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Subject: A short answer question to atheists rss

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Moshe Callen
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I suppose religious people can answer as well but please make a note of it if you are religious.

Imagine some hypothetical alien asks you for a thoroughly literal definition of what a god is or gods are; what would be your response if you answered the question at face value? Being an alien, he/she/it would not understand references to specific earth cultures. Of course, this alien doesn't know words like "supernatural" either if they are defined in terms of a god or gods etc.

EDIT:
A reply I made in another thread seems relevant here:
That reply wrote:
To be clear, I have no interest in playing, "Gotcha!" I am interested in what you mentally picture or otherwise associate with the notion of "god" and specifically what that concept signifies to you.
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An entity of great power imagined by people to explain why bad things happen to them or why it's OK for them to do bad things to other people.
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ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ/ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν./...
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kuhrusty wrote:
An entity of great power imagined by people to explain why bad things happen to them or why it's OK for them to do bad things to other people.

Interesting.
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"The significance of a person's life is determined by the story they believe themselves to be in." - Wendell Berry "If nothing lies beyond the pale of death, then nothing of value lies before it." - SMBC
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Thy mercy, my God, is the theme of my song, the joy of my heart and the boast of my tongue. Thy free grace alone, from the first to the last, has won my affection and bound my soul fast.
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Excellent question. Very interested in the responses.
 
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Totality.
 
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A non existent being created to help anthropomorphize as yet misunderstood natural forces.
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ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ/ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν./...
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Geosphere wrote:
Totality.

I don't know if that's literal, but it would certainly cause the alien to ask what you mean by it.
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Not easy, since it's a set-based definition. That is, I think my general sense of what a god is is based on god-concepts that people have actually believed. Thus, Trickster, Shiva, Odin, Yaweh are all gods, as different as they might seem.

But I would probably try something like this:

Quote:
A set of supernatural supernatural entities believed in by some humans but which I do not see any basis exist other than as concepts in people's minds. Generally far more powerful than humans and sometimes infinitely powerful. Generally connected in some way to part of the world or the human experience and sometimes viewed as the creator of some or all of it.
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Moshe Callen
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ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ/ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν./...
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μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος/ οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί᾽ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε᾽ ἔθηκε,/...
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Chad_Ellis wrote:
Not easy, since it's a set-based definition. That is, I think my general sense of what a god is is based on god-concepts that people have actually believed. Thus, Trickster, Shiva, Odin, Yaweh are all gods, as different as they might seem.

But I would probably try something like this:

Quote:
A set of supernatural supernatural entities believed in by some humans but which I do not see any basis exist other than as concepts in people's minds. Generally far more powerful than humans and sometimes infinitely powerful. Generally connected in some way to part of the world or the human experience and sometimes viewed as the creator of some or all of it.

As per the OP, "supernatural" seems to implicitly rely on concepts of a deity and so what would you literally mean by a "supernatural entity"?
 
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To be honest, I've always been skeptical that "supernatural" is actually a meaningful term so I'm hard-pressed to define it. I would probably state that at a minimum gods seemed to have abilities beyond those that can be explained by anything we know and that some god-concepts include unlimited power, e.g. the ability to make universes and life out of nothing, to exist outside of time and space, etc.
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ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ/ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν./...
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Chad_Ellis wrote:
To be honest, I've always been skeptical that "supernatural" is actually a meaningful term so I'm hard-pressed to define it. I would probably state that at a minimum gods seemed to have abilities beyond those that can be explained by anything we know and that some god-concepts include unlimited power, e.g. the ability to make universes and life out of nothing, to exist outside of time and space, etc.

That seems a reasonable definition.
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ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ/ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν./...
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pronoblem wrote:

So the cultural penchant for eating sugared cereals for breakfast in the US is literally a god? Fascinating.
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An anthropomorphic entity the illusory self of a human brain takes from its sociocultural environment to justify causes of personal actions and perceived phenomena.
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whac3 wrote:
So the cultural penchant for eating sugared cereals for breakfast in the US is literally a god? Fascinating.


