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Old 03-18-2014, 05:53 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Boxcar Overkill View Post
It originally started over whether an alien could be considered a god.

One objection was that a god must be supernatural, and since aliens weren't supernatural they couldn't be classified as a god.

My defense was that the division between natural and supernatural was spurious and not a rational criteria for being a god.

Otherwise, we have by definition made gods unreal, when a person who claims a god is real is by definition making a natural claim.

Any god that is claimed to be real is a natural god, thus gods are not restricted to the supernatural.

Ergo aliens may qualify as a god, if other conditions are met.
This is a really interesting topic which has come up before. Keep in ming that my background is that of an ex-evangelical protestant, so it may be that my perception here is very colored by my previous theology.

I would start small. Is a powerful person like Barack Obama, Bill Gates, or Vladimir Putin a god? Each of them has orders of magnitude more power and influence than I, two of them can effectively destroy human civilization as we know it, if not totally, and one of them has the financial resources of a small nation. Even with that disparity in power, I cannot consider them gods. They are men, albeit very powerful ones, but they are still subject to the mechanics of reality itself. They are actors on a stage just like I am, only they are not bit players.

If we go further and postulate some alien being that can extinguish stars with its mind, it is tremendously powerful, but what would make it a god? Is a power differential the only requirement? What if it is a mind that thinks utterly unlike a human. Imagine an interstellar super dolphin. I still would have trouble calling it a god. In theological terms, it is still a created being. It is still constrained to and is at the whims of reality itself. Why is it not just an immensely powerful animal or person?

From the perspective of the Christianity that I grew up with, none of these count as a god. They would all be inferior imitations. God was thought to be God because he was transcendent. Without God being beyond reality itself, beyond any limitation or constraint, it wasn't a being worth worshiping.

I think you hit the nail on the head, we have defined gods as unreal. If a god is not beyond us in a way that is more profound than just a power differential or an unfathomable mind, then it is just a powerful being or beast. For a thing to be a god, it must be unreal, that is it must transcend reality. Even a god as abstract as Mystic's is transcendent, the "en" in panentheist implies that while all of reality is God, God is more than all of reality. The simple definition, "The Source of all that is" implies that God extends beyond reality itself, that is to say, in some measure it is unreal.

If a thing is merely part of the natural world, even if it is wired like quantum mechanics or blackholes, it is fair game to be investigated, dissected, manipulated and brought into line with our desires, just like we do with everything else we encounter. Gods must of necessity be greater than reality, otherwise they are just natural phenomena to be investigated and exploited for our own ends. Why would we worship or take direction form a coal seam, or a nuclear power plant or a being that thinks it has a right to tell us what to do simply because it is powerful? Without the element of unreality, we would label it as a galactic tyrant, just as we do powerful men who exercise that power to force us to do things we don't want to do.

As i reread this, it seems a bit disjointed, so I apologize if it doesn't make any sense. It is hard to think deep thoughts early in the morning...

-NoCapo
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Old 03-18-2014, 06:16 AM
 
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Originally Posted by MysticPhD View Post
The science I use, Arq is pretty standard knowledge.
Of course, it wouldn't make much sense to prop up your religious beliefs with stuff we know is wrong. Doesn't change the fact that the sciencey-sounding factoids are cherry picked to back up a preconceived conclusion.
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Old 03-18-2014, 07:15 AM
 
Location: Northeastern US
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Originally Posted by NoCapo View Post
I think you hit the nail on the head, we have defined gods as unreal. ... If a thing is merely part of the natural world, even if it is wired like quantum mechanics or blackholes, it is fair game to be investigated, dissected, manipulated and brought into line with our desires, just like we do with everything else we encounter. Gods must of necessity be greater than reality, otherwise they are just natural phenomena to be investigated and exploited for our own ends. Why would we worship or take direction form a coal seam, or a nuclear power plant or a being that thinks it has a right to tell us what to do simply because it is powerful? Without the element of unreality, we would label it as a galactic tyrant, just as we do powerful men who exercise that power to force us to do things we don't want to do.

As i reread this, it seems a bit disjointed, so I apologize if it doesn't make any sense. It is hard to think deep thoughts early in the morning...
Actually I would have repped you for this post if I could, I don't think it was disjointed at all.

