On the concept and semantics of "God"

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On the concept and semantics of "God"

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Post by Divine Insight »

In other thread Danmark posted the following thought:
Danmark wrote: I'm thinking in print now, I don't have this thought out, but do we really have to insist on putting a label on everything? I would rather let some things be nameless in preference to giving them the wrong name, or a misleading name. This is the problem with words and other symbols. The symbol is always a mere approximation for what it tries to describe. The symbols mislead us into thinking we have captured some exact truth when in fact we have only found some rough approximation we agree upon.
The question seems to be this, "Should we label a concept that we know very little about, or whether the concept can even exist?"

The following are my thoughts on this matter. Unlike what Danmark had posted suggesting that he hasn't yet thought this out in depth, I feel that I have indeed thought about this question in depth for many decades. And so with this in mind I would like to offer my views on what the concept labeled "God" should mean to us.

Disclaimer #1:

When it comes to religious views many theists proclaim that only "Their God" is real. And therefore they claim "Patent Rights" to the very concept of God. Because of this they are likely to totally renounce my abstract definitions of the concept of "God".

I personally do not recognize the authority of their arrogance to claim patent rights on this term. I will define the term "God" below, and the definition I give will cover ALL concepts of God, not matter how arrogantly narrow they might be.

Disclaimer #2:

Yes, the following definition for the concept of God is my own. I have tailored this definition after years of contemplating many different claims of what "God" might be. I offer the following definition solely as food for thought, for those who would like to have an understandable abstract meaning of the concept that can apply to all religions, theologies, and even atheism.

My definition defines the "Concept" of God. It does not define what "God" is in any specific details other than as an abstract concept.

The Foundational Dichotomy of Reality:

After many decades of studying the "God Concept" I have come to the following conclusion. There are only two fundamental premises that can be true:

Our reality was not intentionally created by a thinking planning consciousness.
(some may also label this as "Atheism" or "Secularism" etc.) If this is reality, then there is no "God" (by my definition which will be given later)

Our reality was intentionally created by a thinking conscious entity (this is the entity we label as "God").
(we tend to label this line of thinking as "Theism" or "Mysticism")

This concept can be understood whether a God exists or not. Thus making both the concept, and the label, valid in terms of describing a comprehensible idea.

The Second Possible Dichotomy of Reality:

If, and only if, the Foundational Dichotomy of Reality is that a God exists (i.e. there is a conscious awareness behind reality, then we have a Second Possible Dichotomy of Realiy:

This Second Possible Dichotomy of Reality:

If a consciousness exists that has intentionally created our reality there are only two possibilities:

1. This creator consciousness is somehow entirely separate and distinct from us. It has an individuality of its own. A personality, an ego, a well-defined self.

Or

2. This creator consciousness has somehow become manifest as this reality including being us. It is not separate from us at all, but rather we and the creator are one. We are the consciousness that creates the universe or at least we are each individually a part of this greater conscious whole that we call "God".

The first of these is the view taken by many religions like Greek Mythology that imagined a human male character as being the Father God. They named this "God" Zeus. Obviously there are many religions along these lines not the least of which are the Abrahamic religions with their personified Fatherly God who issues commandment, rules, demands, and consequences for disobeying his commands.

