Gathering perspectives
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01-04-2014, 06:37 AM
Gathering perspectives
Good morning, evening or whenever.

If I asked anyone here whether they think that gods exist, whether they think that gods are real, I suspect that a considerable proportion of the responses would be along the lines of "no"; at least that is what the name of the website would suggest. Although I would expect some of the answers to say something along the lines of "yes", or at least, "my god exists, my god is real".

I guess only a few would reply with questions: "What do you mean by 'exist'? What do you mean by 'real'?" But they would be fair questions, because even though we often use the same words when we describe our perspectives, we don't always give them the same meaning. That is probably responsible for at least part of the common misunderstandings between human beings.

When confronted with such a situation, some people generally resort to arguing about the meanings of words, bringing up dictionaries to back their claims, seemingly forgetting that dictionaries are not providers of language but mere descriptors of its use. It is us, the speakers, who provide ourselves with the language in our attempt to convey the ideas that may roam our minds. As we are replaced by new speakers who grow up in a slightly different world, the languages change too, regardless of how many dictionaries we choose to write. So arguing about the meaning of words is, in my opinion, silly. What is important is understanding the notions attempted to be conveyed by those words.

If someone says to me "I think that existence is anything I can think of, and I can think of my god, therefore my god exists" then I can only agree, because the conclusion follows from the premises. If their sentence "my god exists" is semantically equivalent to "I can think of my god", then it is obviously true, because even I can think of their god; why wouldn't they be able to?

Of course, I use the term in a different way, arriving to the opposite conclusion, but no one has the obligation to use words like I use them, as if I somehow knew their objective meanings. As long as people understand the notions they are trying to convey and their implications, I am happy with their choice of words. If someone's god exists because they can think of it I will agree, but only if they also agree that their god is therefore an idea in their minds. It is not I who is introducing the word "think" in their definition.

To me, the word "real" suggests something that exists and I generally reserve the term "existence" to describe a situation in which an object is located at a precise distance, in a precise direction, from each of the rest of the objects in the universe. You're located some distance away from the screen on which you're reading these lines (unless you've printed it out, in which case you're located some distance away from the paper). You're right above the thing you are sitting, standing or lying on. You may be some distance below some kind of roof, and so on. In the sense I use the word, you exist, at least for as long as your body does not disintegrate into simpler components.

Do smurfs exist? Well, they are not located at any distance and in any direction from any physical object, they are imaginary entities that can be thought of, but not real entities you can bump into, so in the sense I use the word, they do not exist. What about the most common monotheistic god in our "modern" (i.e., primitive) culture? It is often described as being everywhere at once, and therefore it is admittedly not located at any precise distance, in any precise direction, from any other thing. Thus, the way I use the word, the most common monotheistic god in our "modern" culture does not exist. It is something we can think of, but it is not located anywhere.

So my question to anyone still awake, he he, is: whether you think that gods exist, or whether you think they are not real, what do you mean when you use those terms?

Thanks for any replies, and enjoy your day however you spend it.
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01-04-2014, 06:56 AM
RE: Gathering perspectives
Can 'nothing' exist in a place where there used to be 'something'?

Dodgy

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01-04-2014, 07:43 AM
RE: Gathering perspectives
(01-04-2014 06:37 AM)living thing Wrote:  So my question to anyone still awake, he he, is: whether you think that gods exist, or whether you think they are not real, what do you mean when you use those terms?

Do I think gods exist: I don't know. I can't prove there are no gods, but I also don't see any reason to take any nonfalsifiable gods seriously, so I don't believe in them.

Are gods real: I have never observed any gods in any way that was obvious or self-evident, so I'll give the same answer as I did for the first question.

Basically, show me some evidence that gods exist that doesn't require you to assume they exist in the first place, and I'll be on board with believing in gods.


(01-04-2014 06:37 AM)living thing Wrote:  Do smurfs exist? Well, they are not located at any distance and in any direction from any physical object, they are imaginary entities that can be thought of, but not real entities you can bump into, so in the sense I use the word, they do not exist.

