Proof of God

Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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47 Responses

  1. Keljeck says:

    I’m not aware of any way in which an infinite being can prove any aspect of itself. The problem with the question as posed is that we cannot properly conceive of “all-powerfulness,” certainly not in an infinite way. We can conceive, perhaps, of an all-powerful finite cause, but we cannot conceive of an infinite all-powerful cause. If we can’t conceive of something how can we hope to prove it or have it proven to us?

    Unless, of course, we’re talking about a finite God.Report

  2. Simon K says:

    Reminds me of the Stargate universe, in which the Egyptian gods turn out to be parasitic entities of considerable, but thoroughly finite, power.Report

  3. North says:

    Logically it works… but as a practical matter if some dude popped in, turned the moon into cheese with no nasty side effects, cured the worlds sick and instantly told every person on the globe some important intimate thought from their youth that they’d shared with noone while bending three different laws of physics and raising Elvis from the dead I think that people would generally be willing to accept that he was quite likely God.

    Now once the philosiphers and theologans had at him I imagine some sparks would fly.Report

  4. Jaybird says:

    Remember way back when? I asked for a definition of God?

    The main reason is because most definitions strike me as muddled, if romantic, thinking about oneself and one’s relationship to the universe.

    At this point, we’re not even discussing what God must be like but that, even if we encountered Him, we’d have some ground upon which to claim skepticism that He really demonstrated Godishness to us or merely bitchin’ mastery of The Matrix.Report

    • North in reply to Jaybird says:

      @Jaybird, Well the one book on it I read defined god as the omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly good creator of all that exists who exists outside of time and space. How’s that work for ya?Report

      • Jaybird in reply to North says:

        @North, sure. I totally don’t believe in that sort of thing.

        So many memories…Report

        • North in reply to Jaybird says:

          @Jaybird, Well I don’t believe it either. But it is a definition of God that seems relatively internally consistent.

          Also, that there is an awsome quote!Report

          • Jaybird in reply to North says:

            @North, I was actually being serious with it.

            The debate down in the weeds was where I thought the most interesting stuff happened…

            But I probably would.Report

            • Boegiboe in reply to Jaybird says:

              @Jaybird, that was good reading!

              “How is God not something to be overcome?”

              This actually fits very nicely with the old Jewish understanding of God. After all, “Israel” means “struggles with God.” My take-away from that (I’m not Jewish, so I’m not saying this is what Jews believe) is that God is that which we must struggle to overcome, and yet we never can. God is the thing that makes us be more than animals, and therefore which creates our souls, and which binds us together and makes us improve one another’s lives.

              And in that sense, God is Love.Report

            • Boegiboe in reply to Jaybird says:

              @Jaybird, oops, I didn’t make my last point.

              Because God is defined as that which hasn’t been accomplished yet by humanity, it is therefore more powerful than anything that any creature or civilization can ever accomplish.

              QED, God is omnipotent.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

              @Boegiboe, well, then! I get to say that, yes! I am a theist!

              Here’s the followup question: so what?Report

            • Boegiboe in reply to Jaybird says:

              @Jaybird, well, not exactly. A theist is someone who believes in a personal god, as in, a god that is a person in some sense. The broadest understanding of the term “theist” could include people who believe in a mystical force that has a consciousness of its own. The definition I gave isn’t necessarily a theistic god.

              I’m an atheist. That means I don’t believe there are any such things as a disembodied (or occasionally embodied) consciousness that watches us and does things (or could do things) to us.

              As for “So what”–you do with it as suits you. For me, it helps me balance my desire to achieve goals in this life with a desire to help the people who come after achieve similar goals. If all we do in this world is undo the works of others, then we are making idols of each other, whereas combining our works in harmony is the proper mode of worshiping God. By struggling with It, not with each other.

              One useful thing about the definition of God that I gave is that it is quite close to how a lot of liberal-minded people see their theistic God the Father as actually behaving in the world today. Even if I can’t believe in their conception of God, we can still understand each other to be trying our best to work toward harmony and love.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

              @Boegiboe, this is why I usually ask for a definition of “God”.

              Most definitions strike me as some combination of projection, wish fulfillment, and evolutionary psychology… and the ones that don’t strike me as trivial or irrelevant.

              Which is frustrating because saying such directly to a theist’s face strikes me as vaguely insulting (especially when I don’t mean it to be) and too many atheists take some weird joy in finding a new phrase to use in their arguments against their old theistic compatriots to enjoy discussing such with atheists.Report

  5. Keljeck says:

    As for the question of how God would know God’s omnipotence, there are two points. First of all, the mind of God does not work like human minds. God doesn’t “deduce.” All knowledge is immanent, not discursive. So there would be no way for God to ponder Godself’s own omnipotence. But if we are to suppose, for the sake of supposition, that God could ponder Godself’s own omnipotence we can imagine it going something like this:

    Being the condition of all existence, and having created the possibility for causality, space, time, the laws of nature, it is rather foolish of me to wonder whether or not there might be another infinite being of pure act and being.

