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Why Believe in a God when It is Impossible to Prove?

Discuss philosophical questions regarding theism (and atheism), and discuss religion as it relates to philosophy. This includes any philosophical discussions that happen to be about god, gods, or a 'higher power' or the belief of them. This also generally includes philosophical topics about organized or ritualistic mysticism or about organized, common or ritualistic beliefs in the existence of supernatural phenomenon.
Karpel Tunnel
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Re: Why Believe in a God when It is Impossible to Prove?

Post by Karpel Tunnel » January 15th, 2019, 10:09 pm

Dark Matter wrote:
January 15th, 2019, 9:31 pm
Yes. Their feet planted firmly on thin air.
Which doesn't make them relativists.
Are their judgments well-grounded or planted in thin air?
Are the judgments of theists who disagree with you planting in thin air or well grounded?
And what Absolute truth might that be?
Atheists values vary, as do theists' values.
The point here is not belief in God per se, but movement away from the arbitrariness of feelings, sentiments, and cultural milieu. Contemplating the direction that movement inevitably points to an Absolute — the view that there exist such things as abstract objects that do not exist in space or time and yet more real than the material universe.
Sounds Platonic - and that's a neutral observation.

I see a lot of people who believe in higher, larger, greater things whose feet do not seem to be on the ground, whose values contradict other people in that category and whose morals and beliefs are utterly tied to culture and family.

I see atheists who I have metaphysical disagreements with but who seem like good grounded people in other ways.
Pretty much every atheist I know has moral values and I cannot say they do better or worse than the average theist.
I'm wary of most members of both groups.

And both groups have a lot of internecine fighting. And they always have.

Dark Matter
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Re: Why Believe in a God when It is Impossible to Prove?

Post by Dark Matter » January 16th, 2019, 3:56 am

Karpel Tunnel wrote:
January 15th, 2019, 10:09 pm
Dark Matter wrote:
January 15th, 2019, 9:31 pm
Which doesn't make them relativists.
it makes them irrational.
Are the judgments of theists who disagree with you planting in thin air or well grounded?
Read my previous posts
Atheists values vary, as do theists' values.
Read my previous posts.
Sounds Platonic - and that's a neutral observation.
It is.
I see a lot of people who believe in higher, larger, greater things whose feet do not seem to be on the ground, whose values contradict other people in that category and whose morals and beliefs are utterly tied to culture and family.
So do I.
I see atheists who I have metaphysical disagreements with but who seem like good grounded people in other ways.
Pretty much every atheist I know has moral values and I cannot say they do better or worse than the average theist.
So do I.
And both groups have a lot of internecine fighting. And they always have.
Yup.

You sound like an apologist for relativism (anti-realism).

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Re: Why Believe in a God when It is Impossible to Prove?

Post by Steve3007 » January 16th, 2019, 5:10 am

Eduk wrote:@Karpel Tunnel if someone thinks morality is subjective does that make them a relativist?
If someone thinks there is objective truth can they be a relativist?
I'm just wondering if being a relativist immediately means you believe all opinions are equal?
In the specific context of morality/ethics my understanding of the difference between relativism and absolutism is that relativists say that morality exists in the minds of human beings and absolutists say it exists in the mind of another consciousness that is sometimes called God, and there are lots of human beings but only one God. The only characteristics that this thing we call (as a convenient label) God must have are that there is only one of it and it is capable of holding moral opinions/representing moral truths. For that second thing to be true I guess it needs to, in some sense, be some form of consciousness.

Given that the opinion that morality exists in the mind of God exists in the minds of human beings, the two positions seem to me to be pretty similar in many ways. Hence the reason why they both have similar outcomes in terms of moral disagreement. i.e. neither of them provide a universally accepted agreement as to which actions are to be considered desirable and which are not.

I don't see how being a relativist means that one believes all opinions are equal, although that view does often seem to be expressed. Acknowledging the obvious fact that other people have opinions doesn't stop my opinions from being better, in my view, than everyone else's. If I didn't think they were then I wouldn't hold them. I'd adopt the ones that I thought were better.

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Re: Why Believe in a God when It is Impossible to Prove?

Post by Karpel Tunnel » January 16th, 2019, 5:52 am

Karpel Tunnel wrote: ↑Today, 3:09 am
Which doesn't make them relativists.
it makes them irrational.
Then call them that.
Yup.

