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Is it possible to deify an object, perhaps a penguin? If so, what qualities and

Is it possible to deify an object, perhaps a penguin? If so, what qualities and/or properties would make it godlike? D.D.

In Chapter XII of Leviathan, Hobbes says that "there is almost nothing that has a name that has not been esteemed...in one place or another, a god or a devil....Men, women, a bird, a crocodile, a calf, a dog, a snake, an onion, a leek, [were] deified." Hobbes would probably say that somewhere, already, penguins have been deified. So it is certainly possible to deify a penguin.

The question is whether one would be justified in deifying a penguin. Hobbes--and most Christians--would say no, because only a being with all the attributes of the Christian God (omniscience, omnipotence, etc.) is justly worshipped, but no finite being has such attributes, and consequently, no finite being ought to be worshipped.

Perhaps other religious traditions would allow one to deify, and hence worship, a penguin. But I'm not familiar enough with other religious traditions to say.

I have located my personal spiritual 'conviction' within the domain of pantheism

I have located my personal spiritual 'conviction' within the domain of pantheism, but am dissatisfied with the general discussion for the absence of what is to me a fundamental premise. To consider oneself coextensive with the universe and the universe to be coextensive with God is not to depersonalize God at all. From 'my' perspective, this conciousness I call "I" is as a cell in the universal conciousness, as my body is a cell in the universal body. Where is the doctrine that supports this notion of divinity?

Problem with the Problem Of Evil

Problem with the Problem Of Evil I've read here a few references to the Problem Of Evil and it brings to mind a small philosophical statement which I hold dear - Beauty in all things. To use the Katrina example for sake of continuity, is it not a short term and narrow view to say people have suffered? Let's assume anybody who has died in the event is not suffering. Those left behind probably are suffering but ultimately their life and those of onlookers may be bettered because of the experience; they may continue to lead more fulfilled lives than what they otherwise may have appreciated. Happiness comes from within and is not determined by what we have, what we've lost, or what we've been through. I concede that beauty in all things is partly just a psychological state, but I also believe rationally that positives can be found in the seemingly most negative situations. We have all experienced this in life first hand. Btw: wonderful website, thanks to all who contribute.

The problem of human suffering is indeed an instance of the problem of evil: it's the problem of physical evil (as opposed to the problem of moral evil, or sin, which arises from the fact that God allows agents to make bad choices and commit immoral acts). It is not clear to me that theists do respond to the problem by denying the reality of human suffering. Indeed, early modern philosophers, such as Leibniz and Malebranche, who grapple with the problem, admit the reality of human suffering, but deny that God is responsible for it.

Leibniz, for example, argues that although God creates the world, he does not will that suffering takes place, but he rather wills the existence of the best possible world, a world that includes suffering, which he does not directly will, but merely permits. According to Leibniz, the suffering that takes place in this world is a necessary component of this world, the best possible world, which God creates because it is the best world.

Sometimes this point is put in terms of beauty. It is said that just as shadows contribute to an artwork, and dissonance helps set off a musical harmony, so too is suffering a necessary part of the perfection of the world. I find the analogy with art somewhat dubious. The point, however, is simply that the suffering in this world is a necessary component of this world, and therefore is not something that God chooses as such when He chooses to create the best possible world.

So Leibniz need not admit that such suffering, as such, is beautiful, and he can fully admit the reality of human suffering. Yet he can explain why suffering is compatible with God's existence, thereby justifying the ways of God to man.

The question is, however, whether such an explanation is satisfying. Is this world the best possible world? Leibniz offers arguments for this claim, but they have satisfied few philosophers.

If one is interested in looking at a contemporary response to the problem of human suffering, Marilyn McCord Adams has written a very interesting work on this topic, Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God.

I am born into a faith which has an overtly stated principle belief that it is

I am born into a faith which has an overtly stated principle belief that it is irrational to believe in the existence of a supernatural or a divine power/intelligence. Does that make it a rational or irrational religion? Since it is an organized and practiced religion, am I an atheist, agnostic or religious in the conventional sense. (Jainism and to some degree Buddhism have similar notions.)

As you note, there are plenty of religious people who are atheists, since there are large segments of Buddhism that do not posit the existence of a divine being. The identification of religious belief with belief in God, however, common in the United States and, perhaps, other western countries, is therefore deeply misleading and exclusionary. In the serious study of religion such an identification is not taken terribly seriously.

One might well go further and suggest that the emphasis upon "belief"in the popular understanding of religion in the west is itselfinappropriate. Much of the emphasis in religious studies nowadays is on "lived religion" or "lived faith", the idea being that what it is to be religious surfaces in not so much in what one says or even believes but in how one live's one's life.

Does it really matter if there is a God? And if you think so, why?

