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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gad-fly
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God is dying. Will he be dead?

Post by gad-fly » February 9th, 2020, 4:02 pm

“God is Dead.” is a widely-quoted statement by Friedrich Nietzsche to express his idea that the Enlightenment has eliminated the possibility of the existence of God. After Mark Twain’s obituary was mistakenly published, he sent a cable from London stating “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated”. Put the two together, and substitute Twain by God, we could have “The reports of God’s death are greatly exaggerated”, but for the sake that God has not cabled back from London. Once aroused by Nietzsche, debates and reports on God’s death have continued and are likely to continue into the foreseeable future.

I am not here to bury God, or to praise him. When we humans first emerged on Earth, God’s angry super-power is everywhere, in thunderstorm, solar eclipse, earthquake, and volcanic eruption. On the good side, we would show our genuine appreciation after a good harvest, with animal and sometimes even with human sacrifice. Not today, though. Some of us after winning the jackpot would not even say thank you, let alone donating to the church. It is apparent that God’s presence has been vastly reduced, from say over 50% to lower than 1%. From this historical perspective, it should be fair to suggest that he is dying.

Assuming that he can continue to die away, when will he be dead? It cannot be ruled out that he may outlive the human race. Or should we issue his dead certificate only when his presence is dropped to below 0.01%?

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Re: God is dying. Will he be dead?

Post by chewybrian » 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.
"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 Alias » February 11th, 2020, 1:48 am

gad-fly wrote:
February 9th, 2020, 4:02 pm
Assuming that he can continue to die away, when will he be dead?
Gods do not die. (except the ones whose job it is to die periodically, but they get resurrected) They are vanquished, banned and vilified, go underground, change their names and faces, metamorphose, meld with other gods, shrink, recede, lose their mojo, get betrayed, neglected and abandoned, fade into mythology, but they don't ever die.
It cannot be ruled out that he may outlive the human race.
The rats and possums show no interest. They'll inherit our skyscrapers and subway tunnels, but they have no use for our gods.
Or should we issue his dead certificate only when his presence is dropped to below 0.01%?
When he's ready, he'll commission Captain Hazelwood to tow him under an iceberg. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/218 ... ng_Jehovah

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Re: God is dying. Will he be dead?

Post by Steve3007 » February 11th, 2020, 7:47 am

“God is Dead.” is a widely-quoted statement by Friedrich Nietzsche to express his idea that the Enlightenment has eliminated the possibility of the existence of God...
I live in one of the most godless societies in the world (the UK), I don't believe in God and nobody in my immediate circle of family and friends does or ever has. I never have and it's never occurred to me to do so. You'd have to go back to my dead grandparents' generation to find that.

But I doubt whether the concept of God will ever die, so long as human psychology remains broadly the same. The idea of "eliminating the possibility of the existence of God" using something like Enlightenment values or Science or whatever misses the point. On this subject, people don't care about things like that. People will return to concepts like God or gods for all kinds of reasons that have nothing to do with what we rationally deem it possible to exist. Those reasons include a sense of community and belonging and a need for comfort when facing the aspects of life that are beyond their control. Obviously the ultimate example of that is our own mortality.

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Re: God is dying. Will he be dead?

Post by Steve3007 » 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.

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Re: God is dying. Will he be dead?

Post by Papus79 » February 11th, 2020, 8:40 am

Thinking of 'God' as an institution and frame of cultural function I think the complexity of the modern world is clearly forcing the issue relative to the old-time 'go to church' version of this. I think we'll always need social institutions in some way that help guide our telos as groups of people, aid our exchanges with each other, and having or at least taking aim at values that we share the mission or believe should be held as transcendent helps improve social connections and navigation. Clearly a very fine balance has to be struck between dogmatic assertions in a cultural group and no dedication at all, and I like a lot of Jonathan Haidt's references back to Emile Durkheim on what it is we're looking at when we contemplate a religion (by name or things that function identically).

