1. Religion & Spirituality

Discuss in my forum

Austin Cline

Importance of Defining God (Book Notes: Atheism: The Case Against God)

By January 12, 2006

Follow me on:

When debating the existence of god, perhaps the most important step is the one that gets overlooked the most often, and by both atheists and theists: defining what is meant by the concept 'god.' You can't debate the existence of something unless everyone is clear what it is they are talking about; otherwise, people might be talking about completely different things. Atheism: The Case Against God

In Atheism: The Case Against God, George Smith writes:

Defining the concept of god is not an optional chore to be undertaken at the theistís convenience. It is a necessary prerequisite for intelligibility. Assuming that the theist does not believe his theism to be nonsense, he has the responsibility of explaining the content of his belief. Failing this, to state that ďgod existsĒ is to communicate nothing at all; it is as if nothing has been said.

It is obviously the theistís responsibility to define what they mean by god since they are the ones claiming that some sort of god exists. Unless they can provide an adequate definition, then as Smith says their claims arenít really communicating anything at all ó and, in that case, the atheistís position of disbelief is justified. How can it not be reasonable to not believe in the existence of something which claimants canít even define?

This is not to say, however, that atheists have no responsibility whatsoever in the matter. When any debate or discussion about the existence of god starts, itís their responsibility to make sure that the claimants at least try to define what they mean by the term. Itís easy for theists to forget if they are accustomed to talking with other believers where everyone assumes that everyone means basically the same thing (which may or may not be justified ó their failure to explore that question is problematic).

Atheists shouldnít make any assumptions on this score for a couple of reasons. First, it may be that the theist really doesnít have a firm grasp of the concept in the first place; if thatís the case, then any further discussion is pointless. You wonít get anywhere debating Ďgodí with someone who doesnít know what they are talking about.

Second, if you donít establish at the outset what qualities Ďgodí has, then itís easy for the believer to keep shifting the definition later on in order to evade challenges and questions. Make it clear, for example, what is meant by ďomnipotentĒ so that the meaning of this quality canít be changed in order to avoid contradictions with other qualities.

 

Read More Book Notes from the Book Reviews on this site.

Comments
David Shirar(1)

Im interested in your blog every since i began reading it about aan hour ago. To me you are trying to deny the existance of a god by rational deductive reasoning. yet everything in the bible and other religious manuscripts suggests that faith is not accomplished in this way. However I believe the word GOD is defined way too much in the world religious community as a dominant all encompassing end-all Paternl figure. Or some would say a being or energy that controls us or operates at will.
Many suggest that organized religion is responsible for the mishaps and walls built up by man himself so that he may control or deal withthis presense in our lives.
Deling with god is a personal experience as well as an all pervasive intrusive and well evidenced experience. Lets just say, you believe in the big bang theory. I know something had to actualize it. but for the purposes of discussion wel start wth the energy the big bang began is all still expanding and moving and revolving around us and the universe. Not even light has escaped. total retention. You begin to get the picture that the whole universe, just this one, is so much bigger than science can begin to explore and understand. Humans came along and man had to create religion to explain all the crazy stuff that happens to man-all the while the universe is travelling and expanding and moving man toward a destiny which he only can try to have faith in a god. Problem is that he forgets himself. He beleives in a god who will save him from this infinite fractal swirling about him.
My point is he did notneed to create a god. he only needed to realize that there is energy, all of it has laws whichare absolute, some of which he can even call on in times of extreme faith and need. It is natural, supernatural, beautiful, ugly, painful, and entirely visible. One can see it, the energy. and the energy flows continuously in us through us and around us. For those of us who pray, prayer is a thing which is like meditation. faith comes from inner chi or center and belief. When i am at my best i feel centered and strong. chi can be focused as prayer can. prayer is just a way of putting words to your particular situation. My god is here, now, always and forever as long as there will be this unexplainable energy.
I beleive it woudl be hard to deny that lifewould not be here if it were not for the life sutaining force we all will lose right when we perish from this earth eventually.
I have actually looked at the life force leave a person. I have felt it.
IMHO, defining a god would be defining a point which we cannot fully explain but one that you choose to look to thwart. However you, in your articles have not dealt with life force. Youre dealing purely in the physical evidence which you have amassed from arguements brought about by idealogical discourse. These are arguements you would never be making or be able to make were it not for a GOD, energy, which put you here. God is necessary and god is here for everyone. This energy gets denied by evey athiest because they are very self centered. I cannot say much more. but I have seen things in my life which have consequensees based on the rules of science, faith, and personal gritting it out.
So I suggest that thedefinition of god is everything. everything has an effect, and everything is contingent on the energy which created it. eveything matters, maybe not to you, you can deny its importance, but the more you embrace in your life and dont deny, the more of god you will see. Starts in small ways and begins to build.
So in closing, regardless of our being frought with religious choices, we are all of the same origin. We all have life energy coursing in our bodies minds hearts that we cannot just deny because it is a fact. Your cynacism is negative energy and causes constipation of your personal energy. the more you look the more you will find good or bad. god or no god. BTW it says this in the bible, have you ever read it? seek and ye shall find. Personally I dont beleive you are really looking for god, you are looking for proof. you will only find proof when you have accepted god. Then you can seek. simple laws my friend. peace

