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I believe that God is the greatest conceivable being, and I also came to believe

I believe that God is the greatest conceivable being, and I also came to believe again, having been a former agnostic, that He really exists. My question is regarding the responses of some atheists to some traditional arguments for God's existence, most especially to the design argument, that for these designs in nature, we should not remove the possibility of a finite god, an evil god, or many gods who designed our universe. I think all those opinions are false because being the greatest conceivable being God cannot be finite or evil and there cannot be two greatest conceivable beings. But I just wonder why should God be the greatest conceivable being. Is it not possible for there to be a God or gods who are finite and/or evil and leave it at that?

Stephen is right. We should distinguish the Design Argument from the Ontological Argument. Your question concerns neither. Your question is about the Problem of Evil, so called. How can a being who is all-good, all-powerful and all-knowing allow evil to exist? The simplest way to solve this problem is to deny one of these three propositions, and it is perfectly acceptable to deny the second: God's power is limited. This approach is taken by process theologians, who say that God is developing. For the typical process theologian, as for the Mormon, God cannot break the laws of nature, for example. The trouble with this solution is not that it does not work for the theist. The problem is that it does not work for the traditional Christian theist, and as far as I know also for the Jewish and Muslim theist. A god with limited powers is simply not recognizable as the Creator of the Universe, the Father Almighty, and so on. So the solution is logically acceptable, but theologically unacceptable.

Stephen is right. We should distinguish the Design Argument from the Ontological Argument. Your question concerns neither. Your question is about the Problem of Evil, so called. How can a being who is all-good, all-powerful and all-knowing allow evil to exist? The simplest way to solve this problem is to deny one of these three propositions, and it is perfectly acceptable to deny the second: God's power is limited. This approach is taken by process theologians, who say that God is developing . For the typical process theologian, as for the Mormon, God cannot break the laws of nature, for example. The trouble with this solution is not that it does not work for the theist. The problem is that it does not work for the traditional Christian theist, and as far as I know also for the Jewish and Muslim theist. A god with limited powers is simply not recognizable as the Creator of the Universe, the Father Almighty, and so on. So the solution is logically acceptable, but theologically unacceptable.

Hello philosophers , recently in a debate with Christians ,

Hello philosophers , recently in a debate with Christians , I made a point that if one claims a relationship with a God or being that can't be seen , heard or touched that they are suffering from a delusion; is this an unfair statement and if so why ?

Just to add a bit to what my fellow panelists have said (all of which seems right to me.)

Even if God can't be seen or heard or touched in ordinary sensory ways, many believers would claim that they have experiences of God. There's a vast literature on this topic, but one interesting recent contribution is by the anthropologist Tanya Luhrmann: her book When God Talks Back gives a detailed account of how some people, as they understand it, learn to experience God. You can read a brief synopsis HERE (Scroll way down if the page appears not to load properly.)

You might say that these people are mistaken, and you might (or might not) be right. You might say that they are deluded, but unless you simply mean "mistaken," the word "deluded" doesn't add anything. There's no reason to believe that such believers are mentally ill by any reasonable criterion.

As it happens, I'm not a theist. But over the years, I've come to the conclusion that many atheists have a mistaken picture of the religious lives of believers. This leads to a good deal of misunderstanding.

Unfair is a bit strong. But is it a good argument? Is your premise true? Your Christian friends could have replied that when they think about the number three, say, or any other abstract entity, they have a relationship with it. Yet one cannot see, hear, or touch such a thing. Nor does the other entity have to be abstract. One could reasonably claim to have in a conversation a relationship with another mind, but minds, even though they are concrete, "can't be seen, heard or touched", and people who make such claims are not suffering from a delusion.

An atheist friend and I (I am a theist) had a long series of discussions about

An atheist friend and I (I am a theist) had a long series of discussions about the existence of god, and his comments made quite an impression on me. I found what he said so stimulating, in fact, that I beagn to read more philosophy of religion to help me better understand the nature of the issues raised. One question, however, is a bit puzzling, and I have not read much about it, though I have seen it raised in atheist/theist debates about the existence of god. The issue is simply falsifiabilty: how can we know if some occurrence of anything is an act of god and therefore, say, the result of prayer, or the result or effect of natural processes? For example, if I pray for a sick relative and she recovers, I can say god healed her; but I can also rightly argue that medical science healed her; or, even more precisely, physicians using medical knowledge stabilized her body so that it could heal itself. I know many theists regularly thank god for certain acts (many of which they pray for) that could easily be...

