Why do we need a God?

Discussion in 'Religion Archives' started by aaqucnaona, Jan 25, 2012.


Do we need [there to be] God?

  1. Yes

  2. No

  1. Arioch Valued Senior Member

    @scifes --

    Bullshit. Religious/spiritual moral/ethical systems have been the systems which were most besieged by fraud, deception, and generally evil behavior. Just look at the extant systems for an example of this. Is sharia law, a legal system based exclusively on islamic texts(specifically the koran and hadith), a good example of a system for "social well being"? Of course it doesn't, partially because there's no actual enforcement of his laws on the part of god.

    While god can provide a decent mental watch dog, it requires humans to actually enforce the social standards.

    @wynn --

    So you're just going to gloss over the fact that LG is simply reiterating points which have already been addressed as though they hadn't been?
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  3. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    What are you talking about??
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  5. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    To be clear, I was talking about "God getting us to love Him", not "God making us love Him."
    I used these words for the lack of better ones, but I do wanted to make this difference clear:

    "Making someone love you" would indeed mean 'forcing someone to love you,' which is a logical/ethical impossibility.

    By "getting someone to love you" I meant 'giving someone a reason to love you; showing them that you are worthy of their love.'
    This is very much possible and happens on a daily basis.

    If God wants us to love Him, surely then He can do things that would give us reason to believe that He is worthy of our greatest affection.
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  7. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    I didn't change sides at all.

    It's not clear what makes you think I did.

    Then you are apparently not as introverted (and misanthropic) as you suggested earlier.

    But it is not certainly.

    Then I think you have quite low standards for your search for certainty about God, and in your efforts to "safeguard against flaws and baises."

    Then we operate with very different ideas of what it means to be a theist.

    That will depend on what the claim is about.

    If the claim is that something can be tested only via personal application and thus obtaining personal realization, then it is nonsensical to demand objective proof, as there cannot be such proof for things that require personal application and realization.

    Such as when you thought -

  8. scifes In withdrawal. Valued Senior Member

    so what do you want more than a mental watch dog? what are morals other than that?
  9. Rav Valued Senior Member

    Remember, I was a Christian once. In fact I was a member of a global restorationist movement consisting of some of the most devout Christians that you're ever likely to encounter. As such, I am about as familiar with the Christian way of life, Christian theology, and Christian apologetics as anyone around here. I may be a little rusty these days, but you know, it's like riding a bike and all that.

    The thing is that I am not merely being argumentative for the sake of pride, I am making an important point. In order to do that effectively, it seems to have become necessary to demonstrate that a defense of Christian theology is possible. It's something I ultimately brought upon myself of course, but since I did it intentionally, I am happy to see it through. LG will never concede of course, nor do I expect him to. He believes he is looking in the right place for the fullness of transcendental truth, and I don't actually have a problem with that. As I have already said, all I am attempting to do here is demonstrate that the sort of religious epistemology that is typically prescribed by theists in order to determine the truth about God can lead different people to embrace different 'truths' that can't possibly be reconciled with each other, at least not in the minds of those who actually embrace them. Therefore, that sort of epistemology certainly does not seem to be a reliable tool for the purposes of determining the actual details of transcendental affairs.

    Unless, of course, you want to look at it this way:

    • Christian epistemology is reliable for the purposes of determining that Christian theology is correct.
    • Islamic epistemology is reliable for the purposes of determining that Islamic theology is correct.

    But that's not really the same thing, is it?

    I am faithfully representing the theological views held by the church I was a member of. So even though it may be relatively rare for a discussion like this to go on for as long as it has, I'm not fabricating anything. Dialogue such as this is essentially ever present, regardless of how frequently or how comprehensively it is actualized by the parties involved.
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2012
  10. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    I doubt that.
    And I have a point to make about this doubt. More below -

    You are familiar with that particular brand of Christianity, which is hardly representative of all of Christianity. I do think you are thinking a bit too much of your Christian expertise, and of theistic expertise in general. And that based on this misassessment of your theistic expertise, you are judging theism as a whole unjustly.

    But you are coming from a characteristically Protestant perspective.
    A Catholic would argue differently.

    Protestants, in their many variations, are typically very intrusive, both by doctrine as well as by practice.

