Objections to the Objections

I while ago, I posted an article called “Some thoughts about atheology” where I illustrate the difficulties one encounters when faced with religion.  Namely, I say this:

In Considering religion, we have to consider the following:

  1. We have to define what we mean by “God”.
  2. Based on the given definition, we have to demonstrate that such an entity exists and that there are clues that point to its existence.
  3. Because there are numerous religious denominations, (i.e., Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, as well as an endless variety of denominations within the same religious tradition) we have to show which of the purported gods the real one is.
  4. We further have to show a compelling reason why one should worship such a divinity, granted that one satisfactorily addresses 1, 2, and 3.

IwentdowntotheRiver writes “I dont really see how 3 is different to 1/2.” I must say that I should have been clearer in my evaluation of religion. Let me clarify it, then: the difficulty is that my 1-4 list is addressed to believers who are not very familiar with logic and philosophical concepts. If you are an atheist or agnostic or a philosopher, you might not see why 3. Perhaps you are not considering that 1 (i.e. We have to define what we mean by “God”) need not be a complete definition of “God.” What I mean is this: you can define God as “The entity that created the universe” or “The entity responsible for the creation of the world” or “The entity that created life” …and so on.

Now, as you can see, we have a certain definition for “God”, but it is not complete in the sense in which you say that the work has been done. And the next point to satisfy is 2 (i.e. Based on the given definition, we have to demonstrate that such an entity exists and that there are clues that point to its existence). So, 2 asks to provide arguments to support our definition. Let us say that we define “God” as “The entity that created life.” 2 asks what kind of clue we have that corroborates that definition; and one might point to the argument from contingency or the ontological argument, etc, and say something like this, “God is the entity that created life; in fact, everything that exists has a cause. Nothing can cause itself to exist. Therefore, there must be an entity that always existed, and that is God.”

Again, we moved from a working definition to an argument in support of that definition, but we have not yet satisfied point 3. Here is how 3 differs from 1 and 2: a Christian at this point could say “Yes, that’s the Christian God that you’ve defined.” Similarly, a Hindu could say “Yes, that is Shiva that you are defining,” similarly, a Muslim could say the same, and a Zoroastrian, and a Taoist, and so on. That is why 3, in considering religion in our everyday life, not among philosophers, but rather among people with generic knowledge, is important. My list is, as I said, useful to the lay man, but obvious to a person who lacks belief in the first place.