Charles Taliaferro's reply is very helpful. For me the two things that have the most importance for your question are the Wittgensteinian approach, in which the one who wants evidence that the good that happens is, indeed, the result of prayer, is slipping in and then out of the way of the religious attitude to the world. When you have that attitude towards the world, you will not ask the question, or you cannot . . . This is similar to the approach given in John Wisdom's "Gods", in the parable of the gardener. The replies that were made to this piece are equally interesting. I also wonder why one wants to know whether an outcome is indeed the result of prayer. I personally do not have your question, though I am not sure why not, unless it is what I have said above, and so it occurs to me to ask whether the question itself might need a kind of justification, and, if so, what form it would take.

Charles Taliaferro's reply is very helpful. For me the two things that have the most importance for your question are the Wittgensteinian approach, in which the one who wants evidence that the good that happens is, indeed, the result of prayer, is slipping in and then out of the way of the religious attitude to the world. When you have that attitude towards the world, you will not ask the question, or you cannot . . . This is similar to the approach given in John Wisdom's "Gods", in the parable of the gardener. The replies that were made to this piece are equally interesting. I also wonder why one wants to know whether an outcome is indeed the result of prayer. I personally do not have your question, though I am not sure why not, unless it is what I have said above, and so it occurs to me to ask whether the question itself might need a kind of justification, and, if so, what form it would take.

I've just listened to a BBC radio discussion of the ontological argument. I'm

I've just listened to a BBC radio discussion of the ontological argument. I'm puzzled as to why the following objection was not even mentioned: - The concept of "something than which nothing greater can be conceived" necessarily includes the attributes of being all good and all powerful. Something all good and all powerful would not allow suffering. Suffering exists, therefore the concept cannot exist in reality. The counter-argument that suffering is part of God's plan for us to work out our own salvation only reinforces the original objection by admitting that God is not great enough to come up with a better plan. This argument is well known in philosophy in general, so why would it not be considered relevant to the validity of the ontological argument? God may still exist, but if He can't be all good and all powerful, the ontological argument for His existence is a non-starter. I had the impression from the radio programme that the ontological argument is still entertained by some philosophers. How...

True confessions: like Charles, I accept the Ontological Argument. But it must be said that a response to the Argument based on "the problem of evil" is something of a mistake. The reason is that the problem of evil is a problem for all arguments for theism, and offers nothing specific for us to learn about the ontological argument, particularly its logic, which is where almost all the interesting issues are.

True confessions: like Charles, I accept the Ontological Argument. But it must be said that a response to the Argument based on "the problem of evil" is something of a mistake. The reason is that the problem of evil is a problem for all arguments for theism, and offers nothing specific for us to learn about the ontological argument, particularly its logic, which is where almost all the interesting issues are.

Hello Philosophers!

Hello Philosophers! Can anyone defend the Ontological Argument against Kant's criticism that existence is not a predicate?

Some random suggestions: (1) David Pears pointed out that even if Kant's argument were wholly clear and wholly successful, which it is not, it could only show that existence is not an ordinary predicate, if it is a predicate. His view is that it is a predicate, just a very peculiar one; (2) There is also the view of the celebrated logician, mathematician and philosopher Bolzano, who writes in the Theory of Science ("Kinds of Propositions") that 'I take being [Sein] or actuality [Wirklichkeit] to be precisely what language makes it out to be, namely an attribute; whoever denies this confuses (I believe) actuality with substance. By substance I mean an actuality which is not an attribute of another actuality; hence I admit that we cannot truly predicate the putative abstractum of the substance (substantiality) of any object. For it is part of the concept of substance that there is no property of this kind. But it is not the same with actuality, which I consider to be a mere attribute, not only of substance itself but of each of its attributes, since every attribute of an actual thing is itself actual. And since every attribute of an object can be ascribed to it in a judgment of the form 'A has b', why not the attribute of actuality?' (3) There is a related argument deriving from Russell's Theory of Descriptions in my own Philosophical Propositions, despite the fact that Russell himself took the implication of the theory to be that the ontological argument is no good; (4) There is a defence of a stripped-down version of the ontological argument by the late Gary Matthews and Lynn Baker Rudder in Analysis for 2010.

