Author Topic: impersonal gods  (Read 565 times)

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Offline nebula

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impersonal gods
« on: July 12, 2013, 09:45:22 PM »
Here at the bottom of this post I have included links for two different Wikipedia articles.   The first is about the idea of a personal god and the second is about the impersonal god.

In the personal god article, you get the sense that some of the people who think in terms of a personal god are only using it as a metaphor or analogy for an impersonal god because personal gods are easier to understand.   

What are your views on the idea of an impersonal god; do you believe in one?   Why or why not?   

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Personal_god

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Absolute_%28philosophy%29

Offline Azdgari

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Re: impersonal gods
« Reply #1 on: July 12, 2013, 11:37:08 PM »
If it's not personal - ie., not a conscious entity - then why call it "God" in the first place?[1]
 1. Aside from gaining social points with religious people, I mean.
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Offline nebula

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Re: impersonal gods
« Reply #2 on: July 13, 2013, 07:44:01 AM »
If it's not personal - ie., not a conscious entity - then why call it "God" in the first place?[1]
 1. Aside from gaining social points with religious people, I mean.

"Personal god" isn't a redundant adjective+noun pair as these are:

http://typewell.com/ContinuingEd/ReducingRedundancy/ReducingAdjNounPractice.pdf

"God" is just the ground of all being, whether that ground is personal or impersonal.  It doesn't denote a ground with human characteristics.   If it did then "impersonal god" would be a contradictory, nonsensical phrase.   But this isn't the case.   It's a valid phrase in the english language.

impersonal [?m?p??s?n?l]
adj
1. without reference to any individual person; objective an impersonal assessment
2. devoid of human warmth or sympathy; cold an impersonal manner
3. not having human characteristics an impersonal God

http://www.thefreedictionary.com/impersonal

Offline junebug72

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Re: impersonal gods
« Reply #3 on: July 13, 2013, 07:46:21 AM »
If I believe God communicates with each of us through our conscience does that mean I believe in a personal God?

Belief in a cruel God makes a cruel man.
Thomas Paine

Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/t/thomas_paine.html#XXwlhVIMq06zWg2d.99

Offline nebula

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Re: impersonal gods
« Reply #4 on: July 13, 2013, 07:48:32 AM »
If I believe God communicates with each of us through our conscience does that mean I believe in a personal God?

Yes. 

Offline junebug72

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Re: impersonal gods
« Reply #5 on: July 13, 2013, 07:51:22 AM »
If I believe God communicates with each of us through our conscience does that mean I believe in a personal God?

Yes.

Will you share your POV please.
Belief in a cruel God makes a cruel man.
Thomas Paine

Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/t/thomas_paine.html#XXwlhVIMq06zWg2d.99

Offline nebula

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Re: impersonal gods
« Reply #6 on: July 13, 2013, 08:06:58 AM »
Will you share your POV please.

It's the first sentence in the personal god article:

"A personal god is a deity who can be related to as a person[1] instead of as an "impersonal force", such as the Absolute, "the All", or the "Ground of Being"."

If it is communicating with you, you are relating to it as a person.   For example, you don't think of energy or biological life as communicating with you.   The only things that communicate with you are persons, such as a human or a cat.   
« Last Edit: July 13, 2013, 08:12:56 AM by nebula »

Offline nebula

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Re: impersonal gods
« Reply #7 on: July 13, 2013, 08:18:58 AM »
I guess it's the difference between being itself (impersonal) and a being (personal).
« Last Edit: July 13, 2013, 08:23:00 AM by nebula »

Offline ParkingPlaces

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Re: impersonal gods
« Reply #8 on: July 13, 2013, 09:17:31 AM »
Sadly, I can't get into this too much today because I have to work. I do have time for this though:

Do I believe in a personal god? Certainly not.

An impersonal god? Well, luckily, if there is an impersonal god, it is not demanding my faith, my belief. And if there isn't, I won't be able to tell the difference. So until some sort of proof (which should be available, because an impersonal god wouldn't deliberately be playing hide and seek) shows up, I am going to say no.

I am not one to ascribe human constructs such as god-like status to everything that moves. Including the universe. If, via the laws of physics at the time, our universe poofed or otherwise came into existence, and it was entirely physical, devoid of any sort of intelligence and we are merely the result of various forces at play, I'm not in the mood to get all excited about it and worship helium or something. That, to me, is an impractical practice that has nothing to offer other than smug self-satisfaction. And I can get that just by driving past a McDonalds and not buying anything.

Not everyone is entitled to their own opinion. They're all entitled to mine though.

Offline nebula

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Re: impersonal gods
« Reply #9 on: July 13, 2013, 10:06:47 AM »
Sadly, I can't get into this too much today because I have to work. I do have time for this though:

Do I believe in a personal god? Certainly not.