    Catholic doctrine, however, is a lot less intrusive. Individual Catholics may be quite intrusive, but the doctrine itself considers the relationship between God and the individual sacred.

    This is evident already in their relatively wide understanding of baptism:

    The Church recognizes two equivalents of baptism with water: "baptism of blood" and "baptism of desire". Baptism of blood is that undergone by unbaptized individuals who are martyred for their faith, while baptism of desire generally applies to catechumens who die before they can be baptized. The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes these two forms:

    The Church has always held the firm conviction that those who suffer death for the sake of the faith without having received Baptism are baptized by their death for and with Christ. This Baptism of blood, like the desire for Baptism, brings about the fruits of Baptism without being a sacrament. (1258)

    For catechumens who die before their Baptism, their explicit desire to receive it, together with repentance for their sins, and charity, assures them the salvation that they were not able to receive through the sacrament. (1259)

    The Catholic Church holds that non-Christians who seek God with a sincere heart and, moved by grace, try to do God's will as they know it through the dictates of conscience can also be saved without water baptism as they are said to desire it implicitly.[152] As for unbaptized infants, the Church is unsure of their fate; "the Church can only entrust them to the mercy of God" (Catechism, 1261).


    It's common for Protestants of various denominations to be inclined toward fideism. They also tend to be very intrusive to other people - they are somehow convinced that it is allright to accuse another person of dishonesty in the name of God.

    Note that in general, Protestants believe that every Protestant has the same kind of authority as the Catholic Pope.
    While traditional Catholics are bound to a complex system of spiritual hierarchy and checks, Protestants essentially belie themselves to be their own masters. This affects the way they relate to people.

    There is a point when a Catholic preacher will back off, out of respect for God and the individual. Protestants seem to lack that dimension, and if they back off, it's because they are bored or dissatisfied, not because they would have an understanding "This person is a child of God, and I must respect that."

    The problem is that you are not here giving input as a genuine believer, you're just playing a part. Which is why there cannot be genuine interaction between the two of you (and me, as much as I participated).

    When comparing religions, we (theists and atheists) often tend to start from the general anthropological / religiological / culturological / political assumption that all religions are comparable and equal candidates in the pursuit of truth.

    This assumption is not tested; and possibly cannot be tested anyway.

    Yet it drives much of our reasoning about religion and meta-religion.

    I think that here, you are working out of that assumption.

    Why not? Do elaborate.

    I am sure that you are not fabricating anything.
    But I have doubts as to whether an actual Christian would persist in a discussion for so long, in this manner.
    Applying their Christian doctrinal principles, a Christian would likely limit their involvement after a (short) while, after it hasn't produced a change of heart in the other person. Ie. by limiting themselves this way, they would be practicing their Christianity; while someone who doesn't limit themselves this way wouldn't. By a too vehement persistence in discussion, there emerges a contradiction between what the person preaches and how they preach it, thus making them traitors to their doctrine.
    Last edited: Apr 3, 2012
  11. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    Can you say more about this?

    Do you mean that you were first an atheist because you found Christianity spiritually insufficient?

    Or that your current stance on (Western - Christian) atheism is informed by Christianity and its inability to answer very basic questions on spiritual life?
  12. Rav Valued Senior Member

    Of course you'd think that. It's in accord with your own self-interest to believe that anyone who was once a devout theist, but is not anymore, wasn't really a devout theist in the first place. You want to believe that I failed; that is was me who fell short so the integrity of theism remains intact.

    Of course I am coming at it from a Protestant perspective. Did you miss the part where I explained that I was going to represent a Christian fundamentalist viewpoint? It's a decidedly protestant position.

    Well, that really depends on what you mean by intrusive, doesn't it? But I understand what you're getting at. They don't tend to be quite so 'preachy', and in some ways (and only in some ways) tend to be a little more tolerant of religious diversity.

    But what you have to understand is that the fundamentalist Christians are actually following the example of Jesus himself in the way that they preach:

    “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword." - Matt 10:34

    I mean really, Jesus was offending the Jews so much that they kept wanting to stone him, and we all know how it actually ended: with the Jews so insanely furious that they called for His crucifixion, and approved the release of a known murderer in order to facilitate it, so the story goes.

