Semantics of "I don't believe in God".

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by lixluke, Aug 19, 2008.


Which one is correct?

  1. A

    7 vote(s)
  2. B

    3 vote(s)
  3. C

    8 vote(s)
  1. Oli Heute der Enteteich... Registered Senior Member


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    I don't, but I think I get you.

    Understood, but I still disagree that I'm any sort of god.

    The externalisation of the "idea" yes I agree.
    But I disagree that I, at least, am any sort of god.

    Er no, at least I don't think so.
    I am not god.
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  3. Vkothii Banned Banned

    Well, you are, it's actually where the whole thing comes from, surely?

    Just because it's a big word doesn't really mean all that much.
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  5. Oli Heute der Enteteich... Registered Senior Member

    Not that you can demonstrate to me though...

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  7. Vkothii Banned Banned

    I suppose not. That would be up to your own point of view; nonetheless I can claim that it is the case.
    It just seems to make more sense than the other way.
  8. Oli Heute der Enteteich... Registered Senior Member

    As Fraggle would say: an unverifiable claim isn't valid.

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  9. Vkothii Banned Banned

    And that comes down to the whole observation and group agreement thing, right?
    We seem to be able to come to agreements, in general amongst ourselves, about how things work based on specific experience.

    Our explanations then, are the "invariant remainder" after all the opinions and ideas, they are what works "best" at explaining. Science is the art of explanation, of being more precise, or distilling an essence or essential truth, a simplest explanation that works, so to speak.
    Except for a particular aspect of all that, which is: how do we explain that we can do this, or that we can agree the explanations work, as we all can see they do? I say that's the bit where we tend to abstract our own, and so our group abilities, to explain things. Our godlike powers of explanation: Newton believed he was explaining the very motions of heavenly spheres, the mechanics of God's creation, written in the sky for the reasoning mind of the man to uncover; unfortunately the mechanistic explanation soon ran into a problem - we obviously had not yet reached the pinnacle of our potential to comprehend His nature after all.
    But the whole thing is in fact seated firmly between everyone's ears.
  10. Oli Heute der Enteteich... Registered Senior Member

    Group agreement and observation are insufficient.

    With corrobaratory evidence, yes.

    Ah that's where I'd have to disagree.
    Our powers of explanation seem pretty limited to me.

    That problem being?

    So gods aren't by nature omnipotent, they're limited?

    You keep saying "fact", but I still claim it's a supposition.
  11. Vkothii Banned Banned

    Where do you get this supposition idea from?
    Back in Newton's day I'd say the notion of godlike powers of reason and observation, were pretty much the thing.

    They persisted until the Victorian era, in which some believed it was all down to figuring it out to the last decimal place, otherwise we understood everything. Today we seek a theory, and evidence for it that explains the existence of matter in the universe: the "God particle".
    We may have adjusted our view of just how godlike our powers of reason might be, but we still believe there is something unique about our intellect, and how our group intellect has led to our current speculative grasp: how it's up against its own wall, or our god has not yet learned how to read the "signs" - we're still learning to see or how to look at those signs, even how to discriminate certain signals from the usual stuff.
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2008
  12. Oli Heute der Enteteich... Registered Senior Member

    Because a "fact" is demonstrable and independently verifiable, not a personal revelation.
    It may well be true for you (subjectively) but to claim that it's true for everyone when you can't prove it leaves it as supposition.
  13. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    That runs counter to the essence of language, which is what this subforum is about. Language works because we all agree on what the words mean, so we understand each other's sentences. You seem to have invented your own definition for the word "god," and as a result none of us can understand you. This whole thread is going around in circles because of your stubborn refusal to play by the rules of English.