If I remember correctly Nietzche's biggest concern was that we simply weren't cut out well for the task of coming up with a replacement for God and that we had thrust ourselves into a situation where we had no choice but to come up with an alternative. In a way the totalitarian ideologies and wars of the 20th century do seem like they had some relationship to that albeit technology seemed to have a near-equal hand as well and its tough to tell whether Bolschevik revolution, Mao's Great Leap Forward, etc. would have happened without one or the other.

If modern neoliberalism is telling us anything - we're willing to compete with each other for status, as destructively as needed if necessary, until we carry a structure right off a cliff and it seems like the more tense things get the more terrified people are of each other's opinions and judgments which just increases that velocity. Although it's not a comprehensive frame it does seem like Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft are an interesting set of slicers, religion seems like it's something of a hybrid of both albeit functioning more in the Gemeinschaft space and there is an interesting idea on the right, perhaps one of the more interesting critiques of neoliberalism and perhaps John Stuart Mill style liberalism in general, that it's fundamentally centrifugal (we do see that in the ways in which a functioning economy displaces the need for family) and that this state really isn't robust, probably for similar reasons that anarchism couldn't be - it can be an emergent condition in some places but as a baseline it would be a power vacuum and those always fill. My point in bringing all of that up though, we're always balancing centripetal and centrifugal forces in society and it does seem like religion has acted centripetally, as sort of an anti-erosion check in some senses, and we may need to very carefully figure out how we can re-architect some of that back in without having unnecessarily fraught interactions with people over personal beliefs about reality.
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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Terrapin Station
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Re: God is dying. Will he be dead?

Post by Terrapin Station » February 11th, 2020, 12:23 pm

gad-fly wrote:
February 9th, 2020, 4:02 pm
Assuming that he can continue to die away, when will he be dead?
Not soon enough for me to capitalize on the changes it would bring about.

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Re: God is dying. Will he be dead?

Post by gad-fly » February 11th, 2020, 12:56 pm

Papus79 wrote:
February 11th, 2020, 8:40 am

If I remember correctly Nietzche's biggest concern was that we simply weren't cut out well for the task of coming up with a replacement for God and that we had thrust ourselves into a situation where we had no choice but to come up with an alternative. In a way the totalitarian ideologies and wars of the 20th century do seem like they had some relationship to that albeit technology seemed to have a near-equal hand as well and its tough to tell whether Bolschevik revolution, Mao's Great Leap Forward, etc. would have happened without one or the other.
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 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"?

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Re: God is dying. Will he be dead?

Post by Steve3007 » February 11th, 2020, 1:07 pm

Terrapin Station wrote:Not soon enough for me to capitalize on the changes it would bring about.
I've noticed that you mention religion quite a lot, in more than just the context of what people conventionally see as religion. I understand that your main point is to say that people believe various things due to blind faith as opposed to evidence and reason. (Although it seems to me that that assertion is often ironically made without evidence or reason.) But do you think another reason why you do it is cultural? As another poster here pointed out a few posts back, belief in God in the US is apparently still very high; 90% or something. Way higher than the UK, for example. If you live in the US but are not religious, presumably you're almost completely surrounded by people who are? Do you think that has a tendency to make you see religion in everything?

Where I live this isn't such an issue. Almost nobody I know is religious. It's just not an issue.

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Re: God is dying. Will he be dead?

Post by Terrapin Station » February 11th, 2020, 1:30 pm

Steve3007 wrote:
February 11th, 2020, 1:07 pm
Terrapin Station wrote:Not soon enough for me to capitalize on the changes it would bring about.
I've noticed that you mention religion quite a lot, in more than just the context of what people conventionally see as religion. I understand that your main point is to say that people believe various things due to blind faith as opposed to evidence and reason. (Although it seems to me that that assertion is often ironically made without evidence or reason.) But do you think another reason why you do it is cultural? As another poster here pointed out a few posts back, belief in God in the US is apparently still very high; 90% or something. Way higher than the UK, for example. If you live in the US but are not religious, presumably you're almost completely surrounded by people who are? Do you think that has a tendency to make you see religion in everything?