How do you know? Tongue
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01-04-2014, 09:14 AM
RE: Gathering perspectives
Hello DLJ, thanks for contributing to this thread with such a good question (at least in my opinion). Can nothing exist in a place where there used to be something?

I would like to know what you mean when you use the word "exist" so that I can interpret the question in your own terms, not in my terms. Meanwhile, I will interpret it in my own terms in case the answer may be useful to anyone; although I hope no one believes the answer to be true (I strive to be understood, not believed, because I may be wrong). But I think it is worth asking a related question before attempting to answer the one you suggest. Can something exist in a place?

Using the term in the sense I use it, no; things don't exist in a place. Things exist at some distance, and in some direction, from other things. The location of things is meaningless unless it is specified in relation to something else. Our latitude and longitude on a map, for example, are convenient ways to express distances from an arbitrary reference point along the surface of an oblate spheroid; choose a different reference point, and our coordinates will change without even moving in relation to the ground. As infinitesimally small distances, points and places are abstractions in our minds. Out there, things occupy non-zero volumes (distances along three orthogonal axes) and most of them are located non-zero distances away from each other, although I can't find any conceptual reason why some things wouldn't be able to physically touch each other if they are electrically neutral.

Can then nothing be said to exist in a place where something used to exist? Well, is nothing something located at a precise distance and in a precise direction from each of the other things? I am a thing, is nothing to my left, or is it to my right? Is it above me or below me? Is it next to my skin, or is it trillions upon trillions of miles away? Using the word "exist" in the sense that I use it, I don't think it can be said that the word "nothing" refers to an object that actually exists. In my mind, it makes more sense to think of nothing as an abstraction referring to the lack of all things. After all, if the notion conveyed by the word "nothing" were that of some thing, then the word "something" would seem much more appropriate, would it not? To me, "no thing" suggests not a thing.

However, the relative distances and orientations between existing objects aren't necessarily fixed and, in fact, the universe is constantly changing as things move in relation to one another, so if your question goes along the lines of "can there be nothing where there used to be something?" then yes, of course, things can move away from their present relative locations as long as no other thing impedes their motion.

What is your view on the subject? Can nothing exist in a place where there used to be something?

Thanks for stopping by, have a nice one.
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01-04-2014, 09:56 AM
RE: Gathering perspectives
I wrote a poem a couple of weeks ago along the lines of this subject.

Quote:I will reach inside myself, seeking meaning, definition and feeling.
To apply insight to dead, inert words. A subject without meaning.

And here I stand.

Here now you reach inside yourself whilst reading, your own inner voice giving meaning.
With your own different history and your own different feelings.

Am I now here?

For no matter how much I use these symbols, to describe symptoms of my existence.
You are your own emphasis.
So I say nothing.

In answering your question I believe in the concept of a god, I use the word concept because there have been many different gods throughout humanities time all with similar characteristics (The need for faith, no real direct conclusive evidence etc).

For no matter how much I use these symbols, to describe symptoms of my existence.
You are your own emphasis.
So I say nothing.

-Bemore.
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01-04-2014, 11:03 AM
RE: Gathering perspectives
Hi RobbyPants, thanks for your valuable view.

I am sorry, I think I didn't express my question most adequately and I apologise; English is not my native language and perhaps that is why I am so keen on asking for clarifications before jumping to conclusions.

I thank you for your answers, although those weren't my questions. The double question is what do you personally mean when you say that something exists, or not, and what do you personally mean when you say that something is real, or not. The "whether you think that gods exist, or whether you think they are not real" was meant to direct the question towards those people who answer yay or nay to either sub-question instead of asking for clarification.

