is useless, even if explicitly defined, you have to look at the words around foo to understand what concepts the writer is getting at.
Defining God makes as much sense as writing an implementation of foo, or building a widget factory, or finding "Her". Nice concepts that have no meaning in reality.

This doesn't mean we shouldn't talk about God, any more than we shouldn't talk about foo and widgets. If we follow these examples, we should talk about foo and widgets all the time. Doing so lets us say "The particular diety involved isn't what matters here, I'm talking about some other concept," in only one syllable.

This is good for UU's. This God lets us lead conversations using the language of reverence, because we have some pretty awesome concepts, for a religion.

1 Comments:

At 6:24 PM, August 06, 2006, Anonymous Paul said...

I cannot say what God is , because I do not presume to know.

 

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