The Relevance of the Concept of God

Discussion in 'Religion' started by Syne, Oct 15, 2013.

  1. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    On principle, one could do that simply from reading literature too, as much literature is narrated from a perspective assuming itself to be omniscient. This could help one develop self-reflexive faculties and according practices. In fact, this is one of the arguments given for why especially youths should read literature (esp. fiction).

    But, to connect again to what Bhikkhu Bodhi has been saying - unless there is a conviction in some kind of "higher power", in some kind of objective reality that contextualizes the individual, some recognition that ethics aren't simply subjective, personal, individual, private, but that there is an objective right and wrong, an objective "how things should be" (or at least an objective "how things should be if a particular goal is to be attained"), consequent individualism simply leads to what is in effect solipsism.
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  3. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    ... and solipsism.
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  5. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    I wasn't taking issue with it, I was drawing people's attention back to it. The point was that a great deal of the subsequent discussion in this thread either has little relevance to the ostensible subject of the thread or else suggests that the concept of "G/god" isn't all that relevant.

    You've written in multiple posts that you aren't assuming that a G/god exists. For example, "Who said it was necessarily monotheist, or theist at all considering I specifically assumed a god does not exist?" That suggests that you have assumed that no supernatural being exists in reality that corresponds to the concept 'G/god'.

    If it doesn't matter whether or not somebody believes in the actual existence of whatever corresponds to this hypothetical 'G/god' concept, then it doesn't seem to matter whether or not somebody is an atheist. You even claim that you have taken an atheist stance yourself.

    Right. You seem to be arguing that even if 'G/god' doesn't exist in reality, and even if people don't believe that "he" does, you still believe that possession of the concept of 'G/god' is nevertheless necessary for the full and proper development of conscience.

    The obvious counterexamples to that idea are the non-theistic philosophies and religions out there, and all the people who aren't theists. That's where the topic of Buddhism originally entered into this discussion, I guess. Compared to adherents of theistic religions, adherents of Buddhism don't seem to be at any disadvantage in the conscience development department. That fact constitutes empirical evidence against the thesis that the concept of 'G/god' is somehow necessary for proper conscience development.

    I suppose that somebody could still argue that even if the concept of 'G/god' plays little or no religious role in their own tradition, that most Buddhists are at least aware of the theistic concepts, and that's why their consciences develop. In other words, that Buddhism itself has little value in the development of conscience (because it isn't theistic) and that Buddhists are basically just free-riding on the concepts of the theists around them. In my opinion that idea isn't very plausible and will need a great deal of argument. It sounds like special pleading to me.

    You certainly seem to be using that kind of argument in the case of the atheists. But even if by chance it was true, it still doesn't seem to matter whether or not somebody is an atheist in your theory, it doesn't matter whether they actually believe in the existence of 'G/god'. All that seems to matter is that they are aware of the concept. (Whatever that is.)

    Not every 'god' concept includes the attribute of omniscience. I don't think that most of the ancients thought of their gods as omniscient. Their gods often worked at cross-purposes in their dealings with humans and even tricked and deceived each other.

    Karma is an ancient Indian ethical theory, sure enough, but it doesn't have anything to do with 'G/gods' or with omniscience. It's basically an ancient idea of causation in which physical and ethical causation weren't distinguished. In modern ethical terms, karma theories are probably most akin to consequentialism, I guess, to the idea that whether particular actions are right or wrong right now is a function of their future consequences.

    Again, that doesn't seem to have anything to do with whether or not the person performing the action possesses a concept of an omniscient 'G/god'.
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  7. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    In one sense, it certainly does. Karma operates 24/7, in this sense, karma is "omniscient" - it always "sees" you.

    In the OP, the question was whether there are any alternatives to developing conscience other than the concept of God, and early on, Syne already accepted karma as such an alternative -

  8. Syne Sine qua non Valued Senior Member

    Yes, I would probably agree that a third person perspective in literature could be useful in the development of conscience, but I would probably specify those that included omniscience of the thoughts of the characters as well. I believe this would be called the Subjective and Omniscient Third-Person view. The abstract notion of an author, so to speak, of one's own life could be considered an ideal observer.