Some random suggestions: (1) David Pears pointed out that even if Kant's argument were wholly clear and wholly successful, which it is not, it could only show that existence is not an ordinary predicate, if it is a predicate. His view is that it is a predicate, just a very peculiar one; (2) There is also the view of the celebrated logician, mathematician and philosopher Bolzano, who writes in the Theory of Science ("Kinds of Propositions") that 'I take being [Sein] or actuality [ Wirklichkeit ] to be precisely what language makes it out to be, namely an attribute; whoever denies this confuses (I believe) actuality with substance. By substance I mean an actuality which is not an attribute of another actuality; hence I admit that we cannot truly predicate the putative abstractum of the substance (substantiality) of any object. For it is part of the concept of substance that there is no property of this kind. But it is not the same with actuality, which I consider to be a mere attribute, not...

Religious indoctrination involves very profound moral, emotional, and political

Religious indoctrination involves very profound moral, emotional, and political implications which are beyond the grasp of young children. Isn't it wrong to indoctrinate a child into a religious belief before they can knowledgeably consent to the implications of that belief system?

This is a profound and difficult philosophical question. I have toyed with the idea that it is wrong to teach children anything normative in the areas of politics and religion - at least they won't know enough to spoil dinner table conversation when they grow up. Seriously, I am not sure what the answer is, but I think that I would want to take my stand on a distinction between teaching by indoctrination and teaching by example. It is difficult to see that there could be an objection to people raising their children in a context in which the faith of the parents is evident. (But what happens when the child is to copy the parent in the recitation of the Nicene Creed? - "We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible . . ."?) And when it comes to explicit religious instruction, things can get sticky. As long as the transmission of the faith is restricted to example and reason, though, I think it is acceptable. When the method of transmission is authority and indoctrination, it is not, as I see it. Something destructive enters the picture.

This is a profound and difficult philosophical question. I have toyed with the idea that it is wrong to teach children anything normative in the areas of politics and religion - at least they won't know enough to spoil dinner table conversation when they grow up. Seriously, I am not sure what the answer is, but I think that I would want to take my stand on a distinction between teaching by indoctrination and teaching by example. It is difficult to see that there could be an objection to people raising their children in a context in which the faith of the parents is evident. (But what happens when the child is to copy the parent in the recitation of the Nicene Creed? - "We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of all things visible and invisible . . ."?) And when it comes to explicit religious instruction, things can get sticky. As long as the transmission of the faith is restricted to example and reason, though, I think it is acceptable. When the method of transmission is authority and...

I really don't understand what the big deal is with the apparent 'fine tuning'

I really don't understand what the big deal is with the apparent 'fine tuning' of the constants of the universe, or even if 'fine tuning' is even apparent! The conditions have to be just right for life to emerge, sure, but so what? Conditions have to be just right for many things in the universe to occur, but we don't always suspect an outside agent as responsible for setting them up that way just so they'll happen. Is this the final refuge of the 'god of the gaps' habit the humans tend to fall in to? I also don't get the need for a multiverse theory either. To me it's a bit like saying, because I rolled a six on a die there must be five others each rolling the other possible numbers in order to explain it. Okay, much bigger die....

let me add a bit more in favor of the argument here ... we do tend to believe that certain very improbable things do not occur by chance -- poker/slot machine analogies common -- if your friend gets five royal flushes in a row you'd almost certainly be pulling your piece on him -- the fine tuning argument suggests that the very same sort of very ordinary, accepted reasoning applies to the universe -- that the specific tuning of the various constants is so improbable, when all others are possible (no combination of which would lead to any foreseeable valuable universe, key point), that just as you respond to your poker friend you should respond to the universe: not likely to have occurred by chance (tho always, of coure, remotely possible) -- but still the fact it is remotely possible that your friend randomly drew 5 straight royal flushes would stop no one from reaching for their piece ....

i have a bit more about the argument in my book 'the god question' --

hope that helps!
Andrew

Right on the money! It is extremely improbable that with say four dice I shall roll four sixes (1/1296 against, if my arithmetic is right, and there are no biases.). But I have done it, with dice that otherwise showed no evidence of being biased. What does this show? Nothing at all! In particular, it does not show the existence of a dice controller who favours me - assuming more sixes are better than fewer. Suppose human life is extremely improbable. What does that show? Alas, again the answer is, absolutely nothing at all. The improbable sometimes happens, although, of course, not very often! We should thank heaven that it did!