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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Gertie
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Re: The "God exists" paradox

Post by Gertie » January 13th, 2020, 10:39 pm

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.
Well some people believe in a god which somehow transcends how we normally categorise Existence, that's what makes it a god.

Unless you're saying we know that the way we normally/scientifically categorise Existence is full and accurate, then rebutting their claim by saying this doesn't fit with how we normally/scientifically classify what counts as existing doesn't really work.

The real problem for people making such claims is how do they evidence their assertions that they have this special knowledge, which is not available to our usual agreed ways of testing claims.

At that point you can start picking apart their position, if you want, if it's evidence or reason based. If it's faith-based, or based in personal 'revelation', that's a personal thing, not really open to philosophical discussion.

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LuckyR
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Re: The "God exists" paradox

Post by LuckyR » January 14th, 2020, 3:44 am

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.
Here's an older definition: beings who are an order of magnitude smarter and/or stronger or more powerful than the smartest and strongest (most powerful) human. Show me the paradox, as whole societies believed in such gods for centuries.
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Steve3007
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Re: The "God exists" paradox

Post by Steve3007 » January 14th, 2020, 3:45 am

A mere 10 times stronger than Donald Trump doesn't sound massively impressive to me.

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Re: The "God exists" paradox

Post by Prof Bulani » January 14th, 2020, 4:51 am

Pattern-chaser wrote:
January 13th, 2020, 6:12 am
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.
Nobody who defines God in spiritual, metaphysical and "mysterious" terms is interested in the slightest in providing proof that God exists. They are interested in maintaining a belief, which is a different issue. The paradox arises when a God believer attempts to demonstrate logical proof for the existence of God. By doing so, they must strip away the non-falsifiable attributes of God, which invariably leaves them with a God they don't want to believe in, even if they could successfully prove the existence of that God.
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Prof Bulani
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Re: The "God exists" paradox

Post by Prof Bulani » January 14th, 2020, 5:08 am

Gertie wrote:
January 13th, 2020, 10:39 pm
Well some people believe in a god which somehow transcends how we normally categorise Existence, that's what makes it a god.
Consider this statement. Wouldn't this imply that "existence" means something different in the case of God that it means for things that "normally" exists? If God exists in a special category, why are we using the word "exists" for that category? Either God exists or God doesn't exist. To assume that God needs a special existence category means that God does not fit into the category of things that exists, which is the point being made here.
Unless you're saying we know that the way we normally/scientifically categorise Existence is full and accurate, then rebutting their claim by saying this doesn't fit with how we normally/scientifically classify what counts as existing doesn't really work.
I'm perfectly fine with expanding the category of things that exist to include "godlike" attributes. They now become part of the category, and not things unique to God. Ie, if it is possible for beings that exist to be creators of the universe, causeless, timeless, etc, then those are no longer special attributes of God, but must necessarily be category attributes of things that exist.
The real problem for people making such claims is how do they evidence their assertions that they have this special knowledge, which is not available to our usual agreed ways of testing claims.

At that point you can start picking apart their position, if you want, if it's evidence or reason based. If it's faith-based, or based in personal 'revelation', that's a personal thing, not really open to philosophical discussion.
Correct. And at this point a lack of evidence for a claim is a sufficient basis to reject that claim. But while this is a position most atheists seem content in, I have a problem with it, in that it doesn't definitively end the debate. (I made another thread on why does this debate continue to exist.) A rejection of a claim doesn't refute the claim. If the statement "God exists" is true, or false (and the examination of this statement must be either one or the other), then individual beliefs or disbeliefs are completely irrelevant.
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Re: The "God exists" paradox

Post by Prof Bulani » January 14th, 2020, 5:19 am

LuckyR wrote:
January 14th, 2020, 3:44 am
Here's an older definition: beings who are an order of magnitude smarter and/or stronger or more powerful than the smartest and strongest (most powerful) human. Show me the paradox, as whole societies believed in such gods for centuries.
Good. It is very much within the realm of the possible for beings who are an order of magnitude smarter and/or stronger or more powerful than the smartest and strongest (most powerful) human to exist. I would even argue that they quite likely to exist. There may be several planets throughout the universe where such beings exist. The existence of such beings, while not necessarily relevant on earth, is certainly not outside the realm of possibility. There would be no paradox in demonstrating that it is possible for such beings to exist. And since these beings, by this definition, are falsifiable, the only issue would be that of providing evidence to support the belief that they interact with earth.
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Steve3007
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Re: The "God exists" paradox

Post by Steve3007 » January 14th, 2020, 5:35 am

So instead of just 1 order of magnitude, we can imagine 2. Instead of 2 we can imagine 3. Instead of n we can imagine n+1. Can we allow the order of magnitude to tend towards infinity (as they say in the mathematics of such things as the Theory of Limits) and still be within the realm of the possible?

