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Definitions of ‘God’
Posted: 14 November 2007 01:04 PM   [ Ignore ]  
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“The single source of all awareness is called ‘Buddha’.”

Xiatang - China, circa 1150 A.D.

Philisophically speaking, your own definition of God.  Or, a famous quote that you agree with, etc.  For most atheists, does the word represent a mythological being, like Zeus, or a unicorn, or, do some atheists use the word to represent something ‘real’ - such as Xiatang’s definition of Buddha?

Example:  God - the single source of all awareness.

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Posted: 14 November 2007 05:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]  
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The vast majority of Americans use the word “God” to refer to a supernatural being that has consciousness. With that in mind, I see no point in using the word to refer to philosophical concepts that don’t involve such a being. Our language and culture don’t seem to allow room for such concepts.

When you say “single source of all awareness,” do you mean that literally or metaphorically?

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Posted: 14 November 2007 07:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]  
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God was invented to explain mystery. God is always invented to explain those things that you do not understand. Now, when you finally discover how something works, you get some laws which you’re taking away from God; you don’t need him anymore. But you need him for the other mysteries. So therefore you leave him to create the universe because we haven’t figured that out yet; you need him for understanding those things which you don’t believe the laws will explain, such as consciousness, or why you only live to a certain length of time — life and death — stuff like that. God is always associated with those things that you do not understand. Therefore I don’t think that the laws can be considered to be like God because they have been figured out.

— Richard Feynman, physicist

I don’t know if this is how I would define God, but I rather like it. I really like the ideao of God in the gaps, to use Dawkins’ phrase. It makes sense in some ways. God used to be so big. It was him who was responsible for the rain or punished us with earthquakes or made the entire world and was responsible for pretty sunsets. But now we know that the rain comes or doesn’t because of where the jet stream is; we know earthquakes spring from plate tectonics; we have a pretty good idea know how the world came to be, borne of stardust; and sunsets are pretty because of the angle of the sun’s rays and particals in the atmosphere.

I am nowhere near as eloquent as Feynman tonight…

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Posted: 14 November 2007 08:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]  
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“The essence of thought is dharmakaya, as is taught.
Nothing whatever but everything arises from it.
To this meditator who arises in unceasing play
Grant your blessings so that I realize the inseparability
  of samsara and nirvana.”

From the supplication to the Kagyu gurus

Another text states “its essence is empty, its nature is luminous.”

I like the word ‘God’ because there is no other way, in English, to express this living quality of emptiness and luminosity.

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Posted: 15 November 2007 06:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]  
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“God” is that, the existence of which theists affirm and atheists deny, but neither the affirmation nor the denial is true.

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Posted: 15 November 2007 08:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]  
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mahahaha - 15 November 2007 11:11 AM

neither the affirmation nor the denial is true.

I don’t understand your point. If one accepts the common definition of God as an actual being, then there are only two options - either God exists or God doesn’t exist.

If one defines God as a metaphor for some philosophical concept, the metaphorical definition rules out God being an actual being.

If one gives the name God to some personal spiritual experience, the experience is real but the cause might be a natural one instead of a supernatural one. With this last definition, we should emphasize that such experiences are subjective, falsifiable, non-verifiable, and non-repeatable, and thus don’t qualify as evidence for the supernatural.

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Posted: 15 November 2007 12:04 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]  
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unsmoked - 14 November 2007 06:04 PM

“The single source of all awareness is called ‘Buddha’.”

Xiatang - China, circa 1150 A.D.