(01-04-2014 07:43 AM)RobbyPants Wrote:  Do I think gods exist: I don't know. I can't prove there are no gods, but I also don't see any reason to take any nonfalsifiable gods seriously, so I don't believe in them.
And I think that is very sensible; I am little inclined towards belief myself. I try not to take as truths even my own views, just in case they are not true, so I would never ask you to believe that there really are gods around us.

But in a lot less real way, gods are around us; in the minds of many human beings who are physically located around us. You only need to look at all the actions performed by so many people for the glory of their favourite abstraction. Gods will only fully disappear when people stop believing such notions.

(01-04-2014 07:43 AM)RobbyPants Wrote:  Are gods real: I have never observed any gods in any way that was obvious or self-evident, so I'll give the same answer as I did for the first question.
So in your view, things are real if you can observe them in a way that is obvious or self-evident, is that so? But then, was there nothing real before your brain became assembled? Please don't get me wrong, I will be very surprised if gods turn out to be real, but I am interested in what my fellow human beings mean when they talk about reality.

(01-04-2014 07:43 AM)RobbyPants Wrote:  Basically, show me some evidence that gods exist that doesn't require you to assume they exist in the first place, and I'll be on board with believing in gods.
I don't assume they exist, not in the first place, nor in the second place, nor in any place at all. I view gods as part of the set of notions conveyed by the motion of electrically charged ions across the membranes of some of our nerve cells, and I do not have any evidence that they are things actually located somewhere outside our skulls, so I am afraid I cannot draw you into any religious belief. Not that I wanted to, anyway.

(01-04-2014 07:43 AM)RobbyPants Wrote:  
(01-04-2014 06:37 AM)living thing Wrote:  Do smurfs exist? Well, they are not located at any distance and in any direction from any physical object, they are imaginary entities that can be thought of, but not real entities you can bump into, so in the sense I use the word, they do not exist.
How do you know? Tongue
That is a fair question, how do I know?

To be honest, I don't; I have not visited the whole planet so I am not able to tell you with confidence that there are no smurfs twenty metres to the right of that cave that is at the so-called foot of that mountain next to some river. However, I do know that someone who called himself "Peyo" claimed to have invented the notion of a smurf in 1958 as a comic strip for a magazine, and from a biological standpoint, those little animals (presumably mammals or marsupials, seeing how they have hair) would be a first-time discovery in several areas, so I find it much more likely that they are indeed imaginary inventions drawn for a comic strip. But if anyone knows where to find them, I'd like to go and study them. Hell, I might take one back as a pet!

Hoping that you will describe the meanings you attach to the words "real" and "exist", I wish you all the best.
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01-04-2014, 11:23 AM
RE: Gathering perspectives
Hello Bemore, thanks for your insight and your elaborate contribution.

(01-04-2014 09:56 AM)bemore Wrote:  I wrote a poem a couple of weeks ago along the lines of this subject.
...
In answering your question I believe in the concept of a god, I use the word concept because there have been many different gods throughout humanities time all with similar characteristics (The need for faith, no real direct conclusive evidence etc).
I appreciate your thoughts, although I must confess I am not a great fan of poetry.

To me, the main usefulness of words is our ability to use them to convey complex meanings, allowing us to combine them and build with them even more complex notions. And while I see how they can be used to produce delightfully sounding constructs, it often comes at the cost of hindering understandability; the poet is constrained in his or her choice of words, making it more difficult for him or her to find the ones that I understand in the same way. I don't always know what poems are about, so I don't spend much time reading or listening to them. But that is only a matter of personal taste (or lack thereof); if you like reading and/or writing poetry, it makes me happy that you read and/or write poetry.

And I agree when you say that there is the concept of a god, if by "there" we don't mean a specific distance and direction away from us, but rather "in the abstract universes of our minds". However, abstract notions in our minds are unlikely to be the creators of the universe, if only because many things in the universe are much older than our brains. I cannot understand how a notion happening in our brains could have created those older things.

