Author Topic: Why God?  (Read 6621 times)

Gawen

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Re: Why God?
« Reply #15 on: September 05, 2011, 06:04:14 AM »
Tank, myself and stevil have three basically different approaches to "Why God?". I tried to expand on Tank's model which, I would say, basically comprises emotion and imagination as start points. Stevil brings up interesting points taking it further to ego. But then it occurred to me..."Why God?" is simply because we think.

It's easy to understand prehistoric man thinking something along the lines of:
The tiger is a very good hunter and fighter.
If I eat what the tiger does and do what the tiger does, maybe I'll be like the tiger.
Well, that didn't work so well, so if I eat the tiger maybe that will work.
I think it worked! I killed the tiger, but I'm still not quite like the tiger and these slashes on my body will take a long time to heal. Maybe if I wear bits and pieces of the tiger, it will help.
I have killed 3 tigers now. I eat his flesh. I wear his skin and teeth and claws.
I am the MAN! MANtiger! The people adore me now. I am the best fighter in the tribe and all the tribes near me. I may be the best fighter of any tribe! All the women want to be with me at night. The men have created for me a new position....Chief.

Add in the medicine man's new concept of spiritism/mysticism and the trend continues. But notice stevils addition in the model above...egocentrism. I am reminded of an old Beverly Hillbilly's episode. Granny is so proud of herself to have found a cure for the common cold; take doses of her tonic for 7-10 days and the cold goes away.

Because we think.

But we did not evolve to think completely logical. The caveman didn't think far enough to notice that the tiger doesn't become the gazelle and all they have done is become efficient in killings tigers. Granny didn't think far enough to see that the common cold went away after 7-10 days anyway and she has deluded (honestly) those close around her.

Because we think, therefore ego? Well, I don't know if that is exactly true and I'm sure it is much more involved and rather complicated, but it makes sense in the short run. Man thought about himself in the ancient past, I'm sure, just as he thinks about himself today. It's how much importance a man heaps upon himself and how much importance others heap upon him that make big differences.

Because we think, therefore imagination? One can have an imagination and not be egocentric. But somewhere along the timeline of evolving man superstition reared its ugly head. What did ancient man know of plate tectonics when the mountain blew up or split the ground, perhaps killing some? How did they get from the Unknown to something Known, but not understood? Because they think.
What did ancient man know of weather systems when the rain god dumped too much rain or not enough? Why do some of today's meteorologist go to church? Why the fuck does Rick Perry demand we pray for rain while he knows about weather systems?

Sorry, sometimes I get a bit worked up. I think, therefore emotion? We don't think logically. We have the capacity to be logical, but I really don't think that we can be totally logical all the time, with perhaps a few exceptions; those being extremely disciplined in controlling their emotions or perhaps (and don't think wrongly of me when I say this) idiot savants. So, we think with imagination, emotion, ego, unlogically...therefore delusion?

Read the history of those peoples that believed thoroughly and implicitly in the supernatural and superstiton. By their testimony, nothing was absurd. Laws of nature were violated; virgin births, men lived for hundreds of years, subsistence without food, water and sleep for more than a month, people coming back from the dead; thousands possessed with spirits controlled by the supernatural and thousands of confessions of impossible offenses. In the most solemn of religious courts, impossibilities were substantiated by tortured and willingly offered oaths, affirmations and confessions of men, women, and children. Decisions were made for everyday acts of life by which way birds flew, bones scattered on the ground, reading leaves in water and what Jesus (or the Pope) would do.

We think, therefore power.

One has to remember that these delusions were not only confined to ascetics or self deniers and peasants, but of nobles and kings and people in those times who were generally thought to be intelligent and educated. No one denied these superstitious wonders, for the reason that denial was sometimes a crime punishable generally with a hideous death and if they were not killed outright, the God/s would have them killed or tortured in the afterlife...and excommunication or to be shunned, locked up in stocks and thrown vegetables and curses at. Societies and nations became deluded, victims of ignorance, subjugated people (and not only their own), because of superstitious fears and above all because...