The second of these is the view taken by many Eastern Mysticism religions especially like Taoism and many forms of Buddhism. In this view there is no separation between the consciousness that creates reality and us. At least not in the sense of it being a separate entity. There are differences between the consciousness of an individual human and the whole of the consciousness of the cosmos. So this is not to say that each and every individual human is "God" in its entirety, but rather it's just saying that the consciousness that brings reality into existence is fundamental the same consciousness that constitutes our very nature.

~~~~~~

And now for my definition of "God" as a meaningful concept

God - the conscious entity behind reality that gives rise to reality.

If there is no conscious entity behind reality that gives rise to reality, then there is no God. Yet it's still a concept that we can understand as an idea and therefore discuss in meaningful ways. God does not need to exist to be a meaningful concept.

This definition also applies to all religions. The only dispute individual religions may have with one another is whether or not God (the conscious foundation of reality) can be separate from us or not. Or rather, it bring up the problem of explaining how our consciousness could be separate from God's consciousness? If that's possible, then perhaps The Foundational Dichotomy of Reality may actually be that there is no need for any consciousness above ours.

In any case, we now have a meaningful abstract definition of the term "God" that is totally independent of any religion or theology, and also retains a comprehensible meaning even if the concept itself has no reality.

There is no need for "God" to exist for this concept to be well-defined and meaningful.

And even though we can define it in a meaningful and comprehensible way it does not automatically follow that we should be able to prove or disprove that this concept exists or not.

We know that we have consciousness, but the questions still remain:

1. Did our consciousness arise from an otherwise secular (i.e. Godless) reality?

2. Did some "Big Daddy Consciousness" create reality including our totally separate and individual consciousnesses?

3. Are we this Creator Consciousness simply having become manifest as a physical world for the purpose of having this conscious experience?

These appear to be unanswerable questions at this time.

Secularists are hoping that science may someday prove #1 to be true.

Theists are hoping that their apologists can prove #2 to be true.

Mystics simply accept that #3 is probably true and just carry on with their lives.
;)
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Re: On the concept and semantics of "God"

Post #2

Post by McCulloch »

Divine Insight wrote:The Foundational Dichotomy of Reality:

After many decades of studying the "God Concept" I have come to the following conclusion. There are only two fundamental premises that can be true:

Our reality was not intentionally created by a thinking planning consciousness.
(some may also label this as "Atheism" or "Secularism" etc.) If this is reality, then there is no "God" (by my definition which will be given later)

Our reality was intentionally created by a thinking conscious entity (this is the entity we label as "God").
(we tend to label this line of thinking as "Theism" or "Mysticism")

This concept can be understood whether a God exists or not. Thus making both the concept, and the label, valid in terms of describing a comprehensible idea.
If our reality was created by a thinking conscious entity, that entity is either a part of our reality or it is not a part of our reality. If the entity is a part of our reality, then it created itself, since it is said to have created our reality. It is absurd to believe in a self-creating entities. If the entity is not a part of our reality then it could be fairly stated that the entity, from our perspective, is unreal; it does not exist in our reality. Since both options for this proposed entity lead to its non-existence, it is rational to conclude that it does not exist.
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Re: On the concept and semantics of "God"

Post #3

Post by bluethread »

McCulloch wrote:
Divine Insight wrote:The Foundational Dichotomy of Reality:

After many decades of studying the "God Concept" I have come to the following conclusion. There are only two fundamental premises that can be true:

Our reality was not intentionally created by a thinking planning consciousness.
(some may also label this as "Atheism" or "Secularism" etc.) If this is reality, then there is no "God" (by my definition which will be given later)

Our reality was intentionally created by a thinking conscious entity (this is the entity we label as "God").
(we tend to label this line of thinking as "Theism" or "Mysticism")

This concept can be understood whether a God exists or not. Thus making both the concept, and the label, valid in terms of describing a comprehensible idea.
If our reality was created by a thinking conscious entity, that entity is either a part of our reality or it is not a part of our reality. If the entity is a part of our reality, then it created itself, since it is said to have created our reality. It is absurd to believe in a self-creating entities. If the entity is not a part of our reality then it could be fairly stated that the entity, from our perspective, is unreal; it does not exist in our reality. Since both options for this proposed entity lead to its non-existence, it is rational to conclude that it does not exist.
This ignores the possibility of a creative entity that was not created, but that created us, within His reality, as limited entities. As the final scene of MIB speculates, our entire universe could be contained in a cosmic marble.

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Re: On the concept and semantics of "God"

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Post by Divine Insight »

Just for the record, this thread is not concerned with whether a "God" concept could exist. But only whether or not it is a meaningful concept to even discuss.

With that in mind I would like to address some of the things you bring up.
McCulloch wrote: If our reality was created by a thinking conscious entity, that entity is either a part of our reality or it is not a part of our reality.
I beg to differ. If a thinking conscious entity created our reality then it is definitely a part of our reality. The idea that it's not part of our reality makes no sense at that point.

Keep in mind here that we are talking about the totality of reality (not merely what we call the physical world). Having read many of your posts I get the idea that you view the physical world as the sum total of reality. I'm not personally convinced that you have a good case for that claim.
McCulloch wrote: If the entity is a part of our reality, then it created itself, since it is said to have created our reality.
But this entity wouldn't be part of "our" reality. Instead we would merely be a part of "its" reality.
McCulloch wrote: It is absurd to believe in a self-creating entities.
So? It's absurd that anything exists at all. Yet here we are.