    People don't like to be told that there is something wrong with them, and especially not that there are consequences for failing to do anything about it. But that's apparently one thing that Jesus came to tell us, and instructed us to tell others.

    Perhaps some of them are, but embracing fundamentalist Christianity doesn't automatically make one a fideist. In other words, if one begins with the assumption that the Christian God exists, accepting that there is wisdom in His plan that may not be evident doesn't mean that one has abandoned rationality. In fact God could have actualized an infinite number of possible worlds, but the fact that He actualized this one means that there's something special about it; some detail (more likely innumerable details) that will result in it playing out in the fullness of time in a way that is consistent with his end-game. So you may choose to attack a Christian who trusts in this by calling him a fideist, but by doing so you are then under an obligation to explain how a human mind is supposed to be capable of walking a mile in God's shoes, and/or why a God who might choose to keep certain details from us (for strategic reasons perhaps) somehow can't be a real, actually existing, omnipotent entity.

    In other words, the existence of fideist-esque qualities doesn't seem to be a valid argument against the existence of the God of Christianity, or His status as an omnipotent being, or by extension the truth of any covenant He has setup with man.

    Not really. There are indeed a couple of verses in the New Testament that characterize Christians as 'priests' , but absolutely nothing that suggests they have full control over God's kingdom on earth or "universal power in the care of souls".

    If you're merely pointing out that you don't like it, then fair enough. But that doesn't translate into a legitimate argument against the truth of what they are preaching.

    The thing is, I'm not sure what you're arguing here. Is it simply that you don't like fundamentalist Christianity, or is it that you don't think fundamentalist Christianity can be God's one true religion because you don't like it?

    It really seems like the latter to me.

    Can you explain to me how the sort of religious epistemology that is typically prescribed for evaluating religious claims is a reliable tool for getting at the details of transcendental affairs?

    That's generally true, yes.
  13. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    I am disappointed that you project into me like that.

    I suppose you've attained what that particular brand of Christianity had to offer you.
    For you, that particular brand of Christianity just wasn't something that you could stick with for the rest of your life, while for some other people, it is.

    But to conclude that because you practiced that particular brand of Christianity, you therefore know all of theism - this is an unjustified stretch, and I think many people would agree.

    I find the Bible rather useless, given that one can find all kinds of verses to support or oppose all kinds of things.

    What I find interesting is which verses people actually use, and for what purpose.

    But there are big philosophical, ethical and socio-psychological problems in that.

    When fundamentalists preach, it's basically one person asserting their personal power over another, claiming to have God on their side, while the one being preached to does not.

    "You've got things wrong, and if you don't take my judgment of you seriously, you deserve to burn in hell for all eternity."

    In psychological terms, such people are essentially highly narcissistic. There is no way to have a sensible communication with such a person, they are a my-way-or-the-highway kind of person.

    I once read a book, the story was set in Byzantium in the 6th century (it's not in English). A young Christian woman and a pagan man fall in love. He casually refers to his pagan gods in daily matters ("Thanks to Svarun, we were able to cross the river"), upon which the woman comments "But Svarun doesn't exist!"
    She keeps telling him about Jesus and all that, and he listens. He has some reservations. She tells him "You are not subjecting yourself to me, you are subjecting yourself to Jesus."

    This idea struck me: perhaps the woman saw it that way, but the man certainly did not.
    From the man's perspective, the woman was simply a narcissist trying to manipulate him by effectively claiming to have God on her side, while the man is alone against God and her.

    If her religion would truly be so superior, then why did she put him in that situation? Why did she pursue a romantic relationship with him? Why didn't she reject him (given her status and the circumstances, she could have done so easily)? If she would be someone who truly knows the superior truth, would she not be above following her lust and infatuation?

    (Interestingly, the book has two endings: In the one that was first published in a newspaper, the man and his pagan army die in a massacre. In the later version, he and the woman have six children and live happily ever after.)

    What is strictly fideist is their explanation of how a person is supposed to come to faith in God. More below.

    Sure, but this is not how they preach.
    As you yourself have shown, the person being preached to should just believe, on the strength of the Christian telling them so (ie. blackmailing them).