...they thought.
The essence of the mind is not in what it thinks, but how it thinks. Faith is the surrender of our mind; of reason and our skepticism to put all our trust or faith in someone or something that has no good evidence of itself. That is a sinister thing to me. Of all the supposed virtues, faith is not.
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Gawen

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Re: Why God?
« Reply #16 on: September 05, 2011, 06:12:20 AM »
Quote from: Asmodean

Ran out of boredom. Sorry. :P
That is my greatest fear on the boards here. My long winded posts are too long and boring to read. But sometimes I just can't keep it simple because the subject matter is just to complicated.
The essence of the mind is not in what it thinks, but how it thinks. Faith is the surrender of our mind; of reason and our skepticism to put all our trust or faith in someone or something that has no good evidence of itself. That is a sinister thing to me. Of all the supposed virtues, faith is not.
"When you fall, I will be there" - Floor

The Magic Pudding

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Re: Why God?
« Reply #17 on: September 05, 2011, 06:37:15 AM »
That is my greatest fear on the boards here. My long winded posts are too long and boring to read. But sometimes I just can't keep it simple because the subject matter is just to complicated.

I don't think you should fear this, if others need thick volumes to express their views I think we can spare you a few paragraphs.  The forum needs such posts, it can't be all Doctor Who and Star Trek.

I haven't disagreed with any of the explanations and there are probably a few more that could be added.

Hopefully Stevil won't be discouraged from slipping into his satirical mode again.

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Re: Why God?
« Reply #18 on: September 05, 2011, 06:38:44 AM »
Why God? Because it is lazy!

Science time and time again has proved that nature is fundamentally lazy and adapts in the simplest way possible. To create a god (especially the monotheistic type) is laziness of the human mind in its prime. To jump to the conclusion that a god is responsible for that around us takes no intelligence, no imagination or creativity, and certainly no rigor or evidence. It is the simplest solution to the question of life and nature.
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Tank

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Re: Why God?
« Reply #19 on: September 05, 2011, 07:01:24 AM »
Why God? Because it is lazy!

Science time and time again has proved that nature is fundamentally lazy and adapts in the simplest way possible. To create a god (especially the monotheistic type) is laziness of the human mind in its prime. To jump to the conclusion that a god is responsible for that around us takes no intelligence, no imagination or creativity, and certainly no rigor or evidence. It is the simplest solution to the question of life and nature.
And it's even less effort if one can get somebody else to do the praying etc, for you in the shape of priests, nuns, monks and imams. While at the same time passing on responsibility for even thinking! Invoking God is, without a doubt, the easiest/lasiest way to explain anything.

If religions were TV channels atheism is turning the TV off.
“Religion is a culture of faith; science is a culture of doubt.” ― Richard P. Feynman
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Gawen

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Re: Why God?
« Reply #20 on: September 05, 2011, 08:05:11 AM »
Why God? Because it is lazy!

Science time and time again has proved that nature is fundamentally lazy and adapts in the simplest way possible. To create a god (especially the monotheistic type) is laziness of the human mind in its prime. To jump to the conclusion that a god is responsible for that around us takes no intelligence, no imagination or creativity, and certainly no rigor or evidence. It is the simplest solution to the question of life and nature.
Yes, to posit a god most simple and lazy. It's the apologists that bring into the mix intellectually bankrupted creativity and imagination and no good evidence to describe said god.
The essence of the mind is not in what it thinks, but how it thinks. Faith is the surrender of our mind; of reason and our skepticism to put all our trust or faith in someone or something that has no good evidence of itself. That is a sinister thing to me. Of all the supposed virtues, faith is not.
"When you fall, I will be there" - Floor

Gawen

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Re: Why God?
« Reply #21 on: September 05, 2011, 08:09:16 AM »
That is my greatest fear on the boards here. My long winded posts are too long and boring to read. But sometimes I just can't keep it simple because the subject matter is just to complicated.

I don't think you should fear this, if others need thick volumes to express their views I think we can spare you a few paragraphs.  The forum needs such posts, it can't be all Doctor Who and Star Trek.
Still, in today's day and age where people want quick fixes, long posts are not what they look for. Still, I thank you.

Quote
I haven't disagreed with any of the explanations and there are probably a few more that could be added.
I have no doubt this thread could go many more pages, even while staying on topic.

