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How to Think about God
Here are the 4 pivotal (God) questions, as outlined by Adler (p. 497):
1) Does God exist?
2) What is God's nature?
3) Can we know God's existence and nature (independent of revelation and religious faith)?
4) What is God's relation to the world and to man?
Pivotal Question 1 -- Does God exist?
Adler doesn't effectively outline the 5 possible positions on this question -- so I will go ahead and provide those 5 possibilities for the reader ...
1) God exists, whether we can know it or not (hard theism).
2) God exists, and we can know it ... "somehow" (soft theism).
3) God's existence is ultimately unknowable, requiring a perpetual suspension of judgement on the matter (agnosticism).
4) The idea of God's existence is ultimately arbitrary and, therefore, not even worthy of a focus of our limited mental time and energy (soft atheism).
5) God doesn't exist, and this "proof of a negative" -- is knowable (hard atheism).
There are 5 (count them) ways to approach the question of whether God exists. They could be -- indeed, 'ought' to be -- aligned in a manner according to how reasonable they are (in relation to one another). But I'll leave this now as an exercise for the reader.
Pivotal Question 2 -- What is God's nature?
Adler (p. 498) outlines some alternatives regarding the nature of God. Polytheists who adopt a plurality -- for what it is that God is. Monotheists who adopt a singularity -- for what it is that God is. Trinitarians who adopt "three persons in the Godhead." And those who speak of an impersonal God vs. those who speak of a personal God.
He outlines the agnostic "who denies that we can know that God exists or what God is like." He also outlines Deism as a belief in a God that doesn't govern created existence anymore, as against theism, which "holds that God not only created the world but governs it from moment to moment ..." He remarks that theism also swallows the view that "God is in the world but also transcends it."
He outlines the position of the pantheist as such as "the world and God are coextensive, in a sense; God's whole being is in the world, the world itself the body of the Divine Being. It is here (p. 499) where Adler asks the wise question: "We must ask about God's nature before we ask about God's existence. We must have some meaning for the term God."
Now (p. 499), Adler outlines the 3 possible conceptions of God:
1) As totally unlike anything else that we know (where we can have no "conception" of God).
2) As essentially like all the things we know -- all the things in our experience (ie. finite, corporeal, mutable, and imperfect).
3) As both like and unlike all the things that we know (and here is where the Adlerian argument breaks down).
If it were to be accepted as true, that God is both like and unlike all the things that we know, then how would we be able to ascertain that which is 'God's will' from that which is, say, the will of the 'Devil'? This question is unanswerable. Not knowing how to differentiate the things we can know from the things that we can't -- there is no ascertainable way to differentiate the will of God from the will of the Devil. No mortal can perform this insurmountable feat.
Pivotal Question #3 -- Can we know God's existence and nature (independent of revelation and religious faith)?
Pivotal Question #4 -- What is God's relation to the world and to man?
God is an arbitrary concept -- not derivable from perception or reason. In a political sense, the concept of God is, orchestratively, utilitarian (think Marx: aka "the opium of the masses"). But in a principled sense (note the contradistinction of the political, with the principled!), God can only be a manipulative concept (there is NO other way that the concept of God can be viewed). An otherworldly dictum for a sacrifice here and now (for the sake of some ineffible future gain, in some unfathomable heavenly paradise).
Belief in a God without evidence -- requires (at least partial) paralyzation of an otherwise-active mind. A mind that works on evidence in a reasonable way. An active belief in God requires a rejection of the foundation of human consciousness (ie. a rejection of evidential reasoning, as the standard for truth).
The idea of God's existence is ultimately arbitrary and, therefore, not even worthy of a focus of our limited mental time and energy (soft atheism).
Adler, M.J. (2000) . How to Think about the Great Ideas. Chicago: Open Court.
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