Is There Even A Definition
For This God Contraption?
Perhaps you or others will find this letter illuminating or insightful -- if not, I apologize :).
Anyone who has argued with theists (and especially Christians) has often encountered a sort of fundamental communications barrier. We, the atheists, can provide whatever arguments we want, and the theist will blank those arguments out as fast as we can make them.
It seems to me that the problem can be traced to invalid or missing definitions (most of philosophy has this problem in my most humble opinion). Christians (I refer to Christians specifically because I spend most of my time arguing with them) are either unable or unwilling to provide a definition for their God. It makes it extremely difficult to even discuss such a being, if no one can tell what is actually being discussed!
Certain definitions are invalid, or question begging -- defining God as "the creator of the universe" is invalid if the universe had no creator. It would be equally invalid if I defined stork as "that which brings babies." In any event, I would submit that this is a large problem in communications between atheists and theists. Some atheists would wonder why anyone would bother trying to surpass this wall that stands between the theists and ourselves. It is quite pragmatic, I would assert -- if we're trying to debate theists, it doesn't hurt to communicate in a language they can understand. It is a compromise, of course, but perhaps a useful one.
I've been trying to devise a system of axioms that both atheists and theists could accept -- these axioms would form the foundation of a network of understanding, a sort of bridge between the two enemy camps. Not all atheists would accept these (in general, Objectivist/rationalist atheists probably would, but subjectivist/nihilist atheists would not). I would appreciate any comments that atheists would have on these, especially the talented and ruthlessly critical editor of PAM (that's a compliment). I've presented them to theists, and in general, the theists accept them. Those who know Ayn Rand or Aristotle will probably recognize that a few are essentially the same axioms those thinkers recognized.
1. Existence exists (i.e. something exists).
2. It is possible to know what exists (consciousness exists).
3. Whatever exists, exists independently of consciousness (reality is objective).
4. Whatever God is, if it exists, it must exist independently of consciousness.
5. Faith (whatever faith is) is volitional (i.e. it is possible to choose to have/exercise faith, although it is not necessarily possible for everyone to do so).
6. Like all decisions, faith has certain consequences (effects, ramifications, and so on).
7. A belief in something has no bearing on whether or not that thing exists (from 3).
8. A theist could believe in a non-existent god and an atheist could disbelieve in a god that does exist
9. If faith does have consequences, those consequences are not necessarily the result of the actual existence of the object of that faith (from 6, 7, and 8).
10. There are at least some theists who sincerely believe.
Of course, there are some other propositions that are implicit in these -- and I purposefully left an exact definition of God or faith out of the picture. As I stated at the beginning of this letter, I have as of yet encountered no definition that seems both coherent and free from inherent logical contradiction.
T. "Yes he talks too much in real life, too" Watson
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