Of course, I'm another former evangelical so maybe this idea is more resonant with us. However, if it is not an important consideration to others it may often be that they just haven't thought of it from this angle. If a god is not transcendent, then how WOULD it be different than an a very advanced alien with great powers? The only difference I can think of is that a non-transcendent god's powers would be inherent in them rather than technology-dependent, but this seems like a pointless distinction for practical purposes. Indeed a sufficiently advanced technology could be incorporated seamlessly into one's biology. Today, clumsy, Borg-like wearables like Google Glass. Tomorrow, chips that live in your brain and tie directly into your visual cortex.

I have argued that the paradox of a being that is simultaneously transcendent and immanent is illogical but I suppose that if you transcend nature that doesn't preclude you from influencing it. What's illogical is that a being that is transcendent (supernatural) by definition is unknowable. If it dips its finger into our reality now and then, people might write about god as a giant finger but we wouldn't really know much about his totality based on that. In any case a god that is basically infinitely powerful would be far beyond our perceptual and intellectual equipment anyway ... which scripture agrees with by saying "his ways are past finding out".

At some point you have to throw up your hands and say, look ... we all would like it if there was a sky buddy but there is no shared experience of one and no evidence of one and the whole concept of a "true" god is so elevated as to be of no practical influence on our daily lives. Our experience is precisely what one would expect if any such god were non-existent, absent, or indifferent. All evidence we've been able to gather to this point, supports that god is one of those three things. So let's just move on and do what we can to help ourselves.
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Old 03-18-2014, 07:32 AM
 
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Originally Posted by mordant View Post
Actually I would have repped you for this post if I could, I don't think it was disjointed at all.

Of course, I'm another former evangelical so maybe this idea is more resonant with us. However, if it is not an important consideration to others it may often be that they just haven't thought of it from this angle. If a god is not transcendent, then how WOULD it be different than an a very advanced alien with great powers? The only difference I can think of is that a non-transcendent god's powers would be inherent in them rather than technology-dependent, but this seems like a pointless distinction for practical purposes. Indeed a sufficiently advanced technology could be incorporated seamlessly into one's biology. Today, clumsy, Borg-like wearables like Google Glass. Tomorrow, chips that live in your brain and tie directly into your visual cortex.
The other approach is that if its power in inherent, in what way is it different than a grizzly or a whale? Their power, their strength, immensity, toughness, and what makes them respected and feared is inherent to them, but is doesn't prevent us from hunting them, eating them, and using them as rugs. Without some element of unreality, it seems like we either have advanced sentients, or powerful beasts. The power is either inherent or comes from its reason and thought.

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Originally Posted by mordant View Post
I have argued that the paradox of a being that is simultaneously transcendent and immanent is illogical but I suppose that if you transcend nature that doesn't preclude you from influencing it. What's illogical is that a being that is transcendent (supernatural) by definition is unknowable. If it dips its finger into our reality now and then, people might write about god as a giant finger but we wouldn't really know much about his totality based on that. In any case a god that is basically infinitely powerful would be far beyond our perceptual and intellectual equipment anyway ... which scripture agrees with by saying "his ways are past finding out".
The only problem I have with this is if we say, "Well it is from another reality, and it just dips into ours" we are back to the same problem that I used the word "reality" to avoid. Originally I thought in terms of "universe", but what if we have a multiverse? I used reality to sum up everything that is, which includes alternate dimensions, universes, whatever. If we are just talking about multidemensional beings, then in thery when we understand multidimensional physics sufficiently, they cease being "gods", and become neighbors. They are things within reality just like us, and may be reasoned with, lied to, cooperated with, and rebelled against. In my mind we have to have some element of transcendence, of being other than reality itself to be a god. This definitions ensured that science can never address the question, as some portion of any god must always be beyond human scrutiny and understanding or it looses its deity...

-NoCapo
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Old 03-18-2014, 09:40 AM
 
Location: OKC
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Originally Posted by NoCapo View Post
This is a really interesting topic which has come up before. Keep in ming that my background is that of an ex-evangelical protestant, so it may be that my perception here is very colored by my previous theology.

