"Does God exist?" etc. are useless questions

Discussion in 'Religion Archives' started by wynn, Jan 21, 2011.

  1. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    Consider questions like:

    "Does God exist?"
    "Do you believe in God?"
    "Why do you believe in God?"

    Now consider:
    Who is in the position to meaningfully ask them of another person?
    Who is in the position to meaningfully demand an answer to them of another person?

    Certainly not a Christian proselytizer in the street. Or some poster on an internet forum.
    If a philosophy teacher asks that in class, then answering such questions is simply an exercise in having understood the study matter, but may have nothing whatsoever to do with the person's actual convictions.
    One's friends, if they are any kind of friends, would know one well enough to engage in such a conversation in a non-confrontational and non-threatening manner. Similar goes for one's relatives.
    Answering them to one's boss is more of a strategic and political matter rather than anything else.
    Discussing anything with one's enemies is pointless to begin with.

    If a seeker asks these questions from someone who claims to be a theist, then the seeker, simply due to being the seeker, will not be able to properly understand or demand an answer anyway.

    Which leaves us with one being who can meaningfully ask such questions: God Himself. But He doesn't seem to be all that interested in that ...
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  3. NMSquirrel OCD ADHD THC IMO UR12 Valued Senior Member

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  5. Rav Valued Senior Member

    Because I have no idea what you're actually getting at I'm just going to take these questions at face value.

    The point of asking questions like "Does God exist?", "Do you believe in God?" and "Why do you believe in God?" is to find out what other people think. If you're searching for answers yourself then examining the thoughts and ideas expressed by others can provide you with new perspectives that you may not have considered before. But before I say anything else on the subject it would be helpful if you could clarify your position.
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  7. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    I suppose that I would be, if I was asking the questions. Apparently you see a problem, but I'm not sure what it is. The biggest difficulty that I see concerns the word 'meaningfully'.

    The question 'Does God exist?' suggests that the word 'God' refers to something that may or may not actually exist in reality.

    In order for the question to be meaningful, I and whoever I was talking to would have to have reached some agreement on what the hypothetical referrent of the word 'God' is. Put another way, we would have to have some idea about when the word is and isn't being used properly. And if we are going to have any hope of answering the question and determing whether God exists, we will have to possess some credible way of actually knowing when the words are in fact successfuly referring to the proper existing object.

    Again, why not? If somebody asks me whether I believe in God, I'd probably say 'no'. Again, the biggest difficulty would be in knowing what the word 'God' was intended to refer to. 'Yahweh' from the Bible or 'Allah' from the Quran? 'Vishnu'? Some functionalist God-of-the-philosophers, a generic natural-theological first-cause or final-cause or designer or something? My answer would probably be 'no' to all of those, but there is quite a bit of ambiguity built into the question.

    But having said that, my 'no' would nevertheless be serious, honest and sincere. It would express my best thinking on the matter.

    I get the feeling that you might be asking a theological question here, as opposed to a philosophical one. You could be interpreting 'Do you believe in God?' to actually be inquiring into something like 'Do you truly have faith in God?', or 'Does the concept of God occupy the central and determining place in your life?'

    Of course, I'm not sure why one person can't ask another person that question either.

    Bottom line: I don't understand what your point is in this thread.
  8. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    But why would you do that?

    And unless you have full faith and safety in God yourself, what point would there be in relying on other people's answers? What if they don't answer truthfully?
    If you yourself do not know God, then any answer a theist may give you may be wrong, or right, but you wouldn't know, wouldn't have any way to discern the truth of the matter.

    Sure. But unless you already know the right answer (in which case: Why ask?), what do all the answers that you might get help you?
  9. Saquist Banned Banned

    I thought they were self reflecting questions.
  10. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    IOW: We would already have to have full clarity on the issues of God's existence, how God can be known etc. In which case: Why ask questions about it?