    You can call anything you want a "god," if you're writing a poem or a treatise, and you spend a good portion of your effort explaining your definition, defending it, and finally demonstrating its usefulness so the reader feels it was worth the trouble to try to follow you. You have not done any of those things and so far it has not been worth the trouble to try to follow you. Obviously I speak for many.
    Your rhetoric is a little rough around the edges, but since none of us is inclined to believe you're a god, it doesn't matter.
    As a third-generation atheist I have no subjective experience with the concept of gods. I never even heard of them until I was about seven. My understanding of the word is based exclusively on what people who believe in them tell me it means. Sure, I restate their definition in unflattering scientific terminology, but it's the same definition. Gods are universally perceived by those who believe in them as supernatural, and as deliberately affecting events and conditions in the natural universe. If you have a different definition then you're outside the consensus and, as you've experienced, people will have great difficulty understanding you.

    If I spend half an hour trying to convince you that I have a really great dog and nothing I say about him makes sense, and then finally I casually mention that my dog has retractable claws and goes "meow," that's pretty close to what you're inflicting on us with your eccentric talk about your god.
    No. I eat wannabe philosophers for breakfast and the extra protein helps me sail serenely through my day.

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    It's a required ability for the Moderator's job.
    When it started it was about the semantics of the word "believe." Don't change the subject.
    By choosing to call it a god, when it seems to have nothing in common with what the rest of the English-speaking community calls a god--a supernatural being who perturbs the conditions and events in the natural universe--you have broken the consensus of meaning and slipped out of the English-speaking community. That community can no longer understand you.
    Many people think of that, but it's not the essence of their meaning of "god." The essence is a supernatural being that interferes with the workings of the universe, although in the modern era most people make the additional assumption that his intentions are for good.
    This has become a philosophical argument and not a linguistic one. Even though it is therefore on the wrong board I normally would probably not object strenuously, since Linguistics doesn't get a lot of traffic. I could always push the Magic Moderator Button and move it to Philosophy. What I object to is that you've spent all this time letting us think you wanted to talk about linguistics. Couldn't you have made your point about four pages ago?
    I'm saying that there is no evidence of spirits or ghosts and furthermore that the existence of spirits or ghosts would falsify the fundamental theory upon which science is based. Therefore it is an extraordinary assertion and, according to the Rule of Laplace which is a cornerstone of the scientific method, we are not obliged to treat it with respect until it is accompanied by extraordinary evidence.
    In an academy of tertiary research such as ours, they would probably be okay. Almost all of us are merely students of science, not practicing scientists.
  14. Vkothii Banned Banned

    How do you mean "demonstrable"? To an audience, or to a recording device of some kind?
  15. Oli Heute der Enteteich... Registered Senior Member

    To an audience would do.
    (After Fraggle's comment above

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  16. Vkothii Banned Banned

    You're claiming that before the age of seven, you had no subjective experience? I don't think so - you certainly would have been experiencing all kinds of stuff well before you got introduced to this "definition", and you had an idea what this newly-encountered (i.e. foreign) idea was about, surely.
    An atheist to my way of seeing it, is someone who denies the existence of any external god or deity; in a sense believes in a god that doesn't exist. It's still a kind of faith, or non-faith I suppose. My definition does not require me to have faith other than in being able to see or hear; it fits my paradigm a lot better.

    And you claiming the English-speaking world has a definition for the word "god" as being different to mine, again you are mistaken in concluding that, I'm quite sure.
    The Bible contains this notion here and there in various parts - that there's something "within you", right? That you can be "with" something, and so on.
    So, I'm sorry but you haven't done quite the demolition job you thought.
  17. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    I had never heard of gods and religion. My family simply didn't talk about it, and apparently none of their friends did either. There was no TV and little kids weren't exposed to things outside the family to the extent that they are today. When a kid in school told me the story of some guy named God living up in the sky in a place called Heaven, I doubled over with laughter. I assumed it was a joke. When he kept insisting it was real, I figured it was just one of those stories kids make up and get all wrapped up in. Then when it made him mad I realized it must be a Santa Claus-Tooth Fairy-Easter Bunny kind of thing his parents told him when he was little, and I wondered why they hadn't told him the truth yet. Then when I told me parents about it and they said there were grownups who believe in it because their parents never told them the truth, I thought they were making a joke. I became really disgusted with the human race when I finally found out they were telling me the truth. It took me a long long time to be able to forgive people for being that stupid, and I still can't always do it. I understand why my parents were such misanthropes.
    You don't understand atheism at all. The word "deny" only applies in a situation like this if what you're "denying" is true. But gods are bullshit.
    And the point I will not cease hammering until you get it is that you don't get to make up your own definitions of words. Language operates by consensus and if you flout the consensus you take yourself out of the linguistic community and people will no longer be able to understand you.
    I didn't get to be the Head Linguist around here without knowing how to use a dictionary. A basic skill, by the way, which I heartily encourage in the members.

