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Proofs that God is imaginary

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by eastsidebagel, Apr 13, 2009.

  1. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Yes, these are obviously common arguments.

    For a couple of decades post WWII, there was a general consensus among philosophers that this - or something like it - was successful as a deductive argument. As you have phrased it here, the argument is not valid. A better formulation would be:

    (1) If a perfectly good, omnipotent God exists, then the degree of suffering that we see would not exist.
    (2) But the degree of suffering that we see exists.
    (3) Therefore, a perfectly good, omnipotent God does not exist.

    That argument is valid (ie, if the premises are true, the conclusion must be true). As I said, there was a time when most people thought that the premises were true, and that the conclusion is therefore true (and actually demonstrated to be true). Today, few philosophers accept this. The reason is that we cannot really know premise (1) to be true. There could be some reason, unknown to us, why God would permit the degree of suffering that we see. Even if we can't think of such a reason we can't rule out that it exists.

    So the form that this argument generally takes today is an inductive argument, that is, one that is supposed to show that its conclusion is probable. Such an argument might run like this:

    (1) Probably, if a perfectly good, omnipotent God exists, then the degree of suffering that we see would not exist.
    (2) But the degree of suffering that we see exists.
    (3) Therefore, a perfectly good, omnipotent God probably does not exist.

    That seems to me to be a pretty good argument. Of course it doesn't prove that God exists, but then, as I say, most substantial claims about the world cannot be proved. The strength of the argument also depends upon how strong you can make that "probably" in premise (1), and the justification you can provide for it. But that seems to me not enormously difficult to flesh out.

    Arguments of this kind, in my opinion, are extremely poor. For one thing, both of the first two premises are false - there exists evidence both for and against God. The third premise seems pretty questionable to me. Perhaps a world with God would be simpler than one without God, because God is a very simple being, and can serve as an explanation for many things. The world without God, then, would have to have many, more complex, explanations for those things, and thus be overall more complex.

    However, the weakest element of arguments of this kind is the supposition that simpler explanations are always to be preferred. This is certainly a common assumption in science - although it is one that is very rarely defended, surprisingly. In fact the only book-length defence of this principle that I have been able to find (and I have researched this quite carefully recently) is by Richard Swinburne - who uses the principle as a central premise in his argument for God. And it's a pretty short book too. But there are important philosophers of science today who argue that in fact the principle doesn't exist at all. Elliott Sober, for example, argues that there is no general principle of simplicity. Rather, different branches of science have certain reasons, local to those branches, why simpler hypotheses are to be preferred, and it's just a sort of coincidence that this is often the case. Furthermore, there are many cases where simpler hypotheses are not to be preferred. Most pertinently to this discussion, I don't know of any good argument that shows why, in the question whether there is a God or not, the simpler hypothesis is to be preferred - even assuming we can identify which hypothesis actually is the simpler. Indeed, the fact that people can't even agree whether theism is simpler than atheism or vice versa is one thing that suggests to me that this whole issue is an enormous red herring.
     
  2. Flying Pig

    Flying Pig Utrinque Paratus

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    I think you're right about the second one, but I hesistate to fall bac on the 'we cannot fathom the mind of God' argument on the first. I can at least say that if God exists and is fitting with the characteristics I laid out, then he is not what we would call a just ruler (suffering of innocents) and so the traditional Christian/Jewish/Muslim idea of God falls apart.
     
  3. Murky

    Murky Deity

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    Why does God have to be omnipotent or benevolent to exist?
     
  4. Flying Pig

    Flying Pig Utrinque Paratus

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    A god (no caps) does not, but the arguments show that God as portrayed in the Bible almost certainly does not exist
     
  5. Murky

    Murky Deity

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    Is God, as portray by the Bible, "always" benevolent and omnipotent. Isn't that just a few people's interpretations of scripture?

    Can't you just believe in a Cosmological God without the baggage of the Theology?
     
  6. Flying Pig

    Flying Pig Utrinque Paratus

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    Omnipotent yes; and he rewards his lot enough. So I would say that he is; but of course you can just believe in the 'duck-out god' who doesn't reveal himself
     
  7. Verision

    Verision Chieftain

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    In highschool, I had a friend who was of the Bahá'í faith, and he told me a little bit about his religion. One of the basic ideas of the faith (as far as I understand it; I'm not Bahá'í, nor am I an expert) is that all major religions were the right religions for the time, place and people that recieved the message from God's prophet.
    In other words, Bahá'ís believe that the message Moses gave to the Jewish people was the right message for the Jewish people at that time in history to move them in the direction that God wanted the Jewish people to go (similar statements can be made about Jesus and Christians, Muhammad and Muslims, etc) They don't believe, however, that the message Moses gave to the people was the ONLY message that God had for humans, or that it was meant to be the ONLY religion on Earth for the rest of time.