An impersonal god? Well, luckily, if there is an impersonal god, it is not demanding my faith, my belief. And if there isn't, I won't be able to tell the difference. So until some sort of proof (which should be available, because an impersonal god wouldn't deliberately be playing hide and seek) shows up, I am going to say no.

I am not one to ascribe human constructs such as god-like status to everything that moves. Including the universe. If, via the laws of physics at the time, our universe poofed or otherwise came into existence, and it was entirely physical, devoid of any sort of intelligence and we are merely the result of various forces at play, I'm not in the mood to get all excited about it and worship helium or something. That, to me, is an impractical practice that has nothing to offer other than smug self-satisfaction. And I can get that just by driving past a McDonalds and not buying anything.

Is there any proof of being?   If so, do you believe it has a ground or basis?   If impersonal God is defined as "the ground of all being," do you believe in it?

Offline wheels5894

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Re: impersonal gods
« Reply #10 on: July 13, 2013, 10:41:37 AM »
I'm not sure I think the phrase 'ground of all being' really says anything much at all without importing some other content. 'Being' isn't really anything more that to say that, I, a person am here or that Mt Everest is there. Mountains and people are around the world but they share little in common, at least until the latter climb up the former of course! So whilst the phrase sounds nice enough and gives a feeling of something that has been thought through, I rather think it is more like a cover for some ideas that don't really make it in logic or evidence.

However, to sun with it for a while, the energy that produced me, that heats my house, that flies aeroplanes around the world - all that energy comes from the sun which even spawned the material that makes our planet. On that basis, the sun is the 'ground of all being' so some religions had it right at least.

There again, that sun wasn't always where it is. Do we go back to the Milky Way, our own galaxy? Or back to the cloud that formed it? None of these are absolute. No, the only true 'ground of our being' was infinitely small and infinitely dense - yes, the mass that formed the basis for the Big Bang nearly 14 Billion years ago. the only small snag is that, as an absolute, it isn't much use as it dispersed and we all have a spark of it inside us - the spark of the absolute, Plotinus was, perhaps, right on that one.

Yet we are not there really because how did the Big Bang come about ... oh dear, let's leave that one before we spend 'the rest of eternity' (one of the more annoying phrases I hear form people sometimes) trying to get to the bottom of this one.

To conclude, handy philosophical phrases that run off the tongue are not any use to real people unless or until we know if there is any real meaning in them and that they relate to some that actually exists. Until then, who'd like to work out how many angels can stand on a  pin head?
No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such that its falshood would be more miraculous than the facts it endeavours to establish. (David Hume)

Offline nebula

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Re: impersonal gods
« Reply #11 on: July 13, 2013, 01:21:46 PM »
I'm not sure I think the phrase 'ground of all being' really says anything much at all without importing some other content.

Being is another word for existence.   And ground is another word for basis.    So to rephrase the question, do you believe there is a basis for all existence? 

Examples of what would fall under the category of existence would be things like a singularity, or whatever caused the singularity, or whatever caused that etc.   

Offline nebula

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Re: impersonal gods
« Reply #12 on: July 13, 2013, 02:02:33 PM »
Actually, lets just bypass any discussion of the cosmological argument and assume the energy of singularity had no cause.   

In this case, the energy that was in the singularity and is now spread out all over the universe in various complex forms, such as human brains, is the basis of all existence.   So, do you believe in an impersonal God if it is defined as the basis of all existence? 

And I'm not asking if you are willing to 'worship' it or any such thing.   Only if you believe in an impersonal God that is defined this way.   It is a standard definition of 'impersonal God.' 

Offline wheels5894

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Re: impersonal gods
« Reply #13 on: July 13, 2013, 02:41:58 PM »
Ah, well, I'm not sure it makes sense to call impersonal energy 'god'. I understand what you are saying, but the word god has far to many connotations and too much meaning to describe just am (unimaginably large) pile of energy. I'd want a different word for it I think
No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such that its falshood would be more miraculous than the facts it endeavours to establish. (David Hume)

Offline ParkingPlaces

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Re: impersonal gods
« Reply #14 on: July 13, 2013, 07:23:34 PM »
Sadly, I can't get into this too much today because I have to work. I do have time for this though:

Do I believe in a personal god? Certainly not.

An impersonal god? Well, luckily, if there is an impersonal god, it is not demanding my faith, my belief. And if there isn't, I won't be able to tell the difference. So until some sort of proof (which should be available, because an impersonal god wouldn't deliberately be playing hide and seek) shows up, I am going to say no.

I am not one to ascribe human constructs such as god-like status to everything that moves. Including the universe. If, via the laws of physics at the time, our universe poofed or otherwise came into existence, and it was entirely physical, devoid of any sort of intelligence and we are merely the result of various forces at play, I'm not in the mood to get all excited about it and worship helium or something. That, to me, is an impractical practice that has nothing to offer other than smug self-satisfaction. And I can get that just by driving past a McDonalds and not buying anything.

Is there any proof of being?   If so, do you believe it has a ground or basis?   If impersonal God is defined as "the ground of all being," do you believe in it?

