The "God exists" paradox

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.
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Prof Bulani
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The "God exists" paradox

Post by Prof Bulani »

There is an interesting paradox that occurs when people who claim to believe that God exists are made to logically follow the ramifications of this claim. If the statement "God exists in reality" is true, this necessarily puts God into the category of "things that exist in reality". Being in this category imposes its own limitations, which God-believers immediately become uncomfortable with. And that's the paradox. You cannot define God as something that exists without imposing the limitations of existence upon God. Removing those limitations will automatically remove God from the category of things that exist.

I have never met someone who argues that God exists and is simultaneously comfortable with God being in the category of things that exists. Even the philosophers that famously claimed to prove that God exists (h_k_s will be happy to furnish you with a list of these philosophers) all succumbed to this logical conundrum. The only God worth believing in is one that transcends the limitations of the "things that exist" category. A God that fits into such a category is too basic and unimpressive to live up to the ideal entity believers wish to align with. Therefore, a God exists in reality is always ultimately rejected by those who believe in God, and a God who cannot possibly exist in reality is the only God that believers want to be associated with.

Not only can God not possibly exist from an atheist perspective, God cannot possibly exist even from a theist perspective.

Here's an exercise I invite everybody to participate in. Provide a definition of God. Then let's examine that definition to determine if such a definition allows for God to exist in reality. If such a God can possibly exist, we'll keep that definition. If such a God cannot possibly exist, we'll throw out the definition. Then we should have a good idea of what kind of God can actually exist, and how that definition aligns to the God that believers would like to exist.
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Re: The "God exists" paradox

Post by h_k_s »

Prof Bulani wrote: January 12th, 2020, 7:49 am There is an interesting paradox that occurs when people who claim to believe that God exists are made to logically follow the ramifications of this claim. If the statement "God exists in reality" is true, this necessarily puts God into the category of "things that exist in reality". Being in this category imposes its own limitations, which God-believers immediately become uncomfortable with. And that's the paradox. You cannot define God as something that exists without imposing the limitations of existence upon God. Removing those limitations will automatically remove God from the category of things that exist.

I have never met someone who argues that God exists and is simultaneously comfortable with God being in the category of things that exists. Even the philosophers that famously claimed to prove that God exists (h_k_s will be happy to furnish you with a list of these philosophers) all succumbed to this logical conundrum. The only God worth believing in is one that transcends the limitations of the "things that exist" category. A God that fits into such a category is too basic and unimpressive to live up to the ideal entity believers wish to align with. Therefore, a God exists in reality is always ultimately rejected by those who believe in God, and a God who cannot possibly exist in reality is the only God that believers want to be associated with.

Not only can God not possibly exist from an atheist perspective, God cannot possibly exist even from a theist perspective.

Here's an exercise I invite everybody to participate in. Provide a definition of God. Then let's examine that definition to determine if such a definition allows for God to exist in reality. If such a God can possibly exist, we'll keep that definition. If such a God cannot possibly exist, we'll throw out the definition. Then we should have a good idea of what kind of God can actually exist, and how that definition aligns to the God that believers would like to exist.
God-ness is a characteristic of the Universe first mentioned by Aristotle, then Augustine, then Aquinas, then Descartes, then Leibniz, and more recently by Locke ("... all men created equal …" etc.).

Ergo it is a philosophical topic and issue.

You may want to try to approach it as such in the future. Then it will sound like you understand the topic better.

And your frail attempt at sarcasm is an ad hominem fallacy. You @Prof Bulani should stop utilizing fallacies since utilizing them exposes you as a Sophist. And according to Plato, nothing on this Earth is worse than a Sophist. Or do you want to disagree with Plato too?!

Q.E.D.
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Re: The "God exists" paradox

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I'm an atheist, but this argument seems ridiculous. Why would anyone who believes that God exists believe that reality has limitations that preclude the properties of the God they believe in?

For example, if someone believes that God is a nonphysical being that transcends the physical universe, which He created, and they believe that God is timeless, omniscient, omnipotent, etc., then they're going to believe that the nature of reality is such that a nonphysical, transcendent, timeless, etc. being can exist.
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Re: The "God exists" paradox

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Terrapin Station wrote: January 12th, 2020, 9:58 pm I'm an atheist, but this argument seems ridiculous. Why would anyone who believes that God exists believe that reality has limitations that preclude the properties of the God they believe in?