    I would also tend to agree with Bodhi about the solipsism inherent in not realizing the perspective of such an ideal observer.
  9. Syne Sine qua non Valued Senior Member

    "Getting caught" does not change the moral implications of an action, so factoring it in can only be self-serving, which seems to be your point in preferring a solipsistic concept of self. That is the whole point. Well-developed conscience is objectively selfless enough to accurately assess the moral implications without any undue subjective cajoling or justification. (And people wonder why moral relativism is untrustworthy.)

    You do not seem to see the hole you are digging for yourself here. So far you have only seemed to verify my point about the relation of a concept of god and the development of conscience.

    What, the path that deism was an example of theism differentiated from religion? Seems much more likely that your digression into the "proof of God" is only you evading this fact. But I see you have quickly resumed your next justifying conflation (mysticism) below.

    All I see is a bare assertion of opinion without any supporting argument that would warrant any refute at all. Here you are only making a proclamation, which has no more inherent merit than any conflicting proclamation.

    So where is your argument? You know...

    2. a reason or set of reasons given with the aim of persuading others that an action or idea is right or wrong.​

    I did, with the express purpose of addressing your conflation of terms. But instead of making any argument (remember what an argument is, above) to justify your conflation, in light of deism, you chose to digress into arguing about some "proof of God" strawman argument that no one in this thread ever made.

    I specifically used scare quotes on the word tenet and even gave you the link to the quote (which you provided first). Do you really think this nit-picking is going to justify you having "skipped right over" the most definitive description of deism in that link? Are you even aware of the subsets of deism, that you seem to rely on to make your continued conflation of terms? That is called cherry-picking, and is widely panned an intellectually dishonest.

    Hell, you even quoted the statement that these are "generally accepted beliefs within Deism".

    : a principle, belief, or doctrine generally held to be true

    But keep up all the evasions, as they only further illustrate the weakness of your position.

    Really? Even though what I said was this:

    I explicitly said "verifiable evidence", so if you have any for an "ultimate cause of the universe" do tell. If not, this is just another evasion. You cannot refute the fact that the BBT offers no more verifiable evidence for an ultimate cause, so you digress into the strawman of science versus "anything else". I have not debated the value of science, but speculation without evidence is still just speculation without evidence. There is no way to differentiate the two results, aside from what subjectively comforts you (which is no argument).

    What "strong contradictory evidence"? So yep, I will add "belief/delusion" to your running list of conflated terms.
  10. Syne Sine qua non Valued Senior Member

    Not at all. You just seem to be unaware of just how broad the concept of god is (which I already explained and you failed to quote).

    Even with Wynn's example of third-person literature, the author is the ultimate creator and ideal observer (omniscient), both traits typically associated with a concept of god. While some of the things discussed in this thread may not be as clearly indicative of a concept of god, like a higher-self or a surveillance-state, these do display those same traits (albeit perhaps to a lessor degree, with an associated lessor utility*).

    * For example, karma or a higher-self may only be aspirational without directly providing the objective perspective associated with a concept of god. This does illustrate the lessor utility to the development of conscience of merely aspiring to some human realizable ideal, rather than internalizing an objective perspective.

    Just because it is assumed that "no supernatural being exists in reality that corresponds to the concept 'G/god'" does not mean that "nothing corresponds to it" (which you quote my answer to below).

    I have assumed an agnostic stance, for the sake of argument. Atheists seem particularly unfamiliar with those traits of a concept of god that are useful in developing conscience. As Magical Realist's thread that inspired this one illustrates, atheists seem to typically have a very rudimentary and child-like notion of god. A notion they only deem worth understanding to the extent that it lends fuel to the fire of arguing theists, which is highly unlikely to be a notion that they can internalize in any way.

    This may illustrate the difference between an atheist and a non-theist. And Capracus is a prime example, as he rejects anything even remotely conflicting with his worldview, while a Buddhist can be both non-theist and religious or a deist theist but non-religious.

    BTW, you seem to have completely ignored my argument about deism. Is it just too inconvenient to your argument that a theist cannot be non-religious?

    I was the one who introduced the topic of Buddhism in this thread, and I have already said that karma could be useful, as it does exemplify a sort of omniscience. Also, Buddhism espouses an objective morality that is not as subject to self-justification. Even your average Christian (who does believe in a god) may not have the abstract thinking skills to internalize that perspective, but an objective morality upheld by their social peers will always have some outward effect (just as the law and other human institutions do).

