Getting Real : Faith No More
Does God exist? A philosophical debate
from conan - Wednesday, March 26, 2008
accessed 509 times
I thought about posting this under 'creative writing', but know that no one reads anything there anymore. I don't really care what any of you think about this as it was submitted to my professor of philosophy, and in this scenario, his is the only opinion that matters. However, feel free to post comments, thoughts, criticisms, etc...as I'm sure many of you will do. I've removed the footnotes, and citations from here, but rest assured that they existed when I turned this in.
Does God Exist?
A question that has been around for as long as people have followed religion or found reason to believe and claim that there was god, is ‘Does God exist?’ Clearly, there is no easy answer to this age-old query, but using the texts read throughout the semester to date, I will, in the proceeding pages, attempt to show the reasons behind the belief I hold that God does not exist.
Ignoring for a this paper, the notion of science and its role in proving or disproving religion, one must first realize the fundamental ideal that belief is required in any god, religion, dogma, philosophy, and how those relate to a specific set of morals or way of life. As a result of belief, arguing with ‘proof’ is often a misnomer and one that is redundant and cyclically irrelevant. One can concede the fact that no substantial proof to support their side of the claim exists, yet still cling zealously to the cause they champion due to the illusions of their belief.
For me, the reasons to believe there is a god require far more ‘faith’ in fantastic events and scenarios than not. The broad assumptions made by ‘believers’ to defend their faith make less and less sense the more one thinks about them logically. Their defenses often break down in the face of logical arguments and they are forced to rely on their faith and ‘personal experience’ as the sole means of clinging to their argument, as faith is something that cannot be argued away in their close-minded belief system. Many are trained to immediately dismiss questions regarding the authenticity of their faith as an ‘attack’ and immediately shut down any honest, open-minded listening approach as they perceive themselves immediately as being victimized and so must ‘stand-up for their faith’ and prove to the agnostic that their faith is unflappable, so much so that they refuse to engage them. The ability to disengage oneself and analyze logically the set of divine teachings and assume, even momentarily, that the writings may not in fact be divine is often severely lacking in those of faith.
Kai Nielsen, in his Reflections on Disbelief , argued against the existence of God by attempting to show the error in the Christian ideology that is often cited by its adherents as their ‘proof’ in God’s existence and benevolence, specifically the flaw in using ‘revelation’ as a reliable source of God’s actuality. As many philosophers and scholars have often maintained, including Descartes, the five senses can often trick the mind into believing sights, sounds, etc., which do not in fact exist in reality. These facts of chemical and or psychological fallibility alone are enough to dismiss revelation as ‘divine’, especially if the divinity has only manifested itself to an individual who in turn proclaims him or herself as the messenger of God(s).
Further, he attacks St. Anselm’s Ontological Argument, which argues in favor of God’s existence by showing that the existence (or lack thereof) of a God is not dependant on our ability to comprehend such a being. The ability to conceive of eternal beings does not validate their existence merely because we can conceptualize such notions . We see imaginations run wild every day in our modern lives, via film, television, and other forms of art. The fantastic creations we ‘see’ on screen are no more tangible to us or believable as being in existence unless we allow our minds to convince us that they are. This same delusional pattern can be attributed to the religious zealot that they have ‘seen salvation’ and follow blindly in their quest to adhere to the guidelines given them by deities and their angelic messengers. Meanwhile, the gullible are all to eager to have a cause to rally around and follow, as without such a cause, they would fall into melancholy dissatisfaction owing to the precept that they need to serve some purpose greater than their own to be deemed worthy of life.
Meanwhile, “cosmological” arguments such as that of St Thomas Aquinas’ are equally faulty when they attempt to ascertain God’s existence via claims of “(a) God must exist or (b) God is the best explanation” which seems to me to be not dissimilar to Anselm’s argument that God exists because we can conceive of him, or even Pascal’s ‘wager’ that there is little risk involved with believing in God and being found eventually to have been in error. This childish notion of ‘best available option’ or ‘safest bet’ has no standing except in the adherents’ minds. The thought process that enables this logic to materialize seems to me to have been derailed somewhere between logic and reality and drifted of its own accord into fantasy, delusion, and errant simplicity.
In the third part of Kai Nielsen’s Reflections on Disbelief he speaks of ‘entitlement and just deserts’ within the Christian faith and the “pie in the sky” underlying philosophy of that religion. He says: “the hope for a classless and truly human society, through an ideological conjuring trick, has been projected into some peculiar never-never land called Heaven. What we have here is a disguised ideologically distorted expression of genuinely human emancipatory interests and enduring human hopes. ” What is somehow lost in the debate over whether or not there is a God in existence is the human ideology of equality that somehow is only attainable in a post-mortal state. It is the result of humankind’s continued aggression against itself that lends these ideas any relevance whatsoever.