I would start small. Is a powerful person like Barack Obama, Bill Gates, or Vladimir Putin a god? Each of them has orders of magnitude more power and influence than I, two of them can effectively destroy human civilization as we know it, if not totally, and one of them has the financial resources of a small nation. Even with that disparity in power, I cannot consider them gods. They are men, albeit very powerful ones, but they are still subject to the mechanics of reality itself. They are actors on a stage just like I am, only they are not bit players.

If we go further and postulate some alien being that can extinguish stars with its mind, it is tremendously powerful, but what would make it a god? Is a power differential the only requirement? What if it is a mind that thinks utterly unlike a human. Imagine an interstellar super dolphin. I still would have trouble calling it a god. In theological terms, it is still a created being. It is still constrained to and is at the whims of reality itself. Why is it not just an immensely powerful animal or person?

From the perspective of the Christianity that I grew up with, none of these count as a god. They would all be inferior imitations. God was thought to be God because he was transcendent. Without God being beyond reality itself, beyond any limitation or constraint, it wasn't a being worth worshiping.

I think you hit the nail on the head, we have defined gods as unreal. If a god is not beyond us in a way that is more profound than just a power differential or an unfathomable mind, then it is just a powerful being or beast. For a thing to be a god, it must be unreal, that is it must transcend reality. Even a god as abstract as Mystic's is transcendent, the "en" in panentheist implies that while all of reality is God, God is more than all of reality. The simple definition, "The Source of all that is" implies that God extends beyond reality itself, that is to say, in some measure it is unreal.

If a thing is merely part of the natural world, even if it is wired like quantum mechanics or blackholes, it is fair game to be investigated, dissected, manipulated and brought into line with our desires, just like we do with everything else we encounter. Gods must of necessity be greater than reality, otherwise they are just natural phenomena to be investigated and exploited for our own ends. Why would we worship or take direction form a coal seam, or a nuclear power plant or a being that thinks it has a right to tell us what to do simply because it is powerful? Without the element of unreality, we would label it as a galactic tyrant, just as we do powerful men who exercise that power to force us to do things we don't want to do.

As i reread this, it seems a bit disjointed, so I apologize if it doesn't make any sense. It is hard to think deep thoughts early in the morning...

-NoCapo
Interesting points.

I think my easiest answer is that most of the gods (non-abrahamic gods) throughout the world's history didn't meet the criteria of god you have described. I recognize that you acknowledged your view might be colored by your evangelical past, but I don't think you gave enough consideration to the hard cases of gods that aren't as transcendent as you've made out. You've only describe the criteria to be a god exactly like the Christian god, not a god like the Norses god Loki, or the Greek god Pan. There are many examples of gods who were born or created, and gods who have died or been destroyed, and that lived their entire life in between in our plane of existence.

Zeus, for example was a child of Gaia and lived with the rest of the pantheon on top Mount Olympus, which is a real physical mountain in Greece. There was no claim that the Greek gods existed separate from our reality. Hades, god of the underworld, was located inside the earth. Poseidon lived in the oceans. Zeus was on top of a mountain. None of them had unlimted powers or were transcendent in a way you describe. Notwithstanding that fact, we all would include Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades as gods.


(In fact, back in the days when early jews were henotheistic and Yahweh was considered one of the 70 sons of EL, even Yahweh might not have been considered a god in the sense you describe.)

So that is my first response - your definition of a god would exclude most of the gods that have been worshiped throughout history.

Beyond that, I still think the distinction between "outside of reality" and "within reality" is spurious. If it is outside of reality it simply a substitute way of saying that it is not real. Yet no one is claiming to worship a god that is not real. Their claim is that their god is real, and thus it must by definition be within reality.

So my second response is that if a person believes a god is real, it must by definition be a natural god that occurs within our reality, even if the god resides in a separate universe in the multiverse.

Finally, I think that if I told most Christians that scientist now believe there may be other dimensions of the universe, and other universes and realities might exist outside of our universe, they would be delighted. Most would see that as scientific confirmation that a spiritual realm such as heaven does exist. They would view string theory as a confirmation that heaven is real, and an explanation for how it could be real.