But please don't take my ignorance as a claim for anything. Thanks again for enriching the thread with your poem.
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01-04-2014, 01:09 PM
RE: Gathering perspectives
(01-04-2014 06:37 AM)living thing Wrote:  So my question to anyone still awake, he he, is: whether you think that gods exist, or whether you think they are not real, what do you mean when you use those terms?

Does a god exist? As an abstract notion to explain natural processes when your are lacking an adequate explanation yes, however that does not mean I believe in a god.

For me exists means provable and independently verifiable i.e. i believe lions "exist" as I can see them, others have seen them, I can show you a lion, you can be eaten by a lion.

Cab I see a the wind? no but i can feel it, witness its physical manifestations as it blows grass across my porch, thus I believe it exists.

With no evidence for a god, other than unfalsifiable, untestable, unverifiable personal experiences I cannot believe a god exists.

I hope my inane ramblings make sense.

Here's the thing, were any of this true, Christian apologetics would not exist. One does not have to bend in multiple ways to defend electricity or aerodynamics. - Banjo

god's love is unconditional on the condition you do every thing he says. - Betty Bowers
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01-04-2014, 04:12 PM
RE: Gathering perspectives
Hello Blackhand293, how are you? Thanks for adding your bit of information to this thread, although, strictly speaking, it was more than one bit of information.

(01-04-2014 01:09 PM)Blackhand293 Wrote:  (...)
I hope my inane ramblings make sense.
I think I may have understood your view, although I may not, so please feel free to correct me if I misinterpret your words.

From your first statement I gather that gods can be said to exist if we consider them abstract "explanations" when an adequate explanation is not known. But only a little below you introduce provability and independent verifiability as requirements for existence, leading you to conclude that gods cannot be said to exist, after all. Can they, or can they not be said to exist?

Judging by the number of lines you dedicate to each option, I suspect that you are probably more inclined towards the second. If existence means provability and independent verifiability, gods cannot be said to exist until those abstract notions are proved and independently verified.

I understand how we can prove, or disprove, something about an object. If you say to me "Look! There is a lion beside that tree!" and I look and I see a lion beside a tree, I can verify your statement about the lion's location. Similarly, if you warn me that lions are able to eat me and I nonetheless run towards one to pull his testicles, I may be able to verify your statement about the lion's potential diet.

However, I am not so sure I understand what it means to prove the objects themselves. How do you prove a brick? You can prove that it sinks in liquid water, or that it is part of a specific wall, or some other notion about it, but what does it mean to prove the actual object? What does it mean to say that a brick exists?

That is one of the reasons why I choose to use the term "exist" in the sense that I use it, because it not only allows me to rule out the existence of gods, smurfs and Santa Claus (none of which are located anywhere in relation to any existing thing) but I can also apply it to everyday objects. The abstract notion of a brick does not exist the way I use the word, it is only an idea in our minds, but each specific brick does exist; it is located at a precise distance and in a precise direction from each of the other bricks that may also exist. And from many other things that also exist but are not bricks (such as lions).

But that is only my perspective, and this thread is about gathering other people's perspectives, so I'll cut my crap here :-)

Thank you again for your thoughts. Have fun.
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01-04-2014, 06:42 PM
RE: Gathering perspectives
(01-04-2014 11:03 AM)living thing Wrote:  Hi RobbyPants, thanks for your valuable view.

I am sorry, I think I didn't express my question most adequately and I apologise; English is not my native language and perhaps that is why I am so keen on asking for clarifications before jumping to conclusions.

I thank you for your answers, although those weren't my questions. The double question is what do you personally mean when you say that something exists, or not, and what do you personally mean when you say that something is real, or not. The "whether you think that gods exist, or whether you think they are not real" was meant to direct the question towards those people who answer yay or nay to either sub-question instead of asking for clarification.

Sorry. How about I rephrase?

If something cannot have a demonstrable effect on the universe (so far as we can tell), does it matter if it exists or not? So, I know you're looking for a definition on "exists", but I'm not so worried about that, myself; I'm more concerned with whether or not something has any relevance.
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