Philisophically speaking, your own definition of God. 
——————————————————————————————————————
Not necessarily speaking philosophically, but it struck me that my definition of god changed over time, and philosophy, aka “the devil’s works,” is where I discovered Spinoza’s definition or concept of god to be more sensible. Spinoza thought of the universe as a fundamental unity, which can be called god or nature. This definition fit common sense better and it was a…let’s say, more plausible definition of god to replace the mormon, anthropomorphized zeus-like (a blue-robed, flowing white-bearded, finger-pointing old guy in the clouds) god of my childhood. I went from Spinoza to digging the buddha and notions of reincarnation. My personal definition has changed since then…afterall, imaginary concepts generate imaginary definitions. (As imaginary defintions go, “the single source of conscious awareness” would probably make god a specific gene.)
As an atheist, or infidel I think that the evidence shows that the books proclaimed to be written or inspired by god are in fact not. Not believing in any particular theism says nothing of the actual existence of a god or gods for that matter. It appears most likely, however, that god(s) exist(s) only as a concept in the minds of men (and women). If only all the people could define a concept of god they all agreed upon, that was free of religious dogma.
That said, being a flesh and blood mortal who has experienced copious amounts of existential dread, I have what I call useful delusions. My delusion is linked to Spinoza’s god as nature. All that exists, exists in the form of energy and matter. Energy and matter are in constant flux and flow—Heraclitus comes to mind: one never steps into the same river twice—energy into matter, matter into energy. IF, and this is a big if, consciousness is energy and energy can neither be created nor destroyed (unlike matter that goes through entropy), then when that energy (mind or soul) is no longer “married” to a specific form of matter (body), consciousness, as energy, moves on to a new form. I think all life is connected at the quantum level…a quantum interconnectedness as it were, no god(s) required…all just a part of the flux and flow of nature.
Now remember, this is just a philosophical delusion, or story I tell myself in order to live…I think it (with the awareness that it’s a delusion), I don’t believe it.

[ Edited: 15 November 2007 12:09 PM by isocratic infidel]
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Posted: 15 November 2007 12:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]  
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Carstonio - 14 November 2007 10:52 PM

The vast majority of Americans use the word “God” to refer to a supernatural being that has consciousness. With that in mind, I see no point in using the word to refer to philosophical concepts that don’t involve such a being. Our language and culture don’t seem to allow room for such concepts.

When you say “single source of all awareness,” do you mean that literally or metaphorically?

I mean it in the sense of ‘scientific poetry’, as when Walt Whitman wrote, “I believe a blade of grass is no less than the journeywork of the stars.”

In this American society you can be penalized in a number of ways for ‘not believing in God’, that is, for being an atheist.  It would be almost impossible to win an election, for example (unless you are running for office in the local Atheist Society), and many employers won’t hire you.  If there’s an unsolved crime in your vicinity, and you are a known atheist, you might find suspicion cast in your direction - a kind of ‘profiling’

Just the same, as Carstonio may be suggesting, if you tell people that you believe in God, meaning that you believe the ‘single source of all awareness’ is God, there is deception in this, since most people think of God as a supernatural, all-powerful, conscious entity - a kind of Santa Claus for adults.

Maybe it’s like if someone asks if you believe in fairies, and you say, “Yes,” because your definition of fairies is that they are moths and butterflies described by someone on LSD; then communication begins to break down.

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Posted: 15 November 2007 03:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]  
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Carstonio - 15 November 2007 01:23 PM
mahahaha - 15 November 2007 11:11 AM

neither the affirmation nor the denial is true.

I don’t understand your point. If one accepts the common definition of God as an actual being, then there are only two options - either God exists or God doesn’t exist.

If one defines God as a metaphor for some philosophical concept, the metaphorical definition rules out God being an actual being.

If one gives the name God to some personal spiritual experience, the experience is real but the cause might be a natural one instead of a supernatural one. With this last definition, we should emphasize that such experiences are subjective, falsifiable, non-verifiable, and non-repeatable, and thus don’t qualify as evidence for the supernatural.

The common definition has little relevance in this forum, as it is universally rejected as being naive, simplistic, and absurd (except for the Christian trolls, but they don’t count). cool smile

My point is that mystical traditions, such as Buddhism,  universally respond to the question of defining “God” with the reply “none of the above.”

Furthermore, Buddhism would reject the question as being pointless and unanswerable, because it really is impossible to define what is “Absolutely True,” which is what “defining God” boils down to.  Buddhism takes no position either way and would consider it a waste of time to dwell on the intellectual dialectic.