In previous generations, when the sciences weren't as well formed, I think Christians believed that hell was a physical place within the earth, and heaven was a physical place in the sky. While God created everything, he was working within this reality, he simply created the heavens and the earths within this universe. I don't think they had some complex theory of alternate realities.

Thus my final response is that even within mainstream Christianity, I think most people are concerned primarily with the realness of their claims and not whether the putative God lives in a multiverse or somehow different dimension. Moreover, I don't think the early Abrahamic religions included such a profound trancendenatlism or needed other realities to explain their religious beliefs - but if they did, certainly a multiverse would have been an adequate explaination.


To bring it back full circle, obviously being an atheist means more than just being "not a christian." One needs only to be believe that any type of god might exist to forfeit their atheist status. So while I contend that the distinction between the natural and the supernatural is spurious, I also contend that several commonly accepted gods would be considered natural by your understanding of the word. Thus even if the terms natural and supernatural were not spurious, it must not be a criteria to be a god. This leaves open the possibility that a near omnipotent alien could be classified as a god.

Last edited by Boxcar Overkill; 03-18-2014 at 09:51 AM..
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Old 03-18-2014, 10:28 AM
 
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Interesting points.

So that is my first response - your definition of a god would exclude most of the gods that have been worshiped throughout history.
I think you are absolutely right, this is not a clear line. However, it seems clear to me that there is almost always a line between gods and men. Simply having lots of power is not sufficient, simply being smart enough is not sufficient. Gods are almost always "other", and I posit that this otherness, this characteristic of not being in the same category of anything else in reality (because the rest of reality of mundane, not divine) is what separates "gods" from men and beasts

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Originally Posted by Boxcar Overkill View Post
So my second response is that if a person believes a god is real, it must by definition be a natural god that occurs within our reality, even if the god resides in a separate universe in the multiverse.


Thus my final response is that even within mainstream Christianity, I think most people are concerned primarily with the realness of their claims and not whether the putative God lives in a multiverse or somehow different dimension. Moreover, I don't think the early Abrahamic religions included such a profound trancendenatlism or needed other realities to explain their religious beliefs - but if they did, certainly a multiverse would have been an adequate explaination.
On this one I think we have arrived at the same point. Namely that a god that exists is part of everything that exists. At best it can be the entirety of what exists, but how can it extend beyond? Nonetheless, any claim that a god or gods are the ultimate source of reality and existence itself must include a god that is seperate from what it has caused to be. Theologically most strains of Christianity do fall into this mold. I think if you were to try to teach that god was a multidimensional alien you would be run out of most churches. Doctrinal statements from a very wide cross section of Christianity make clear that God is the uncreated creator who is responsible for the existence of everything, and who stands outside of, well, everything. To posit otherwise would place God at the mercy of the laws of nature, or at least reality itself, and that would make Him less than omnipotent. My guess is you will find similar issues for all the Abrahamic gods at least. Other faiths handle this in a more lagical way, by asserting that reality is god itself, still others are quite happy to have gods that are bound by some order or set of natural laws, although there often seems to be some starting point...


I do agree that earlier conceptions of gods are more like super-men, who are a part of reality, but as we have discovered reality for itself, the conception of gods has grown increasingly nebulous. We can go to Mt Olympus and see that the palaces of the gods are not there. This is a part of why it is a dead faith. We by definition, cannot go to heaven to examine the many mansions, and this is why it is still useful.

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Originally Posted by Boxcar Overkill View Post
To bring it back full circle, obviously being an atheist means more than just being "not a christian." One needs only to be believe that any type of god might exist to forfeit their atheist status. So while I contend that the distinction between the natural and the supernatural is spurious, I also contend that several commonly accepted gods would be considered natural by your understanding of the word. Thus even if the terms natural and supernatural were not spurious, it must not be a criteria to be a god. This leaves open the possibility that a near omnipotent alien could be classified as a god.
This is very true, which is why it is important to understand what is meant by "gods". GoldnRule and I have had this discussion countless times, where he has decided that "god" can mean anything, so atheism is categorically wrong, as long as something exists. I would argue that the concept of otherness, of being transcendent is important for what makes a god a god, and not just a powerful individual or thing. It is hard to define, but it seems very clear to me that whales, Vladimir Putin, Bill Gates, and the Sun are powerful things and people, but they don't seem to me to qualify as gods. I honestly am not sure that anything that I could touch, see, experience, converse with, and otherwise share a reality with would qualify. Even the Greek pantheon was distinguished by the lack of evidence for them. They must remain untestable, the stuff of legends and parables, or they become just powerful people who live on a mountain, and play with electricity...

