Saturday, September 16, 2006

XGH: My rebuttal

I feel so honored that the world famous XGH (formally known as GH) mentioned little me in one of his posts:

Reminds me of Spinoza (the blogger) who redefines God to mean existence and then claims he believes in God. Yeah sure, and Torah means ethics, Halachah means tradition, Sucah means a screened porch and Lulav is reallyÂ…errrÂ…what the heck is lulav? A kind of spiritual light saber I guess.


I don't think GH understands completely where I'm coming from. That's probably my fault since sometimes I'm not completely sure where I'm coming from myself.

GH seems to think that I'm just playing cute word games to avoid being called an atheist. But the that's not it at all. When I state my belief that Existence or Reality is God, I am not trying to pretend I believe in something I don't. My concept of God may differ from the majority, but I think that the common denominator of all definitions of the term "God" is the ultimate and greatest being. Because no other being is worthy of our worship. The only question is what exactly is the ultimate and greatest Being? My answer is that the totality of existence or realty is, in fact, the greatest possible being. All other concepts of God are simply not true because they don't fit this description.

The question then becomes how do I know existence is the greatest being? The answer is obvious. Let's try testing our theory out by picking a possible being that we might give the name "God" to. GH suggested a couple of choices in his post, I will choose one of them. I will start with his example of a hyper intelligent shade of blue from another dimension. Now let's ask ourselves if this hyper intelligent shade of blue is the greatest possible being. Well, if we postulate the existence of this other dimensional being then we must agree that it's part of existence otherwise it wouldn't exist. And if it's a part of existence then it can't be greater than existence itself. Hence we can conclude beyond any cause for doubt that it's not worthy of the name God. That's not to say that it doesn't exist and that it's not really groovy and worthy of admiration. It's just not worthy of the title God.

You can try this test out on any other conceivable being and you will see the same result. Therefore we conclude that the only being worthy of the name God is the totality of existence. QED

29 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

> GH seems to think that I'm just playing cute word games to avoid being called an atheist.

Same happened to the real Spinoza.

12:10 AM  
Blogger XGH said...

> The only question is what exactly is the ultimate and greatest Being? My answer is that the totality of existence or realty is, in fact, the greatest possible being. All other concepts of God are simply not true because they don't fit this description.

Nonsense. The ultimate being is one that includes the totality of existence and then some.

12:20 AM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

I don't think you can call it "God" unless it has some sort of intelligence and desires, however difficult they are to understand. Otherwise, what is the difference between "God" and "everything?"

12:34 AM  
Blogger B. Spinoza said...

>Same happened to the real Spinoza.

tell me about it. He got a raw deal too

1:08 AM  
Blogger B. Spinoza said...

XGH & JA,

My point was to say that if anything is worthy of being considered the ultimate being it is the total complete existence because everything is included in it and nothing can be conceived greater than it. Now, does God have a personality?

if God = ultimate being
and ultimate being is total existence
and total existence has no personality
then God has no personality

I guess the answer is no

1:21 AM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

Then it's not "God."

1:28 AM  
Blogger B. Spinoza said...

>Then it's not "God."

we can go around in circles all night, which would be hevel. So I will try to cut it short. It may not be "God" (according to your understanding of the word) but it is ultimate being, and therefore I think it should be the center of religious devotion (hence I called it God because that's the term usually used in western religion to describe the center of religious devotion). If you would rather use a different term, that is fine

1:45 AM  
Blogger B. Spinoza said...

The reason why it should be the center of our attention is because otherwise we will look at ourselves as the center, when in reality we are not

2:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

> He got a raw deal too

No, he earned it, as do you. Changing the definition of "God" to mean something other than what everyone else uses it for is clearly just a dodge to avoid being labeled an atheist. At least the real Spinoza had an excuse; in his day the word atheist was a slur that meant immoral. What's yours?

4:01 AM  
Blogger Irviner Chasid said...

Since when did the term "god" mean it has a personality?


Perhaps we should just use the hebrew terms.

elokim? it just means Powers.

YKVK? If it means anything at all it means Was, is, and will be.

Whats the personality stuff you are forcing Gd to have?

5:52 AM  
Blogger B. Spinoza said...

>Whats the personality stuff you are forcing Gd to have?

Irviner,

I agree with you completely. There are many varied ideas about God in our tradition. I believe Rambam explicitly says that God has no personality. Also Kabbalah really opens your eyes. I say in a book of Chabad Kabbalah that they understand the name YHVH to mean Havayah (which translates to Existence)

9:25 AM  
Blogger B. Spinoza said...

