1 of 6
1
The meaning of “God”
Posted: 02 August 2007 10:57 PM   [ Ignore ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  252
Joined  2007-07-12

Hi,

Do you think that the word “God” has any meaning at all? If it does not have meaning, what can be said of it’s usage?

Profile
 
 
Posted: 03 August 2007 12:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  15305
Joined  2006-02-14

This is something I’ve discussed several times ... it’s an impossible question to answer satisfactorily for everyone, since there are an unbounded number of ways people use the word “god”, many of them entirely idiosyncratic.

However, there is a definite theological consensus about what “god” means or is. To wit, god is a person who is the:

(1) omniscient,
(2) omnipotent,
(3) perfectly good,
(4) creator and sustainer of the universe.

There are some theologians who disagree with this formula. However, insofar as there is a single classical definition of the term “god”, a “rational kernel” to the concept, that is it.

 Signature 

Doug

-:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:-

El sueño de la razón produce monstruos

Profile
 
 
Posted: 03 August 2007 12:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  252
Joined  2007-07-12

If an entity is defined as being beyond our senses and experience, can the word given to the entity mean anything?  The meaning of words Should be based upon direct experience and thinking about it.

If something is said to be beyond senses, and thought, how can we treat the meaning of such a word?

Profile
 
 
Posted: 03 August 2007 12:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4052
Joined  2006-11-28

As Doug knows, I think the definition he gives for god is specific to major contemporary religious traditions, but not of necessity the only or best defintion. In any case, I disagre that a word can only be defined in terms of direct experience. We define words relating to sub-atomic particles, abstract concepts, and imaginary things all the time, and we know what we mean and what we are referring to. If part of the defintion of god is, for someone, that there are aspects of the entity that cannot be understood, it doesn’t make the word meaningless. Oh, it is cheating in the sense that it allows one to argue that no evidence can be provided for or against the specific characteristics attributed to such and entity because any evidence the person defending the “unknowable” entity doesn’t like is simply said to be invalidated by the ineffibility of the entity. But I don’t think it is necessarily illogical to say that there are things we could never experience directly or understand about a being that is supposed to be able to create the known universe. As I often say, An ant can’t conceive of us, but we exist anyway. My dog understands very little about my true nature, but he understands true and relevant aspects of my nature.

 Signature 

The SkeptVet
The SkeptVet Blog
Militant Agnostic: I don’t know, and neither do you!

Profile
 
 
Posted: 03 August 2007 12:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  15305
Joined  2006-02-14
wandering - 03 August 2007 12:16 AM

If an entity is defined as being beyond our senses and experience, can the word given to the entity mean anything?  The meaning of words Should be based upon direct experience and thinking about it.

If something is said to be beyond senses, and thought, how can we treat the meaning of such a word?

There are some sorts of mystical theology that claim god is beyond human comprehension, ineffable, indescribable, etc. Insofar as we take that sort of talk seriously, the theology that results is simple obscurantist nonsense. If god were “indescribable” then to start with, it would false to say that god was in any way responsible for the Bible, or for the universe, or for anything we can understand. It would be false to say that god responded to prayer, or was powerful, or was good, or knew anything, or was worthy of respect, etc., etc., etc.

If someone wants to claim that there’s something that exists that I cannot comprehend ... my attitude towards that thing should be one of complete and utter indifference. If I cannot comprehend it, there is no action that I can even contemplate that would be either good or bad with respect to that thing.

So although this sort of theology certainly exists, it is fatally flawed. I cannot be more emphatic about that, because I dislike obscurantism perhaps more than any other philosophical position. Obscurantism is intellectual dishonesty.

[ Edited: 03 August 2007 12:04 PM by dougsmith ]
 Signature 

Doug

-:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:-

El sueño de la razón produce monstruos

Profile
 
 
Posted: 03 August 2007 12:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  418
Joined  2007-07-19

Well put Doug.  I admire you economy with language.

 Signature 

“It is the tension between creativity and skepticism that has produced the stunning and unexpected findings of science.” ~ Carl Sagan

Profile
 
 
Posted: 03 August 2007 12:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
Sr. Member
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  252
Joined  2007-07-12

(1) How can you tell if a philosophy is an “alternative point of view on the world”, a “mystical point of view”, “something which is beyond the western point of view (in eastern philosophy) ” and between Obscurantism?

(2) If there would be “an alternative, just as valid point of view on reality”, how would you tell the difference between it and Obscurantism? What makes you so sure that it is?


(3) Is not this a type of “ad hominem” to blame someone being an obscurant?