Yes, Buddhism would counsel you to meditate and practice,  and experience it for yourself.

Now, as far as experience and finding out for yourself, before you belittle that too harshly, think again. 

If, for example, you were a virgin and I told you that sex was a great experience, take my word for it, you would have three choices:

1) take my word for it;

2) label me a crackpot, decline to participate, and study it objectively and phenomenonologically, but not participate existentially; or

3) try it and experience it yourself. 

If you chose door no. 3, then I submit that what would happen to you would be 100% subjective and non-verifiable when looked at from the outside, but you wouldn’t have much trouble repeating it.  Or finding others to replicate it.  wink

And I agree, it would not be evidence for the supernatural, because that doesn’t exist either.

[ Edited: 15 November 2007 06:51 PM by mahahaha]
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Posted: 16 November 2007 02:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]  
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[ Edited: 07 March 2011 03:41 PM by J.C.]
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Posted: 16 November 2007 05:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]  
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mahahaha - 15 November 2007 08:13 PM

Furthermore, Buddhism would reject the question as being pointless and unanswerable, because it really is impossible to define what is “Absolutely True,” which is what “defining God” boils down to.  Buddhism takes no position either way and would consider it a waste of time to dwell on the intellectual dialectic.

While I deeply respect Buddhism for taking such an intellectually honest position, I’m no closer to understanding that religion. Any suggestions.

mahahaha - 15 November 2007 08:13 PM

If you chose door no. 3, then I submit that what would happen to you would be 100% subjective and non-verifiable when looked at from the outside, but you wouldn’t have much trouble repeating it.

I question that last phrase, since I didn’t lose my virginity until I was 29.

While your example is technically correct, it misses the larger point implied in your sentence below:

mahahaha - 15 November 2007 08:13 PM

And I agree, it would not be evidence for the supernatural, because that doesn’t exist either.

Believers are using subjective non-verifiable non-repeatable experiences to make claims about the universe. No one is using the sexual experience as evidence for the age of the universe or for the origin of species.

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Posted: 17 November 2007 01:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]  
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About a thousand years ago Zen master Xiatang said this about Buddha.  “‘Buddha’ is a temporary name for what cannot be seen when you look, what cannot be heard when you listen, whose place of origin and passing away cannot be found when you search.  It covers form and sound, pervades sky and earth, penetrates above and below.  There is no second view, no second person, no second thought.  It is everywhere, in everything, not something external.  This is why the single source of all awareness is called ‘Buddha.’” *

Maybe this is why Einstein commented, “The real nature of things we shall never understand - no, never, never.”
(Perhaps he meant that ‘the single source of all awareness’ can’t see itself.  There is no second thing for it to see - that is, the eye can’t see itself.)

* Quote from ‘ZEN ESSENCE - The Science of Freedom’ translated by Thomas Cleary.

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Posted: 18 November 2007 07:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]  
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Carstonio - 16 November 2007 10:49 PM

Believers

I am not a believer, per your definition.  Nor is unsmoked, who started this thread, who apparently is a Buddhist.  If you don’t understand the difference, I suggest that you should do a little research online; it is huge.

frankr is a believer; he thinks an imaginary being created the universe, who incarnated his only begotten son, Jesus Christ, into the world to save all of creation. 

One scientific refutation of the naive and simplistic notion of an historical, temporal Jesus saving “all” of creation is the concept of cosmological horizons:  since information cannot exceed the speed of light, there are events so distant in the past from our frame of reference that information of their existence has never reached us and never will.  Consequently, there will be events the future so distant from our frame of reference that information concerning the very existence of the earth and the person of Jesus will never be received.  Therefore, future creation cannot be saved.  Which renders a merely historical Jesus powerless to accomplish the premise, and thereby debunks the myth.

Neither Buddhism nor the mystical traditions of most religions (including Christianity) fall into the of error of personifying, anthropomorphizing, or even conceiving God.

are using subjective non-verifiable non-repeatable experiences to make claims about the universe

False.  Experience is not a “claim” about anything.  Claims are assertions about or interpretations of events.  Experience is an event: it is immediate and existential, prior to interpretation of or reflection on it.  Refection and interpretation are essential; they examine and explain using reason. 

