God is dying. Will he be dead?

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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Terrapin Station
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Re: God is dying. Will he be dead?

Post by Terrapin Station » February 11th, 2020, 1:54 pm

Steve3007 wrote:
February 11th, 2020, 1:47 pm
Terrapin Station wrote:Re the question about the US, the prevalence of religious beliefs is probably a bit more overt/public here than in some other countries, but I don't think there are any countries, any parts of the world, where religious beliefs don't dominate.
So despite the fact that not a single member of my living family, or friends or work colleagues have any religious beliefs, and despite the fact that proclaiming such beliefs tends to be political suicide for politicians, would you still judge religious beliefs to dominate where I live? Would this be because of the history of the country? Or because of the artefacts from that history that still exist?
Look at the religious breakdown of the UK per the 2011 census for example (the upper right hand corner of this page):

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion_ ... ed_Kingdom

You still even have an official religion.

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Steve3007
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Re: God is dying. Will he be dead?

Post by Steve3007 » February 11th, 2020, 2:20 pm

Terrapin Station wrote:Look at the religious breakdown of the UK per the 2011 census for example (the upper right hand corner of this page):
Yes! It's funny isn't it? My Dad still puts himself down as "Methodist" even though he hasn't got a God-y bone in his body. (My granny was a Methodist, apparently.)

Another thing: The House of Lords still contains un-elected clerics. I've read that only the UK and Iran have un-elected clerics in their legislature. I don't see that as indicating current religiosity. I see it as the tendency to like traditions; as conservatism. Same as the reason why Canterbury Cathedral isn't pulled down and replaced by social housing. It's paleo-relgiosity. My impression is that it's much less paleo in the US.

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Re: God is dying. Will he be dead?

Post by chewybrian » February 11th, 2020, 2:39 pm

Steve3007 wrote:
February 11th, 2020, 7:57 am
chewybrian wrote:You can see in the link that there is a small decline over the years, but 86% belief instead of 92% is hardly 'dead', if we are going to judge by people's belief. If God were a stock, he would still be trading at a good price. God has been largely eliminated from public places, but not from the minds and hearts of a lot of people.
You're referring specifically to the US which, among developed "western" nations, is a bit of an outlier in that it has an atypically high incidence of religious observance.

In the US, looking in as an outsider and occasional visitor, it doesn't seem to me to me that God has largely been eliminated from public places. For example, that most public of places, the banknotes of the national currency, have the words "In God We Trust" written on them.
As an insider, I can tell you that the acknowledgment of God in public spaces has dwindled to nothing in my lifetime. We used to have 'blue laws', and discussion of God on broadcast television shows (regular sitcoms like Leave it to Beaver or Andy Griffith, not religious programs). You are pointing to one of the few holdovers in the currency. I'm not saying this is necessarily good or bad, but that clearly God has been deleted from public spaces for the most part within the last 50 years.
"If determinism holds, then past events have conspired to cause me to hold this view--it is out of my control. Either I am right about free will, or it is not my fault that I am wrong."

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Re: God is dying. Will he be dead?

Post by Steve3007 » February 11th, 2020, 4:51 pm

chewybrian wrote:As an insider, I can tell you that the acknowledgment of God in public spaces has dwindled to nothing in my lifetime. We used to have 'blue laws', and discussion of God on broadcast television shows (regular sitcoms like Leave it to Beaver or Andy Griffith, not religious programs). You are pointing to one of the few holdovers in the currency. I'm not saying this is necessarily good or bad, but that clearly God has been deleted from public spaces for the most part within the last 50 years.
Is that because of various imaginative interpretations of the whole "separation of church and state" thing?

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Re: God is dying. Will he be dead?

Post by chewybrian » February 11th, 2020, 6:53 pm

Steve3007 wrote:
February 11th, 2020, 4:51 pm
chewybrian wrote:As an insider, I can tell you that the acknowledgment of God in public spaces has dwindled to nothing in my lifetime. We used to have 'blue laws', and discussion of God on broadcast television shows (regular sitcoms like Leave it to Beaver or Andy Griffith, not religious programs). You are pointing to one of the few holdovers in the currency. I'm not saying this is necessarily good or bad, but that clearly God has been deleted from public spaces for the most part within the last 50 years.
Is that because of various imaginative interpretations of the whole "separation of church and state" thing?
There is no declaration withing U.S. law of a separation of church and state. This is only a paraphrasing from a letter by Thomas Jefferson where he says there should be a 'wall of separation'. What the constitution says is:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...
So, there shall be no state sanctioning of religion, nor will there be any attempt to prohibit anyone from practicing their own religion. That's it.