For example, if someone believes that God is a nonphysical being that transcends the physical universe, which He created, and they believe that God is timeless, omniscient, omnipotent, etc., then they're going to believe that the nature of reality is such that a nonphysical, transcendent, timeless, etc. being can exist.
Excellent analysis, and I agree with you again, @Terrapin Station . Thank you.
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Re: The "God exists" paradox

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Prof Bulani wrote: January 12th, 2020, 7:49 am There is an interesting paradox that occurs when people who claim to believe that God exists are made to logically follow the ramifications of this claim. If the statement "God exists in reality" is true, this necessarily puts God into the category of "things that exist in reality". Being in this category imposes its own limitations, which God-believers immediately become uncomfortable with. And that's the paradox. You cannot define God as something that exists without imposing the limitations of existence upon God. Removing those limitations will automatically remove God from the category of things that exist.

I have never met someone who argues that God exists and is simultaneously comfortable with God being in the category of things that exists.
Well you have now.

I am very comfortable with this but this might be because I am neither a believe nor disbelieve. Also, to even consider an existing God not being in the category of things that exist is completely beyond all absurdity.
Prof Bulani wrote: January 12th, 2020, 7:49 am Even the philosophers that famously claimed to prove that God exists (h_k_s will be happy to furnish you with a list of these philosophers) all succumbed to this logical conundrum. The only God worth believing in is one that transcends the limitations of the "things that exist" category. A God that fits into such a category is too basic and unimpressive to live up to the ideal entity believers wish to align with. Therefore, a God exists in reality is always ultimately rejected by those who believe in God, and a God who cannot possibly exist in reality is the only God that believers want to be associated with.
Well considering I neither believe nor disbelieve anything, then I am not in any category.
Prof Bulani wrote: January 12th, 2020, 7:49 am Not only can God not possibly exist from an atheist perspective, God cannot possibly exist even from a theist perspective.
If you say so, but it appears you have already decided what the truth is here. But I would like to see you clearly prove what you believe is true, first.
Prof Bulani wrote: January 12th, 2020, 7:49 am Here's an exercise I invite everybody to participate in. Provide a definition of God. Then let's examine that definition to determine if such a definition allows for God to exist in reality. If such a God can possibly exist, we'll keep that definition. If such a God cannot possibly exist, we'll throw out the definition. Then we should have a good idea of what kind of God can actually exist, and how that definition aligns to the God that believers would like to exist.
My definition:

'God', in the spiritual or non visible sense, is just the Mind, Itself (of which there is only One). And, 'God', in the physical or visible sense is just the Universe, Itself (of which there is only One).
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Re: The "God exists" paradox

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"God does not exist. He is being-itself beyond essence and existence. Therefore, to argue that God exists is to deny him."

(Tillich, Paul. Systematic Theology, Vol 1. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1951. p. 205)

That's rubbish, and the phrase "being-itself beyond essence and existence" is nonsensical!

"Belief in God is not the same thing as belief that God exists, or that there is such a thing as God. To believe that God exists is simply to accept a proposition of a certain sort—a proposition affirming that there is a personal being who, let's say, has existed from eternity, is almighty, perfectly wise, perfectly just, has created the world, and loves his creatures. To believe in God, however, is quite another matter. ...Belief in God means trusting God, accepting Him, committing one's life to Him. ...So believing in God is more than accepting the proposition that God exists. Still, it is at least that much. One can't sensibly believe in God and thank Him for the mountains without believing that there is such a person to be thanked, and that He is in some way responsible for the mountains. Nor can one trust in God and commit oneself to Him without believing that he exists: 'He who would come to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of those who seek him' (Heb. 11:6)."

(Plantinga, Alvin. God, Freedom, and Evil. 1974. Reprint, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1977. pp. 1-2)
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Re: The "God exists" paradox

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Consul wrote: January 13th, 2020, 2:38 am "God does not exist. He is being-itself beyond essence and existence. Therefore, to argue that God exists is to deny him."