August 2, 2008 at 9:59 pm
Tom(2)

To be honest with you at beginning, I am not sure with what I am talking about.
However, I don’t think the existences of
God or gods are to be proved or not to be proved.
Because, I think, God is a concept, isn’t it?
It doesn’t matter what that is all we know is that God is the Creator of our Universe.

In the Bible, before anything existed, there was the Word.
That means it(the Word as Holy Spirit = God as Creator = Jesus as our personal savior) as God is not fiscally existed in our Universe.
This is like a baker who can’t be existed in the bread He created.
That’s a reason why God had to send Jesus and/or Holy Spirit to us, according the Bible.

However, He is existed as a concept.
If anyone tries to deny the concept, I must say that he/she doesn’t know what he/she is talking about,and that goes to many Christians who believe that God is existed in this world.

Jesus may be in our heart somewhere, if we read the Bible correctly.
And my Jesus may have nothing to do with you or traditional Christians, in humble manner.

December 12, 2008 at 12:13 am

To be honest with you at beginning, I am not sure with what I am talking about.
However, I don’t think the existences of
God or gods are to be proved or not to be proved.
Because, I think, God is a concept, isn’t it?
It doesn’t matter what that is all we know is that God is the Creator of our Universe.

How does a “concept” become “Creator of the Universe”?

In the Bible, before anything existed, there was the Word.

Why believe the Bible?

Jesus may be in our heart somewhere, if we read the Bible correctly.

Why bother with the Bible at all? Why don’t you instead read the Qur’an or the Upanishads?

December 12, 2008 at 6:36 am
Joe(4)

I find this thread to be very interesting and would like to put forth my two cents on the issue.
In my opinion, it is more important to examine the underlying truths that drive an individual to contemplate such philosophies than it is to determine who is right and who is wrong. Ultimately, in the end, someone is going to be right and others wrong. Some might be more right (or more wrong) than others, but to argue for the sake of arguing only makes it just that, an argument.
Therefore, I find it essential for one who begins to think about God, to not attempt to prove or disprove any particular premise, but rather ask why it is that you are even curious about “his” existence to begin with.
The answer is there, whether or not we can see it or fathom it. The question is not who is right and who is wrong, or even what makes the most sense. Unfortunately, there’s two sides to every coin and two sides to every dispute. What drives the atheist to disprove God’s existence and what drives the theist to prove it? Shouldn’t the atheist be confident in his logic so as not to care what foolish believers think? On the other hand, shouldn’t a believers faith enable him to overcome the controversial logic put forth by atheists?

You see, to argue any one side to an issue that has no physical evidence beyond what we can see is like a dog trying to decipher what a human is saying. Yes, dogs can understand certain words and tones of voice, but for a dog to understand the intricacies behind the language is like a human trying to understand the intricacies behind his own existence.

Therefore, if there is a God who created the universe, humans, and all living things I believe it is impossible for us (as products of creation) to fathom how exactly it is that we were created by the creator. At the same time, if there is no God, I believe it is impossible for us to fathom how our universe randomly came into existence.