Actually, it is incredible how many important rights they laid down in so few words. The Obama health care bill was about 10 phone books thick...
"If determinism holds, then past events have conspired to cause me to hold this view--it is out of my control. Either I am right about free will, or it is not my fault that I am wrong."

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Re: God is dying. Will he be dead?

Post by Papus79 » February 11th, 2020, 7:19 pm

gad-fly wrote:
February 11th, 2020, 12:56 pm
Nietzsche became the youngest ever to hold the chair of Classical Philology at the University of Basel in 1869 at the age of 24. It would be very helpful if his concern can be quoted here, especially on what "alternative"? Would that be another God-like creature, woolly Almighty, or any replacement to suspend us in thin air during our state of helplessness?
I hear it paraphrased so often, I'll have to see if I can find an exact match. It clearly wouldn't be another god but rather something else that fills all of the same institutional functions, including all of the cultural dark-matter of the sort where we don't notice the effects of its absence until it's gone.
gad-fly wrote:
February 11th, 2020, 12:56 pm
I cannot see the relationship with "the God alternative" stronger in the 20th century than in earlier time. I would replace your "technology" with science. Bolshevik revolution and Great Leap Forward, like the Paris Commune, are political movements, not God-alternative, but Mao, Stalin, and some dictators are, to substitute religion by dogma or personality cult. Is that what you mean by 'one or the other"?
I meant the institutional loss of God and technology expediting the great communist and fascist revolutions and subsequent jailing and liquidation of people (it could indeed been just as much the technology to have and run death camps and gulags, perhaps not administratively possible much before the train and telegraph and perhaps might have existed sooner - it's just tough to tell because the death of God and those technological advancements came about roughly at the same time). For that last part its difficult to tell how much of this was technological enabling to do what people would have wanted to do anyway under such circumstances and how much of this was power and need, especially the need for the secular hero, filling the vacuum left by religion. AFAIK fascism is more of a reactionary state than something that floats on a particularly strong or cohesive core and it's often argued that it came up somewhere between economic collapses and the threat of said collapses popularizing communism, communism has a cohesive core so it would fit more into the substitute or potentially even 'Christian heresy' bucket (as some like to argue) in it's utopian view of the future through its own means.
People aren't fundamentally good or fundamentally bad, we're fundamentally trying to survive. It's the environment and culture which tells us what that's going to be.

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Re: God is dying. Will he be dead?

Post by Papus79 » February 11th, 2020, 7:28 pm

Papus79 wrote:
February 11th, 2020, 7:19 pm
I hear it paraphrased so often, I'll have to see if I can find an exact match.
Quick check of Google and an article unpacking some of the above in quotes - ie. that it's a good that the old-time theism is dying but not at the same time entirely without significant risks and cultural vulnerabilites:

https://bigthink.com/scotty-hendricks/w ... od-is-dead
People aren't fundamentally good or fundamentally bad, we're fundamentally trying to survive. It's the environment and culture which tells us what that's going to be.

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Re: God is dying. Will he be dead?

Post by Papus79 » February 11th, 2020, 8:04 pm

gad-fly wrote:
February 11th, 2020, 12:56 pm
I cannot see the relationship with "the God alternative" stronger in the 20th century than in earlier time. I would replace your "technology" with science. Bolshevik revolution and Great Leap Forward, like the Paris Commune, are political movements, not God-alternative, but Mao, Stalin, and some dictators are, to substitute religion by dogma or personality cult. Is that what you mean by 'one or the other"?
Also I just realized I might not have been as direct above as I wanted to be on this point - by God alternative I mean psychological and sociological back-fill, not literally another God although sometimes, such as with hero worship, you'll have aspects of that. That and - I'm not sold that politics is necessarily all that separable from religious behavior, especially when people *really* stake their whole meaning in life on it.
People aren't fundamentally good or fundamentally bad, we're fundamentally trying to survive. It's the environment and culture which tells us what that's going to be.