As a thought experiment, if you start from powerful extradimensional alien as god, and then scale it down, at what point does it stop being a god? Is there a line for god-ness? This is what I am mentally searching for, and I really can't find a good line except transcendence of reality, or essentially being unreal...


-NoCapo
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Old 03-18-2014, 10:53 AM
 
Location: The backwoods of Pennsylvania ... unfortunately.
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This is a really interesting topic which has come up before. Keep in ming that my background is that of an ex-evangelical protestant, so it may be that my perception here is very colored by my previous theology.

I would start small. Is a powerful person like Barack Obama, Bill Gates, or Vladimir Putin a god? Each of them has orders of magnitude more power and influence than I, two of them can effectively destroy human civilization as we know it, if not totally, and one of them has the financial resources of a small nation. Even with that disparity in power, I cannot consider them gods. They are men, albeit very powerful ones, but they are still subject to the mechanics of reality itself. They are actors on a stage just like I am, only they are not bit players.

If we go further and postulate some alien being that can extinguish stars with its mind, it is tremendously powerful, but what would make it a god? Is a power differential the only requirement? What if it is a mind that thinks utterly unlike a human. Imagine an interstellar super dolphin. I still would have trouble calling it a god. In theological terms, it is still a created being. It is still constrained to and is at the whims of reality itself. Why is it not just an immensely powerful animal or person?

From the perspective of the Christianity that I grew up with, none of these count as a god. They would all be inferior imitations. God was thought to be God because he was transcendent. Without God being beyond reality itself, beyond any limitation or constraint, it wasn't a being worth worshiping.

I think you hit the nail on the head, we have defined gods as unreal. If a god is not beyond us in a way that is more profound than just a power differential or an unfathomable mind, then it is just a powerful being or beast. For a thing to be a god, it must be unreal, that is it must transcend reality. Even a god as abstract as Mystic's is transcendent, the "en" in panentheist implies that while all of reality is God, God is more than all of reality. The simple definition, "The Source of all that is" implies that God extends beyond reality itself, that is to say, in some measure it is unreal.

If a thing is merely part of the natural world, even if it is wired like quantum mechanics or blackholes, it is fair game to be investigated, dissected, manipulated and brought into line with our desires, just like we do with everything else we encounter. Gods must of necessity be greater than reality, otherwise they are just natural phenomena to be investigated and exploited for our own ends. Why would we worship or take direction form a coal seam, or a nuclear power plant or a being that thinks it has a right to tell us what to do simply because it is powerful? Without the element of unreality, we would label it as a galactic tyrant, just as we do powerful men who exercise that power to force us to do things we don't want to do.

As i reread this, it seems a bit disjointed, so I apologize if it doesn't make any sense. It is hard to think deep thoughts early in the morning...

-NoCapo
This was pretty much what I was trying to get at when I said that I wouldn't regard a super-alien as a god no matter how powerful or unfathomable it was. I agree that for something to be a "god," it has to be more than a power differential or a powerful mind.
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Old 03-18-2014, 12:00 PM
 
Location: Northeastern US
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The other approach is that if its power in inherent, in what way is it different than a grizzly or a whale? Their power, their strength, immensity, toughness, and what makes them respected and feared is inherent to them, but is doesn't prevent us from hunting them, eating them, and using them as rugs. Without some element of unreality, it seems like we either have advanced sentients, or powerful beasts. The power is either inherent or comes from its reason and thought.
The "otherness" or uniqueness of a god is the ability to violate the laws of physics, make things float, appear, disappear. teleport, create things seemingly ex nihilo, and to do this on a cosmic scale when desired; to preside over entire realms such as heaven, to be everywhere at once, to know everything, to have no lack of strength or power or self-sufficiency, etc. Of course as others are pointing out, this is the transcendent / immanent Christian god that we are accustomed to, and much of the world is content with non-transcendent gods of more limited powers.