Therefore, going back to my original premise, it is not important to prove or disprove any one point of view, but rather to ask ourselves what drives us to contemplate these things at all. In that, I feel we can find similar ground in knowing that we are being pursued by the truth that lies not in our minds, but in our hearts and souls.

Titus 3:5-6

January 26, 2009 at 11:23 pm
Joe C.(5)

Titus 3:5-6

January 26, 2009 at 11:25 pm

In my opinion, it is more important to examine the underlying truths that drive an individual to contemplate such philosophies

You’re assuming that there are ‘truths” driving a person here.

Therefore, I find it essential for one who begins to think about God, to not attempt to prove or disprove any particular premise, but rather ask why it is that you are even curious about “his” existence to begin with.

You’re assuming that a god exists, that there is one god, that it is masculine, etc.

What drives the atheist to disprove God’s existence and what drives the theist to prove it?

Speaking for myself, though I know many atheists agree with me, the “motivation” is the constant pushing by believers.

Shouldn’t the atheist be confident in his logic so as not to care what foolish believers think?

This assumes that false, foolish beliefs have no impact on society and others.

Your question is a bit like asking why an anti-racist bothers disproving racism if they are confident in their logic and don’t care what foolish racists think.

Therefore, if there is a God who created the universe, humans, and all living things I believe it is impossible for us (as products of creation) to fathom how exactly it is that we were created by the creator. At the same time, if there is no God, I believe it is impossible for us to fathom how our universe randomly came into existence.

Well, prove it.

Therefore, going back to my original premise, it is not important to prove or disprove any one point of view,

Only if the truth is not important.

January 27, 2009 at 6:37 am
Joe(7)

Good points. I suppose it’s easy to make assumptions when handling an issue as complex as this. One can only prove what can’t be proven wrong. A believer can only prove as much as they know how. The non-believer can prove wrong as much as they’d like, but it still doesn’t solve the paradox. No one is 100% right in an argument with no scale or boundaries. Simple statistics cannot explain our existence. On an infinite scale, there is no resistance. No support for a claim, just endless ballistics. So, perhaps it simply comes down to a choice, just like everything else in life.

January 29, 2009 at 1:28 am
mikelioso(8)

I think this thread is f***ing retarded. There is a need to define God in some way before having a discusion if any such being or person exist. The Bible always presumes a diety but hardly explains it. Is he like Superman living in a cosmic fortress of solitude with his super friends? That historicly seems to be the most popular conception of the guy. Likely? No. Mind you I don’t thonk a complete knowledge or understanding of God is necceary to discuse he/she/it, I mean we discuss gravity but dont completly understand it. But some thought on it would be helpful. Is god the being so often talked about in the Bible? What are that guy’s attributes? Once you define what god is then you can determine if that being exist. If the answer is God is a mystery that can’t be understood then the answer is no. If it can’t be understood then its irrational. What could you count on on an irrational being to do? whatever you think does? Thats a tall order, and it sets us up fro faliur and foolishness because if God is irrational then reason doesn’t matter and were reduced to doing what the “Prophet who speaks to God” says because you couldn’t possibly deduce what the great and mysterious Oz would like you to do. He’s mysterious and beyond understanding.

This doesn’t mean God doesn’t exist. I mean if you beleive the Sun is god, well it exist, so then that god exist. but you should give more thought to these things than. I beleive whatever the Bible says or my dad says.

March 20, 2009 at 6:13 pm
Rachelle(9)

The Holy Book(s) of most religions since mankind’s existence, is to be believed as the words of the Creator of the Universe. Religious persons do believe from these manuscripts, the whole Truth comes forth. There’s no questioning. Having Faith of the existence of God is as natural as having Faith of the non-existence of God. The word “God” can be defined in many ways and perceived as a personal experience; but for me it is as complex and abstract as the word “universe” or “soul” or “energy”… It’s not possible to understand, to attempt reasoning, to define, to debate. Why do we want to know in the first place? For what purpose can it possibly be?

September 30, 2009 at 6:52 pm
Leave a Comment

Line and paragraph breaks are automatic. Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title="">, <b>, <i>, <strike>

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.