    Webster's: "A being conceived of as possessing supernatural power, and to be propitiated by sacrifice, worship, etc.; a divinity; a deity; an object of worship; an idol."

    American Heritage: "A being conceived as the perfect, omnipotent, omniscient originator and ruler of the universe, the principal object of faith and worship in monotheistic religions; the force, effect, or a manifestation or aspect of this being; a being of supernatural powers or attributes, believed in and worshiped by a people, especially a male deity thought to control some part of nature or reality."

    WordNet: "The supernatural being conceived as the perfect and omnipotent and omniscient originator and ruler of the universe; the object of worship in monotheistic religions; any supernatural being worshipped as controlling some part of the world or some aspect of life or who is the personification of a force."

    There are other secondary, poetic, metaphorical and portmanteau definitions, but this is the consensus of what English speakers mean when they use the word "god" or "God" in a conversation with a stranger. Are you going to keep insisting otherwise?
    You're talking about that little Christian section at the end of the bible. The rest of it makes it very clear that God is a supernatural creature who lives in Heaven, who created the earth and the rest of the natural universe (as distinct from Heaven, which is clearly off somewhere in a supernatural universe), who created all life including people, and who continued to meddle in their affairs rather angily and petulantly. The God of the Christians had finally taken an anger management class and stopped turning people into pillars of salt and causing planet-wide floods, and he sent the First Hippie to teach them about Peace and Love. Since God had redefined himself as a peaceful and loving kind of guy, Jesus could teach people that God was inside each of them. They would not have wanted to hear that about the Old Testament God.
    I'm not trying to demolish anyone. I'm just acting as a gatekeeper of the language and you've been misusing it.
  18. Vkothii Banned Banned

    These may well be "universally accepted" definitions, possibly even by a majority of English-speaking (or African-language, or Asian-language speaking) people. Hell, I even understand them; maybe even why they exist and why they have that particular form.

    But they're all incorrect. They are all externalisations, abstractions of the meaning of 'something', which can only have originated from us humans (unless some "external" agency gave us the idea. But then how did we "get" the idea in the first place?)
    What led you to reject, or even question the "standard" meaning you were given as a child? Did you have any conception of your own, so that the idea you were told then didn't fit with your own? Or are you saying you had no idea, no preconceived individual notion of this thing at all, so the story you got told seemed laughable?
    Whether you agree now or not, I would say you did as we all do, have such a notion. You wouldn't have related it to the "story" you were told, which is why the story seemed so outrageous...?
    According to you it is, you mean?
    I'm going to stick to my personal definition, since all the above are misconceptions, yes.
    All are based on an idealisation of human "god-ness" if you will. The whole idea comes straight from our cultural history, and religion became a means of social coherence, then political control. At least that's how I see the whole "external deity" thing. Religion and its approach to certain "godlike" aspects, aren't just a single story, or a single idea.
    But my understanding of what it's all about is a single thing as I've explained; it's the idea that "god" is not an idea because "god" is me, it all starts with an idea. Religion is an enshrinement of an idea, then.

    You obviously have a definition of "god", that fits your paradigm. Your definition, as I've already said, proclaims a non-existent god/gods. But that doesn't "do away" with the concept at all, as I've also stated. It puts a certain idea in its place, maybe, but the idea hasn't "gone" anywhere.
    God is not an idea - religion is.