Also, one must remember that scientific progress requires periodic shattering of thought-paradigms, such that what I am doing right now with a computer in typing this message would only be comprehensible to someone transported to look over my shoulder from 1614, as "sorcery" or "a miracle" (most likely the former rather than the latter because it would scare the living S out of them). Still, this denizen of the 17th century could bop me on the head and knock me out, so I'm clearly not fully fitting their concept of a god or godlike (or demonic) being either. The question is whether they'd be capable of having the presence of mind to think that through. Maybe if you got a Galileo type of person, but I wonder if most 17th century commoners wouldn't simply go mad when confronted with the 21st century.

It's hard for us to remember that some thoughts simply aren't thinkable without a proper foundation. The very definition of "living" vs "nonliving" was so primitive as little as a three hundred years ago that "living" was equated with "moving" such that celestial bodies were thought to have "souls". How much more primitive were thought patterns two to three millennia ago when scripture was written? Do we even understand scripture like someone did 2,000 years ago did, or could we? Are we simply projecting a whole different set of assumptions on the text that were never intended at the start?

It's a little slippery to describe but I think any god worthy of the appellation inherently finds nothing difficult or challenging, pretty much whatever they can imagine is possible simply by them wanting it. The fact that we don't live in a universe which seems to reflect that sort of intervention is a powerful argument against god in my mind.
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In my mind we have to have some element of transcendence, of being other than reality itself to be a god. This definitions ensured that science can never address the question, as some portion of any god must always be beyond human scrutiny and understanding or it looses its deity...
The more you look at the idea of gods the sillier it becomes. If god is transcendent then he is in a sense unreal, unknowable, and therefore irrelevant. If he is part of nature then it becomes more difficult to say for sure what would distinguish a "god" from "sufficiently advanced technology" or a "sufficiently powerful natural being". Either way it is hard to explain why these gods would crave our "worship". If they are transcendent they have no external needs by definition. If they are not transcendent then what would we much lower beings possibly have to offer them anyway -- to even gain their attention and favor much less their affection? Indeed, would it even be wise to attract their attention? Most of the gods that have been described as explicitly part of nature (the Greek pantheon, etc) are rather capricious and amoral, more like the Q character in the Star Trek: The Next Generation series ... at best he's a posterior orifice you'd want to avoid, on an average day someone who has zero empathy or respect and on a bad day someone who could kill you or worse.

Come to think of it, the OT god, particularly the early "war god" version, is pretty capricious and amoral to immoral himself.

Round and round it goes ...
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Old 03-18-2014, 12:06 PM
 
Location: OKC
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I think you are absolutely right, this is not a clear line. However, it seems clear to me that there is almost always a line between gods and men. Simply having lots of power is not sufficient, simply being smart enough is not sufficient. Gods are almost always "other", and I posit that this otherness, this characteristic of not being in the same category of anything else in reality (because the rest of reality of mundane, not divine) is what separates "gods" from men and beasts
I agree that their is an "other"ness to any putative god, but I disagree that the otherness means "not being in the same category of anything else in reality" - unless you mean the gods exist in this reality but are in a category by themselves within this reality. In other words, they were part of this reality and perhaps in their own category, just as many other things are in their own categories... (like humans are their own category.)



Quote:
On this one I think we have arrived at the same point. Namely that a god that exists is part of everything that exists. At best it can be the entirety of what exists, but how can it extend beyond? Nonetheless, any claim that a god or gods are the ultimate source of reality and existence itself must include a god that is seperate from what it has caused to be. Theologically most strains of Christianity do fall into this mold. I think if you were to try to teach that god was a multidimensional alien you would be run out of most churches. Doctrinal statements from a very wide cross section of Christianity make clear that God is the uncreated creator who is responsible for the existence of everything, and who stands outside of, well, everything. To posit otherwise would place God at the mercy of the laws of nature, or at least reality itself, and that would make Him less than omnipotent. My guess is you will find similar issues for all the Abrahamic gods at least. Other faiths handle this in a more lagical way, by asserting that reality is god itself, still others are quite happy to have gods that are bound by some order or set of natural laws, although there often seems to be some starting point...
You may be right, as it refers to Christians belief about God. But would a Christian use String Theory as a basis of proving Heaven might exist? If so, why would one be a natural claim and the other a supernatural claim?