Anonymous,

I'm more interested in discussing what should be the proper center of our attention and religious devotion than discussing the pros and cons of using the term "atheism"

10:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course you would be.

12:38 PM  
Blogger B. Spinoza said...

>Of course you would be.

I don't get that. I'm more interested in ideas than debating terminology. I find that discussion a little boring.

I did write about this topic before. I don't know if I entirely agree with my old post, but you could read it if you like. Was Spinoza an Atheist

I've come more to terms with my conception of God as of late. By the way, Anonymous, what is your understanding of God. Can you give me a basic definition?

12:49 PM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

The reason why it should be the center of our attention is because otherwise we will look at ourselves as the center, when in reality we are not

Carl Sagan (the famous astronomer and atheist) would disagree that you need God for this. Pretty much the whole point of his book Pale Blue Dot was that we are not the center of the universe.

I agree with you completely. There are many varied ideas about God in our tradition. I believe Rambam explicitly says that God has no personality. Also Kabbalah really opens your eyes. I say in a book of Chabad Kabbalah that they understand the name YHVH to mean Havayah (which translates to Existence)

This is all silly. Either Orthodox Judaism believes that God dicated the Torah (or at LEAST the luchot) to Moshe or it doesn't. "Existence" doesn't dictate laws.

2:12 PM  
Blogger XGH said...

Spinoza, God needs a will, simple as that. If God is just existence and has no will, then it's not God. What does it mean for a God to have a will? I have no idea. But He needs one, or else He isn't.

5:01 PM  
Blogger B. Spinoza said...

>God needs a will, simple as that. If God is just existence and has no will, then it's not God.

OK, that's fair enough. I forgot one important aspect. God of religion, which is what we are discussing, is not only existence but existence personified. That's what people mean when they say "kavayochel" in reference to God.

So what do we mean when we say the Will of God? It just means what is true and good. What is truth? Truth is when an idea reflects reality/existence i.e. it reflects God which is what God would want if he had desires.

When a person gains access to truth through intuition without learning it from someone else and without even working it out through logical steps, it is said to be directly from God. By truth, I am primarily concerned with moral/ethical truth which relates to human happiness and well being and not scientific truth, because that is the focus of religion.

I am still working this all out. But I think it's a decent start.

5:31 PM  
Blogger Jewish Atheist said...

When a person gains access to truth through intuition without learning it from someone else and without even working it out through logical steps, it is said to be directly from God.

So when a person gains access to falsity through intuition (as in the often incorrect gut feeling one gets about statistical questions or exponential growth) would you say that it is directly from Satan?

Isn't it simpler to say that intuition is a combination of instincts and subconscious mental processes based on millions of years of evolution rather than some channelling of the divine?

6:52 PM  
Blogger B. Spinoza said...

JA,

>Carl Sagan (the famous astronomer and atheist) would disagree that you need God for this. Pretty much the whole point of his book Pale Blue Dot was that we are not the center of the universe.

I'm trying to create a rational Jewish theology not to put down other people. I think Judaism can help a person gain ethical insight and develop it in his/her life. That doesn't exclude other ways of doing it too.

>This is all silly. Either Orthodox Judaism believes that God dicated the Torah (or at LEAST the luchot) to Moshe or it doesn't. "Existence" doesn't dictate laws.

First off, I'm not even claiming to be discussing an "orthodox" theology. I wouldn't want to feel the wrath of Mis-nagid :)

obviously, Existence doesn't literally speak. Ethics is said to be 'divine' if it is true (reflects reality).

7:56 PM  
Blogger Orthoprax said...

Pantheism and atheism are only superficially similar. Though to the theist, who insists on anthropomorphizing God, they are equally heretical. They differ on some of the most basic ideas of metaphysics.

2:27 PM  
Blogger Irviner Chasid said...

So when a person gains access to falsity through intuition (as in the often incorrect gut feeling one gets about statistical questions or exponential growth) would you say that it is directly from Satan?

Isn't it simpler to say that intuition is a combination of instincts and subconscious mental processes based on millions of years of evolution rather than some channelling of the divine?


Not really.

If your gut feeling is wrong, than that means your perceptions are not intuned with Gd enough. It doesn't mean that it comes from some source other than Gd.

You are forcing concepts that are not necessary.

4:49 PM  
Blogger B. Spinoza said...

Orthoprax,

>They differ on some of the most basic ideas of metaphysics.

Care to expound on this? I'd like to hear more of what you have to say

9:24 PM  
Blogger Orthoprax said...

