• Pattern-chaser
    1.8k
    Atheists love to talk about God. But it's difficult for them, as there is no generally agreed description* of God. It's probably the case that there are as many conceptions of God as there are believers, but are there general beliefs about God that many or most of us share? Come on, let's help the atheists out, by giving them a description of God to play with. :wink:

    For me, the omni- stuff is unhelpful. God is the 'shepherd' of life in the universe; we (all living things) are in Her care. Is even that an acceptable (to believers) starting point? If it is, can we add to it, and still remain in accord with the majority of believers?

    Can we come to an agreed description of God, or is that just a pipe dream?

    * - I've deliberately shied away from the word "definition", which somehow seems inappropriate.
  • tim wood
    3.3k
    Can we come to an agreed description of God, or is that just a pipe dream?Pattern-chaser
    Agreed? Where even to begin? In Christian belief, I reckon St. Anselm gets there "fustest with the mostest," with his "that than which nothing greater can be conceived."

    Except he was neither first nor had the most. His a derivative - and terse - summary proof for the benefit of those who had no need for such a proof, the matters having been already explicated, argued, refined for a thousand years by smart people with nothing else to do, before he composed his proof.

    Nor will any of that do for non-Christians. Even omnipotent v. perfect is a problem. Indeed, where to begin? Is there even a first word that won't be controversial?
  • PoeticUniverse
    781
    Is there even a first word that won't be controversial?tim wood

    We have to lay out the bare essentials first and see how that goes before layering more upon.

    It is an eternal First and Fundamental Being, with a creative Mind, it never having been made, without anything else before it or outside it. It is ever and it is All.

    Its existence is necessity, as Everything, for 'Nothing' cannot be, much less be productive. It cannot not be; it has to be; there is no choice in the matter.

    Problem: The only inconsistency that I see above is that beings would have to have parts—and so the parts would have to be more fundamental than the being, as in coming before, and the parts of parts, etc. Thus, beings have to evolve, just as we see in our universe, great complexity being later on, not earlier or first.
  • Shamshir
    856
    For me, the omni- stuff is unhelpful.Pattern-chaser
    Do please elaborate.
  • removedmembershiprc
    113
    People have generally taken "god" to mean whatever created all this stuff we seem to be experiencing. That being said, it is amorphous enough a concept that it will just transmute from person to person, sufficiently obscuring any attempt for people to arrive at some consensus on what it means. Incidentally, this problem applies to many words and concepts in the human language, like capitalism or socialism for example.
  • ZhouBoTong
    557
    That being said, it is amorphous enough a concept that it will just transmute from person to person, sufficiently obscuring any attempt for people to arrive at some consensus on what it means.rlclauer

    This is certainly true, but the word "god" must imply something that words like "nature", "universe", "everything", etc do not capture. If we are TRYING to be objective, "All knowing" and "All powerful" (with both power and knowledge being unconstrained by the laws of physics) seem to be the minimum requirements...right? Otherwise why call it "god" when we could just call it "nature" or "Steve the alien" or "Hal9000"?

    Do please elaborate.Shamshir

    I think the "omni-stuff" includes concepts like the "all knowing" (omniscience) and "all-powerful" (omnipotent) I mentioned above....I am realizing that you likely knew this already...maybe you need to elaborate on which parts you want elaborated? Or maybe I should just let @Pattern-chaseranswer before getting all huffy?

    And @Pattern-chaser, let me know if us atheist-types are supposed to butt-out of this one...but most theists would never bother THINKING about a description or definition of "god" as the answer has already been spelled out for them...? I guess deist-types and half-buddhists are popping up quite a bit, so more and more people are defining for themselves, the god they believe in.
  • Tzeentch
    445
    The source of being.

    For me, the omni- stuff is unhelpful.Pattern-chaser

    Surely, if we ever come to the conclusion that there is a being or consciousness that created existence, the question whether it is truly omni-something is irrelevant.
  • S
    11.8k
    Can we come to an agreed description of God, or is that just a pipe dream?Pattern-chaser

    It's probably a pipe dream, especially here of all places. But you might get some or even general agreement on some key aspects.