First of all, belief would be an irrelevant concept in this case. Religions use belief to help control their people and explain why their god isn't in the building. If there isn't a personal god involved, belief is not necessary.

It wouldn't matter what I believed in this case. I could run around my whole life not believing it to be true, and even if it was, it wouldn't make any difference. Many of the christians around here tell me I'm on my way to hell because I don't believe in their god. Not believing in an impersonal god would have no similar ramifications. I'd just be wrong.

Finally, it seems to me that you are hybridizing science and religion by trying to keep a god, albeit impersonal, in the picture as you reject the concept of personal gods. You are redefining things and then asking us to go along with your new definition. You are certainly free to redefine anything you want as long as nobody is getting hurt. But you need to keep in mind that words have meaning for a reason, and changing that meaning does not guarantee that you'll have a bunch of sheeple following you down your newly defined path.

We know far too little about the universe to get specific. Our ability to even just look at other worlds is in its infancy, and our efforts to understand the universe in general keep getting head-slapped by reality as we discover new and unpredicted phenomena. Almost every day. Between its size and complexity, we have to settle for a generic understanding of the universe that we know will look different next year than it does now.

And yes, that means there could be all sorts of gods out there, personal or impersonal. There could be vast civilizations playing games with out existence, everything out there could be a simulation, we could all be holograms, etc. We think we're on the right track, scientifically, but even then we acknowledge that we are babes in the woods right now. Still, I'm not in the mood to fill in the blanks with a cozy thought or two about impersonal gods, because I don't see the point.
Not everyone is entitled to their own opinion. They're all entitled to mine though.

Offline nebula

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Re: impersonal gods
« Reply #15 on: July 13, 2013, 08:02:47 PM »
Ah, well, I'm not sure it makes sense to call impersonal energy 'god'. I understand what you are saying, but the word god has far to many connotations and too much meaning to describe just am (unimaginably large) pile of energy. I'd want a different word for it I think

Would you want a different word in these cases?:

Genesis Device (from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn): a terraforming technology.

Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen song): a song about sex. 

From a political standpoint it makes loads of sense.   For example, want an atheist with respect to Yahweh to get nominated as a candidate for President of the USA?   No problem.   Consider the following exchange:

Reporter:   Do you believe in God?

Candidate:   Of course I do.  Of course I believe there is a basis for all existence.   How could there not be?

Reporter:   Oh…OK…well, damn. 

If you guys want change you have to learn how to F stuff up from the inside.   If you start now, eventually the word will connote impersonal energy and its association with Yahweh will become archaic.
« Last Edit: July 13, 2013, 08:39:46 PM by nebula »

Offline nebula

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Re: impersonal gods
« Reply #16 on: July 14, 2013, 01:26:05 AM »
If I believe God communicates with each of us through our conscience does that mean I believe in a personal God?

If it is communicating with you, you are relating to it as a person.   For example, you don't think of energy or biological life as communicating with you.   The only things that communicate with you are persons, such as a human or a cat.   
 

Actually, this can be considered in various ways.   For one thing, it depends on your metaphysical view and I know from your posts in the other thread that you're a metaphysical dualist, i.e. physicality is real and there is also another higher reality that is also real, as opposed to physicalism, that only the physical is real, or my view, idealism, that only the higher reality is real while this one is illusory.     

In the physicalism model and dualist models, when you feel physical pain it IS biology communicating with you, specifically, the community of cells that make up your body, even though we don't consider this 'communication' in the everyday sense.   Going higher up the chain in both of these models it is the energy of the singularity that is communicating with you when you burn your finger on a stove or something.   That's in absolute terms by way of energy > subatomic particles > lighter elements > stars > heavier elements > chemistry > biology > you.   In relative terms, it's just the cells of your body or neurophysiology that is communicating with 'you' (however the self is defined).     

In absolute terms within the physicalism model, your conscious is just the energy of the singularity's way of 'saying' (via biological evolution), "hey man, don't hurt this other part of me (another person), or don't hurt yourself with this destructive behavior you're engaging in.   You're giving me an inflammation here.   I need healing.   Do the right thing."   In relative terms in the physicalism model, your conscious is only the the cells of your body or neurophysiology communicating with you, just as with physical pain.         

I get the impression though, that you don't view the conscious as being a part of your biology.   It seems that you view the conscious as part of the spiritual side, while physical pain is part of physical side.   In that case it does seem to indicate a personal God, that is not synonymous with yourself, who is directly communicating with 'you,' an entity that is distinct from God.

In my view, God is neither impersonal nor personal, and both in both relative and absolute terms.   In relative terms, it is impersonal when considering the totality of the universe but personal when considering a specific part of that totality that we consider an individual being, such as a cat.   And in absolute terms, God is simply non-dual, so there can be no distinction between personal and impersonal.   
« Last Edit: July 14, 2013, 02:45:07 AM by nebula »