    P.S. That one-para redaction of yours, of the Bible looks very much like the "standard" version atheists explain to their kids. I claim you (and probably millions of others) have misread the whole thing. It may look a lot like a description of an external, vengeful and petulant being who meddled in the affairs of people, but it's actually a characterisation of cultural and political wills, in conflict at times, in agreement at other times throughout the history of a certain people - the Hebrews had their traditions to help keep them together.

    You can read the whole Bible, or any religious tome from front to back, and see that's what it is; a characterisation, a metaphor for cultural strife, for all the things that happen in a people's history; the mis-step is when a people start believing it's about real beings, rather than metaphors. Then the history gets "corrected", since culture and social cohesion are the important things, the story can change accordingly.

    That's how I see it, anyway. There's no need to demolish the idea of an external deity, it's already just an idea. The need is to see it as what it really is, where it came from, why it's a mistake to worship an idea; why the idea comes from us (because we are that thing ourselves of course).
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2008
  19. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    V, I'm not going to spend the next twelve weeks dancing in a circle with you on this.

    There is a consensus among English speakers regarding the meaning of the word "god." I presented that consensus to you by giving you direct quotes from three different dictionaries that were nearly identical.

    You don't get to say that a definition is "incorrect." If you lived in France you'd have to abide by the definition handed down by L'Academie Fran├žaise. If you lived in Germany you'd probably be arrested. In Japan you'd be ostracized. Fortunately the anglophone community doesn't have such draconian institutions, but instead it has consensus. Whatever the word means in the everyday conversations of the people, that's what it means. If you don't like it, you can write an article about it, or maybe a pop song, and try to change people's vocabulary.

    What you can't do is establish your own idiosyncratic definition and tell people it is "correct."

    As for my childhood, please allow me to tell you what it was like, since I was actually there. Don't try to tell me what I experienced. I had no idea what the concept of "god" was supposed to be about because I'd never been exposed to either the word or the concept. And it certainly didn't pop up spuriously in my little head.

    Finally, the definition of "god" that I use on SciForums is not "my" definition. It is the definition of the hundreds of millions of English speakers on this planet. I didn't make it up like you did; I looked it up like we're supposed to.
  20. Vkothii Banned Banned

    You mean: you had no idea about this story you got told by someone when you were young. But you did have an idea of what "god" is, even when you were younger than when you first heard the "grown-up version". Even if you say, and wholeheartedly believe you didn't; what you're doing is saying "I had no conception like that, it must be a fairy story". But you had "a conception" nonetheless, just like everyone else does.

    And I don't believe that I am under any obligation, cultural, everyday, worthy of ostracism, whatever, to believe in "a definition" that conflicts with my day-to-day experience. So I don't, and furthermore I won't be doing that anytime at all.

    As for looking up some word - I know there's a word that's spelt the same way, pronounced the same way, and what "hundreds of millions of English speakers on this planet" think it means.
    I don't believe that there is one and only one meaning as you apply it. There never has been only one meaning either.
  21. Oli Heute der Enteteich... Registered Senior Member

    Again: NO.

    As I've said before NOT EVERYONE.
  22. Vkothii Banned Banned

    Ah. So you're claiming some kind of special ability then? To avoid forming any conception of your own existence, relative to the rest (of existence - i.e. "the world")? This is something you have never done, or found any reason to?
    I'd say, no, you're wrong about that. You most certainly have conceptions, mostly formed at a young age but filtered somewhat by years of experience (in which mysterious things don't happen to you, and so on).
  23. Oli Heute der Enteteich... Registered Senior Member

    Nope, you're claiming that everyone shares your perceptions.
    I'd say you're the one claiming a special ability -ascribing YOUR personal experiences to everyone else.
    Which, if nothing else has, real life should have demonstrated as not true.

    You can say it as often as you like.
    You have nothing other than your own experiences to indicate this and it simply isn't true for me, or, as he's said, Fraggle.
    Therefore your assumption that it's universal is incorrect.

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