    Moral/ethical social display is not a one-for-one indicator of conscience. As someone has rightfully pointed out, even psychopaths appear normal. So it seems you have once again conflated conscience with the social regulation of morality.

    By chance? If it were not true that the concept of god was relevant to atheists, we would not have the "New Atheists" and the like so vocally opposing theism. People do not tend to so vehemently fight the irrelevant.

    Who said they only need be "aware of the concept"? You are certainly aware of the general concept, but your confusion about what it entails stems from your refusal to honestly entertain the notion enough to understand it. This is demonstrated in the fact that you keep insisting on the actual belief in a god or a specific conception of "God" well after I have cleared this up (hence the repetition in this thread).

    Omniscience is one of the common attributes among the many conceptions of god. But yes, the Greek pantheon was merely aspirational. But then we might surmise that there is a reason such conceptions have not continued, in strength, to present day, as they did not serve social cooperation as well. After all, the soap opera of gods fighting each other is hardly a useful social example, and much more of a brute force ideal. Hardly exemplary of conscience.

    But I have not said all conceptions are equally useful.

    If you cannot escape the consequences of your actions, then karma is effectively omniscient. There is no "if I get caught" about it. And I have already explained my thoughts on Buddhism above.
  11. Capracus Valued Senior Member

    The whole purpose of morality is to associate consequence with action. No matter how well developed a conscience is perceived to be there are always accepted moral tenets that may require challenge or fortification, and getting caught is a commonly associated consequence in the processes. This is part of the process of cultural evolution. As culture changes so do its moral tenets, and accordingly our psychological responses to them.

    What you advocate as a concept of god can at best only reflect the limitations associated with the individual and their culture. It could in no way approximate the perceptive and analytic qualities expected of an omniscient god.

    No, the path that showed it wasn’t.

    For clarity I should’ve qualified entity in the original statement, although I’m sure you’ll still need to have the obvious explained to you.

    Deists claim that reason and natural law prove the existence of a god, yet no application of either has shown this to be true. If they can’t explain god or its qualities through natural law, then their only alternative is supernatural law, or to drop the claim of knowledge and call it what it is, speculation.

    So as long as deists presumes god as an intentional entity in any sense they trade their precious reason for mysticism.

    But narrowly focusing on a few select statements while ignoring the rest of the page is your definition of being comprehensive?

    But the Big Bang isn’t speculation without evidence, so why even use it as an example? All Speculation isn’t equal, like every other proposition its value is dependent on reason. It’s more reasonable to base speculation on extrapolation of the known, rather than the unknown.
  12. francescakat Registered Member

    I believe that it all started with a certain blood line. The Bible shows that Adam and Eve was the beginning of the bloodline and Jesus Christ was the ending of the bloodline.
  13. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    So does causality. Karma seems to me to be an early species of ethical consequentialism.

    In karma there's no omniscient observer. There's just a causal sort of process that connects acts now with the generation of consequences in the future. Ethical action in the karma theories is simply performance of actions right now that it's believed will produce desirable consequences later on, and refraining from acts that produce undesirable future consequences.

    Some varieties of belief in 'G/gods' personalize that idea, imagining it in the form of a conscious and aware supernatural agent who sees all of our actions and will inevitably judge us for those actions after our deaths. The whole idea of moral consequences is reconceived in personal terms (I'd call it 'mythical' terms I guess) as some kind of heavenly law-court. But yeah, the underlying consequentialistic dynamic isn't dissimilar.

    One of the thrusts in this thread seems to be to expand the meaning of the word 'G/gods' so that anyone who believes that morally relevant actions undertaken now will have future consequences, and that the moral value of the present actions is a function of the desirability of those later consequences, must be employing theistic concepts and must therefore be at least a crypto-theist.

    My own view is that expanding of the meaning of the word 'G/gods' in that way renders it meaningless.