Religious leaders continue to ballyhoo about how one day, after we are all dead and have gone on to a secondary existence, we will all just get along at the behest of an almighty God. Yet these same religious speakers of divinity continue to rail against the ‘unbeliever’ and how they will ‘burn forever in hell lest they repent’, failing to see the irony of their own belief system of equality and justice after death, yet preaching hate, fear, and a caste system of piety whilst still in this existence. How the mind can logically follow this ideal, and still maintain the validity of their divine creator and its benevolence is almost tragically amusing. Nielsen concludes, that we should recognize this ‘heavenly swindle’ for what it is; “brilliant inspiration…effectively pacifies the masses, deflecting them from the struggle to achieve their actual liberation…as our concept of God is enriched, our concept of man is impoverished”
We must find a way to make these religious ideals a goal for our lifetime, and not worry so much about fulfilling the dream of a classless, egalitarian, postmortem existence. If we, as a society, cared about humanity as much as we claim to care about our religious interests, we could subject ourselves to a better coalescence and existence while setting our collective passions on solving more pressing concerns for the survival of our species physically, not in the metaphorical, hypothetical, religious, life-after-death sort of way many currently do.
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Saturday, March 29, 2008 - 10:24
In discussing whether or not God exists we must first understand the 'meanings and terms predicated of God'. I remember writing an essay bearing that very title when the whole God/nongod debate was still very much in my focus of interest.
I feel that the best point of departure is to ask questions which underlie human activity and epistemological questions as concerning the nature of reality itself.
When humans are thrown into this world we feel a fundamental need to assimilate experiences and psychologically internalise our encounters with an exterior environment to make ourselves at home and achieve an overall harmonious structural process.
Whether it be food, our social or natural environment, or concepts and impressions, assimilation is necessary in order to establish any sort of a harmonic structural relationship.
Thus science and technology assimilates nature to fit our physical needs, art...to fit the perceptual aspects of experience into what we find to be beautiful or harmonic and religion as concerned with the question of experiencing all relationships in life as an unbroken totality or wholeness of structure -- a type of self knowledge aimed to help humans to look beyond narrow and fragmented interests of self, tribe, nation and take and feel with a wholehearted and total approach.
The word "God" means lots of things to lots of people so it is hard to know what is implied when you say that "there is no God".
If I believe in unknown unknowns, or a universe that exists outside and despite of (objective truth) as well as including and enfolding with human perception > an intelligence that is implicitly woven into nature > of which our brains are instruments, (e.g. knowledge does not need consciousness or even brains to exist...trees can communicate as can bees, dogs etc..thought flows out of and with reality).
If the ultimate source of intelligence is intertwined with the whole of reality ... and someone wants to call that "God"?
Obviously this is not a personal God, i'm just saying that on a different meaning or level the suggestion that there is a greater (more total)source of life and intelligence enfolded into and underlying everything, might be an ultimate derivative adjusted from what some religious people mean by the word "God" (e.g. the concept of that the name of God is only "I am what I am")
However this means that any personal picture we try to make of God make through thought is limited (this version included) only the totality, or ultimate has no limits and finds expression with and through and as part of everything. Obviously the more personal God becomes and the more that is said about God, the more it becomes limited as fragmented from and incoherent to its ultimate context.
I think that it is important not to limit God, if you really have a belief in God.
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| From murasaki|
Saturday, March 29, 2008, 23:33
epistemology....never heard that word before, but I think I like it. ;) Is there a word for the study of truth?? It looks like you've done a bit of research/study on the topic, I have some questions for you. How does one differentiate between personal belief and instilled belief or desired belief? And if one believes in God as you describe "the ultimate source of intelligence intertwined with the whole of reality", does that fall under agnosticism? (reply to this comment)
Thursday, March 27, 2008 - 02:11
My critique would be only from a logic and linguistic orientation, probably not what you wrote the paper for, so feel free to disregard it. I don't believe (from a logical perspective) that you defended your thesis. The problem is the language you use and not the quality of your writing.
You state that you, "attempt to show the reasons behind the belief I hold that God does not exist. " Except that in your paper you are commenting mostly on the strength (or weakness) of the arguments affirming belief in god. The problem is, no matter how poorly constructed the arguments in support of belief in god, they are not evidence in support of your belief in god's non-existence. And by the Bayesian definition of evidence, discovering the irrationality of the religious position, is not evidence against the existence of god either. It is not really evidence either way.
It should be noted that the reverse of an illogical proposition is not a logical one; this may be what is meant by the phrase: reversed stupidity is not intelligence (intelligence being predictive).
When you write your thesis (or construct any statement) consider that there is a subtle difference between negating a predicate and affirming a non-predicate.
Affirming a non-predicate is a position of infinite judgment and requires more evidence than a negation (I.e., He did not commit the crime, versus, he committed no crime).
The binary proposition to belief in god is not belief in gods non-existence, but rather, disbelief in god (the atheistic position). State disbelief in the thing, instead of belief in the non-thing, to insure that the burden of proof remains in the believers court.
But, all this is mostly irrelevant as writers generally don't adhere strictly to these forms--I like and agree with you paper though.
(reply to this comment)
| From murasaki|
Thursday, March 27, 2008, 18:21
I had pretty much the same thoughts when reading this. I found the paper interesting in that I'm currently struggling with the same question myself, not whether or not god exists, but whether or not I believe that he does. While the paper was fine, like Geo said, it doesn't really address your thesis. Perhaps a better title would have been "the contradictions of fundamental faith" or something to that effect. From what I know of writing uni papers, a debate includes a thesis, then arguments supporting the thesis and then any opposing arguments that might disprove it. You've started with a thesis, and then put in a bunch of supporting arguments against only one aspect of belief in god, the fundamentally religious aspect and then pretty much ignoring everything else. (reply to this comment)