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Re: God is dying. Will he be dead?

Post by gad-fly » February 12th, 2020, 1:31 am

chewybrian wrote:
February 10th, 2020, 8:07 pm
About nine in 10 Americans believe in God -- or when given the option, say they either believe in God or are unsure about it. Either way, that leaves roughly 10% who say they do not believe in God.
https://news.gallup.com/poll/193271/ame ... e-god.aspx

You can see in the link that there is a small decline over the years, but 86% belief instead of 92% is hardly 'dead', if we are going to judge by people's belief. If God were a stock, he would still be trading at a good price. God has been largely eliminated from public places, but not from the minds and hearts of a lot of people.
Nietzsche traced his "God is Dead" statement to the Enlightenment. In addition, my lesser statement on "God is dying" can be traced to modern science solving many mysteries, like predicting volcanic eruption and fair weather. His and my statements are not solely based on statistic. As Mark Twain has said: There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.

I opine Twain is a bit over the top. Statistics deserves our due respect, but the downside is that it covers up the whole picture by numbers. Dichotomize on believer and non-believer would hide the intensity of belief which is equally important. You can also ask: how many of you go to Sunday church service, or how often do you pray, in order to gauge intensity. Take four persons, believing in God 80%. 30%, and 10% and 0%. The average is 120% divided by 4, which equals 30%. The average figure will support my statement that God is dying, but not yet dead at 0%.

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Re: God is dying. Will he be dead?

Post by Steve3007 » February 12th, 2020, 2:22 am

chewybrian wrote:There is no declaration withing U.S. law of a separation of church and state. This is only a paraphrasing from a letter by Thomas Jefferson where he says there should be a 'wall of separation'. What the constitution says is:...
Yes, so I've read before. That's why I mentioned "various imaginative interpretations". Interpretation of the US Constitution sometimes seems to resemble attempted interpretations of fragments of an ancient religious text. Things are read into it which presumably weren't originally intended.
Actually, it is incredible how many important rights they laid down in so few words. The Obama health care bill was about 10 phone books thick...
So I suppose a question would be: Which is worse? Too much detail or too little? It's a problem I sometimes wrestle with on this forum.

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Re: God is dying. Will he be dead?

Post by Steve3007 » February 12th, 2020, 3:11 am

gad-fly wrote:Perhaps we are all prisoners of our own devise, as sung in “Hotel California”. We can check out any time, but we can never leave. We are welcomed to this lovely place, and indeed it is such a lovely place. This begs the last question: We may sing about it, but why would we ask?
We stab it with our steely knives but we just can't kill the beast.

Sorry. Marginally wrong topic.

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Re: God is dying. Will he be dead?

Post by gad-fly » February 12th, 2020, 3:30 pm

Steve3007 wrote:
February 12th, 2020, 3:11 am

We stab it with our steely knives but we just can't kill the beast.

Sorry. Marginally wrong topic.
I cannot see anything marginally wrong with the topic of God dying or dead, when you mentioned "we can't kill the beast." It is a very relevant quotation from 'Hotel California' which I have missed. The term 'beast' is metaphorical, which may be taken by some to be offensive.

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Re: God is dying. Will he be dead?

Post by Cats » February 13th, 2020, 1:19 am

God gets a bad rap and, as mentioned, there's plenty of reason to be concerned about the sort of things people tend to fill that void with.

It's hard to know what's going to happen as western thought continues to evolve without God. I was raised secular but I can imagine that God historically pushed thought towards a more cosmic perspective & tethered our massive, growing nations together. We are barely past the tail end of Judeo-Christian hegemony so those principles are still ingrained into our systems of thought and justice, but we like to arrogantly dismantle traditions we can't immediately contextualize into modern society. What are we striving towards as a species other than technologic & economic progress & where does that progress take us without the parental supervision of God? I try not to think about it because it genuinely worries me and I think it tends to worry most people on an unconscious level if you pay attention to the visions many science fiction writers have of the future. Modern art & culture has arguably deteriorated in comparison to the ambition and aesthetics of religiously motivated societies.