    I'm much more inclined to think that the evidence of non-theistic ethical systems shows that theistic concepts aren't necessary for the existence of ethical systems, than I am to believe that all these examples must somehow be conceptually theistic, simply because they are ethical systems.
  14. cslewis Registered Member

    (page.paragraph) Paper:section.paragraph
  15. Syne Sine qua non Valued Senior Member

    No, consequentialism allows for a ends justifies the means morality that is not compatible with the objectivist morality (actions are themselves right or wrong) of Buddhism. Neither is karma merely causality, as causality allows for an "only wrong if you get caught" mentality. You know, I really did not expect karma to be as difficult to grasp by atheists (which only reinforces its relation to omniscience).

    No, in karma actions themselves have moral import, regardless of consequences. Karma is not about some future consequences like reward/punishment. It is an ongoing evolution where opportunities exist for ethical lessons until learned, including being on the receiving end of "ends justifies the means" morality.

    In Buddhism, karma [the concept of "action" or "deed"] is strictly distinguished from vipāka, meaning "fruit" or "result". -

    No, consequentialism just seems to be as close as you can manage to get in understanding a concept of god, which is the same childish notion that most atheists rely on. You seem to avoid my explanations, perhaps out of an attentional bias. I have said, repeatedly, that a concept of god does not necessarily include any significant thought of "future consequences", and that has been a very large portion of my discussion with Capracus about conflating terms. You have interjected consequences as a strawman.

    Your view is that the meaning of the word 'G/gods' is de facto meaningless, and you show no signs of even making an attempt to understand it aside from a superficial, fashionable foray into Buddhism.

    Not all ethical systems are equal, and those without some concept of god (as opposed to strictly theistic, i.e. belief in a god) tend to be less objectivist. Could there be some relation between thinking morals are objective and postulating a truly objective perspective?
  16. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    Even if one conceives of karma in that way - as a form of consequentialism - it's not automatically a bad thing. One of the main focal points of the doctrine of karma is to act on purpose, as opposed to acting without giving much thought to what one does.

    You seem to take issue with the very concept of acting on purpose. All acting on purpose inherently has regard for the consequences of said actions; in that sense, all acting on purpose is some form of punishment-and-reward thinking and acting.

    And you seem to take issue with that from the beginning. It appears your ideal is to act in a way that has no concern for the consequences of one's actions, but is instead inspired entirely from "deep within".

    You're presenting a strawman.
  17. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    Sure, which is why classical works tend to be suggested for reading for youths more than some modernist ones.

    Literature for youths is a special category; it typically operates precisely from the paradigm of an omniscient narrator who boths sees and hears everything that happens, as well as has intimate knowledge of the thoughts of the characters.

    Sure. One just needs to read the popular self-help literature from around the times of Benjamin Franklin; the development of one's character - and conscience - was the focus of those works.
  18. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    My only interest is to argue against this thread's assertion that morality, certainly any moral system in which morality is believed to be objective, must necessarily be theist in nature and be based on the proper understanding of the 'G/god' concept. (Whatever that is.)

    The obvious rejoinder is to point at non-theistic moral systems, such as that of the Buddhists.

    The response to that was the seeming insistence that the proper range and extension of the 'G/god' concept includes non-theistic ideas like karma. In my opinion that move expands the meaning of 'G/god' to the point of being meaningless.

    Alternatively, some posts seemed to insist that it's only possible for Western atheists to be ethical because they grew up in a cultural environment shaped by Christianity, and possess a theistic concept of 'G/god' even if they don't acknowledge belief in it. It isn't clear if that kind of assertion is applied to the non-Western believers in karma as well, in such a way that Buddhists can only be truly ethical because they know about other peoples' theistic concept of 'G/god', despite that concept not playing a central role in their own cultures and religious systems.

    Either way, it appears that Syne and Wynn want to conscript believers in non-theistic karma into the ranks of the theists, or at least define them as free-riders on the true theists' idea of 'G/god'.

    In the process, the concept of 'G/god' seems to have been stretched to mean something along the lines of 'anything that supports and justifies an objectivist ethics'. So anyone who holds any sort of objectivist view of ethics must therefore by definition be a theist, however covert, unconscious or unacknowledged their theism might be. And once that's established, all kinds of insults and invective can be directed directed towards the atheists, who are condemned as both morally childlike and evil.