    For me, the omni- stuff is unhelpful. God is the 'shepherd' of life in the universe; we (all living things) are in Her care. Is even that an acceptable (to believers) starting point? If it is, can we add to it, and still remain in accord with the majority of believers?Pattern-chaser

    It'll have to be acceptable to atheists, too, in a sense. If it's too vague, as the above is, then how can I even make sense of my atheism in relation to your theism? It must be clear enough, so that we know what we're talking about. A vague metaphor like that won't cut the mustard. This is more like a situation where I'm asking for a description of your car, so that I can look for it in the car park which is full of cars, and you respond with something like, "My car is the 'beast' of speed on the road. She'll carry us on our journey". Yeah, that's much less helpful than the typical response you'd expect.
  • uncanni
    338
    irrelevant and ephimeral...
  • S
    11.8k
    God is a state of mind. God is praxis. God is not institutionaluncanni

    This I would classify as the worst kind of response to the question. Vague, unconventional, subjective, arbitrary, renders theism indistinguishable from atheism.
  • S
    11.8k
    ...the word "god" must imply something that words like "nature", "universe", "everything", etc do not capture.ZhouBoTong

    Yes, otherwise it's just a redundant label, and it would fail to distinguish theism from atheism. That I believe that the universe exists does not imply that I believe that God exists.
  • uncanni
    338
    This I would classify as the worst kind of response to the question.S

    But did you like it?
  • S
    11.8k
    But did you like it?uncanni

    No. Too many people try to be novel and poetic, but it just doesn't work. It might be boring, but examples of workable descriptions are the ones that we're most familiar with, such as a creator of the universe, or a being which is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good.
  • BrianW
    880
    ...the word "god" must imply something that words like "nature", "universe", "everything", etc do not capture.ZhouBoTong

    In a way, yes. And yet, all those words though having their own idiosyncratic meanings that prevent them from being completely identical, strive to express the same relevance within the domain of human understanding. To me, it seems that any special significance over the others is largely due to subjectivity.
  • PoeticUniverse
    781
    I'm in the process of coming up with a post-patriarchal, post-gendered, kabbalistic/buddhist/pagan/derridian feeling of the oneness, the echad.uncanni

    Yes, we may get to something like that.

    Since my 'God' description had a "problem", I need to back off of it somewhat, leaving but what could be so.

    I'll probably have to remove the 'Mind' notion, probably, but first, what is left intact?

    We can show the necessity of existence, in that it has no alternative that can be, namely, non-existence, which now can't even be meant. We can call this The Existence Principle. Everything that is was already there, ever, either all at once, in a block, or potentially by combining bit by bit from what was ever there; however, we don't know the mode of time so we'll have to cover both. The Everything, then, survives as a step toward having 'God, and it seems that the Everything would have all that is possible in it, given that the unborn Everything couldn't have had anything specific designed into it. The Everything needs no creation and can't have creation of it, anyway, and it likewise can never go away. Beginnings and Ends are out, concerning the Everything.
  • PoeticUniverse
    781
    So, in general, we appear to be outcroppings of the Everything, but really we are still the essence of it, as anything would be, there really only being the One. We age and die, yes, but the energy involved can't go away.

    For some reason, the One is energetic, as a given, and this is not only why it is ever, but also why it can never be still and continually has to transform and transition through the states which are probably stitched together via something like the laws of nature.

    'God' is in sight, now, perhaps, though having less of a nature than we supposed, but still as the main event. All is a continuation of the one Event, we merely placing arbitrary local boundaries to try to identify local cause and effect, but our isolations of these local events can't incorporate everything and so they are but approximate and so cannot be precise.
  • uncanni
    338
    Isaac Luria wrote that God contracted to create a space for matter. I find the concept fascinating, but it's underpinned by the opposition of Godhead to matter. And this just leads to more patriarchal oppositions which only serve to separate, subordinate and render everything Incomplete, instead of the Completeness of Everything. This insistence on gendering God is a definite sign of an utter lack of understanding. Luria's story is the story of humankind--not of the cosmos. I like to think of the cosmos as a giant womb, forever birthing and re-birthing big bangs....

