Can God even be defined?
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23-04-2014, 06:56 PM
Can God even be defined?
Hello everyone. I'm new to atheist message boards, but I started looking for them after I recently found myself spending some time trying to organize and formalize my thoughts on why I am anti-Theist. I am still at the stage where I think I see the general outline of what the forest looks like, but I'm still trying to map out all the individual trees. I suppose I should technically be classified as a militant agnostic, as I don't believe it is possible to prove the non-existence of any godlike entity outside the known universe, but I do believe that all proposed deities to date either fail to prove their existence beyond reasonable doubt or they are so generic as to be irrelevant / meaningless.

Reading the theist / atheist debates that happen on the internet make my head hurt. They read like the verbal equivalent of trying to wrestle jello. Every time I think there is some sort of agreement being reached on the definition of the terms being used and the parameters of the discussion the arguments instead slide off in some other direction or rephrases the definitions or changes the parameters. Every discussion seems to consist of circular arguments or reasoning, changing the parameters, and rephrasing old material as new jargon to make it sound insightful. It just seems a futile exercise in frustration.

Here is my current thinking on the topic. I suppose the starting point for all roads of thought has to be the definition of "god". According to the dictionary, a definition is an exact statement or description of the nature, scope, or meaning of something. And the dictionary definition of god is: In Christianity and other monotheistic religions, the creator and ruler of the universe and source of all moral authority; the supreme being. In certain other religions, a superhuman being or spirit worshiped as having power over nature or human fortunes; a deity.

Try as I might, I simply cannot reconcile logic, the definition of a definition, and the definition of a god. Defining "the creator and ruler of the universe" would require us to describe the nature and scope of something that operates by the unknown laws that may or may not govern an unknown that may or may not exist outside the universe. The standard way of dealing with that is to define god as an entity that exists outside the boundaries of space, time, and the universe, and which is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient. Conveniently ignored is the reality that this isn't actually a definition but is instead a long list of reasons why god can't actually be defines and pinned down to any provable or disprovable description of his nature and scope. Every objection can now be answered with the fact that god exists where it is impossible for us to verify and because he is onmipotent nothing is impossible or can prove his the non-existence. This isn't a USABLE definition of god as it makes any validation or invalidation of his existence impossible by definition. Arguing for or against this definition of god is as useful and meaningful as arguing for or against the response, "Yeah, but still..."

The description "source of all moral authority" is equally problematic. The only way to escape the circular logic that god is moral because he says so is to fall back on a "might makes moral" argument, or at least "creation makes moral" argument. We don't really need to discuss might makes right as a serious moral argument, and creating it makes it right should at least reduce the concept of moral down to "in the manner intended by the creator"... which I think is self-evidently bankrupt as a general rule for defining morality.

The alternative definiton of "a superhuman being or spirit worshiped as having power over nature or human fortunes" at least has the benefit of being something that can be quantified, measured, proven or disproven, etc. However, I think I starts to fail to make the term "god" meaningful in the contemporary sense. Essentially this definition boils down to "might makes god" if we ignore the superhuman caveat in the definition, and would logically include aliens, alien human hybrids, or perhaps even human/cyborg hybrids assuming they had enough power, even if only from control of technology. While this certainly makes pinning down what is or is not a god a bit easier, it no longer is useful as an indicator or anything other than relative power to average humans, which isn't congruent with most modern understandings of god. A similar issue confronts deist definitions of god like "god is everything" or "the spark of life inside all living things" or other such definitions. They are so broad as to render the term "god" useless or irrelevant.

Given these issues, I suspect it may not be possible to craft a useful and meaningful definition of god. If we can define it and describe it and map its scope and limits, is it "god" in the contemporary sense of a supernatural intelligence that we should recognize as a moral authority? If we can't, understand it, define it and describe it and map its scope and limits, how do we know it is truly the creator, how do we know it is moral, how do we differentiate between a god and simply a sufficiently powerful entity?
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23-04-2014, 07:55 PM (This post was last modified: 23-04-2014 08:00 PM by JDog554.)
RE: Can God even be defined?
Well first of all, welcome! Thumbsup

