Monday, July 5, 2010

Defining God Out of Existence

This is a problem that arises mostly out of the liberal side of religion, that religious people are redefining their own personal gods to the point that A) for all practical purposes, their god doesn't exist, and B) there are so many different definitions that it could be said that they are no longer functioning as a single cohesive religion. I find this quite interesting, as these kinds of theists in a sense are doing my work for me.

For the most part this mainly encompasses those who have redefined god into some kind of deistic being that doesn't interfere with the earth. This includes those people who give incredibly weak reasons for why god allows suffering to happen without interfering. A weak answer would be something like "god doesn't interfere with free will". The new testament, and in fact the bible as a whole is filled with examples of god interfering with free will, the two most memorable examples would be in the exodus, where god hardens the Pharaoh's heart just so god can murder all the firstborn of Egypt and cause many more to suffer and die from pestilence and plagues, and Paul's dramatic roadside conversion. I'm not quite sure how far some Christians would be willing to take the free will argument, but if you take it to its inevitable conclusion interfering with a disease that is taking over a person's body would also be interfering with the free will of the disease. Even though the disease itself is not a conscious entity, its primary purpose is to propagate, and stopping the disease dead in its tracks is most certainly interfering with that purpose. Even without taking the argument to that conclusion, the theist has effectively routed their god to the point where he is unable to act without interfering with someones free will, so their god serves no practical purpose, and as far as I'm concerned, has then been defined out of existence.

Now for B)..
Religious faith has become such a personal thing that people have almost created their own sub-religions. This would be very unlikely to happen if a given religion were actually true. If we look at this from the assumption that all religions are untrue, this is exactly what you would expect to find. Since the religion is not true, and the god of the religion doesn't exist, there is no unifying force to give people consistent revelation of the true god and of the true religion. If it were true, the god would be able to 'reveal' to people his nature. Surely this would be a violation of free will though, so there is a slight contradiction there.

That's all I have to say on the matter, feedback is appreciated.


  1. Great points. I think the disease thing is taking free will a bit too far though? Just because something serves a purpose does not necessarily mean it exercises free will. Or would you actually argue that a disease (virus is maybe a better word), when presented with two or more options stops to make a thoughtful decision on it's next move? How do you define free will nowadays?

    What stood out to me immediately though, was this:

    "these kinds of theists in a sense are doing my work for me.'

    What would define 'your work'? I'm getting religious vibes from a non-religious person again haha :D

  2. On the assumption that god created everything, I don't think it is taking it to far with regards to the purpose of diseases. If god created everything, then god created disease with the purpose of creating suffering and death. Not all diseases are viral, some are bacterial and some are genetic, and some (like cancer) are simply the result of the body malfunctioning in some respect. Bacterial and viral diseases don't make decisions, but if god were to intervene to stop them, then he would be interfering with the natural order that he supposedly created. He would be changing his mind about something, which is quite a strange action considering many Christians use 'unchanging' as one of the definitive characteristics of their god.

    What I meant by my work, I was referring to my mental faculties. In this case, I didn't have to conjure a criticism of the god concept, or of religion, but rather comment on what theists are doing to their own position by holding contradictory views.

  3. A disease is only a 'resulting condition' though (only word I can think of at the mo) of viruses, bacteria, etc. etc.
    God did not create bruises.
    God did not create pizzas.
    God did not create cars.
    God did not create this computer or this blog page.
    God did not create everything.
    God did not create disease.

    What I WOULD say, (I may be wrong), is that God created viruses and bacteria etc. etc.

    I don't see God's "interfering" as "changing his mind". Rather a demonstration of his sovereign control.
    It's funny though, I've also never struggled with the idea of a mind-changing God haha. Up to him if you ask me :D

    It's interesting that you would call your criticism of God/religion "your work" as that's exactly what evangelists/creationists think of their proselytising. While some churchies might, I for one would never consider my comments on this blog to be "my work". That's sick. I just enjoy good intellectual convo.

  4. @shreddakj: Good post. I see what you mean in terms of the similarities with my post on debating. I get a chuckle from Hitch's oft quoted statement that we have free will because we have no choice.

    @Ryan: I think I disagree with the objection to use 'my work' or perhaps we have different definitions of it in this context. I believe that even conversation on the subject of religion is a kind of work. I would agree that it wouldn't necessarily qualify in the kind of work where one must account for losses and gains. (That would be, as you said a sick way of looking at it.) Consciousness-raising and battling the pounding of religious hammer, though, I think is work of a kind.

  5. Oh, you're referring to a completely different application of the word work. I'm using in the same application as the following phrases.

    'A work of art'
    'A work of fiction' (like the bible hehehe)

    No wonder I was confused when you said religious vibes.

    If god created bacteria and viruses, then he created Ebola, E. coli, HIV, smallpox, meningitis etc.

  6. @Freddy, you got in before me on the context of the word work. Thanks.

  7. No worries. I didn't want to speak for you but I did want to make it clear as to my own perspective. ;)

  8. If god created bacteria and viruses, then he created Ebola, E. coli, HIV, smallpox, meningitis etc.

    We must both be wrong then. Because as far as I'm aware God wasn't still "creating" in the past few thousands of years.

    When it boils down to it - my most agnostic stance will be that God is probably responsible for the beginning of all things.

    There's got to be chaos for there to be any order. There must come crappiness with the good stuff.

  9. Ok then, we both agree that god didn't literally create bacteria and viruses then. But if god is responsible for the beginning of all things then he is responsible for Ebola, E. coli, HIV, smallpox, meningitis etc.
    Surely an omnipotent being would be able to formulate a universe without such horrible things in it.

  10. If there were no horrible things there would equally be no appealing or comforting things. There always needs to be balance.

    And even if you subtract out 100 of the things in this universe you find the most horrible - the balance would remain as you would immediately find 100 more horrible things that were less horrible than the first 100 but without the first 100, you'd now consider them just as horrible as the first 100. If you get my verbous point.

    In more concise terms my point would be: Relative comparison - if that is such a concept?