    And perhaps this is close to the core of the problem for humans, this insistence on patriarchal hierarchies, as opposed to understanding how homologous and congruent things (like male and female) really are, all connected and interdependent as everything in the cosmos is, nothing really subordinate to anything else; merely cooperative.

    I'm thinking that there's a lot of patriarchal hierarchization in this forum... Dominance mode, not dialogic mode... Let me add that women can be patriarchal and men can be non-patriarchal. My favorite French Psychoanalytic Feminist Philosopher Luce Irigaray wrote that women's language must disrupt and confound until men are able to tune into a different frequency and understand.
  • uncanni
    338
    but also why it can never be still and continually has to transform and transition through the states which are probably stitched together via something like the laws of nature.PoeticUniverse

    There is no stasis; there is transition. However, we humans can devolve if we don't keep learning deeply.
  • PoeticUniverse
    781
    I like to think of the cosmos as a giant womb, forever birthing and re-birthing big bangs....uncanni

    Yes, for if there could be one Bang, then there ought to be others

    This insistence on gendering God is a definite sign of an utter lack of understanding.uncanni

    Not only that, but the making of 'God' to be a Person, but who makes us people, without a larger PERSON having then to have made 'God'. They didn't know about life from molecules becoming bacteria, etc., so they posited a 'God' in their image.

    all connected and interdependentuncanni

    Quantum entanglement far apart in space shows that connections are more primary than distance.

    women's language must disrupt and confound until men are able to tune into a different frequency and understanduncanni

    Women, plus all good philosophers, don't just pull out a specific, labeled box, and talk only about that and put the box back in, but speak to connections not obvious to the straight and narrow thinker.
  • PoeticUniverse
    781
    There is no stasis; there is transition. However, we humans can devolve if we don't keep learning deeply.uncanni

    We could all go away in a flash; there is now a strain of bacteria resistant to even the last ditch antibiotic, it, too, as what had to transition.

    We can also devolve if low-life's have more children than better people, but, of course, what happens pretty much has to, short of China-like limitations on offspring, and, now, lately they allow two.

    'God', then, seems to not intervene, or can't. Seven near extinctions have already come and gone.
  • PoeticUniverse
    781
    There is no stasis; there is transition.uncanni

    These transitions point to that there can't be anything particular remaining even for an instant, and this kind of matches the supposed nature of the Eternal that of course can't have anything particular designed into it, given it has no beginning.

    Round and round the Great Wheel turns, bang after bang, it being as impotent as you and I.

    And what of the Everythingness about it? Its information content would be the same as not having any: zero, so, again, 'God' gets a revision but can still seem Great, minus the person-hood aspect..
  • jorgealarcon
    15
    God is all-powerful, timeless, limitless and not bound by space, which explains how He can be everywhere at the same time.







    _________________________
    Autistic Screeching: A Cry for Help from Children with Autism?
  • Bartricks
    1.1k
    Hmm, I think what you've said there is false. It is generally agreed that 'God' with a capital 'G' denotes a being who has at least the following attributes essentially:
    perfection, omnipotence, omniscience, omnibenevolence and the creator of everything. There's debate over anything additional to this and debate over exactly what it takes to posess those attributes, but surely that those attributes are essential is not seriously in dispute?
  • ZhouBoTong
    557
    For me, the omni- stuff is unhelpful.Pattern-chaser

    Haha, oops, I missed the UN part of unhelpful. Dang, and that is just about the ONLY part I can understand. Everything else seems to be people's feeling of what they think their god is - not an attempted objective description, for example:

    God is the 'shepherd' of life in the universe; we (all living things) are in Her care.Pattern-chaser

    St. Anselm gets there "fustest with the mostest," with his "that than which nothing greater can be conceived."tim wood

    Its existence is necessityPoeticUniverse

    Rejection of God = human violence/sadism. Absence of God = complete self-engrossment, psychopathic narcissism. Instant gratification at any cost. Because the strongest and most aggressive can.uncanni

    God is all-powerful, timeless, limitless and not bound by space, which explains how He can be everywhere at the same time.jorgealarcon
    (I think I can wrap my puny human brain around "all powerful", but "timeless" and "limitless" are only saying what god is not, what does "timeless" mean as a trait for a being?)