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Re: The "God exists" paradox

Post by h_k_s » January 14th, 2020, 7:20 am

Prof Bulani wrote:
January 14th, 2020, 5:19 am
LuckyR wrote:
January 14th, 2020, 3:44 am
Here's an older definition: beings who are an order of magnitude smarter and/or stronger or more powerful than the smartest and strongest (most powerful) human. Show me the paradox, as whole societies believed in such gods for centuries.
Good. It is very much within the realm of the possible for beings who are an order of magnitude smarter and/or stronger or more powerful than the smartest and strongest (most powerful) human to exist. I would even argue that they quite likely to exist. There may be several planets throughout the universe where such beings exist. The existence of such beings, while not necessarily relevant on earth, is certainly not outside the realm of possibility. There would be no paradox in demonstrating that it is possible for such beings to exist. And since these beings, by this definition, are falsifiable, the only issue would be that of providing evidence to support the belief that they interact with earth.
You keep asking for "evidence."

What if the Super-beings are just not interested in spending their time on you?

What if you don't mean anything to them?

What if you are useless to them? And so they do not bother with you? Isn't this a feasible and plausible counter-explanation?

Don't worry however, because there is quite likely and indisputably a hot house of Hell's BBQ Palace where you will be welcomed for your efforts at absurdity and futility. There you will by all indications be checked-in but you cannot check-out.

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Re: The "God exists" paradox

Post by Steve3007 » January 14th, 2020, 7:28 am

Welcome to the Hotel California.

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Re: The "God exists" paradox

Post by Prof Bulani » January 14th, 2020, 8:11 am

h_k_s wrote:
January 14th, 2020, 7:20 am
You keep asking for "evidence."

What if the Super-beings are just not interested in spending their time on you?

What if you don't mean anything to them?

What if you are useless to them? And so they do not bother with you? Isn't this a feasible and plausible counter-explanation?

Don't worry however, because there is quite likely and indisputably a hot house of Hell's BBQ Palace where you will be welcomed for your efforts at absurdity and futility. There you will by all indications be checked-in but you cannot check-out.
It's interesting that you seamlessly segued from hypothetical and rhetorical "what if" to "quite likely" to "indisputably". Do you see the problem here? "Quite likely" requires at least a rational basis. "Indisputably" requires evidence and proof. These aren't my qualifiers, but yours, as these are your statements. If your claims have no rational basis, they aren't "quite likely". If you provide no evidence or proof for your claim, it isn't "indisputable".
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Re: The "God exists" paradox

Post by Prof Bulani » January 14th, 2020, 8:27 am

Steve3007 wrote:
January 14th, 2020, 5:35 am
So instead of just 1 order of magnitude, we can imagine 2. Instead of 2 we can imagine 3. Instead of n we can imagine n+1. Can we allow the order of magnitude to tend towards infinity (as they say in the mathematics of such things as the Theory of Limits) and still be within the realm of the possible?
Other than mathematical limitations themselves, there should be no logical paradox here. Of course, there is the logical problem of trying to mathematically multiply a subjective quality like power or intelligence, since we do not have a unit of measure of these things. So scaling a subjective quality by a magnitude of x is meaningless in any logical context.
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Re: The "God exists" paradox

Post by Pattern-chaser » January 14th, 2020, 8:58 am

Prof Bulani wrote:
January 14th, 2020, 4:51 am
Nobody who defines God in spiritual, metaphysical and "mysterious" terms is interested in the slightest in providing proof that God exists.
No, it's often seen as a straw man, cast out by militant atheists (i.e. anti-theists). Misguided theists get caught in the trap by responding "Yes, of course God exists", and then the discussion deteriorates into nonsense, as we have all seen so often.
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Re: The "God exists" paradox