Does it really matter if there is a God? And if you think so, why?

I'm not sure I understand what people mean when they ask, in adecontextualized way, "whether something matters". It seems likewhether something matters to you depends on what your project or goal is at themoment. If you're doing your laundry, it matters that you've gotdetergent, whereas that doesn't really matter if what you're trying to do is prepare dinner. Are there projects for which God's existence does matter? Some people think that if you're reflecting on how one oughtto act, God's existence matters a whole lot. Elsewhere here,DavidBrink argues that that isn't so, that God's existence doesn'treally matter as far as moral issues are concerned. Still, it seemsthat there are projects relative to which it doesmatter whether God exists. For instance, if I'm striving to devote mylife to theservice of God, then it should matter a very great deal to me whether Godexists; it matters enormously, for if He doesn't exist then that projectsimply cannot be carried out.

Is faith in something intangible ultimately delusional?

Is faith in something intangible ultimately delusional?

Is this another way of asking whether belief in the existence of Godmust be irrational in light of God's intangibility? If so, I wouldanswer No. There are many things that I cannot touch in whoseexistence I believe. For instance, I believe in the existence of Mars,but I'll never touch it. You might think that's a bad example because,while I can't actually touch Mars, I could in principle touch it: intheory, I could build a space ship that will bring me to Mars. God, onthe other hand, seems to be something that I couldn't even in principletouch: according to many, God simply isn't located anywhere in thephysical universe. But don't we believe in the existence ofintangible things even in that stronger sense of "intangible"? Forinstance, most of us believe that the Equator exists, but it's nottangible (you can't trip over the Equator). Or, to take Richard's example, we all believe that the play A Comedy of Errorsexists, even though it can't be touched, ripped up, or burned. Orfinally, most of us think that numbers (like the number 8) existthough they don't seem to be at all located in the physical realm. Soif one is irrational to believe in God's existence, that's not becauseGodis something intangible.

Or perhaps you meant to be asking whether it's irrational to believe in an intangible God's existence on the basis of no evidence.If a person thinks the answer to that question is Yes, then God'sintangibility again seems irrelevant: that person would likewise holdthat it's irrational to believe in a tangible object's existence if one had no evidence at all for it. If there is irrationality here, its source is our lack of evidence and not the intangibility of the being that is believed to exist.

In a recent discussion with friends about the existence or nonexistence of God,

In a recent discussion with friends about the existence or nonexistence of God, it soon became apparent that there are very different definitions of "existence" being used, and that this seeming hair-splitting is unavoidable if one wants to make any meaningful statement about God's existence. For instance, the Eiffel Tower exists because it is made up of atoms, but no one claims God is made of atoms, so God clearly doesn't exist in the same way the Eiffel Tower does. France, on the other hand, exists as a collective understanding; that doesn't mean that France is a figment of people's imaginations, but it does mean that without people there would be no "France" in any meaningful sense. Many atheists would concede that God "exists" in this sense. But then in what sense does "information" exist? It seems to be a combination of material (which holds the information), and an intelligence (which interprets the information), but I'm not clear on this. I can't say with certainty in what sense concepts like ...

I wish I had something helpful to say about this, but I don't know if I do. We should, however, try to get a little clearer on what is at issue.

Let's consider something a little simpler, like plays. I think A Comedy of Errors exists. That is, I think there is such a thing as A Comedy of Errors. But that play isn't a physical thing. You can't tear it up, burn it, or spill your coffee on it, though you can tear up, burn, and soak printings of it. If one wants to say that A Comedy of Errors therefore doesn't exist in the same way that its printings do, I suppose that's all right. But that's not because there is some special sense of "exists" at work here. It's because a play is a very different sort of thing from a printing of one. I take it that the same is true of God. God (if God exists) isn't a physical object, so one wouldn't expect God to be made of atoms.

What is it that even atheists will concede about God? Let's look at what you say about France. If you are thinking of France as a country, with a political system and the like, then there is a very obvious sense in which there couldn't be such a thing unless there were some people (or other intelligent beings) around. You need people to have a political system. But that's very different from saying that France exists "as a collective understanding", if that is supposed to mean that France only exists because people think about it. We need to distinguish between our concept of France, which perhaps exists because and only because we think about France, and France itself, which could exist as a political entity even if people didn't have any concept of political entities. Consider a different case: Families and other social groups can exist only if there are organisms around to constitute them. But there were social groups, perhaps composed of gazelles, before anyone had any concept of a social group.

Once we make that distinction, we can see what atheists are and aren't conceding. They aren't conceding that God exists in any sense at all, even as a "collective understanding". What they are conceding is that we have a concept of God. And what's at issue is whether there is anything in reality that answers to that concept.

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