The question is whether the interpretation is true or false, or calls into question the value, if any, of the experience.  To be sure, some claims are erroneous and other claims are not.  I agree 100% that claims that can be verified by scientific method are true, and that claims of supernatural, magic, fantastic, miraculous, etc. events, for which there is no verifiable evidence, are false.

The point I make, however, is that just because the truths which are verified by science and reason are true, that does not mean they are final, ultimate, or absolute.  There are many as yet unsolved, or even unsolvable, gaps and problems in physics:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unsolved_problems_in_physics

It is my philosophical opinion that all the gaps cannot ultimately be transversed by human reason, which only does and always will yield knowledge relative to the observer.  Relative knowledge may be true, but it is never The True. 

I reason that ultimately there is one “something” which is; that it is Absolute and inclusive in terms of substance (mind and matter), space and time, and yet not simply that ; that reason and knowledge as a matter of physics and philosophy cannot penetrate it (but are a part of it); and that ultimately every seeker of Truth with a capital T must, indeed, see and experience it for him/her self.

Experience is indeed subjective.  It is personal.  What it reveals might or might not be true and valid.  Only the individual knows for sure - or maybe not.  The maxim will always be: “Don’t take anybody’s word for it; go and find out for yourself.”

And good luck.

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Posted: 18 November 2007 08:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]  
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I answered this elsewhere but for some repetition is the key to knowledge. Christ became human to save humans. All of creation did not need saving. So your refutation is irrelevant. You remind me of biology teachers who insist on using the peppered moths to prove evolution. The experiment has been refuted but it just demonstrates the point so well that it should be true. So to repeat all creation did not need salvation, but in fact is good. Man was created good and fell. He needed salvation; ergo, the incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection. I know this hurts and the myth is not easily debunked as you originally thought, but I am sure the facts will not keep you from using you simplistic anti-proof again.

Also I do not beleive in an imaginary God. To do so would make no sense and be a lesson in nonsense. I believe in a real God that you deem imaginary. Careful how you use words mahahaha. They matter.

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Posted: 18 November 2007 03:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]  
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frankr - 18 November 2007 01:59 PM

I answered this elsewhere but for some repetition is the key to knowledge. Christ became human to save humans. All of creation did not need saving. So your refutation is irrelevant. You remind me of biology teachers who insist on using the peppered moths to prove evolution. The experiment has been refuted but it just demonstrates the point so well that it should be true. So to repeat all creation did not need salvation, but in fact is good. Man was created good and fell. He needed salvation; ergo, the incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection. I know this hurts and the myth is not easily debunked as you originally thought, but I am sure the facts will not keep you from using you simplistic anti-proof again.

Oh great.  Our resident Catholic theologian has co-opted another thread. 

So sorry to misstate and misunderstand the mythology and dogma of your church - it was presumptuous of me.  Sort of like asking you to debunk Buddhism.

I guess I was led astray by googling “Christ King of the Universe” and reading some of the hits relating to Catholic dogma.  I figured, “Some King.  His historical reality as a human being on this planet is finite inasmuch as the information concerning his birth and death, as a matter of scientific fact, will never be received - will never exist - in the entirety of space time.”

As I get it, “God” is supposed to be synonymous with infinity, eternity and all that.

But, as I say, far be it from me to make any sense of the popular dogmas of Catholicism in particular or Christianity in general.

Also I do not beleive in an imaginary God. To do so would make no sense and be a lesson in nonsense. I believe in a real God that you deem imaginary.

This thread is about definitions of God. The statement “I believe in a real God” begs the question.

What is your definition?

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Posted: 18 November 2007 05:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]  
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I really don’t get sarcasm. God is infinite and eternal and all that. The incarnation is about Him crossing that chasm to the finite. So your complaint can be summed up by saying Christianity is ridiculous because God enters the finite world as a finite being. The Christian answers by saying yeah, he did.

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