Quote
Hopefully Stevil won't be discouraged from slipping into his satirical mode again.
I hope this as well. The forum needs satire to keep topics lively and not boring.
The essence of the mind is not in what it thinks, but how it thinks. Faith is the surrender of our mind; of reason and our skepticism to put all our trust or faith in someone or something that has no good evidence of itself. That is a sinister thing to me. Of all the supposed virtues, faith is not.
"When you fall, I will be there" - Floor

Asmodean

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Re: Why God?
« Reply #22 on: September 05, 2011, 08:52:18 AM »
That is my greatest fear on the boards here. My long winded posts are too long and boring to read. But sometimes I just can't keep it simple because the subject matter is just to complicated.

I don't think you should fear this, if others need thick volumes to express their views I think we can spare you a few paragraphs.  The forum needs such posts, it can't be all Doctor Who and Star Trek.

I haven't disagreed with any of the explanations and there are probably a few more that could be added.

Hopefully Stevil won't be discouraged from slipping into his satirical mode again.
I second that.

As a disclaimer, me running out of boredom to reply further is not the same at all as me running out of boredom to read. Read, I usually do - even when the posts are long.
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xSilverPhinx

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Re: Why God?
« Reply #23 on: September 05, 2011, 10:45:13 AM »
This has been an interesting thread to read. ;D

IMO, all of you have gotten it right.

I think that god as a concept was a result of psychological predispositions and how our thinking is wired and all theistic versions of god from cultures adapting the human predisposition towards believing in some sort of ultimate reality or creator. (a 'who' created existence and not a 'what')

I think that the 'one god' idea came first, and that it's mostly logically based and that leaders chose which of the many gods was in fact the 'one god' later to satisfy their own agendas.

People look for meaning in the universe, but they don't think rationally. Start asking the question 'why am I here' and, well...something more or less cohesive with human experience follows. We also know that we all die. That's the existential aspect to it.

« Last Edit: September 05, 2011, 12:24:06 PM by xSilverPhinx »
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Stevil

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Re: Why God?
« Reply #24 on: September 05, 2011, 11:57:23 AM »
What about the aspect of dealing with children's never ending questions and wanting to be a parent with all the answers.
Is that where myths come from? A way for parents to answer children's questions?
Is the old testament and hence the Abrahamic gods' inception simply a way to answer children's questions.

Sweetdeath

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Re: Why God?
« Reply #25 on: September 05, 2011, 12:52:29 PM »
What about the aspect of dealing with children's never ending questions and wanting to be a parent with all the answers.
Is that where myths come from? A way for parents to answer children's questions?
Is the old testament and hence the Abrahamic gods' inception simply a way to answer children's questions.


I always find it to do more harm than good to lie to children about death, reproducing, etc instead of  just telling them the hard facts.  Sheesh.   I don't believe in sugar coating anything.
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Wiggum:"You have that much faith in me, Homer?"
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“I was thinking that perhaps this thing called God does not exist. Because He cannot save any one of us. No matter how we pray, He doesn’t mend our wounds.

Stevil

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Re: Why God?
« Reply #26 on: September 05, 2011, 02:09:26 PM »

Quote
Don't judge me on how I look, how dare you, this vessel is pure chance. It's what is on the inside that is my pride and joy, I've crafted and shaped myself, I've removed my constraints, I've expanded my horizons, expectations and imagination. I can control who I am, just not so much on what I look like.
Plastic surgery. Other than that, this does stroke my narcissism, so point approved.
It was a bit of a rush job actually, I had a baby and an infant both screaming for my attention.

What I was trying to get to was the invention of the mind and soul, as being something in existence but separate from the physical. A metaphysical existence.
I can see why some people think they are more than the sum of the parts, and how this metaphysical existence can lead to belief in a metaphysical god and afterlife.

Tristan Jay

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Re: Why God?
« Reply #27 on: September 05, 2011, 11:44:00 PM »
I think this has been a very interesting topic so far, and seemed to connect in a way to what I read in Joseph Campbell's first volume of Masks of God, Primitive Mythology.

There are a lot of ideas that get jumbled up in the book and don't seem to flow and transition effectively, but a couple of things are intriguing from standpoint of trying to imagine the roots of cultural superstition and spirituality.  One thing he talks about is how the human life cycle must have seemed like an extraordinary enigma. 