Second of all the dictionary defines the word "God" not the deity. This is also not the only case of creating a word and definition for the unexplainable. Look at the Higgs Boson Particle. We didn't know what it was, we didn't even know if it existed but it was still called the Higgs Boson Particle and it could be described even though it had not been discovered at the time. There are people who do believe a God exists and following the definition fits their deity. Let's look at the word King, I could go and call you King right now but that would not make you a King. But if I were to call a ruler of a Kingdom a King, that would be correct because that person is by definition a King. When you look at a God, such as the God of Abraham and look at the details of that God as stated in Religious text's we can therefore define him as a God because he fits the definition we have created. Drinking Beverage

"If you keep trying to better yourself that's enough for me. We don't decide which hand we are dealt in life, but we make the decision to play it or fold it" - Nishi Karano Kaze
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23-04-2014, 08:19 PM
RE: Can God even be defined?
I seen a cartoon once of several people arguing that each of their imaginary friends were better then the other ones, pointing knives at each other.
Then a person walks by with no imaginary friend, they look at each other, stop fighting and yell "LETS GET HIM" together.

My definition:
It's the imagined entity that helps negate having to say you don't know or are not sure about something.

Theism is to believe what other people claim, Atheism is to ask "why should I".
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23-04-2014, 08:35 PM
RE: Can God even be defined?
(23-04-2014 07:55 PM)JDog554 Wrote:  Let's look at the word King, I could go and call you King right now but that would not make you a King. But if I were to call a ruler of a Kingdom a King, that would be correct because that person is by definition a King.

Yes, and the only way we can tell the difference between the two is to by being able to comprehend the nature of kingship, how it works, where the kingdom is, verify the kingdom exists, verify the control over that kingdom, etc.

I guess my real objection to that definition of god is using unclear and unverifiable attributes as "description". I suppose it technically IS a definition, just a useless one... sort of like claiming I'm a Metaverse King and defining it as a person who can travel in their mind to an alternate universe which actually exists but which only they can reach or see where they rule real people that really exist in that alternate universe. If that qualifies as a definition it certainly doesn't say anything about whether such a thing exists or whether I am one.
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23-04-2014, 08:44 PM
RE: Can God even be defined?
Actually, thinking about it a little more, my objection runs deeper than that. Concepts like "exist", "before", and "create" and such only have meaning INSIDE the universe and space-time.

Using ANY existing concepts to try to describe anything outside the universe is nonsense. Our concepts like "exist" or "create" make no more sense outside the universe than defining something as a "super-intelligent shade of blue" does inside the universe.

If you can't use concepts to describe anything outside the limits of the universe, how can you use them to define a god outside the limits of the universe? And if you only define god inside the limits of the universe, can that be a god in any meaningful modern sense?
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23-04-2014, 08:45 PM
RE: Can God even be defined?
One cannot define nonexistence. The Oxford dictionary has the following:

ADJECTIVE
Not existing or not real or present:

she pretended to tie a non-existent shoelace


There are more examples similar in nature.

NOTE: Member, Tomasia uses this site to slander other individuals. He then later proclaims it a joke, but not in public.
I will call him a liar and a dog here and now.
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23-04-2014, 09:05 PM
RE: Can God even be defined?
I first read your description as a "malignant agnostic". I'm a malignant agnostic. Weeping
Your question is why some of us call ourselves igtheists.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ignosticism
The "circular" problem of morality (aside from the fact that we know from Athropology where morality comes from) has been around for a few thousand years, and no one has ever answered it : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euthyphro_dilemma
My opinion is there is no coherent definition or description of a god. It's a meaningless term associated with completely anthropomorphic ideas, slapped onto to a "being" which can "exist" only by invoking Special Pleading. Every term used in reference to deities require absolute spacetime, (which doesn't even exist in this uniiverse) ex: "creation" is an action/process (it has to have an intention, a beginning, and an end ... and without a presumed temporal dimension those words have no meaning), as is every other descriptor ever cooked up to use in speaking about the gods. Every term used about gods has unexamined "silent" assumptions. "Existence" itself requires time, (in the sense we think of a *living being*). Of course theists will deny that, and then go right on using words that have meaning only if time exists, a priori. Existence (and goodness) presume (yet ignore) a larger unexamined Reality. If a god ways always "good" and always existed, then Reality also encompassed (concurrently) the opposites of those qualities, (evil and non-existence). Concurrent necessity of the opposites rules out that god being the creator of ALL of Reality, if it, of necessity, participates in only a portion of it.
Bla bla bla. Drinking Beverage