Science doesn't dictate was does exist, it only attempts to describe what exists. Science describes the rules of nature.

If any god existed, it would follow the rules of nature by definition - even if those rules were that there was no rules the god had to follow. Even if the rule was that the god made the rules up as he went along. Even if we didn't know the rules that allowed the god to make the rules. "Natural" would describe those rules, not create them.

As we discover things are real, they become part of the natural world. Time before time? Other dimensions to reality? Places where the universal constants aren't constant? Those things become natural when they are believed to be real. The new information is included into the rules of nature. They leave the realm of the supernatural and become natural.

It is logically impossible to believe that a god exist outside of nature. If a god exists it is within nature by definition, even if we had to adjust our understanding of what nature means to include omnipotent gods. Because nature describes that which exits, regardless of what it is that exists.

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I do agree that earlier conceptions of gods are more like super-men, who are a part of reality, but as we have discovered reality for itself, the conception of gods has grown increasingly nebulous. We can go to Mt Olympus and see that the palaces of the gods are not there. This is a part of why it is a dead faith. We by definition, cannot go to heaven to examine the many mansions, and this is why it is still useful.



This is very true, which is why it is important to understand what is meant by "gods". GoldnRule and I have had this discussion countless times, where he has decided that "god" can mean anything, so atheism is categorically wrong, as long as something exists. I would argue that the concept of otherness, of being transcendent is important for what makes a god a god, and not just a powerful individual or thing. It is hard to define, but it seems very clear to me that whales, Vladimir Putin, Bill Gates, and the Sun are powerful things and people, but they don't seem to me to qualify as gods. I honestly am not sure that anything that I could touch, see, experience, converse with, and otherwise share a reality with would qualify. Even the Greek pantheon was distinguished by the lack of evidence for them. They must remain untestable, the stuff of legends and parables, or they become just powerful people who live on a mountain, and play with electricity...

As a thought experiment, if you start from powerful extradimensional alien as god, and then scale it down, at what point does it stop being a god? Is there a line for god-ness? This is what I am mentally searching for, and I really can't find a good line except transcendence of reality, or essentially being unreal...


-NoCapo
I agree that a sense of otherness is required, but I don't think that mandates some other form of reality. Only that it is sufficiently distinct from normal humans. I also think a god has to be a being with a distinct personality, as opposed to a Spinoza god. It has to be a conscious, sapient being. Other than that it has to have sufficient amount of power relative to humans. I think that is the point you are getting at in your last paragraph.

I think the amount of power is arbitrary and vague. There is no clear bright line separating a god from a non-god. But just because a line is drawn arbitrarily or vaguely, doesn't mean the line isn't drawn. When is a boy a man? How attractive does someone have to be to be beautiful? The lines exists, though the boundaries are somewhat arbitrary and muddy. Make the line "transcendence" has the benefit of being a clear bright line, but the disadvantage of not being accurate, because many gods weren't transcendent.
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Old 03-18-2014, 12:16 PM
 
Location: OKC
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Originally Posted by mordant View Post
The "otherness" or uniqueness of a god is the ability to violate the laws of physics, make things float, appear, disappear. teleport, create things seemingly ex nihilo, and to do this on a cosmic scale when desired; to preside over entire realms such as heaven, to be everywhere at once, to know everything, to have no lack of strength or power or self-sufficiency, etc. Of course as others are pointing out, this is the transcendent / immanent Christian god that we are accustomed to, and much of the world is content with non-transcendent gods of more limited powers.

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I would argue that it is logically impossible to violate the laws of physics.
Physics is describing what the laws are, not enforcing or constraining actions to comply with it's laws.

If a god "violated the laws of physics" all it would mean is that we had the laws of physics wrong. An accurate reading of the laws of physics would have perfectly predicted that what occurred was in fact possible, under certain circumstances.

If physics describes what can really happen, and an event really happened, then a law of physics should have noted that the event was possible.
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