    As a matter of fact, I don't think I would ever approach discussion with a Christian by suggesting fideism; at least not anymore.
    Here, we can discuss it, because we've agreed to some terms of the exchange.
    But with an actual Christian, I would discuss religion vastly differently than with you here (and probably not at all).

    Nobody said it was.
    Just because we don't have arguments against Christianity that would convince Christians that we are right, doesn't mean we have to accept Christianity.

    For preaching purposes, fideism is indeed a poor choice. Only psychologically troubled people will find fideism acceptable, with all its inherent guilt-tripping, delusions of grandeur and subsequent casting of ashes upon oneself.

    I explained in the following sentences what I meant by that -

    While traditional Catholics are bound to a complex system of spiritual hierarchy and checks, Protestants essentially believe themselves to be their own masters. This affects the way they relate to people.
    (EDITED for important typo)

    I don't believe in the idea of "God's one true religion" to begin with. So I find much of the usual discussion on this issue to be redundant and misleading.

    I think this is the wrong question.
    I think this question assumes that all religions are comparable and equal candidates in the pursuit of truth.
    I think it also assumes that God is a threat and that therefore, it is necessary to choose the right religion and in this lifetime, or one will suffer eternal irrepairable consequences.

    I think it is these assumptions that need to be looked into first before we can continue with the discussion.
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2012
  14. lightgigantic Banned Banned

    Maybe just focus on these few points at the moment.

    I understand that you are saying jesus is timeless. I am asking how do you account for knowledge of him/obedience to his will/the necessity of approaching god through him before his marked appearance in this world?

    For the sake of discussion we can call it his unmanifest (1BC and before) existence and his manifest existence (1AD onwards).

    So for instance, in what role was jesus acting in to give salvation to persons in the era 1BC and before?

    You also say that jesus and god are completely non-different in all regards. I am not sure if you picked up on the idea how difference can still exist between things that are non-different (like for instance the non-difference between the sun and the sunlight, yet the difference in acknowledging one is the energy and the other is the energetic). You mentioned that it is common knowledge that all there are non-different yet you said nothing to explain why jesus speaks of himself as the son (a term that carries strong ideas of partial representation and contingency). I ask because its obvious that jesus goes to great pains to explain that he is the son and god is the father and the glory of heaven is most definitely his father's and not his own. IOW what do you think is the import of jesus's usage of the term "son" when the word "brother" (a term he reserved for the inhabbitants of earth btw) would certainly seem a more accurate term for the manner you describe the relationship between jesus and god. IOW how do you account for this clear distinction (even though such distinction doesn't necessarily cripple ideas of non-difference, like say that between the sun and the sunlight)?

    (So for instance .. "In the beginning was the sunlight, and the sunlight was with the sun, and the sunlight was the sun. It was with sun in the beginning. Through him all things were visible; without him nothing was visible that has been visible. In it was the light of all the universe. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." - John 1:1-5

    "The sunlight came to earth and made its existence among us."
    ..... these statements in no way undercut the potencies we normally attribute the sun and the sunlight ... namely with the clear understanding that the sunlight is the non-different energy of the sun (ie partakes of a partial contingent relationship with the sun)
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2012
  15. kx000 Valued Senior Member

    Assuming death=life then we don't even need God, or gods for an afterlife/prelife/afterdeath/predeath.
  16. ashpwner Registered Senior Member

    Hey I could be wrong perhaps we needed a god at one point, lets say for an idea of a moral code. Without a higher power to determine such my ideas of morality which could conflict with yours but never the less be just as valid lets say I was a serial killer, but now we have this idea of morality we have somewhat reached a consensus on we no longer need a deity to regulate it.
  17. Rav Valued Senior Member

    The question itself is erroneous. There is no explicit knowledge of Jesus in Old Testament times (with the exception of some of the OT prophets), for example, yet there are still countless examples of people being within God's grace nonetheless.

    Jesus was the basis for salvation before the world was even created. His sacrifice is a critical component of the transcendental 'mechanics' of salvation, so to speak. Like all qualities of God, this is 'actual', and not merely dependent on the state of one's knowledge with respect to it.

    In other words, the actual mechanics of salvation should not be confused with accepting God's grace. One is about the quality of God, and the other is about the quality of what is in one's heart.