Insufferable know-it-all.Einstein God has a plan for us. Please stop screwing it up with your prayers.
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23-04-2014, 09:13 PM
RE: Can God even be defined?
(23-04-2014 08:45 PM)Banjo Wrote:  One cannot define nonexistence. The Oxford dictionary has the following:

ADJECTIVE
Not existing or not real or present:

she pretended to tie a non-existent shoelace


There are more examples similar in nature.

Then how do you define non-existent as being non-existent?

"If you keep trying to better yourself that's enough for me. We don't decide which hand we are dealt in life, but we make the decision to play it or fold it" - Nishi Karano Kaze
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23-04-2014, 09:15 PM
RE: Can God even be defined?
Better ask the staff at Oxford dictionary.

NOTE: Member, Tomasia uses this site to slander other individuals. He then later proclaims it a joke, but not in public.
I will call him a liar and a dog here and now.
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23-04-2014, 09:20 PM
RE: Can God even be defined?
Welcome to the forum,

If you look at things in a historical sense, it shows a few things. The God of the old testament is definitely not metaphysical. He is clearly portrayed as a person. He has dialogues with people and it is spelt out that we're created in his image. (In other words, he was 'created' in ours).

By the new testament, he's still a 'person' but is less tangible. ... Fast forward to the 17th century during the Enlightenment and progress in science and God is reduced to the Deist god, purely a metaphysical entity. This all ties in to the long term confusion of today due to the shell game that is the God of the gaps problem.

Over centuries, God has become more unattainable, vague and metaphysical as each encarnation or reconceptualisation of him has been dismissed, reducing him to an undefined metaphysical mess because that's all that's left. He has been reduced in short to an undefinable metaphysical pile of bullshit!

You can see the super fast version of this whole process before your very eyes when arguing with a lot of Christians. It happens on here. They start out all hell fire and brimstone full of righteous anger ready to do battle with the heathens, definite in their stance that YHWH of the bible has their back, usually with arguments from creation. These arguments get destroyed, so Jesus, atonement and a slightly more ethereal God are posited in to the mix. Usually, by the end of it, once the arguments are destroyed (it's usually the same arguments over and over anyway) God is suddenly a mysterious, obscure, undefinable set of contradictory waffle. God is love/everything, God is the universe etc; God is always reduced to metaphysical woo woo because it's the only hiding place he has left, due to mankind successfully answering questions where he was previously the answer.

Interestingly, you will meet a lot of religious people nowadays who start with a metaphysical God argument, usually the first thing pointed out to them, is that even if we granted them Einsteins Deist God, they have a long way to go to get from that to proving this god is Abrahams YHWH! In most cases this stumps them, it catches them out because they formulate their argument by starting at YHWH and working backwards to Deism. Until it's pointed out to the thick fuckers it usually hasn't ever occurred to them that if you worked backwards from any God, Zeus, Thor etc: you will arrive at deism. I recently explained this to a theist like this :-

Picture a bicycle wheel. Each spoke is a specific God from an existing religion, the hub is the deist god (or metaphysical mess) you can start at any spoke and explain your way to the hub but it doesn't work in favour of 1 spoke above all others the other way around, if you start from the hub. An atheist sees all spokes as identical but theists pick one special spoke above all others and become infuriated when they try and work from the hub outward and we dismiss their one spoke as special compared to all the rest!

It's cool that TTA is getting a few more anti theists on here. It's how I define myself. If it is helpful, I see it like this. To be intellectually honest on the question of whether or not God exists I am agnostic atheist. This is because I accept I can never disprove God. To explain my values and moral framework, I am anti theist. I am ethically opposed to things done in the name of God/Gods that have a derogatory effect on people, such as laws passed supporting slavery, misogyny, unfair tax breaks etc; and things that effect individuals against their well being and consent, like religious opposition to gay rights or mutilating children's genitalia.

That's my 2p anyway Smile

I'll just play the 'can I help you' lick!!!
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