    I don't see how ideas like those listed above can possibly lead to any type of consensus. This thread is so far free of each side trying to convince the other they are right (hooray!), so maybe we can make a little progress toward a common understanding of the word 'god'? I think we would have to tend toward objectivity (probably impossible, but if we are not at least trying, well...), and S has had some worthwhile thoughts:

    It'll have to be acceptable to atheists, too, in a sense. If it's too vague, as the above is, then how can I even make sense of my atheism in relation to your theism? It must be clear enough, so that we know what we're talking about.S

    Vague, unconventional, subjective, arbitrary, renders theism indistinguishable from atheism.S
  • PoeticUniverse
    781
    I don't see how ideas like those listed above can possibly lead to any type of consensus.ZhouBoTong

    Right. If only belief and saying could make something true, but it doesn't. One needs to establish a sound ground first, such as the necessity of eternal existence, and build on it from there, which informed us that there can be no information coming into what had no beginning and was never made.
  • fresco
    558
    Atheists love to talk about God. But it's difficult for them, as there is no generally agreed description* of God. It's probably the case that there are as many conceptions of God as there are believers, but are there general beliefs about God that many or most of us share? Come on, let's help the atheists out, by giving them a description of God to play with.

    Alas no! Atheists like me DO NOT 'love to talk 'God' which they consider to be a useless concept for them. Those atheists with a modicum of intelligence concede that 'gods' may be useful concepts for others, albeit as 'opiates' or sociological facilitators, but leave the matter of 'description' of such mythical entities in the hands of the users. Ironically, the consenus among 'intellectual believers' seems to be that 'description' is an oxymoron, to be replaced with that blanket term 'ineffability'.

    What some (militant) atheists DO want to talk about is the potential social perniciousness of the usage of what they see as an opiate. To this end they may cite 'history' as supportive evidence, but in my opinion, it would be futile to argue on the basis of 'lack of existential evidence' since that 'evidence' lies in the eye of the beholder/believer.
  • Shamshir
    856
    One needs to establish a sound ground firstPoeticUniverse
    And what's going to differentiate that sound ground from a belief?
  • uncanni
    338
    'God', then, seems to not intervene, or can't.PoeticUniverse

    If God is existence of everything, did God create the laws of existence? I would say the laws are part of everything's existence. Why would/how could God intervene? It all is God.

    Has everything existed forever? Has the cosmos contained matter forever? Are there realms in infinity that don't operate according to the laws of physics we use to describe the known-by-us cosmos? It would seem anthropomorphic to assume that infinity continuously operates according to the laws that govern our little space (which includes what we can observe, which is what? up to 13 billion plus light years away? What lies 13 billion light years beyond that? God skips rocks across all of this, and let's imagine that the rock skips 8 times; what is there? And this is like a very small pond. I mean, we're talking infinity... So this little neighborhood's been expanding over that time period; what's been going on elsewhere? What's everything up to? Is there _____ beyond God's infinity of everything?
  • uncanni
    338
    It might be boring, but examples of workable descriptions are the ones that we're most familiar with, such as a creator of the universe, or a being which is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-good.S

    I'm expressing my thoughts and my continuously-transforming understanding. If it makes you uncomfortable or you disapprove, it's fine with me. I'm not seeking your approval of how I think and question. But I have no intention of limiting myself to what you may be familiar with. If you don't want to consider things from a different perspective--if I bore you--you know the drill...
  • Shamshir
    856
    If God is existence of everything, did God create the laws of existence? I would say the laws are part of everything's existence. Why would/how could God intervene? It all is God.uncanni
    It would imply that one couldn't discern intervention from no intervention as they would be functionally the same.
  • uncanni
    338
    Beginnings and Ends are out, concerning the Everything.PoeticUniverse

    I agree: the eternal respiration of the cosmos (God's breath): in (contraction, tsimtsum), out (expansion, big bang, matter moving away). I was imagining one day a while back after reading about black holes, that at some point, God's inhalation or contraction draws everything into a single black hole that would then expand, exhale in a big bang. Everything (God) breathes.
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