No. That can easily be explained. The BBC did an excellent documentary on it called The Men Who Made Us Fat. I highly recommend it. But I can sum it up in three words: Capitalism, subsidies, and addiction.
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Simon Mueller wrote:
An anthropomorphic entity the illusory self of a human brain takes from its sociocultural environment to justify causes of personal actions and perceived phenomena.


This. I really couldn't have said it better myself.
 
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ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ/ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν./...
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verandi wrote:
Simon Mueller wrote:
An anthropomorphic entity the illusory self of a human brain takes from its sociocultural environment to justify causes of personal actions and perceived phenomena.


This. I really couldn't have said it better myself.

I suppose my confusion at the inherently pejorative definitions offered is that they do not seem literal. A literal definition would seem to me something where an atheist person might contend that a religious person does believe in the concept. Yet no religious person would accept a definition of a god which included loaded language like "illusory". So these responses seem to me to be editorializing and thereby, so far as I can see anyway, departing from strict literality.

I'm reminded of the Soviet era monolingual Russian dictionary I own and its definition of the Russian word for a god. Needless to say it is a diatribe which I painstakingly read when I got the dictionary in anticipation of improved Russian comprehension skills.
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whac3 wrote:
I suppose my confusion at the inherently pejorative definitions offered is that they do not seem literal. A literal definition would seem to me something where an atheist person might contend that a religious person does believe in the concept.


I don't think that's correct. For example, if I asked you to define "conspiracy theory" you would probably come up with a pejorative definition that implied that conspiracy theories are generally groundless and not to be believed. A person who believes in a conspiracy theory would probably reject your definition but that wouldn't mean that the definition wasn't accurate.

Alternately, a person with mental illness may converse with hallucinatory beings borne out of his or her imagination. If you were asked, "Who is Steve?" where Steve was such a character you might answer, "Steve is an imaginary person that Frank believes is his childhood friend." The fact that Frank wouldn't agree with your definition doesn't mean it's not literal or accurate.
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I believe in God. My Definition:

The concept of a higher power that allows for man to make rules for other men and have them followed, as we as mankind are not inclined to follow the dictates of others who are not close elder relations. (In this aspect I'd say I'm VERY close to the Jewish concept of G-d as viewed from an outside perspective)

In addition I would point that for many of us the notion of a place or state of being after our physical bodies die is mentally comforting, allowing for stress reduction. In addition One might speak to this deity about things that one would feel ashamed or afraid to speak to fellow humans about. The act of this discourse frequently has a cleansing or enlightening affect upon the actor which in turn goes back to the point of stress reduction as well as an artifact to aid in decision making.

In this instance God has power regardless of tangible proof of existence because he has an effect upon those who communicate with him, even if one were to assume the effect was entirely internalized on the part of the human, the effect is still there and so God still has power for that human.

I'd see how the alien was faring so far before continuing.
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whac3 wrote:
I suppose religious people can answer as well but please make a note of it if you are religious.

Imagine some hypothetical alien asks you for a thoroughly literal definition of what a god is or gods are; what would be your response if you answered the question at face value? Being an alien, he/she/it would not understand references to specific earth cultures. Of course, this alien doesn't know words like "supernatural" either if they are defined in terms of a god or gods etc.
[/q]

"A hypothetical being of significantly superior power to humanity that he/she/it would be able to subjugate or manipulate us to the degree that we choose to placate and appease it rather than risk its anger with us."

Back atcha, what's the reason for the inquiry?
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CapAp wrote:
whac3 wrote:
I suppose religious people can answer as well but please make a note of it if you are religious.

Imagine some hypothetical alien asks you for a thoroughly literal definition of what a god is or gods are; what would be your response if you answered the question at face value? Being an alien, he/she/it would not understand references to specific earth cultures. Of course, this alien doesn't know words like "supernatural" either if they are defined in terms of a god or gods etc.


"A hypothetical being of significantly superior power to humanity that he/she/it would be able to subjugate or manipulate us to the degree that we choose to placate and appease it rather than risk its anger with us."

Back atcha, what's the reason for the inquiry?

Curiosity.

It occurred to me that my concept of G-d is very different from a Christian one and both mine and the Christian one (well, as I understand it anyway) are both markedly different from the god-concept that was nearly universal among ancient pagans. One particular atheist poster I won't name said something that made it sound to me like he really was just rejecting the Christian notion of a god but that he might be open to others. (That's not what the poster intended but it came off that way.)