Spinoza,

Sure. The major difference lies in the appreciation for existence. What is existence really? Is it some random backdrop to which we find ourselves in or is an integral part of who and what we are?

Pantheists are generally philosophical Monists, everything is 'one thing' and all comes from the same source. All things within the universe are interconnected.

Pantheists may also believe that there is value external to human judgement for things like morals and aesthetics. That these are not human constructions but that they are human fulfillments and recognitions of aspects of reality. The typical atheist position which undermines such things as epiphenomenal are actually integral (as are all things) to the pantheist position.

The Pantheist may understand a certain way that things ought to be, as opposed to the atheist which sees such ideas to be a matter of mere personal preference or irrelevant.

Atheists don't tend to make metaphysical assertions, they just harp on the failures of theism. If they follow scientific skepticism then their metaphysical views may be nothing but basic materialism.

The ultimate difference lies in what each side considers the basic substance of the universe to be like. The atheist conceives of nothing but subatamoic particles whizzing about or randum quantum fluctuations while the pantheist imagines a fundametal well-structured ground of being.

Personally, I don't know if I'd call myself a pantheist. Perhaps I'm more of a panentheist wherein physical existence is a manifestation of a higher existence, albeit a still integral one. The question is then what we mean when we use the term 'universe.' If it means just physical reality, then I'm a panentheist. If it means all things then I'd have to a pantheist.

11:08 PM  
Blogger B. Spinoza said...

Orthoprax,

well, said. You summed it up pretty well.

>The question is then what we mean when we use the term 'universe.' If it means just physical reality, then I'm a panentheist. If it means all things then I'd have to a pantheist.

these terms, pantheist/panentheist, are some what confusing. That's why I say total existence, which to me implies ALL reality. But even when I say that people get confused and think I'm talking about the finite physical world as we perceive it. That's why the term God is good because God is meant to mean Being which is absolutely infinite and eternal and source of ALL. But God seems to imply a being with personality and will to many people, so we end up talking about that and we go around in circles.

11:28 PM  
Blogger Irviner Chasid said...

>hese terms, pantheist/panentheist, are some what confusing. That's why I say total existence, which to me implies ALL reality. But even when I say that people get confused and think I'm talking about the finite physical world as we perceive it. That's why the term God is good because God is meant to mean Being which is absolutely infinite and eternal and source of ALL. But God seems to imply a being with personality and will to many people, so we end up talking about that and we go around in circles.

Don't care if its old I have to comment.

ALL of the universe, + metaphysical stuff + "angels" + Dimensions + ALL those things... all rolled up into one, we will call that "Reality".

Still, in the Jewish understanding, you have the math equation.

Gd - "Reality" = Gd(Panentheism)
Gd - "Reality" = Nothing (panthiesm)

However, all of "reality" is still "a part"(whatever that means) of Gd.

In the traditonal "monothiesm" you have
Gd - "Reality" = undefined, can not divide by zero

I hope that makes sense.

It would be nice if the two words were spelled so similarly.

6:46 PM  
Blogger evanstonjew said...

I am missing something. Why can't the universe/being be contained in God without God being identical with the universe or the totality of being..

6:09 PM  
Blogger B. Spinoza said...

>Why can't the universe/being be contained in God without God being identical with the universe or the totality of being..

the totality of existence contains everything. In other words, it is absolutely infinite. How can anything be greater than that?

Does God exist? If the answer is yes then it's a part of Existence. If the answer is no then God is nothing.

We can get around this problem if we say that God is total Existence then,on the one hand, God doesn't exist because it is not an entity within existence. But on the other hand, God is greater than any single entity within existence so that is not a limitation, rather it shows the absolute greatness of God

10:45 PM  
Anonymous (Gadol HaDoros) Yisrael Asper said...

>Reminds me of Spinoza (the blogger) who redefines God to mean existence

It's not such a redefinition. The difference between the G-d of Spinoza and the G-d of a lot of the Rabbis have been rather subtle.
The big question for both being how can there be anything at all.

7:11 PM  
Anonymous Rabban Gamliel. said...

“"XGH & JA,

My point was to say that if anything is worthy of being considered the ultimate being it is the total complete existence because everything is included in it and nothing can be conceived greater than it. Now, does God have a personality?

if God = ultimate being
and ultimate being is total existence
and total existence has no personality
then God has no personality

I guess the answer is no”

Spinoza shouldn't the ultimate being have a description that goes beyond all categories. We can say ultimate reality has consciousness and exists and is one and yet we are using human language as best as we can. In reality G-d transcends all descriptions.

11:53 AM  

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