The decline of God brought existentialism & people can willingly identify meaning within their own lives but I know far more people who choose consumerism/hedonism/tribalism compared to the short list of people I know who live by unshakable moral codes & a sense of purpose. It's extremely difficult to decide and stick to a path in life when there's so many temptations and motivations to deviate when things become challenging. Many of us have weak wills or never reflect on what we idolize/attribute significance to. God has been of the greatest service to those who were incapable of guiding themselves, and without God those people (the majority of us) are easily manipulated by misguided ideals like utopianism/fascism (like @Papus79 was saying?).

I wouldn't advocate a return to religious thinking--I don't think this is a behavior we have much collective control over. I imagine God was an evolutionary necessity at some point and it's interesting to think about whether it has a role for us in some vision of the future. There's an interesting famous science fiction book loosely based around this idea called A Canticle for Leibowitz. Dostoyevsky also wrote a short poem called the Grand Inquisitor within The Brothers Karamazov which would add an interesting angle to this conversation but maybe that deserves its own thread

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Re: God is dying. Will he be dead?

Post by gad-fly » February 15th, 2020, 12:54 am

Cats wrote:
February 13th, 2020, 1:19 am

The decline of God brought existentialism & people can willingly identify meaning within their own lives but I know far more people who choose consumerism/hedonism/tribalism compared to the short list of people I know who live by unshakable moral codes & a sense of purpose. God has been of the greatest service to those who were incapable of guiding themselves.

I imagine God was an evolutionary necessity at some point and it's interesting to think about whether it has a role for us in some vision of the future.
The decline of God is another way of saying that God is dying. This dying process would serve well if it can bring people to identify meaning within their own lives. Consumerism/hedonism/tribalism living alongside with strong moral discipline/purpose should b welcomed in a diverse civilization.

I would modify your wording and I hope you will not mind. God has been and will continue to be our evolutionary necessity in the foreseeable future, but his role will diminish with time.

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Re: God is dying. Will he be dead?

Post by Cats » February 16th, 2020, 7:34 pm

gad-fly wrote:
February 15th, 2020, 12:54 am
The decline of God is another way of saying that God is dying. This dying process would serve well if it can bring people to identify meaning within their own lives.
Nietzsche wasn't just suggesting that God's role is declining but that the role of God is past the point of no return for most of Western civilization. There are certainly still people who hold onto their faith but modernity has irreversibly affected the hierarchical rank of religious faith in the collective order of our highest truths--thus God is not just dying but is dead. US politicians are still superficially religious but none of their actions reflect the sort of God-fearing behavior we could imagine experiencing or seeing from authority figures 200+ years ago.

And the perspective I'm taking (partially based on my limited understanding of Nietzsche) is that God's death has left the majority of us without an infallible ideal to pursue. We can admire and look up to the ideals of human accomplishments but we're clumsy in who we choose to respect and our heroes can let us down or deceive us. Whether we ever believed in God or religion, we are still weakly tethered together by the ethics and sense of purpose that religion provided us for so many centuries but as faith in tradition gets weaker we are latching onto ideologies that haven't been historically tested. So yes, the influence of God as an idea might still be guiding our evolutionary path but not for much longer.
gad-fly wrote:
February 15th, 2020, 12:54 am
Consumerism/hedonism/tribalism living alongside with strong moral discipline/purpose should b welcomed in a diverse civilization.
What makes you certain of that, does it feel to you like we're moving in a more enlightened direction? I'm not cynical about this but we've never in human history been so close to the edge of annihilation. Our survival instincts will help us course correct when things become catastrophic but I'm not at all convinced we're guiding ourselves to a stronger sense of virtue/moral strength. I think inevitably there will be more prophet-like characters revealing themselves to us as we continue to lose faith in our sense of direction. Thus Spoke Zarathustra is Nietzsche offering his critique of the naive paths most of us are subscribing to and offering Zarathustra as the prophet who preaches the next stage of human worship, and a reflection of a new human ideal, the ubermensch.

The closest person I've encountered who embodies that ideal is ultra-marathon runner David Goggins, but the self discipline and striving that he advocates and sets himself up as an example for are extremely difficult for people to stomach. Once again, maybe that should be its own thread.. I'm curious if anybody else has read Zarathustra or has an opinion about that sort of thing.

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