    The thing to remember is that if the correct qualities are in one's heart, they are in God's grace regardless of time or circumstance. This also makes them the type of person who would recognize Jesus for who He is when exposed to His message. This is why we can say that anyone who doesn't, does not have the correct qualities in their heart, and is also an example of the sort of person who wouldn't have been within God's grace regardless of time or circumstance.

    Well, that would merely be an attempt to try to make the Bible say something that it doesn't say:

    "For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority." - Colossians 2:9-10

    It doesn't get much clearer than that.

    God was simply playing the role of a Son, and being that He's omnipotent and omniscient, I don't see how any references to Himself in other roles, forms or locations presents a problem.
    Last edited: Apr 4, 2012
  18. Rav Valued Senior Member

    I've never made that claim. What I have learned is that absolute devotion to a particular brand of theism can lead one to become absolutely certain about the truth of all of the detailed claims that are found within that particular theology. And for a time, I attained such a certainty.

    But how does this happen?

    There is certainly a significant intellectual aspect to it. The claims have to make at least some sort of sense. But for a reasonably intelligent person, that's not enough. What actually happens when you delve deeply into a religion like Christianity, and really try to live it, is that everything starts to make more and more sense as you go along, until you finally reach the point where everything looks like absolutely inspired revelation. There is great wisdom in the Bible you see, about the human condition. But more than that, once you've studied it enough, and practiced it enough, the metaphysical picture it paints is compelling, and the power of such to contextualize your existence in a meaningful way is undeniable. You really feel like you've found the truth. But that's not even the most convincing part of it all. It's the profoundly spiritual experiences you have, both personal and social (that is, with other devout Christians), and you know, for a fact, that something truly 'special' is going on. Something not of this 'mundane' world. All of these things, and many others, conspire to demonstrate the immutable truth of the theology that is at the core of your faith.

    And to be perfectly honest, that's a comparatively shallow summary of it all.

    So based on that, you can judge for yourself if you think I am qualified to discuss theism in general. I certainly haven't experienced all of it, but then I sincerely doubt that anyone else has either. So I guess it all comes back to a question I asked you once before: what does one have to do, exactly, to be qualified to discuss the veracity of the sort of epistemology that is typically prescribed by religious people for the purposes of evaluating religious claims?
  19. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    In some Hindu schools, they have the notion of a plenary incarnation of God, and that there are many such plenary incarnations.

    So similar as

    "For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority." - Colossians 2:9-10

    can be said about any plenary incarnation of God:

    "For in this plenary incarnation of God all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in this plenary incarnation of God you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority."

    So: Could a (fundamentalist) Christian accept that God can take on a bodily form many times, many different forms, in many different places, and all of them are equally powerful?
  20. Rav Valued Senior Member

    If the suggestion is that Jesus, although just as powerful, is distinct from God in the sense that God is the source from which Jesus emerged, then this would be rejected. Although mere cursory examinations of scripture might seem to suggest such, the legitimacy of this idea is not borne out through further study. In a nutshell, Christian theology teaches that there was never a time when Jesus didn't exist, therefore it is nonsensical to talk of Him having been brought into existence by something more primary.
  21. lightgigantic Banned Banned

    plenary portions are also celebrated as being eternal (in fact even the living entity is too, but thats a separate topic) .

    IOW eternal existence doesn't somehow render relationships of contingency untenable.

    For instance the moment you have something called "fire" is the moment you also have heat, light and smoke ... or the moment you have something called "the sun" is the moment you have light ... even though we understand that heat, light and smoke are subsidiary (yet constant) potencies of the fire or sun.
  22. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    But you say things like this:

    Sure. And for you, it didn't last.

    Sure. I am not disagreeing.

    Again, sure, but the two comments of yours I quoted earlier (and there are more) suggest that you believe to have certainty about what all of theism is and isn't.

    I see two options here: one is omniscience (along with epistemic autonomy); the other is a goodwilled reformulation of that question into terms that are actionable for humans (as I have done earlier by pointing out the assumptions in your question).
  23. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    And yet Christian theology teaches that Jesus is the son of God.
    If Jesus is the son, and a son is secondary to his father, then according to Christian theology, Jesus has indeed been brought into existence by "something more primary."

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