    Here's an exert from the Wikipedia entry on Bahá'í:
    (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bahá'í_Faith)

    "Bahá'í teachings emphasize the underlying unity of the major world religions. Religious history is seen to have unfolded through a series of divine messengers, each of whom established a religion that was suited to the needs of the time and the capacity of the people."

    The reason I wanted to talk about this is that many of the arguements I've seen in this thread (and on that site in the OP) all say "The Bible says X. X is not true, therefore there is no God".

    Well, the Bahá'í Faith has a pretty good answer for those types of arguements, and it seems to make sense. Sure, you can make the arguement that:

    God is good
    Bad stuff happens
    Therefore God does not exist

    But if you look at religions as ways for God to manipulate humans and influence them without taking away their free will, then the types of arguements I mention above don't work.

    God is good
    Bad stuff happens
    Bad stuff happens because God is trying to make humans into something better than what they currently are, not because God wants bad stuff to happen and not because God isn't omnipotent.


    In the interest of full disclosure, I don't exactly believe what I talk about above. It is simply meant as an arguement against all the "Bible says X, X not true --> no God" arguements.

    Personally, I think that the universe and time itself is circular. Start from where we are now: sentient life. Sentient life evolved form non-sentient life, which evolved from single cell life forms, which evolved from non-living organic material.
    Now go forward: Sentient life will continue to evolve. Given enough time, sentient life should become "somethig more" (just as sentient life is "something more" than non-sentient life, which is "something more" than single cell life) .
    I believe that eventually sentient life will evolve to the point of omnipotence, at which time a "god" (or god-like-lifeform) will emerge. Personally, I believe that an omnipotent lifeform would basically "hit the restart button". Why? What's left when you can do everything and anything at will with no effort?
    The answer is "nothing". So, hit the restart button, Big Bang, life emerges from non-life. Sentient life emerges from non-sentient life. Omnipotent life evolves from sentient life. Omnipotent life hits the reset button (I.E. creates the universe and everything therein)
     
  8. PeteAtoms

    PeteAtoms FormulaRandom

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    Sounds like someone's been reading Isaac Asimov's "The Last Question." :)
     
  9. Agent327

    Agent327 Observer

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    No, I merely suggested monotheistic religions tend to "operate" like this - a solid reason for separation of state and church.

    I seem to recall Socrates was condemned by a Spartan-installed Athenian tyranny - which seems like a suitable comparison, ethically speaking.

    I'm fully aware of the Catholic church's rationale, but you seem to suggest ethics is reserved for religion, something I would question - along with a couple of philosophers. I'm also aware of the arguments of many Christians (today and in the past), resulting in laws that ignore significant minorities' rights. Now, sufficiently educated people may well see past such "ethical" arguments; unfortunately, such education is not available worldwide.

    Once again, I enjoyed your illumination of the history of God proofs.

    Concluding with a reference to proof against God's existence: (the behaviour of) his followers. (I'd illuminate it with examples, but fear the volume of their number would be as obvious as God's existence was to Paul, so I'll just refer to the history of Christianity through the ages in general.)
     
  10. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    I still think that's too strong, because it assumes that (a) suffering of innocents occurs, and (b) a just God would definitely not permit the suffering of innocents. Both of these things seem likely, but they are far from certain. Perhaps the people who suffer deserve it somehow. Perhaps they do not, but there is a much greater good which is served by permitting it. These may not be likely, but you cannot simply rule them out, at least not without some good arguments. So your conclusion isn't certain.

    As a side note, there is no such thing as "the traditional Christian/Jewish/Muslim idea of God". Each of these religions contains many different conceptions of God. You need to say which one you're talking about.

    No, the Bible never states that God is omnipotent. In fact I'm not sure that the concept of "omnipotence" was really around in biblical times. The Bible generally portrays God in purely personal terms (faithful to his people, rather than perfectly good; able to save his people, rather than omnipotent; and so on). This is why people have traditionally distinguished between "the God of the philosophers" on the one hand and "the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" on the other. There is considerable debate among philosophical theologians over whether the two can be reconciled. And there have been plenty of theologians, especially over the past few decades, who have argued that the biblical picture of God is explicitly not omnipotent etc. This was one of the motivations behind process theology.