    The one-up-manship inherent in all discussions about God - or anything else for that matter.
    Except that when it comes to discussing God, given the way "God" is usually defined (as omnimax), then the one who doesn't have proper knowledge of God is left to the mercy of those who (claim to) do.
    Basically, theistic discussion is an infinitely unfair one.
    The theist potentially has infinite power over the non-theist. How this plays out in actual communication is just one aspect of it.
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2011
  11. Rav Valued Senior Member

    I understand that we are in the Religion forum at the moment and with that fact in mind would I be correct in assuming that when you're talking about answers, you're talking about ultimate truths? By ultimate truth I mean something that is objectively and fundamentally true regardless of what people actually believe.

    For example. Three people are standing in front of a building that has no markings on it's exterior that would indicate what it is used for. One person believes that it is a library, one person believes that it is a city administration office and one person believes that it is empty and not currently used for any particular purpose. Until someone actually enters the building to investigate, everyone is potentially correct. But they cannot all be right. There is a factual truth in this example and that truth is what the building actually is used for. Either only one person will be correct, or none of them will be. This is the way in which I consider all questions about the nature of reality, the nature of God and questions about whether or not any kind of god actually exists. There can only be one "truth". Although this is a simplistic example, it's essentially one aspect of scientific realism.

    So, why ask the questions? It's simple. We tend to be insatiably curious about the nature of our own existence. But I realize of course that that is not what you're asking. You seem to be asking about the practical benefit, if any. Well, that's simple too. Even after a lifetime of searching a person may never be able to answer the big questions, but that doesn't make it a wasted effort. On the contrary. Everything that you do learn along the way has the potential to enrich your life. My own search for answers has taught me so much about the nature of the universe and the nature of consciousness and existence, and that knowledge allows me to more fully appreciate my existence for what it is. It seems even more amazing to me now than it did when I began.

    Finally, I know not everyone thinks like I do. They don't embrace a scientific realism type approach and instead believe that truth is ultimately subjective. My opinion, although seemingly fundamentally different from your opinion, is just as valid. And if I haven't formed my own opinion yet because I have unanswered questions then it makes sense to endeavour to obtain as much information and as many different perspectives as possible to help me formulate my own truth.

    Regardless of which of these and the many other possible camps that you might identify with, how does it not always make sense to obtain as much information as possible, whatever form that information comes in. Even a single brief conversation with another person can get you thinking along lines that might lead you to a profound realization.
  12. Yazata Valued Senior Member

    Why would anyone need to have "full clarity"? That sounds kind of excessive. I don't think that human beings enjoy complete and total clarity about anything. But the words that people use nevertheless need to have sufficient meaning that people can reach some agreement about what they supposedly refer to.

    "Left to the mercy"? That needs some explanation.

    How pleasant that must be for you. Is there any reason why the rest of us should take the assertion seriously?

    I'm still not sure what philosophcal idea you are trying to express in this thread.
  13. wellwisher Banned Banned

    Putting aside whether God can be proven to exist or not, the concept of God is something analogous to the math/science concept of infinity, but infinity in all things. Even the science/math concept of infinity is not something one can experience directly. I can not show you an infinity of distance or an infinity of sand particles, since infinity does not have finite boundaries and therefore can not fit nicely into a finite container.

    Infinity can not be experienced or perceived with the sensory organs. It requires the mind, imagination and intuition to get the gist of what it might represent. In math, we can pin infinity down to something like 1/0, but exactly what does that means in terms of a tangible proof? We don't expect tangible proof, when it comes to infinity, but rather we use the mind and a gut feeling to get the gist of what the concept of infinity is trying to express.

    Ask a scientist to prove infinity, by means of a tangible experiment. It is not easy to do, since the very concept does not have a boundary. Yet that same scientist may have a good hunch for what represents, which is sort of an acquired skill. Yet even with that skill or experience of infinity, he may not be able to transfer what is inside him to another. He may have to give a definition of infinity with the hope others will ponder the nebulous and come to their own experience of a concept without bounds.
  14. Emil Valued Senior Member

    I think it's a useful question.
    Nobody is born believing in God.
    Faith is a matter of education received from parents, school and society.
    So all believers, sooner or later, they asked themselves, "Does God exist?".
    Because of the education they received they decided that "yes, God exists" and they have chosen and proper religion.
  15. Adstar Valued Senior Member

    But if one wants the others salvation. One has to be absolutely sure that the other is an actual enemy before withdrawing.