The argument of absurdity covers a purely secular existence as well.
McCulloch wrote: If the entity is not a part of our reality then it could be fairly stated that the entity, from our perspective, is unreal; it does not exist in our reality. Since both options for this proposed entity lead to its non-existence, it is rational to conclude that it does not exist.
Again, where are you drawing lines concerning how to define "reality"?

It appears to me that you are still thinking in terms of drawing a line at "Physical Reality". But where is the justification for doing that?

Newtons' balls have been castrated. All we have hope for now is imagined strings.

But what if there are no strings?

And even if there exists strings, from whence did they come into existence?

Why do you not consider it absurd for strings to have always existed, but consider it to be absurd that a consciousness has always existed?

Do you have a personal bias for strings?

Note: Again, this thread was not intended to debate the existence of a "God" but rather to merely define the concept so that it could be meaningfully discussed.
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Re: On the concept and semantics of "God"

Post #5

Post by McCulloch »

[Replying to post 4 by Divine Insight]
Divine Insight wrote:
After many decades of studying the "God Concept" I have come to the following conclusion. There are only two fundamental premises that can be true:

Our reality was not intentionally created by a thinking planning consciousness.
(some may also label this as "Atheism" or "Secularism" etc.) If this is reality, then there is no "God" (by my definition which will be given later)

Our reality was intentionally created by a thinking conscious entity (this is the entity we label as "God").
(we tend to label this line of thinking as "Theism" or "Mysticism")

This concept can be understood whether a God exists or not. Thus making both the concept, and the label, valid in terms of describing a comprehensible idea.
I think that the term our reality is rather poorly defined. To me our reality means the entirety of the space time continuum and all of the matter and energy within it. If your reality is something more or less than that please specify what is real or not real to you other than this.

Now, regardless of how you define our reality, you first assume that it has been created. If our reality had been created, the entity which created it must either exist entirely within our reality or it exists partly or completely outside of our reality. If the first is true, then the entity which created our reality could not have existed until it had created our reality, which is absurd. Therefore, we must conclude that if our reality was created, the entity which created it must have existed outside of our reality prior to the creation of our reality.

But, by definition, things outside of reality are unreal. So, this creative entity is either absurd or unreal. But we reach this conclusion only based on the assumption that our reality had been created. This assumption must be false. Therefore our reality has not been created. It does apparently exist, but it was not created. The uncreated entity from the cosmological argument is not God but reality.
Examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.
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Re: On the concept and semantics of "God"

Post #6

Post by Divine Insight »

McCulloch wrote: I think that the term our reality is rather poorly defined. To me our reality means the entirety of the space time continuum and all of the matter and energy within it. If your reality is something more or less than that please specify what is real or not real to you other than this.
Yes, I agree there is going to be a lot of room for various opinions on what "reality" means to people.

The "reality" that you have described would be our physical universe. But there are reasons to believe that there may be more to "reality" than our physical universe.

For one thing scientists themselves are suggesting things beyond our physical reality. Quantum Mechanics certainly suggests this in several different ways. Scientists are also proposing extra dimensions that, while having physical properties in a physics sense, they are not necessarily within our ability to perceive directly.

So what would those dimensions be considered to be? A part of our reality or not?

Scientists are also proposing a possible multiverse where there are many universes that are inaccessible to us. However some suggest that these other universes may be accessible via gravity waves. We don't even know if they exist, much less whether or not they would be accessible to us. But if they do exist would they be part of "our reality" or not? I would say they are even if they are beyond are ability to access (assuming of course that they exist at all).

You say:
McCulloch wrote: Now, regardless of how you define our reality, you first assume that it has been created.
Clarification (and forgive me if I had incorrectly stated otherwise): Our physical universe may have been created in the way that we currently perceive it to be. But the physical universe would not be the sum total of "Reality".

McCulloch wrote: If our reality had been created, the entity which created it must either exist entirely within our reality or it exists partly or completely outside of our reality. If the first is true, then the entity which created our reality could not have existed until it had created our reality, which is absurd.
I agree with this. If something created our physical universe it necessarily must exist in another form entirely. However, it could certainly be as much a "part" of this physical universe as we are. It just wouldn't be restricted to this form.
McCulloch wrote: Therefore, we must conclude that if our reality was created, the entity which created it must have existed outside of our reality prior to the creation of our reality.
Yes, absolutely.
McCulloch wrote: But, by definition, things outside of reality are unreal.
By who's definition? This is an assumption that cosmologists make when creating hypotheses and theories about the cosmos. That doesn't make their assumption true.
McCulloch wrote: So, this creative entity is either absurd or unreal.
Or the assumption that there is nothing beyond the physical universe is simply wrong.
McCulloch wrote: But we reach this conclusion only based on the assumption that our reality had been created. This assumption must be false.
Only if our first assumption wasn't already false. ;)
McCulloch wrote: Therefore our reality has not been created. It does apparently exist, but it was not created. The uncreated entity from the cosmological argument is not God but reality.
But we already have reasons to speculate, hypotheses, and even believe that there may be more to our physical reality than we first thought.

So the whole assumption that there is nothing beyond physical reality could very well be a bogus assumption.

Moreover McCulloch, if we make the assumption (by definition) that there is nothing outside the physical universe, then of course (by that definition) to claim that their might be anything beyond our physical universe would indeed be absurd (i.e. a violation of our previous definition).

