Questions and Remarks about the ‘God’ Issue

By | March 17, 2010

Were Moses and Mohammad referring to the same deity?

Was Jesus of the synoptic gospels referring to the same deity as Jesus of the Gospel by John? Were either one referring to the same God as Paul’s God?

What can we say about the deity of the Trinitarian Christianity? Do we have the same deity as that of Abraham?

Assuming that these questions present real issues, how could we ever resolve the issues?
Are there any criteria of identity? Aren’t we limited to the properties and relationships that theists assign to their specific deity? (i.e., Do we ever have any more than the putative properties and relationships which theists ascribe to their specific concepts of deity?)

[In actuality each group refers only to its own projection (of deity), to that which they imagine as having objective (transcendental) reality.]

God-talk: The assumption is that the name/description refers to a separate, independent entity.
[Surely this is a very questionable assumption.]

A second assumption is that different sets of name/description can refer to the same (one) entity.
[Here we have another very questionable proposition.]

In what sense do we have any grounds for claiming the term “God” refers to an objective entity? Show me how we canunderstand the assertion that two individuals refer to the same entity when they use the term “God”. Show me how we could ever evaluate such an assertion.

All understand the same thing by the use of the term “God”? Within a specific circle all may understand more or less the same thing. But nothing follows regarding the objective status of the referent. It is nothing more than a cultural concept that members of the culture apply in much-the-same-way. (The ‘culture’ may be a circle of theologians and philosophers.)

Outside our specific circle people understand very different things by the term “god.” When we take this into consideration the likelihood of reference to an objective entity is even less. Here the signs are undeniable that we’re dealing with a variety of cultural concepts.

The theist claims: “When I say “God” I refer to a real, objective entity. I’m not simply referring to a fiction of my imagination.” But without the appropriate faith, we only have his words that this is so.

Compare to this: When I say “Vu” I refer to a real, live person. I can take her by the hand and introduce her to you. You can see her, take her hand, and converse with her. You do not have to rely on my claim that Vu really exists.

Compare this to Don Quijote: “When I say “Dulcinea” I mean the purest, most virtuous, most beautiful woman in Spain.” But when Sancho Panza points to the object of Quijote’s affection, we know that Quijote suffers from delusions. Aldonza is no Dulcinea! “Dulcinea” existed only in his fevered imagination.

Try the same with the “G” term. When I say “G” I refer to a real, objective entity. But I cannot bring this entity before you and have you shake hands. I cannot fix it so that you can reach out and touch this entity. Even if I could arrange things so that you have a special experience of something (some entity?), there’s no way of verifying contact with the same entity. For the neutral observer who asks for evidence there’s nothing beyond the believer’s claim (faith, belief, arguments?) that ‘G’ exists. In other words, there’s no unambiguous way of establishing an objective referent for the term “G”.

We’re both reaching out in the thick fog and imagining that we touch the same object.

[With ‘G’ you have a special experience, a dream or vision and a concept, but no grounds for claiming an objective referent. Yet Sister Michelle prays to Him and claims that her prayers are answered, and that if you pray to Him you too will benefit.]

We could say that talk about “G” is just talk about a cultural concept. A prophet or holy person had a dream or a vision, and wrote certain things down. A group of people use the term “G” in such and such a way.

[We can work an analogy with numbers. Numbers do not exist as objective entities, although in mathematics we use them as if they were objective. Numbers are cultural concepts of a special kind. They cut across cultures and function much like objective entities. But unless one is a Platonist, one does not postulate numbers as objective entities existing in some mysterious realm.]

Those who do not play the theological game cannot make much sense of the assertion that ‘G’ does have an objective referent, that ‘G’ exists but in a spiritual realm outside the range of scientific investigation. “He does exist independently of our visions, dreams, doctrines and concepts, but in a land-far-far-away,” the believer seems to say.

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