    Poppycock. Just because some cannot understand does not mean all cannot understand.

    Ummm God knows He exists. No need for Him to ask such a question.

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    All Praise The Ancient Of Days
  16. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    Oh. This reasoning is leaving God out of the equation, as if God had nothing to do with whether people believe in Him or not. How can you be so sure of that??
  17. Oniw17 ascetic, sage, diogenes, bum? Valued Senior Member

    If God did have something to do with believing in god, then maybe it's in the form of bringing you to the individual who will change your mind and inspiring you to question them. In fact, I would say that the only time these questions are worthwhile is in such a situation.
  18. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    It looks like you have a lot of implicit faith that God does not mind your extensive inquiry and welcomes your efforts toward Him / the Truth, whatever these efforts might be.
    I have lost that optimism long ago.

    If you are not afraid of eternal damnation, then I'm not sure how to explain things to you.

    Think of it like this: What if God is like, say, a poster here named Adstar?

    How can you logically exclude that God is not like that?
  19. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    And this absolute surety is at what point?
    When one realizes that one's heart has stopped beating because it is cut apart by the knife plunged into one's chest by the supposed theist?
  20. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    How optimistic ...
  21. Pious Registered Senior Member

    When non-believers claim they don't believe in God, they are answering the question about the existence of God. It implies the question is useful in their viewpoint since there was a need for the answer.

    And for those who claim they believe in God, the question is useful too.
  22. wellwisher Banned Banned

    A concept of math/science, that impacts the mind similar to the concept of God, is the concept of infinity. God is sort of defined as infinity in all things; omnipresent and omnipotent.

    Infinity can not be proven, since it does not have a finite boundary condition, which allows us to place infinity into a finite container. This limits the use of our sensory systems as a means of proof. Instead, one will need to use the mind, imagination and intuition to rough in the concept for ourselves.

    Such esoteric thinking is not always easier to transfer directly to other with language. So we may define infinity, like it is tangible, to make it easier for people to get their feet wet, until there are able to contemplate infinity on their own and come to their own esoteric understanding.

    When we say the universe is infinite, it sounds like a finite boundary condition, but this is an abstraction beyond tangible proof. But it nevertheless is important for abstract thinking. God may have been the original abstract thought, since it lacks all boundary conditions.

    Most arguments against God attempt to impose a boundary condition; tangible proof. Even the bible tries to impose boundary conditions such as a personification.
  23. Rav Valued Senior Member

    Would you mind giving is a basic summary of your belief system Signal? If people can understand where you are coming from and what has led you to ask these questions I think the responses you get might be more relevant.

    Consider the following three possibilities:

    1) There is a God that has a vested interest in our affairs and wants people to come to know him. He has a message for us concerning the way in which he would like us to live our lives.

    2) There is a God but although he might look upon us with some interest, he's happy for us to live out our lives in any way we see fit. There are no commandments that we are required to follow, he'd just like us to try to be decent people.

    3) There is a God who likes to screw with us. He has a message for us concerning the way in which he would like us to live our lives but he's buried it within the pile of steaming shit that we call man-made religion. If you're not lucky enough to pick the right one, you're doomed.

    The last two possibilities pretty much speak for themselves. But you have to consider the first one more carefully. If God does want us to come to know him and his message, would it make sense for him to make it overly complicated for us to do so? Wouldn't it make more sense for him to equip all of us with the ability to recognize him when we see him (assuming that we are actually looking)? Perhaps that ability is simply one of the natural consequences of being made in his image (spiritual image, that is).

    Food for thought.

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