~~~~~~

The bottom line for me would be to ask you, "Why should I accept an arbitrary definition that states that there is nothing outside the physical universe?"

I see no reason to accept this arbitrary definition. Especially in light of scientists who are postulating the existence of extra dimensions, multi-universes, and some of them even support the "Many Worlds" interpretation of Quantum Mechanics.

In short, we don't even know what time and energy is. So why should we feel that we are in a position to make up an arbitrary definition that states that nothing can exist beyond time and energy? We don't even know what those things are.

If the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle can be "real" and quantum entanglement can be "real". I see no reason to suggest that a "God" concept can't be real.

We simply don't have enough information about the state of our "reality" to be making arbitrary definitions that nothing exists beyond our physical universe.

I just don't buy into that definition as having any "real" authority. ;)

But yes, if you are going to accept that definition, then by that definition you are left with no choice but to reject every concept that might exist outside of our physical universe.

I just don't accept that definition as being authoritative.
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Re: On the concept and semantics of "God"

Post #7

Post by McCulloch »

Divine Insight, I might enjoy debating the nature and extent of reality with you but it has nothing whatsoever to do with the current debate. If reality extends to several more spacial dimensions; if reality includes multiple worlds; even if reality includes a spiritual realm, whatever that means, the argument you make is still false.

You stated that reality was created either by an intelligent entity or it was not. However you define reality, if it was created by something that something must not be real. Because if the creator was real, then it is a part of reality. The word reality means all things that are real.

I have noticed that you now have revised the wording of your argument. Instead of the term our reality you are now using the physical universe. Is that an admission that your original argument was incorrectly stated? If so, I agree. I also agree that, if reality extends beyond the physical universe, than it is possible that the physical universe was created, that is that it came about due to events occurring outside of the physical universe.