[ Edited: 03 August 2007 12:59 PM by wandering ]
Profile
 
 
Posted: 03 August 2007 01:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  15305
Joined  2006-02-14
wandering - 03 August 2007 12:49 PM

How can you tell if a philosophy is an “alternative point of view on the world”, a “mystical point of view”, “something which is beyond the western point of view (in eastern philosophy) ” and between Obscurantism?

If there would be “an alternative, just as valid point of view on reality”, how would you tell the difference between it and Obscurantism? What makes you so sure that it is?

It would entirely depend on the details. Do the people take their own words seriously? Do they implicitly contradict themselves? Is there a lot of B.S., as described in Harry Frankfurt’s wonderful book? If so, it’s a kind of obscurantism.

By “obscurantism” I mean obscuring the clarity of your message in order to bamboozle people into thinking you know what you are talking about.

 Signature 

Doug

-:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:-

El sueño de la razón produce monstruos

Profile
 
 
Posted: 03 August 2007 01:03 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  15305
Joined  2006-02-14
wandering - 03 August 2007 12:49 PM

(3) Is not this a type of “ad hominem” to blame someone being an obscurant?

(I missed this point before ...)

No, it’s not an ad hominem ... it’s a description of a bad form of argument.

 Signature 

Doug

-:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:-

El sueño de la razón produce monstruos

Profile
 
 
Posted: 03 August 2007 02:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  1161
Joined  2007-07-16

i was an atheist untill i found the flying spaghetti monster. can i get a RAmen?

 Signature 

“Unsustainable systems can’t be sustained.” ~ Robert Jensen

Profile
 
 
Posted: 04 August 2007 07:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
Jr. Member
Avatar
RankRank
Total Posts:  48
Joined  2007-01-13
dougsmith - 03 August 2007 12:02 AM

However, there is a definite theological consensus about what “god” means or is. To wit, god is a person who is the:

(1) omniscient,
(2) omnipotent,
(3) perfectly good,
(4) creator and sustainer of the universe.

There are some theologians who disagree with this formula. However, insofar as there is a single classical definition of the term “god”, a “rational kernel” to the concept, that is it.

I actually prefer my (somewhat flippant) alternative…

God is an invisible friend for grown-ups.

wink

 Signature 

There are 10 types of people in the world.

Those who understand binary numbers and those who do not.

Profile
 
 
Posted: 06 August 2007 11:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
Jr. Member
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  70
Joined  2007-08-05

As all words of men, they cannot transcend beyond the speakers own meaning. What a man means in expressions of words are metaphors, and metaphors are only personal to the individual.

What is a myth? In the sense of defining what a myth is, I have come to recognize most people view a myth as a fable, or story. Any telling of a fable or story of the past can be classified as an ancient myth dealing with supernatural being, ancestors, or heroes. All these ingredients goes into stories simply by presenting figures of achievement or failure by individuals. This is ture because man is always in need of a scapegoat, or mentor. And in all myth one finds crucifixions of the body whether physical or mental, and someone greater or lessor which men walk upon, or stand upon the shoulders of. Myths are metaphors stemming from individual believes and non-beliefs in one’s own experience.

Let us go a little deeper into this by saying: “some believe God is a myth. But God is a metaphor for a mystery that absolutely transcend all categorites of human thought, even the category of being and non-being.” - Joseph Campbell

To attach myself to Campbell’s definition “God is a metaphor for a mystery” which transcend human comprehension, I present as a present and true metaphor Life Itself.  This means one cannot give a description of the activities which occur in the living of life between the arch of birth and death as being a answer to the question.  Life must be defined from it’s origin and purpose to be a definitive answer.

However I say no one can give a definitive answer because “There is no logic for the existence of the universe.”

[ Edited: 06 August 2007 11:31 AM by jufa ]
 Signature 

Never give power to anything a person believes is their source of strength jufa

You are never alone!

Profile
 
 
Posted: 06 August 2007 11:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
Moderator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  4052
Joined  2006-11-28

Well, there are several points I’d disagree with. First metaphor is not personal to the individual. The purpose of metaphor, and language generally, is to communicate. Metaphors are only meaningful when they embody shared ideas. That’s why poetry with purely personal metaphors is rarely appealing or interesting to anyone but the author. So insofar as “god” is a metaphor for something, it must be something appreciated and understood by many people.

And while I have argued with others here that it is fair to say what we mean by “god” may be only partially comprehensible to us, and that there may be aspects to such an entity beyond our comprehension, I do agree with Doug that if we say god is essentially and entirely beyond “all categories of human thought,” then the word is meaningless as it doesn’t represent anything at all. There must be a concept comprehensible to humans behind a word for it to have meaning.

Finally, I think myths, even as metaphor, are attempts to make the incomprehensible comprehensible or concrete. They take things we don’t understand and try to represent them in ways that make them more manageable, to give us the feeling of understanding and perhaps control over our world.