Where I live this isn't such an issue. Almost nobody I know is religious. It's just not an issue.
I think that religious beliefs are insane (although understandable from an evolutionary perspective where we're trying to understand natural phenomena from a position of relative ignorance--but we should be long past that sort of ignorance by now*). But the bigger problem is that the beliefs are so prevalent that they're woven throughout our society, including that they've had a huge influence on laws and mores.

* A more frustrating problem, re why we're not past this sort of ignorance, is that over the last 20-25 years or so I've realized that religious beliefs are a merely a symptom of a common human psychological flaw to avoid clear thinking and instead "mysticize" ultimately incoherent narratives and then obsessively focus on them in a dogmatic manner. That creeps up in all sorts of arenas, including philosophy, including the sciences, and including the humanities more broadly (which is unfortunately reflected in a lot of current social trends including the social justice warrior movement).

I find it more frustrating than I used to, because as someone getting into my later years (I'm getting pretty close to 60), I no longer have hope that I'll be alive during a further intellectual "enlightenment" period--heck, it would have to arrive pretty quickly at this point for me to be able to enjoy it . . . which I naively hoped would happen when I was younger (exacerbated by catching the tail end of the hippie era while I was growing up). Socially, things have gotten worse instead of better in my opinion. Things have gone in the opposite direction of the way I had hoped they were going when I was young.

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Re: God is dying. Will he be dead?

Post by Steve3007 » February 11th, 2020, 1:37 pm

Terrapin Station wrote:But the bigger problem is that the beliefs are so prevalent that they're woven throughout our society, including that they've had a huge influence on laws and mores.
Who's society?

I remember when Tony Blair had recently become Prime Minister of the UK. He was a rare thing in British politics: openly religious. An interviewer once started to ask him a question about his faith and his spin doctor (Alistair Campbell) famously interjected and cut off the question by saying: "we don't do religion."

He was aware that showing signs of being religious doesn't play well with the electorate. The polar opposite appears to be the case in US politics. I've always thought it's an interesting contrast between two cultures that, in some other respects, are relatively similar.

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Re: God is dying. Will he be dead?

Post by Terrapin Station » February 11th, 2020, 1:41 pm

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. (There are some part of the world, under some political systems--namely communist governments that are/were officially atheist, where people haven't been very vocal about their religious beliefs, but that doesn't imply that the beliefs weren't there.)

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Re: God is dying. Will he be dead?

Post by Steve3007 » February 11th, 2020, 1:44 pm

Terrapin Station wrote:I think that religious beliefs are insane (although understandable from an evolutionary perspective where we're trying to understand natural phenomena from a position of relative ignorance--but we should be long past that sort of ignorance by now*).
What would you say to some old granny who doesn't have a clue what you're talking about when you refer to this evolutionary perspective, but who likes a sing song at her local church, and maybe a cup of tea with the vicar afterwards? Would you regard her as insane?

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Re: God is dying. Will he be dead?

Post by Steve3007 » 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?

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Re: God is dying. Will he be dead?

Post by Terrapin Station » February 11th, 2020, 1:49 pm

Steve3007 wrote:
February 11th, 2020, 1:37 pm
Terrapin Station wrote:But the bigger problem is that the beliefs are so prevalent that they're woven throughout our society, including that they've had a huge influence on laws and mores.
Who's society?

I remember when Tony Blair had recently become Prime Minister of the UK. He was a rare thing in British politics: openly religious. An interviewer once started to ask him a question about his faith and his spin doctor (Alistair Campbell) famously interjected and cut off the question by saying: "we don't do religion."

He was aware that showing signs of being religious doesn't play well with the electorate. The polar opposite appears to be the case in US politics. I've always thought it's an interesting contrast between two cultures that, in some other respects, are relatively similar.
For example, the only reason that polygamy is illegal anywhere is because of the influence of Judeo-Christian beliefs. Polygamy is still illegal in the UK. The UK still has blue laws (various restrictions on what types of businesses, what types of hours, etc. are allowed on Sundays in various jurisdictions). Until recently, the UK still had blasphemy laws, you have public solicitation (for prostitution) laws, etc.

All of that is heavily influenced by Judeo-Christian views.

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