    This thread appears to be getting increasingly nasty and I don't intend to get into an ego-driven back-and-forth. I'm just expressing my emphatic disagreement with the idea that a person can't be truly moral and ethically adult, unless that person possesses what somebody else believes is a proper theistic concept of 'G/god'. I interpret the existence of highly sophisticated varieties of non-theist ethics as persuasive evidence that particular idea is simply wrong.
  19. Syne Sine qua non Valued Senior Member

    Yazata, apparently you either missed or intentionally evaded this reply:
    And only to continue strawman arguments already repeatedly refuted:

    1. I have consistently differentiated the social regulation of morality from the personal sense of conscience, so any supposed assertion that morality must be based on a concept of god is a strawman of your own making. Again, morality is only informed by conscience...they are not synonymous. Debating various moral systems is only a digression from the OP (albeit one I have humored you on).

    2. I have repeatedly assumed that a god does not exist, so theism as a necessity is yet another strawman.

    3. We get it. You do not have even a rudimentary understanding of an abstract concept of god.

    4. There is a wide spectrum of things which effect the development of conscience, and I have already explained that the less concisely they demonstrate an omniscient perspective the less utility they have in that development.

    5. Nowhere has anyone, except perhaps you, made any assertions about a specifically Western notion of anything, much less atheists being ethical.

    6. Apparently this bears repeating, yet again (ad nauseam)...not theistic, as no god is assumed to exist.

    7. Nowhere has anyone, except by your own inference, indicted atheists as "morally childlike and evil". Again, I have only said their understanding of the concept of god is childish, which this post of yours is proving in abundance.

    8. Your "emphatic disagreement" is moot, as you have not made any substantial argument, other than of the strawman variety.

    But since you are obviously avoiding direct responses so you can play make-believe about what has been said in this thread, I am assuming you will have no better arguments henceforth.
  20. Syne Sine qua non Valued Senior Member

    You are conflating individual conscience with socially regulating morality. The two are not synonymous, even though conscience does inform morality. And no, all morality is not of the consequentialism variety.

    What, so you would require any ideal to be wholly realizable to be of any use whatsoever? There goes all of mathematics.

    From your own link:

    Please familiarize yourself with Deism by reading the many articles the links to the left take you to. By using this site you will learn such things as God and religion are two distinct things, that one of the many benefits Deism offers you and your family and friends is solid protection from cults, that America's Declaration of Independence is a Deistic document, that the Bible and Koran paint a very evil and insane picture of God, that the Designer of Nature is as real as the designs in Nature, plus much, much more! -

    Hence "natural religion/philosophy of Deism", because some subsets of deism are more religious oriented, while others are wholly philosophical.

    Deists claim that nature proves the existence of a god to them.

    "But in Deism our reason and our belief become happily united. The wonderful structure of the universe, and everything we behold in the system of the creation, prove to us, far better than books can do, the existence of a God, and at the same time proclaim His attributes." -

    Seems to be a subjective statement of "proof".

    And they do call it speculation:

    2. Belief that the nature of God is abstract and generally incomprehensible which puts it beyond definition for humanity at this time. Furthermore, human language is limited and inadequate to define God; however, man can use Reason to theorize and speculate on what this possible nature is. -

    That is a false dilemma. I am taking my support from throughout the page rather than just the specific wording that superficially seems to support my position. Throughout, they distinguish between everything you have attempted to conflate with the concept of god, and now you desperately cling to the word "religion" as if the primary audience for a definition of deism would not be the religious.

    I did not say the BBT was without evidence, I said an ultimate cause for it was without evidence. And yes, all we have is speculation on any such ultimate cause. Ah, you are applying science of the gaps by assuming that science will inevitably fill the gaps in all our current knowledge, so there are no other worthwhile avenues of speculation. That argument is no stronger that god of the gaps, which many atheists have freely admitted and criticized other atheists for trying to argue.
  21. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    Oh please. I expect better from you than such strawmaning!

    Looks like your screen name got into your head ...
  22. Syne Sine qua non Valued Senior Member

    I will consider this thread as ample evidence that many atheists have serious trouble understanding a simple abstract concept of god, even just the concept of omniscience. There have been no compelling arguments to refute that this reflects on the development of conscience, just as I asserted in the OP.
  23. (Q) Encephaloid Martini Valued Senior Member

    Translated: No one agrees with me, I win! LOL.

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