God

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About

God is a family resemblance category (see e.g. [1]) whose most common attributes include:

  • creator of the universe
  • omnipotence, including the ability to influence physical events via supernatural means
  • omniscience
  • omnipresence
  • sentience

Despite the nonexistence of any universally-agreed definition of God, there are nonetheless many claims that God is a sentient being who has very specific opinions about how humans should behave, and who will wreak terrible retribution of one sort or another on those who behave in a way that God does not want.

Belief in God is the focus of many religions; these are collectively known as monotheism.

Conclusions

The primary reason for the popularity of "God" as a concept is that it is essentially a memetic virus or worm – an exploit of the brain's reasoning software which causes the cognitive equivalent of a "divide by zero" error.

Although the details vary across religions, God is invariably described in superlative or infinite terms: he can do anything, he created everything – so it is very easy to claim that God is an exception to any rule of rationality. For example, one of God's essential properties is that doesn't have to obey the laws of physics because he created them in the first place; because he created the entire universe, his Plan for it must be as vastly beyond our comprehension as would the history of the East India Company to a single tea-leaf; etc.

Those on whom this exploit succeeds (typically of the authoritarian follower mindset) are then easy prey for powermongers, who tie it together with additional claims about "what God wants" (equivalent to a computer worm's "payload") to elicit obedience. These followers then aid the powermonger in spreading the God meme to other hosts – victims of the symbiotic relationship between meme and powermonger.

Arguments

see also /arguments for, /arguments against

It is often stated that the existence of God can be neither proven nor disproven.

Believers seem to presume that the default should then be to believe in God, since it can't be proven that he doesn't exist. Bertrand Russell made the counter-argument (Russell's Teapot) that the burden of proof should be on the believer, since it is the believer who is introducing an extra entity without evidence. Otherwise, the Flying Spaghetti Monster and the Invisible Pink Unicorn are just as valid objects of belief as is "God".

That said, the non-disprovability of God's existence is actually only true for the most abstract, non-interfering versions of God; for any version of God which claims any specific properties (e.g. God wants us to do, say, or believe certain things), it is meaningful to look for evidence for or against the idea that the creator of the entire universe has these particular wishes.

In short, the argument "you can't prove that God doesn't exist" is a red herring or bait-and-switch; if God's existence has any effect at all, then evidence can be sought. Most nontheists do not object strongly to "inconsequential God"; it is only the versions of God which make specific demands or statements (e.g. homosexuals are an abomination before God) that cause problems because the ideas or beliefs introduced thereby cannot be argued with on their own merit because of the presumed authority of their origin (the creator of the universe).

Communication with

It is frequently claimed that individuals are able to "talk to God" or hear "the voice of God". Some religions allow that this might happen, stating that "God is still speaking", while others state that God only occasionally communicates with humanity on particular momentous occasions (often described as "miraculous").

Issues with the "frequently communicating (FC) God" include:

  • How can you tell that the voice is that of God rather than being some other part of yourself talking?
  • How can you tell that the voice is that of God rather than being that of some other deity or powerful entity, possibly even an inimical one (e.g. Satan or one of the hypothetical competing Gods alluded to in item #1 of the Ten Commandments)?
  • If another speaker-with-God claims that what God has told them blatantly contradicts what God has told you, how do you resolve the contradiction?
    • Do you assume that the other person is lying? (Why?)
    • Do you assume that the other person is being deceived? (Why? If so, by whom?)
    • How can you be sure that the other person is not telling the truth?
    • How can you be sure that there is not another God speaking to some people (regardless of who is talking to the "real" God)?
    • How can you be sure that God is not in fact talking to both of you but, for unknown reasons of his own, is lying to one of you?
  • If two people both claim to be in communication with God but the things they each say God has told them are mutually contradictory, how should an objective third party resolve the contradiction? (i.e. who should they believe, and why?)

Contradictions

  • The Conversations with God books include a number of points which blatantly contradict the word of God as believed by many religions (and of course, many of the words of God as believed by many religions blatantly contradict each other)

Notes

A small sample of FC believers I spoke with stated that they can "just tell", or that they have spoken at length with the voice in question and feel quite certain that it is in fact God, but gave no further details. --Woozle 10:15, 14 February 2007 (EST)

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Offbeat

  • 2007-09-17 (Omaha, Nebraska) State Senator Ernie Chambers Sues God to prove a point about frivolous lawsuits. 'The lawsuit accuses God "of making and continuing to make terroristic threats of grave harm to innumerable persons, including constituents of Plaintiff who Plaintiff has the duty to represent." .. It says God has caused, "fearsome floods, egregious earthquakes, horrendous hurricanes, terrifying tornadoes, pestilential plagues, ferocious famines, devastating droughts, genocidal wars, birth defects, and the like."'