As for “there is no logic for the existence of the Universe” and “To attach myself to Campbell’s definition “God is a metaphor for a mystery” which transcend human comprehension, I present as a present and true metaphor Life Itself.  This means one cannot give a description of the activities which occur in the living of life between the arch of birth and death as being a answer to the question.  Life must be defined from it’s origin and purpose to be a definitive answer” I find your language confusing and hard to follow here, so I’m not sure what you’re really trying to say.

[ Edited: 06 August 2007 01:29 PM by mckenzievmd ]
 Signature 

The SkeptVet
The SkeptVet Blog
Militant Agnostic: I don’t know, and neither do you!

Profile
 
 
Posted: 06 August 2007 12:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
Administrator
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  15305
Joined  2006-02-14

What Brennen said.

Moreover, “a metaphor for a mystery” sounds like an agnostic’s sort of god, not a believer’s.

It is all well and good to use metaphor when doing poetry or creative writing. But when we get serious about describing how the world is we have to be able to discharge these metaphors—to translate them into non-metaphorical language. Otherwise, to use a religious phrase, metaphors can obscure a multitude of sins.

 Signature 

Doug

-:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:- -:—:-

El sueño de la razón produce monstruos

Profile
 
 
Posted: 06 August 2007 01:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
Jr. Member
RankRankRank
Total Posts:  70
Joined  2007-08-05

Everything is personal to the individual.  Nothing anyone has done, shall do, or does is personal to you from their vantage of experience.  Relativity appears to make things impresonal, but relativity only allows one to relate to that which has been done, shall be done, or what one shall do.  But to be aware of the exactness of what is,  what was, and what shall be, one must experience the exactness for themselves.  And it is impossible for you to see what others see, hear, touch, taste, smell, think, and that yet to enter into their minds, no less touch as another touches, and feel as another feels.  Everything is personal to the individual, even their realitivity of relating.

God has never been anything.  God has never been nothing.  God has always been God.  And since God has always been the singularity of pluralism, the omniety of such an entity not only exceeds the bounds of mythology but also metaphors.  Therefore any argument you present, and have presented to explain in your words that which is:

incomprehensible comrpehensible

nullifies all that you have presented in answering my post.  Why?  Because the mind cannot comprehens what it cannot grasp.

To put forth a valid aggument you must begin answer the metaphorical proposition

“God is a metaphor for a mystery” which transcend human comprehension, I present as a present and true metaphor Life Itself.

I put to you.  Here is where we must begin.  Why? Because not to define the cause makes the effects metaphors.

 Signature 

Never give power to anything a person believes is their source of strength jufa

You are never alone!

Profile
 
 
Posted: 06 August 2007 01:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
Sr. Member
Avatar
RankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRankRank
Total Posts:  2291
Joined  2007-07-05
dougsmith - 03 August 2007 12:02 AM

This is something I’ve discussed several times ... it’s an impossible question to answer satisfactorily for everyone, since there are an unbounded number of ways people use the word “god”, many of them entirely idiosyncratic.

However, there is a definite theological consensus about what “god” means or is. To wit, god is a person who is the:

(1) omniscient,
(2) omnipotent,
(3) perfectly good,
(4) creator and sustainer of the universe.

There are some theologians who disagree with this formula. However, insofar as there is a single classical definition of the term “god”, a “rational kernel” to the concept, that is it.

How many of these concepts about God come from European “classical” culture?  Is there anything that might be called theology outside of European culture.

This concept of omniscience for instance.  Does God know what I am going to have for lunch on thursday 5 weeks from now?  If he does not does that mean he is not omniscient even if he knows everything about how the universe works and everything that has happened up to this point?

And as for perfectly good, can we even conceive of what is good from the perspective of an omniscient being.  What is the system works on reincarnation and a child dying of leukemia was a sadistic torturer in a previous life and he is just balancing out his karma.  If he is in a culture that doesn’t believe in reincarnation this God can’t seem too good.

Our assumptions about the God concept are based on what we are told by people that lived centuries ago.  Did they know that other galaxies existed?  Could this mean that every galaxy has its own God and none actually knows what is going on in any other galaxy?  Has anyone ever mentioned that possibility to you before.

Science means admitting that there are things outside your knowledge but it is a matter of imagination as to what limits you think might be going on outside your knowledge.  I think Einstein made some famous quote about imagination.

How different would a theology based on reincarnation be from a theology based on eternal salvation or punishment?  Since neither has proven anything to date are they both useless speculation and not worth getting bent out of shape about unless you happen to BELIEVE in one?

psik

 Signature 

Fiziks is Fundamental

Profile
 
 
   
1 of 6
1