Assume for a moment that primitive yet thinking minds don't put two and two together and figure out that it's the combination of male and female that results in conception (and I believe there have still been societies up into modern times who didn't figure it out), but they're still trying to work out the cause and effect of the world around them, then all they can assume from what they observe is that females are the ones with the power of creation.  They might as well conclude that the female body is a gateway from beyond to the Earthly existence, you enter or re-enter the world through that "creative magic."  Burial rituals, which I believe is associated with early developing culture and intelligence, is described in the book as prepping the body of a dead person for their re-awakening, or their journey back to...wherever.  Campbell also talks about how baffling it must have seemed to the primitive mind that females' cycles were syncronized with the phases of the moon; they are in tune with the known universe in an unknown, mysterious, "magical" way.  The males were probably envious or fearful of the phenomenon.

I can't recall the particulars, but he goes through a loose narrative about males "hijacking" spirituality; understanding how fearful they felt, and how fear controlled them, they turned the tables and developed elaborate rituals to make sure that life continued to progress in a way that was desirable to their way of life (and themselves more particularly).  Their part in the rituals were highly secretive, males only, and the knowledge they are to face in their rite of passage would terrify the females, so females are strictly forbidden, and their fear of the male rituals is cultivated.

Along a different thread, Campbell talks about Shaman as being the types of humans who were imaginative, but perhaps not the most physically able of a community.  Here he develops a narrative where the less physical, yet highly imaginative types seize power away from the "survival and prospering of the fittest" mentality.  Shaman are imaginative, storytellers, have a good sense of showmanship, and they learn what their stronger, tougher fellows fear.  Exploiting that fear is the only way to carve their own niche in the community, a way of life that is not one of being jostled out of the way or tossed around.  So they cultivated the appearance of having powers and knowledge over the unknown elements that the stronger people feared; and the strong ones finally feared him.

Another part of the thing with Shaman is their training would involve putting the body under extreme stress; starvation, exposure to heat, ensuring a lack of sleep (and sometimes a magic mushroom thrown in for a trip).  All the kind of activities associated with having a revelation of enlightenment in the stories of plenty of Sacred religious founders.  They are also the kind of thing results in hallucinations, with or without the mushroom.

Most of the above is a long winded exploration of using spirituality; harnessing the unknown and grafting a structure onto it for the purpose of...political power.  There is a vein of cynicism toward organized religion and spiritual viewpoints on Joseph Campbell's part throughout the book, though his professed aim is to eschew common assumptions about spirituality and try to trace it's development throughout human history, trying to approach it as ruthlessly scientifically or objectively as possible.

Along another thread, Campbell talks about the Deification of humans; the God-Kings and Pharoahs.  I can't remember how this aspect connected with the previous elements above, in terms of historical context.  I was vaguely amused/horrified at the Deicidal practices of some of these cultures; in some ways it reminded me of my own ideas about effective leadership...a leader should be a servant to those he leads.  My most effective leadership moments have emerged from efforts to serve a group I ended up leading.  Of course, Deicide is an extreme situation of taking the matter out of the hands of the leader's own choice, regarding how much the leader is supposed to serve and sacrifice.  Interestingly, the core of Christianity seems to conform with this pattern of Deicide in service to humanity.  I've wondered since reading those passages from Primitive Mythology about the communal psychological drive to lift someone up, Deify and make them a King, and then sacrifice them for the good (or perhaps, satisfaction?) of the community.  On a totally unrelated note, it makes me wonder if modern American pop-culture is a "safe" manifestation of the same communal psychological drive: we set up a Celebrity on high, put them on a pedestal, then we tear them to shreds when they become weak or vulnerable or meltdown (or whatever).  I don't like the impulses I feel inside me when I see it happen, and I turn away.

I'm sorry if it doesn't really feed back into the actual topic, I can't really tie in what I've paraphrased above with the God concept taking root in early human thought and evolving to what it is today.  Hopefully it's of some interest, but I can't fathom making these thoughts more coherent than they are as I've presented them.  For what it's worth, I've found all of the long posts of everyone else in this topic to be gripping, thought provoking, and engaging reads.
« Last Edit: September 06, 2011, 12:01:02 AM by Tristan Jay »

Tank

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Re: Why God?
« Reply #28 on: September 06, 2011, 01:59:07 AM »
TJ

I think your observations are very apropos to the subject. My initial thoughts behind the OP were along the lines of starting a discussion rather than presenting a conclusion so your inputs are very welcome; as are everybody's.