Post by Pattern-chaser » January 14th, 2020, 9:04 am

Prof Bulani wrote:
January 14th, 2020, 5:08 am
...Wouldn't this imply that "existence" means something different in the case of God that it means for things that "normally" exists?
Yes. See below.
Prof Bulani wrote:
January 14th, 2020, 5:08 am
If God exists in a special category, why are we using the word "exists" for that category?
Because we reuse words for any and all similar usages. So we use "exists" to refer to God, and to Donald Trump, knowing that we mean something just a little bit different in each case. It's just how we use words, and language.
Prof Bulani wrote:
January 14th, 2020, 5:08 am
Either God exists or God doesn't exist.
True but useless, and therefore pointless to state. You haven't clarified what existence means when applied to God (and maybe you can't, because maybe it's not possible? Maybe we are just too vague about who and what God is to ask such things?).
Prof Bulani wrote:
January 14th, 2020, 5:08 am
To assume that God needs a special existence category means that God does not fit into the category of things that exists, which is the point being made here.
Yes, when you get dragged into nonsense (not meant as an insult; I mean to refer to that which is not-sense, or not-sensible), odd things happen to you. 👻
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Re: The "God exists" paradox

Post by Pattern-chaser » January 14th, 2020, 9:14 am

Prof Bulani wrote:
January 14th, 2020, 5:08 am
If the statement "God exists" is true, or false (and the examination of this statement must be either one or the other)...
This is the core of misunderstanding. Pedantically and grammatically, the statement "God exists" must be true or false, as you say. But the vagueness of our intended meanings, to be carried by the words "God" and "exists", and whether this existence might refer to spiritual existence or spacetime-universe existence, combine to make the statement not only meaningless, but actually misleading and wrong. When we're discussing metaphysical matters, such as this one, it is no longer helpful to pepper our words with objectivism and scientific precision. These tools are not helpful in this particular arena.

And yes, before you even bother to write it, this does make it impossible to discuss such matters in an objective and scientific fashion. And because there are few meaningful and falsifiable questions that we could ask, there is no analysis, and no logical basis for reaching any conclusion. Not even dismissal of the matter(s) under discussion. And yet there are things we can learn from vague, metaphysical discussions, odd though that may seem. 😉
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Re: The "God exists" paradox

Post by Terrapin Station » January 14th, 2020, 9:44 am

Prof Bulani wrote:
January 13th, 2020, 8:21 pm
Your initial point was that God could exist if reality allowed for the attributes ascribed to God to exist.
What? No. My point is that it's ridiculous to claim that anyone is saying both (a) God exists, and (b) reality is such that the properties that God possesses do not occur (in reality).
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.
"It would be irrational . . . " is just a repeat of the claim that you're making. Again, you're not supporting that claim. Support the claim that properties that can occur can't (rationally) occur for only one being, or in only one instance. You can't just say that it can't be the case and leave it at that. Argue why it can't be the case.

As I said I'm an atheist, but I'm also a nominalist, and as a nominalist, I think that ALL properties that occur occur in only one case, because no two properties are actually identical.
Have you ever asked any theists what omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence means?
I'm sure I have at some point, but I've long known what they conventionally refer to, so it's been a long time.
Have you ever heard them clarify these terms in a way that is logically coherent? It never happens.
But whether it's logically coherent to you or I is irrelevant to the claim that THEY say the properties in question can't exist in reality.

For example, I think that the very idea of any sort of nonphysical existent is incoherent. But that doesn't allow me to say that folks who believe there are some nonphysical existents ALSO think that there can't be nonphysical existents in reality (just because I think the idea is incoherent). Obviously the person who believes there can be nonphysical existents doesn't think that the notion of them is incoherent.
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" . . .
The whole notion of that is stupid to even bother with in the first place, from both sides. It's not a problem that they can't prove something. Empirical claims are not provable PERIOD, and logical proofs hinge on the particular species and system of logic being used--they're only relevant to something we construct, insofar as we construct it. So a proof is a category error on the one hand and something that has some degree of arbitrariness to it on the other hand. It's not something to worry about when we're wondering what's the case ontologically.

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