Monday, July 27, 2009

Brad Pitt - 80% Agnostic, 20% Atheist, 100% Heart for Others

Brad Pitt is interviewed at and asked:

BILD: Do you believe in God? Brad Pitt (smiling): “No, no, no!”
BILD: Is your soul spiritual? Brad Pitt: “No, no, no! I’m probably 20 per cent atheist and 80 per cent agnostic. I don’t think anyone really knows. You’ll either find out or not when you get there, until then there’s no point thinking about it.

A few thoughts.

1) The idea that we'll find out whether or not there is a God "when you get there" sounds like, to a small degree, philosopher of religion John Hick's idea of "eschatological verification." Hick said that the existence of God and the reality of an afterlife with God can be empirically verified, not in this life, but eschatologically. Of course if there is no God than half of Pitt's dichotomy fails since, on the atheism I am familiar with and respect, there will be no "I" to verify anything. If God does not exist "I" won't be "finding out" that God does not exist.

2) Pitt says: "Until then there's no point thinking about it." I interpret this as Pitt saying he thinks there is no point in thinking about God and God's possible existence. For myself, and even certain philosophical atheists and agnostics as I understand them, we think about this a lot. Dawkins wrote an entire book dedicated to thinking about this (even if his "thinking" was philosophically uninformed). Should Pitt think on such things? I believe so. Here's one reason why. I admire, from a distance, Pitt and Angelina Jolie's compassion for this world's "least of these." If atheism is true (philosophical naturalism) then there is not value in what they are doing. If reality is non-telic then helping others is absurd in the sense that the thoughts and feelings that say it is "good" to help others are at most neural happenings in their particular brains. Admittedly it's unfair to judge Pitt on the basis of a few sentences in an interview. Does he have any good reasons for his agnosticism? My personal guess is that he does, at times, think about such things, as most humans do. He would do well to look at what reasons he has that lead to his agnostic worldview. His starting point would be the philosophical agnosticism of Paul Draper, who writes well on this issue.

3) Pitt, apparently, has concluded that his "soul is not spiritual." Inchoately, he's a mind-brain identity theorist but probably does not know why. This theory "holds that states and processes of the mind are identical to states and processes of the brain... The identity theory of mind is to the effect that these experiences just are brain processes, not merely correlated with brain processes." (See here.) More correctly Pitt, on his 20% atheism, should have said not that the "soul is not spiritual" but that there is no such thing as the human "soul" because there is no such thing as non-physical ("spiritual") reality.

Brad Pitt seems like a loving, caring person. He gives out of his resources to help the poor and needy. He does work with Jimmy Carter's "Habitat for Humanity." Truly, I am impressed. I think this lies at the heart of why I'm interested in what Brad thinks about God. Habitat is a theistic organization at root, founded by theist Millard Fuller and championed by theist Jimmy Carter. Fuller died this past February at age 74. The Washington Post writes: Fuller's understanding of needs and wants -- what he called the "Theology of Enough" -- was grounded in his Christian faith. "God's order of things holds no place for hoarding and greed," he wrote. "There are sufficient resources in the world for the needs of everybody, but not enough for the greed of even a significant minority.""

Because God exists we have reason and purpose that undergird this felt need that we should spend ourselves on helping others. I thank God for what Brad Pitt is doing in this regard. I think a theistic worldview would supply the metaphysical foundation for his heart about such things. (I recommend he read J.P. Moreland's The God Question: An Invitation to a Life of Meaning.)