You sound like an apologist for relativism (anti-realism).
Often when I criticize critiques, people assume that I must be defending their enemy. I think a lot of critiques and judgments are facile. It does no one a service to allow arguments that are confused to be unchallenged.

People often think as team members, even in philosophy forums. Theists will often avoid criticizing the arguments of theists and atheists avoid cleaning house on their side.

I can in no way see how this helps.

Your posts seem oversimplified to me, binary, and often implying things that I just do not see are the case. Perhaps I am wrong, perhaps not.

I certainly take on relativists when they arrive with things I think are problematic arguments. Spent years jousting with atheists.

The whole team betrayal thing is to me a dead end. Sure, we can continue to allow our own shortcuts and never challenge the ideas and arguments of those on our own teams, or who might be, and just dig deeper trenches.

I find it hard to imagine how that helps anyone's ability in philosophy, the tensions between the groups, the ability to have a real dialogue, finding or creating common ground, learning, improving our own understanding of our own minds and beliefs, etc.

If I or someone else is taking a short cuts or using fallacies or being binary or implying binary conclusions when the situation is more complicated, then I or that person IS AVOIDING LOOKING AT WHAT IS REALLY GOING ON IN THEMSELVES.

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Re: Why Believe in a God when It is Impossible to Prove?

Post by Karpel Tunnel » January 16th, 2019, 6:02 am

Eduk wrote:
January 15th, 2019, 2:40 pm
@Karpel Tunnel if someone thinks morality is subjective does that make them a relativist?
I suppose it depends a bit on the relativist. But sure, in general, a moral relativist will see morals as subjective. Or I think better put as a product of a specific culture/parenting/individual psychology/historical moment etc.
If someone thinks there is objective truth can they be a relativist?
They could be a relativist about a lot of things, like morals, but still think that we can determine the earth goes around the sun or whatever.
I'm just wondering if being a relativist immediately means you believe all opinions are equal?
From Stanford philosophy


Traditionally, relativism is contrasted with:
Absolutism, the view that at least some truths or values in the relevant domain apply to all times, places or social and cultural frameworks. They are universal and not bound by historical or social conditions. Absolutism is often used as the key contrast idea to relativism.

Objectivism or the position that cognitive, ethical and aesthetic norms and values in general, but truth in particular, are independent of judgments and beliefs at particular times and places, or in other words they are (non-trivially) mind-independent. The anti-objectivist on the other hand, denies that there is such thing as simply being “true’, “good”, “tasty” or “beautiful” but argues that we can coherently discuss such values only in relation to parameters that have something to do with our mental lives.

Monism or the view that, in any given area or topic subject to disagreement, there can be no more than one correct opinion, judgment, or norm. The relativist often wishes to allow for a plurality of equally valid values or even truths.
I have met people who say they are like this, but the way they interact with others gives the lie to their self-claim. I would guess there are people who live like this and believe it. But they probably don't bother talking about it much.

And a relativist, a pure one, should have no problem with, say theists. They would see no reason to believe as the theist does, but they have no ground to criticize a theist. I mean, what difference does it make that a theist would be doing and saying what they do and say?

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Re: Why Believe in a God when It is Impossible to Prove?

Post by Steve3007 » January 16th, 2019, 6:18 am

Karpel Tunnel wrote:Further it seems to me that absolutists need not think there is something bigger and relativists could think there is something bigger than us, though it would not be a being who sets the moral terms of the universe.
I'm curious as to why you think an absolutist need not think there is "something bigger". I'm assuming we're talking here specifically about relativism and absolutism as applied to morality; about truth claims relating to what actions by moral agents ought to be deemed good or bad rather than morally neutral factual truth claims, like whether or not it's raining outside. In that more general sense, an absolutist believes that questions about what is factually true or false about the world are independent of human minds. I can see that this view doesn't necessarily require the existence of "something bigger". To believe the question of whether it's currently raining outside is independent of the existence of conscious agents observing it raining doesn't necessarily require a belief in the existence of "something bigger".

But surely, by definition, proposed moral truths require the existence of a moral agent. So a moral absolutist must surely, by necessity, believe in the existence of a single moral agent from which all absolute moral truths derive - i.e. a thing that is often referred to as "God". I assume that's what we're referring to with the phrase "something bigger"?