Over the last few years of discussing theism from an atheist perspective I have become unsatisfied with the argument 'I'm an atheist because there is no evidence for the supernatural.' My lack of satisfaction with this argument has nothing to do with feeling it is not accurate, far from it. I find it unsatisfactory in that it provides no insight into why the majority of humans publicly profess a belief in the supernatural in the form of god or gods.

From a logical perspective one can't prove beyond doubt that god does not exit. I would say one can prove it beyond 'reasonable doubt' but not everybody is reasonable. So we still face the dichotomy that believing in god is an unreasonable position yet the majority of people still hold that position. So this thread is about why the majority of people do believe in god and what the human roots of that belief are.

I don't think one can expect people to stop believing in god simply from a personal 'I'm right, you're wrong.' discussion. If one is to argue that gods do not exist one has to effectively explain why some people still believe they do and then break that belief down in a logical and emotionally satisfactory way.

So the aim of this thread is to discuss/discover the roots of theistic belief in a naturalistic world and then to explain why it unreasonable to hold to the view that gods exist. One cannot prove that 'God' does not exist but I think one can produce a persuasive argument that 'God' is a product of the evolution of the human mind and thus not real.
             
« Last Edit: September 06, 2011, 02:01:16 AM by Tank »
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Re: Why God?
« Reply #29 on: September 06, 2011, 05:33:07 AM »
While I think you're right about most things in your hypostheis Tank, personally I think it's unfair to conclude that 'us humans created God out of ignorance and need'. I think that may be a major reason why the belief in gods persists today, but it might not be the reason why people originally started to believe in their existence.

To me, it doesn't seem illogical or ignorant for people to have believed in gods thousands of years ago, when people lacked the technology and scientific knowledge we have today. It seems perfectly logical for people to have believed that the Earth was flat, or that the Sun traversed through a domed sky that was fixed with stars on its outer wall. That's how things appear to be.

When you look back at the earliest known historical religions, I don't think they were that far removed from being the science of their day. The priests of Egypt and Mesopotamia were also astronomers, and I don't think it's unreasonable for them to have believed the Sun, Moon, stars and planets were also gods. The Egyptians knew that when Sirius first rose in the night sky, the Nile would flood, they then linked the two and Sirius was seen as being directly linked to the annual flooding of the Nile.

In Egypt, China, India and Mesopotamia there seems to have been a belief in 'as above, so below', that the heavens mirrored the earth, and the movement of the heavenly bodies directly influenced the world below. This belief still exists, plenty of people still believe in the superstition of astrology, sometimes even atheists! we find similar beliefs in shamanic and other quite basic and traditional societies, often dwellings are built in styles that are seen as a microcosm of the cosmos (as they view it), so it's clearly quite an ancient belief. I suspect it's something to do with the human brain's ability and need to create patterns, which of course has also lead us on the path of scientific discovery.

While religion and the belief in gods undoubtedly predates these civilizations, obviously it's very difficult to know quite what any prehistoric people believed in, as they haven't left us any written evidence of it. But I suspect the belief in the gods living in the heavens (which is still with us today in many religions) considerably predates the earliest historical civilizations, as I find it hard to imagine they came up with complex cosmologies out of the blue. Like most ideologies, religious beliefs tend to be built on older religious beliefs.

Of course the evidence from historical socities only dates back 5000 years, and humankind is maybe forty times older than that, but I think that the same desire to see patterns and correlations in the universe, and desire to explain the world that we now manifest in science was maybe partly at the root of the belief in gods thousands of years ago. Evidence has been put forward to suggest that some paleolithic cave paintings may represent ancient constellations, which may or may not be true, but is feasible.

You can also ask the rather intersesting question of when did people first start to believe in gods? Is it something that only our species has done, or did homo erectus, Neanderthal man and others also believe in their own gods? Was the part of the brain that leads to the belief in gods suitably developed in other human species?
« Last Edit: September 06, 2011, 05:34:56 AM by Too Few Lions »