February 2007

Everyone knows what you mean when you say God. It’s true that religions talk about different details of what God is like but these are technical things. The commentor was right when he said that you saying these different details meant different Gods was like saying different numbers of rabbit claws mean different definitions of rabbit. You are just being difficult to make your argument easier by avoiding the point.

I don’t think that’s the case at all. Let’s look at a non-God example to show you what I mean. You know who St. Nicholas is, right? If a bunch of people say “St. Nicholas,” are they all talking about the same person? I’d say, not necessarily. There’s the historical St. Nicholas. There’s the St. Nicholas that Catholics believe is responsible for certain miracles. And there’s the St. Nicholas who delivers presents on Christmas Eve. True, all of these people can be traced back to the historical person, but saying “I believe that there was a historical St. Nicholas” is not the same as saying, “I believe in Santa Claus.” And, for that matter, since some people say that Santa is “the spirit of giving” as opposed to an actual present giver, then we might be able to argue for a fourth definition.

We can give Jesus the same type of treatment. By “Jesus” do you mean a non-supernatural historical person, the offspring of God, God in human form, or a prophet of God? I’d say that these definitions are different enough that we should treat them as different people.

If you still think I’m being disingenuous, then ask yourself if all God-worshippers would agree with the following sentences:

Now, I’m not saying that these sentences all describe different gods, but I’m guessing that, for example, a Jewish person wouldn’t agree that “God is the being that came to Earth in the person of Jesus.”

It’s also possible that these sentences all describe the same being but that some of them got the details wrong. This would be like describing George Washington as the guy who chopped down the cherry tree. This is possible, but I’d say that if this is the case that people know so little about God that they might as well be talking about different people.

Let me give you an example of what I mean. Let’s say that a little boy disappears. Three psychics come forward and say that they know who took the little boy. Psychic #1 says it was a tall, dark man who killed the little boy. Psychic #2 says it was a member of a cult who has taken the boy away with him. Psychic #3 says that the boy has been abducted by a space alien. It’s true that all three psychics are talking about the same person — the person who abducted the little boy. But I’d say that the persons they have in mind when they think of the abductor are so different that, given these details, we cannot rationally call them the same person.

This is how I feel when people say that God is defined as “the creator of the universe” so everyone who talks about a creator is talking about the same person, no matter what the details.

Looking at the disappearance of the little boy again, what if it turns out that the boy had just run away, or had fallen into a well, or was taken by a group of people? Then the phrase “the person who abducted the little boy” doesn’t even identify a person, does it? That makes the people described by the psychics even more distinct. I think that, from here, you can see where I’d take the analogy with God.

Posted on February 15, 2007 at 8:04 pm by ideclare · Permalink
In: Defining god

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