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Re: Why Believe in a God when It is Impossible to Prove?

Post by Eduk » January 16th, 2019, 7:05 am

And a relativist, a pure one, should have no problem with, say theists. They would see no reason to believe as the theist does, but they have no ground to criticize a theist.
I don't really get your point. Surely if I find something to be relatively bad then I can say so? I don't understand why you think this is a contradiction.
Unknown means unknown.

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Re: Why Believe in a God when It is Impossible to Prove?

Post by Karpel Tunnel » January 16th, 2019, 7:56 am

Steve3007 wrote:
January 16th, 2019, 6:18 am
I'm curious as to why you think an absolutist need not think there is "something bigger".
I would have to work on it for a while to see if it can be consistant, but in practice it seems to me that an atheist, for example - and in the broad sense of someone who thinks there is no larger authority - could still believe, and with passion, that pedophilia is wrong, period.
But surely, by definition, proposed moral truths require the existence of a moral agent. So a moral absolutist must surely, by necessity, believe in the existence of a single moral agent from which all absolute moral truths derive - i.e. a thing that is often referred to as "God". I assume that's what we're referring to with the phrase "something bigger"?
I think it's an argument to be raised with such an absolutist. How do you know pedophilia is wrong and in what sense is this objective. I wouldn't right now rule out that there is some way to make this work, but it would take some work, at least, yes.

However I was responding to what I saw as a more sociologial attack - that's me groping for a term - than me wanting to specfically go and see if such a position truly holds. DM seemed to want to put people in two neat groups and draw conclusions from this binary set up...about people.

So it was more in the nature of challenging this schema I said that.

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Re: Why Believe in a God when It is Impossible to Prove?

Post by Karpel Tunnel » January 16th, 2019, 7:58 am

Eduk wrote:
January 16th, 2019, 7:05 am
And a relativist, a pure one, should have no problem with, say theists. They would see no reason to believe as the theist does, but they have no ground to criticize a theist.
I don't really get your point. Surely if I find something to be relatively bad then I can say so? I don't understand why you think this is a contradiction.
I don't know what you mean by

'relatively bad'
in the context of relativism.

In everyday speech, I can interpret that term. It would mean, it's bad compared to some other thing, state, etc.

Can you explain what you mean?

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Re: Why Believe in a God when It is Impossible to Prove?

Post by Karpel Tunnel » January 16th, 2019, 8:08 am

Eduk: just for clarity, it might be useful to explain in the specific context. What does the relativist say to the theist using the term 'relatively bad'? And would this no be making an absolutist moral claim?

I can understand the relativist saying 'I don't like that.' or 'I don't believe in God.' But I don't see how saying your belief in God is relatively bad? Or your position on abortion is relatively bad? wouldn't be a contradiction.

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Re: Why Believe in a God when It is Impossible to Prove?

Post by Eduk » January 16th, 2019, 9:22 am

@Karpel Tunnel By relatively bad I simply meant to distinguish myself from absolute claims.
Unknown means unknown.

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Re: Why Believe in a God when It is Impossible to Prove?

Post by Karpel Tunnel » January 16th, 2019, 9:55 am

Eduk wrote:
January 16th, 2019, 9:22 am
@Karpel Tunnel By relatively bad I simply meant to distinguish myself from absolute claims.
Well, you haven't done it. You're using the word 'bad'. See my previous post.

Relativism is not about how intensely bad or not something is, it eliminates the possibility of making a judgment of badness, even in comparison.

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Re: Why Believe in a God when It is Impossible to Prove?

Post by Karpel Tunnel » January 16th, 2019, 10:09 am

You could say, if you are in village X it is considered bad to do Y. The people in village X have a morality and you are a relativist pointing out what someone ther would think.

But the moment you say yourself 'that is bad' you are not acting like a relativist. How would you know?

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Re: Why Believe in a God when It is Impossible to Prove?

Post by Eduk » January 16th, 2019, 10:57 am

Well when I say 'X is bad'. I mean 'I believe X is bad'. Which is what everyone means when they say 'X is bad' whether they claim absolute knowledge or not.
Unknown means unknown.

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Re: Why Believe in a God when It is Impossible to Prove?

Post by Fanman » January 16th, 2019, 2:41 pm

Hi Steve and DM, I started to reply, but I'm exhausted from work. I'll just read for now.
Once a theist, now agnostic.

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