(Tillich, Paul. Systematic Theology, Vol 1. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1951. p. 205)
I would guess that Tillich is saying what amounts to "existence is not a predicate"
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Re: The "God exists" paradox

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Prof Bulani wrote: January 12th, 2020, 7:49 am And that's the paradox. You cannot define God as something that exists without imposing the limitations of existence upon God.
There is existence, and then there's existence. 😋 If I claim that God has physical existence in the space-time universe that science describes so well, then my claim is clear, and (more to the point) testable and falsifiable. But many (most?) believers, in this context, will tell you that God has spiritual existence, which is quite different. It probably isn't investigable (is that a word?) by science, or falsifiable, but that's the way of these things....

If we want to investigate claims, we must first be clear what those claims are.
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Re: The "God exists" paradox

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Terrapin Station wrote: January 12th, 2020, 9:58 pm I'm an atheist, but this argument seems ridiculous. Why would anyone who believes that God exists believe that reality has limitations that preclude the properties of the God they believe in?

For example, if someone believes that God is a nonphysical being that transcends the physical universe, which He created, and they believe that God is timeless, omniscient, omnipotent, etc., then they're going to believe that the nature of reality is such that a nonphysical, transcendent, timeless, etc. being can exist.
Good. If we live in a reality where being timeless, omniscient, omnipresent, etc are attributes that existing beings can have, why would there just one being that can possibly have these attributes? These attributes must be included in the list of possible things that existing beings can have. Being omnipotent, omnipresent and timeless would no longer be unique attributes, but category attributes. It is possible for things that exist to have the attributes that we ascribe to God. While this argument would allow for God to exist, it wouldn't allow for God to be unique.

And this isn't even going into the specific problems of omniscience and omnipotence that make them impossible to exist to begin with. Does omnipotent include the power to disable one's powers (i.e., the rock too heavy to lift)? Does being timeless actually have any meaning (since time is required for existence to continue, by definition)? An entity cannot have attributes that cannot possibly exist and still exist. So there's that.
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Re: The "God exists" paradox

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Consul wrote: January 13th, 2020, 2:38 am "God does not exist. He is being-itself beyond essence and existence. Therefore, to argue that God exists is to deny him."

(Tillich, Paul. Systematic Theology, Vol 1. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1951. p. 205)

That's rubbish, and the phrase "being-itself beyond essence and existence" is nonsensical!

"Belief in God is not the same thing as belief that God exists, or that there is such a thing as God. To believe that God exists is simply to accept a proposition of a certain sort—a proposition affirming that there is a personal being who, let's say, has existed from eternity, is almighty, perfectly wise, perfectly just, has created the world, and loves his creatures. To believe in God, however, is quite another matter. ...Belief in God means trusting God, accepting Him, committing one's life to Him. ...So believing in God is more than accepting the proposition that God exists. Still, it is at least that much. One can't sensibly believe in God and thank Him for the mountains without believing that there is such a person to be thanked, and that He is in some way responsible for the mountains. Nor can one trust in God and commit oneself to Him without believing that he exists: 'He who would come to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of those who seek him' (Heb. 11:6)."

(Plantinga, Alvin. God, Freedom, and Evil. 1974. Reprint, Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1977. pp. 1-2)
I'm not interested in the question of people's personal beliefs about God. I'm only interested in the question of whether God exists or not. We know, for starters, that either God exists or God doesn't exist. One must be true and the other false, exclusively. Even if we design to not knowing which is true, one will still be true and the other false.

The problem inherent with attempting to prove that God exists is that it requires defining God as something that can possibly exist. Time and time again I see God-believers running into this problem. Defining God as something that can possibly exist is a precarious exercise for people who believe that God exists. It forces them to actually examine their own concept of God through a logical lens, and this is well outside of the comfort zone of faith.
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Re: The "God exists" paradox

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Prof Bulani wrote: January 13th, 2020, 2:44 pm Good. If we live in a reality where being timeless, omniscient, omnipresent, etc are attributes that existing beings can have, why would there just one being that can possibly have these attributes? These attributes must be included in the list of possible things that existing beings can have. Being omnipotent, omnipresent and timeless would no longer be unique attributes, but category attributes. It is possible for things that exist to have the attributes that we ascribe to God. While this argument would allow for God to exist, it wouldn't allow for God to be unique.
You're attempting to assert here that if reality is such that properties x, y and z are possible, then it must be possible for more than one being in reality to have properties x, y and z.

But you're not actually presenting an argument for that. You're just arbitrarily asserting it.