But what of these other realms, dimensions, worlds or universes? Either they were created by an intelligent entity or they were not, right? If God is a part of one of these alternate realities, then recursively using your own argument, we are left with the same quandary, is there some kind of über-God that made them or not?
Divine Insight wrote:The "reality" that you have described would be our physical universe. But there are reasons to believe that there may be more to "reality" than our physical universe.
Yes, perhaps there are.

Divine Insight wrote:So what would those dimensions be considered to be? A part of our reality or not?
They would be a part of reality.
Divine Insight wrote:Scientists are also proposing a possible multiverse where there are many universes that are inaccessible to us. However some suggest that these other universes may be accessible via gravity waves. We don't even know if they exist, much less whether or not they would be accessible to us. But if they do exist would they be part of "our reality" or not? I would say they are even if they are beyond are ability to access (assuming of course that they exist at all).
If they indeed exist then they are a part of reality.
Divine Insight wrote:
McCulloch wrote:But, by definition, things outside of reality are unreal.
By who's definition? This is an assumption that cosmologists make when creating hypotheses and theories about the cosmos. That doesn't make their assumption true.
Things outside of reality are unreal, if words have any meaning.
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Re: On the concept and semantics of "God"

Post #8

Post by Divine Insight »

McCulloch wrote: I have noticed that you now have revised the wording of your argument. Instead of the term our reality you are now using the physical universe. Is that an admission that your original argument was incorrectly stated?
Yes. I confess to being sloppy and not attempting to precisely define these terms before I began my presentation. I plead guilty as charged on that one. ;)
McCulloch wrote: If so, I agree. I also agree that, if reality extends beyond the physical universe, than it is possible that the physical universe was created, that is that it came about due to events occurring outside of the physical universe.
Yes. That's the idea there.
McCulloch wrote: But what of these other realms, dimensions, worlds or universes? Either they were created by an intelligent entity or they were not, right?
Yes and no. You've covered a lot of ground here by using terms like "realms, dimensions, worlds or universes". Some of these things may have been created, other may be innate to the creator.
McCulloch wrote: If God is a part of one of these alternate realities, then recursively using your own argument, we are left with the same quandary, is there some kind of über-God that made them or not?
I agree. But keep in mind that this thread is merely defining a concept called "God". It is not an argument for how this God "came to be".

I'm not arguing that we "need" a God to explain our reality. I'm simply defining a concept called "God".
McCulloch wrote:
Divine Insight wrote:Scientists are also proposing a possible multiverse where there are many universes that are inaccessible to us. However some suggest that these other universes may be accessible via gravity waves. We don't even know if they exist, much less whether or not they would be accessible to us. But if they do exist would they be part of "our reality" or not? I would say they are even if they are beyond are ability to access (assuming of course that they exist at all).
If they indeed exist then they are a part of reality.
If we allow that a God exists that this God is also "part of reality" (not limiting reality to the physical universe)
McCulloch wrote:
Divine Insight wrote:
McCulloch wrote:But, by definition, things outside of reality are unreal.
By who's definition? This is an assumption that cosmologists make when creating hypotheses and theories about the cosmos. That doesn't make their assumption true.
Things outside of reality are unreal, if words have any meaning.
But now you're just taking about a trick of semantics.

Actually any good scientist worth his salt wouldn't be using a word like "reality" to begin with as this word is itself ill-defined.

In Quantum Mechanics physicists became well aware of the problem with using a words like "real" or "reality". Because of this they speak in terms of "observables".

In fact, they often use this term to "scientifically" decide whether something should be called "real".

This actually becomes troublesome even within the sciences.

For example, is Dark Energy "Real"? How about Dark Matter? We have postulated the existence of these things based on observables that can be explained by postulating these undetectable things. However, we've done this in the past and have been wrong.