    The question fails because it assumes God is finite.Report

  6. Francis says:

    resurrecting the dead would be a pretty neat trick.Report

  7. Mike Schilling says:

    How could a Deity prove its omnipotence?

    Maybe he could make Pablo Sandoval take a pitch now and then.Report

  8. Existence of God is necesery to save people in order. For real, each human has self imagination God…Report

  9. Jason Kuznicki says:

    From Julian:
    The obvious response is that you’d know all these things because you’re omniscient—but of course, the same problem arises. How do you know you’re really omniscient?

    This doesn’t strike me as a very telling attack. An omniscient being would know all things that are the case. His own omniscience being the case, He would know it to be so.

    How would He arrive at this knowledge? I wouldn’t know. But He would. It is, after all, the case.Report

  10. MFarmer says:

    What if God was one if us?Report

  11. MFarmer says:

    I meant “is”Report

  12. ThatPirateGuy says:

    I have never seen a good way to get from The triple-omni god to God the bestselling author.

    Because the best selling author one sure doesn’t seem all good, nor does it seem all powerful.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to ThatPirateGuy says:

      @ThatPirateGuy, the whole triple-omni thing doesn’t really strike me as the only definition of God.

      One might think that being whatever “enough” would suffice.

      The whole “could God make a burrito so spicy that he couldn’t eat it” question is, fundamentally, dumb (in any manifestation).

      One would think that merely being powerful “enough” would be good enough.

      It’s like if we finally died and met Him and then found out that most of the shit that happened was trial and error and he finally decided to stop doing miracles because, hey, as bad as the stuff that happened was, it wasn’t as bad as when He started sticking His fingers in the pie so He adopted a huge policy of “don’t intervene” (which is why stuff used to happen but doesn’t anymore).

      Would we then say “nope, sorry, not god enough”?

      I’d still be shocked that I was dead but still cognizant. After that, finding out that God wasn’t as tall as I thought he’d be would be tiddlywinks.Report

    • North in reply to ThatPirateGuy says:

      @ThatPirateGuy, Yeah Pirate, all the philosophy books I have read that try and make a rational and philosophical argument for the existence of god typically end up positing one that is utterly incompatible with any of the Gods as presented by the world’s religions.Report

  13. Pat Cahalan says:

    > The problem with the question as posed is that we cannot
    > properly conceive of “all-powerfulness,”

    I dunno, I can conceive of it just fine myself. Part of this comes from taking a lot of higher mathematics; if you can logically define a container that’s bigger on the inside than it is the outside, it’s not that hard to wrap your head around the idea of all-powerfulness.

    E.D., this is what my old coworkers and I call a “beer and peanuts” conversation. Because really, talking about this sort of stuff is significantly more interesting in a bar with a whiskey and a group of well meaning thinkers.Report

  14. Anthony Massimilla says:

    Well gents it looks like the isle of Academia to the starboard.Report

  15. Anthony Massimilla says:

    What says you , what be this mates.
    Sam Blackburn Technical Assistant toProfessor S W Hawking CH CBE FRS Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics,University of Cambridge,Cambridge, CB3 0WA.United Kingdom.Report

  16. Jaybird says:

    Obama’s Birth Certificate.

    If you gave the level of skepticism to Obama’s Birth Certificate that you give this theoretical deity, would you come to the conclusion that he was born in the US or would you come to the conclusion that he hasn’t proven it yet?

    Is this indicative of a healthy skepticism or an unhealthy skepticism?Report

  17. Robert Cheeks says:

    Any rational discussion of God collapses here at the League when we understand that many of our interlocutors do not share the belief that the matrix of reality is ultimately rooted in the Divine Ground. These young men/women exist, contemporarily speaking, in a Musilian Second Reality (think ideologies) that is layed over the true reality of existence and as such eclipses the truth of existence.
    Any conclusion to the truth of God’s existence may be grounded on Leibniz’s two famous questions, complicated as Voegelin tells us by the fact that “the symbols exist in the world, but their truth belongs to the nonexistent experience which by their means articulates itself.”
    Dudes, ya gotta love the guy!Report

  18. Drew says:

    Saying that “faith should not require proof” is sort of like saying that gambling on blackjack does not require any knowledge of the outcome of the next deal.Report