Also, you're not at all defending the initial idea you suggested of people both (a) asserting the existence of God, and (b) agreeing that reality doesn't have the properties they're ascribing to God. I'm doubtful that even one person has ever claimed that. Can you provide an example?

You arguing that some of the supposed properties have problems (which I agree with) doesn't at all amount to anyone fitting both (a) and (b) above. The folks in question are not going to say that the properties they're suggesting are incoherent, etc.
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Re: The "God exists" paradox

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Prof Bulani wrote: January 13th, 2020, 2:54 pm I'm not interested in the question of people's personal beliefs about God.
???

But that's what you initially made a claim about. You claimed that people who believe in God (and who ascribe properties x, y and z to God) ALSO agree that properties x, y and z can't obtain in reality. That's about someone's personal beliefs. The fact that Joe, say, is asserting belief in God, where God has properties x, y and z, but YOU don't agree that those properties can obtain in reality isn't very interesting. It would be interesting if Joe asserted belief in God but Joe also thought that the properties in question can't obtain in reality. This would be about Joe's personal beliefs. (Rather than being about Joe's beliefs contra your (or my) beliefs about what can obtain in reality).
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Re: The "God exists" paradox

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Terrapin Station wrote: January 13th, 2020, 4:39 pm You're attempting to assert here that if reality is such that properties x, y and z are possible, then it must be possible for more than one being in reality to have properties x, y and z.

But you're not actually presenting an argument for that. You're just arbitrarily asserting it.
Your initial point was that God could exist if reality allowed for the attributes ascribed to God to exist. If we are making the argument that reality allows for the existence of omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent beings, then cool, omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent beings can possibly exist. It would be irrational to argue that reality makes such a provision for beings that exist, but only does so in a single special case.
Also, you're not at all defending the initial idea you suggested of people both (a) asserting the existence of God, and (b) agreeing that reality doesn't have the properties they're ascribing to God. I'm doubtful that even one person has ever claimed that. Can you provide an example?
Have you ever asked any theists what omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence means? Have you ever heard them clarify these terms in a way that is logically coherent? It never happens. You always prematurely get "well that's what I believe." Reality does not have the properties theist ascribe to God, any any theist pressed enough to honestly examine these properties will come to this conclusion. The issue isn't that they think omniscience, omnipotence, etc are realistic, they just evade the examination and remain blissfully unaware of the self contradictions and absurdities.
You arguing that some of the supposed properties have problems (which I agree with) doesn't at all amount to anyone fitting both (a) and (b) above. The folks in question are not going to say that the properties they're suggesting are incoherent, etc.
No, they're not. This is why very few theists, if any, attempt to argue that God exists using definitions and logical deductions. The paradox of "proving that God exists" is that proof requires logic, and logic requires the examining of the ascribed properties in ways that must strip away the fallacies first and present arguments that are testable. This is the point I'm making.
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Re: The "God exists" paradox

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Terrapin Station wrote: January 13th, 2020, 4:43 pm
Prof Bulani wrote: January 13th, 2020, 2:54 pm I'm not interested in the question of people's personal beliefs about God.
???

But that's what you initially made a claim about. You claimed that people who believe in God (and who ascribe properties x, y and z to God) ALSO agree that properties x, y and z can't obtain in reality. That's about someone's personal beliefs. The fact that Joe, say, is asserting belief in God, where God has properties x, y and z, but YOU don't agree that those properties can obtain in reality isn't very interesting. It would be interesting if Joe asserted belief in God but Joe also thought that the properties in question can't obtain in reality. This would be about Joe's personal beliefs. (Rather than being about Joe's beliefs contra your (or my) beliefs about what can obtain in reality).
The claim that God exists is not the same as the claim that someone believes in God. If someone says they believe God exists, then they're making a statement about the state of their subjective convictions. That's all will and good, but that's a dead end. If someone claims that God exists (or likewise that God does not exist), then that's a statement about the state of reality. Since we all have access to reality, this is something worth investigating.
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Re: The "God exists" paradox

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creation wrote: January 12th, 2020, 11:36 pm My definition:

'God', in the spiritual or non visible sense, is just the Mind, Itself (of which there is only One). And, 'God', in the physical or visible sense is just the Universe, Itself (of which there is only One).
By this definition (and I followed your explanation of Mind on the other thread) God exists. It's as simple as that. I'll point out that this doesn't prove that God by any other definition exists, but I trust you already get that.
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