    I didn't say that ethics is reserved for religion, and such a view is not at all implied by what I said. I said only that science isn't about ethics. I was pointing out that the church's view on this matter is not a scientific claim but an ethical one, so it's not a matter of the church weighing in on a scientific matter that doesn't concern it. Whether or not one can evaluate this ethical matter in a non-religious context is neither here nor there as far as that point goes.
     
  11. Verision

    Verision Chieftain

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    Actually, no. Never even heard about it. But I am going to make a grandious "Great Minds Think Alike" statement, just in case ;)

    Would you recommend the book?

    EDIT: Looked up some info on this. It's a short story about a computer that is asked "how the threat to human existence posed by the heat death of the universe can be averted" (taken from Wikipedia).
    Basically in the end the computer "hits the restart button", remaking the universe, which is basically the only way to counteract the heat death of the universe. Very interesting.
     
  12. Flying Pig

    Flying Pig Utrinque Paratus

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    • A is certain. Unless we talk about original sin (which is a monsterous bit of thought) then you can't argue with it. Even so, an immediate counter-example I can think of - conscripts who were fired on because their officers threatened to shoot them unless they picked up their rifles.
    • As for B; unless we can say that God is a [dare I say it?] Nazi then making one person suffer when they are guilty of nothing is hardly moral/ethical/non-pointless.
    I don't know enough about them - I'm referring to the idea that God created the world with man as his favourite and gave him laws; and will reward the good and punish the bad.

    What about the phrase 'almighty God'? Doesn't that give it away just a bit? :mischief:
     
  13. Verision

    Verision Chieftain

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    Oh no you didn't! Oh yes he did

    Everyone out of the thread; a Nazi comparison has been made. This time God was envolved.
     
  14. Murky

    Murky Deity

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    Permitting suffering to occur is not the same as causing suffering directly. Are you morally responsible when you just walk past a homeless person on the street? You could help them if you wanted, but few people would charge that you are immoral for just leaving them be.
     
  15. Flying Pig

    Flying Pig Utrinque Paratus

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    I would say that if you can, with no inconvenience or risk to yourself worth mentioning, help somebody in trouble then you are morally to blame for not doing so. For example; to walk by a man drowning in a pond would be bad, but not to walk by a man drowning in a raging torrent where you have no mobile phone signal.
     
  16. Ecofarm

    Ecofarm Deity

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    I don't believe this to be true.
     
  17. Murky

    Murky Deity

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    Why not?



    (ten char)
     
  18. Erik Mesoy

    Erik Mesoy Core Tester / Intern

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    Probably because he suffers from a bad case of the Just World Theory cognitive bias, which causes people to think that the moral status of a person is bound up with their circumstances and that everyone is getting their just deserts, and thereon to make up justifications for it, so he thinks that homeless people are some mixture of stupid or evil and will inevitably stay on the streets where they deserve to be because they couldn't do better if you gave them a million dollars.

    You should study psychology sometime, BTW. The JWT bias is fascinating, present very early in life, and immense. The best case in point I saw was that of groups of six-year-olds rating a person who found money as being a morally better person than one who helped a friend, and rated a person getting injured in an accident as being a morally worse person than one who stole from another.
     
  19. TheMeInTeam

    TheMeInTeam Top Logic

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    Religion is a tool used to manipulate people toward the designs of a human or group of humans, and those designs do not have to be good OR evil.

    God, in whatever sense he exists or does not, does not define religion. People define religion. Every "holy" scripture was written by a human being, subject to the flaws of human writing ability. Even if we were to pretend these people received divine messages, it is ridiculous to assume they could comprehend them.

    The existence of god is irrelevant to the existence of religion, other than the fact that religion uses one or more of them as a source of credibility. The existence of a greater being in that context is an illusion of mankind.

    None of this refutes the existence or influence of a greater being, just that it is completely implausible that humans could interpret and accurately portray them, or that the writings of these people are in any way representative of such a being's intention regardless of whether one exists.

    God is definitely imaginary in the sense that it's doubtful anybody perceives such a thing in the same way, and there's no way to prove it. It may be due to human's inability to perceive things outside of our own constraints, but let's not forget that our definition of imaginary is based on our own constraints...and so god is imaginary within the context of human perception.
     
  20. Ecofarm

    Ecofarm Deity

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    I don't think giving them money, food or housing (all of which I've done personally) fixes anything fundamentally. We can address the symptom, but to address the source professional help is required. And sometimes, even that cannot set things "right".


    Umm, no. But thanks for directing the thread towards me personally. Even if you presume me to be an idiot.

    Soft, biased science FTW! For all we know from your little anecdote, children chose the person with the brightest t-shirt and the biggest smile. If you seriously expect 6 year olds to take in the entire context with intellectual assessment, well...
     

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