So I'm curious what various atheists think of when they think of "god" as a lexical concept. Most if not all categorically reject the notion of a deity or deities but I wondered what they'd mentally put in that category.
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Shadrach wrote:
I believe in God. My Definition:

The concept of a higher power that allows for man to make rules for other men and have them followed, as we as mankind are not inclined to follow the dictates of others who are not close elder relations. (In this aspect I'd say I'm VERY close to the Jewish concept of G-d as viewed from an outside perspective)

In addition I would point that for many of us the notion of a place or state of being after our physical bodies die is mentally comforting, allowing for stress reduction. In addition One might speak to this deity about things that one would feel ashamed or afraid to speak to fellow humans about. The act of this discourse frequently has a cleansing or enlightening affect upon the actor which in turn goes back to the point of stress reduction as well as an artifact to aid in decision making.

In this instance God has power regardless of tangible proof of existence because he has an effect upon those who communicate with him, even if one were to assume the effect was entirely internalized on the part of the human, the effect is still there and so God still has power for that human.

I'd see how the alien was faring so far before continuing.

Well, I'm confused.
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whac3 wrote:
Shadrach wrote:
I believe in God. My Definition:

The concept of a higher power that allows for man to make rules for other men and have them followed, as we as mankind are not inclined to follow the dictates of others who are not close elder relations. (In this aspect I'd say I'm VERY close to the Jewish concept of G-d as viewed from an outside perspective)

In addition I would point that for many of us the notion of a place or state of being after our physical bodies die is mentally comforting, allowing for stress reduction. In addition One might speak to this deity about things that one would feel ashamed or afraid to speak to fellow humans about. The act of this discourse frequently has a cleansing or enlightening affect upon the actor which in turn goes back to the point of stress reduction as well as an artifact to aid in decision making.

In this instance God has power regardless of tangible proof of existence because he has an effect upon those who communicate with him, even if one were to assume the effect was entirely internalized on the part of the human, the effect is still there and so God still has power for that human.

I'd see how the alien was faring so far before continuing.

Well, I'm confused.


About which part?
 
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whac3 wrote:
verandi wrote:
Simon Mueller wrote:
An anthropomorphic entity the illusory self of a human brain takes from its sociocultural environment to justify causes of personal actions and perceived phenomena.


This. I really couldn't have said it better myself.

I suppose my confusion at the inherently pejorative definitions offered is that they do not seem literal. A literal definition would seem to me something where an atheist person might contend that a religious person does believe in the concept. Yet no religious person would accept a definition of a god which included loaded language like "illusory". So these responses seem to me to be editorializing and thereby, so far as I can see anyway, departing from strict literality.

This sounds more like you want to know how atheists think non-atheists define God. Like, if we wanted to define schizophrenic delusions, we'd have to phrase it in a way acceptable to schizophrenics.

Is that what you want?
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Shadrach wrote:
whac3 wrote:
Shadrach wrote:
I believe in God. My Definition:

The concept of a higher power that allows for man to make rules for other men and have them followed, as we as mankind are not inclined to follow the dictates of others who are not close elder relations. (In this aspect I'd say I'm VERY close to the Jewish concept of G-d as viewed from an outside perspective)

In addition I would point that for many of us the notion of a place or state of being after our physical bodies die is mentally comforting, allowing for stress reduction. In addition One might speak to this deity about things that one would feel ashamed or afraid to speak to fellow humans about. The act of this discourse frequently has a cleansing or enlightening affect upon the actor which in turn goes back to the point of stress reduction as well as an artifact to aid in decision making.

In this instance God has power regardless of tangible proof of existence because he has an effect upon those who communicate with him, even if one were to assume the effect was entirely internalized on the part of the human, the effect is still there and so God still has power for that human.

I'd see how the alien was faring so far before continuing.

Well, I'm confused.


About which part?

You seem to be saying that G-d is just a concept made to convince other people to follow rules they wouldn't otherwise follow. To be blunt, you're saying you believe in a god but your definition of a god as a concept looks to be more cynical than that of any atheist who has responded so far!
 
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