In the case of the orbit of Mercury we postulated the existence of an unseen planet X, that causes Mercury's orbit to precess. However, later when Einstein discovered General Relativity to explain the precession of the orbit of Mercury Planet X was no longer required. Planet X was never "real"

In Quantum Mechanics we have two major problems. One is the collapse of the wave-function. The collapse is "real" (i.e. it's observable) but the cause is not "real" by this definition because not only can we not observe the cause, but we can't even imagine a rational or logical explanation to explain it.

Same thing is true of entanglement. Entanglement is "real" (i.e. observable), but it's cause must not be "real" by this definition because we cannot observe what causes entanglement, nor can we even proposed a rational or logical explanation for how it occurs.

Clearly there are "real" things that are going on that cannot be "observed". But if we define "real" in terms of only those things that are observable, then we can't even call those things "real".

We can't say that there is a "real" cause for wave-function collapse if we can't observe the cause. We can't say that there is a "real" cause of entanglement if we can't observe the cause. Yet something is causing these things to happen.

The bottom line is that when it comes to considering a concept like "God" we can't simply rule it out based on some arbitrary semantics we have decided to assign to words.

Such conversations, or debate, would indeed become debates over semantics. And there is a very "real problem" (if you'll excuse the use of this term) with making purely semantic arguments and it is this:

If we allow that all definitions of all words must be strictly adhered to at all cost (especially in a philosophical debate) then there would be no point in even having any debate at all.

In fact, if you could point to "THE DICTIONARY" which everyone must abide by for all their word usages in philosophical debates, then there would be no need to even have a debate at all. Any time any question came up like "What is the meaning of God", the answer would simply be, "Go look it up in the dictionary". And remember the dictionary definitions are not open to dispute!

If we could do that then there would be no open questions at all. Every question could simply be answered by looking up the terms in "THE DICTIONARY". And even this authoritative book would need to be a very special edition that everyone agreed was the ultimate authority. Because even different dictionaries contain different definitions for the same words.

~~~~

In a philosophical discussion, for me, the term "Reality" (applying to everything that might exist) would simply mean everything that exists. Whether or not we might be able to "observe it" is irrelevant.

In fact, this came up in Pantheism.

It used to be that Pantheism mean "All is God".

But this "ALL" eventually came to be seen as being restricted to just the physical universe. Mainly due to the work of Spinoza.

So for those who wanted to consider things outside of the physical world a new term was coined called Panentheism. It's basically saying "All is God and we really do mean ALL this time!" :lol:

The pantheist believes that the totality of all that exists is God. (but "all that exists" eventually became restricted the just the observable universe)

The panentheist believes that the universe is a part of God and that God is greater than the universe.

Based on these terms I'm technically a panentheist. I postulate that the physical universe is a dream in the mind of a greater being. Of course I'm not the first person to postulate this. This is, in fact, the basic idea of Eastern Mysticism.

~~~~

So to sum things up, I do not accept the restriction that the physical universe constitutes all of reality.

Nor do I need to proclaim that "God" created itself. How God might have come to be is a total mystery to me.

I am not proposing this paradigm as an "explanation" for how the universe was created.

This is not intended to be a scientific hypothesis. ;)

Especially in this thread where I'm merely proposing a meaningful definition for the concept of God. It's not intended as a scientific explanation of anything.

Whether this concept of God is possible or not is irrelevant to the definition of the concept.

You seem to be arguing that this concept itself is impossible. If so, that would indeed be open for debate. But thus far your objections seem to rest entirely upon questionable semantics of words.

Obviously if we define "Reality" to be only that which can be observed. Then this God may very well need to be outside of "Reality" (by that definition of reality).

That "Debate" would ultimately deteriorate into a debate over semantics. I simply don't accept restricting the concept of "Reality" to only that which can be observed.

We already have reason to believe that things that cannot be observed "exist". Or at least causes for things that are observed cannot themselves be observed, yet those causes must exist. So it would seem to me that we are stuck with things being "real" whilst simultaneously being unobservable. So this kind of flies in the face of any definition that would demand that only things that are observable can be said to be "Real".

Sorry for the long-winded response, but you got me all fired up here. (hee hee)
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