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Author Topic: Origins of God  (Read 315 times)
emahwoowoo
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« on: 21/05/09 @ 14:51 »

I'm having trouble getting to grips with some of the Origins of God. Can someone please confirm or correct me - the idea of God as an invention and projection is to enforce morality on us as beings? (including reference to Aquinas and Moral Law...?)

This would be a great help, thank you!
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LostInAShaftOfSunlight
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« Reply #1 on: 22/05/09 @ 02:40 »

Quote
I'm having trouble getting to grips with some of the Origins of God

Aren't we all... Grin

Could you expand on the Aquinas bit?  I'm a bit of a dumb ox myself.

I assume your thinking of the big 3 here - Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, or other monotheisms.  It is hard to see how this idea would apply to, say, the Gods in the Odyssey who are quite naughty and could use some moral instruction themselves!

I would think that God(s) come along as ways to explain the world first and develop later into moral authorities.

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Gareth Southwell
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« Reply #2 on: 22/05/09 @ 06:22 »

The idea of God as a projection - or "social construction" as it is often called - can actually be traced to a number of different places. I think the main one you are probably thinking of is Feuerbach, who argued that the ideas that we have of God are based on human conceptions and reflect man's own positive qualities and ideals. Nietzsche saw things similarly, and his famous statement that "God is dead", stems from the contention that modern man has abandoned this form of projecting his positive ideals in favour of pessimism (a belief in certain forms of science and philosophy). Freud, on the other hand, saw the idea of God as a projection of man's need for a father figure, and an expression of unconscious forces.

In terms of morality, if we assume that God is a production of human desires and ideals, then God becomes a way of guaranteeing our moral outlook. So, if we ask why - for instance - killing is wrong, we can simply point to the fact that God forbids it (this is known as Divine Command Theory). This is essentially the point that Nietzsche is attacking: God is just a handy metaphysical framework that can be used to reinforce ethical and philosophical opinions (mostly not consciously, by the way).

As for Aquinas and natural law, this is an opposing view. Natural law is the idea that there is a link between what is right and what what is natural. Therefore, for instance, an advocate of natural law might argue that sex that is for procreation leads to babies (which is the correct natural process), and sex which is just for pleasure (and which uses contraception) does not; therefore, non-procreative sex is wrong. Obviously, this is a religious argument, but it doesn't have to be. The basic idea is that laws are not (or not merely) conventional (i.e. made up by human agreement), but have a natural basis. So, one could argue that everyone has a natural right to food and shelter, or not to suffer. The strength of this approach is that it appeals to what is most fundamental in human beings (our physical nature and basic needs) and so can have the widest application (everyone feels pain, hunger, wants pleasure, security, etc.). The weakness of it is that there are conflicting ways of interpreting what is 'natural': Animals care for their young, but they can also eat them! People have different pain thresholds, and some even appear to like it! Therefore, natural law often goes hand in hand with divine law: this is what God wants us to do, and this is the correct interpretation of nature (i.e. natural law reflects divine law).

However, as Sunny points out, the question of God or gods and morality is different depending on which religious tradition you apply it to. Mostly, Western philosophy has chosen to focus on monotheism (Christianity, Islam, Judaism), and to ignore polytheism and paganism.

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IwasThinking
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« Reply #3 on: 25/06/09 @ 22:25 »

Is it possible that God is actually the invention of our mind, and not just God but all things good and evil?

Perhaps our ego would have us believe that we couldn't do anything immoral, thus we must create the concept of good and evil so we can blame our shortcomings on something outside of us?
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Gareth Southwell
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« Reply #4 on: 25/06/09 @ 22:58 »

Completely possible, I would say, but whether that explains everything is a different question. There is a tradition in philosophy of religion/theology which says that we cannot actually conceptualise the reality of God, so we HAVE to picture him according to our limited human terms. So, what you say might be true AND God may exist.

However, I think you're suggesting something more: that notions of good and evil are projections, and especially evil. We cannot accept that humans are capable of certain terrible acts, so we say that there is an outside influence (some supernatural evil). This way, we can say something like, "Well, humans aren't perfect, but we're basically OK". Of course, the same is true of good: we do good acts because they are selfless - i.e. not of human origin. So, I think you have some good points there. Nietzsche would would agree with you. Good and evil are human concepts which express human concerns.

I don't want to say too much on this reply (perhaps this is already too late!), but perhaps we could think about the following: if 'good' is a purely human concept, then there should always be something in it for us (e.g. pleasure, evolutionary survival, etc.). The same is true of 'evil': people do bad things because, at some level, it is 'good' for them. Therefore, both concepts are determined by what is called the 'pleasure principle' - or 'psychological hedonism/egoism'.

So, the question is, is psychological hedonism true? Does it explain all human action?
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IwasThinking
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« Reply #5 on: 27/06/09 @ 18:50 »

I wouldn't call it hedonism, at least not in the outright surface pleasure/pain sense.  Often, what is deemed moral/good causes pain at the time of doing so.  However you could say that the temporary discomfort is rooted in the hope of positive benefits to be reaped in the future, so hedonism could be brought back in to the picture.

I would say that our ego, drives us to do what is "moral" because that garners benefit in our lives.  "If I am seen as trusting than people will think well of me"  "If I am upright in business, word will get around and I will do more business, thus making more money"  "If I am faithful to my girlfriend, she will marry me and I can reap in constant compainship, provision, sexual benefits, and offspring" 

It all comes back to what makes us look better when then makes us feel better.

Evil forces are an easy crutch to take up when we have strayed from the path that will get us the most.
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Gareth Southwell
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« Reply #6 on: 28/06/09 @ 09:55 »

Sunny: I've moved your reply to this post to a separate topic (Are All Our Actions Egoistical?) because I think it deserves a separate thread. So, people can choose which aspect of this discussion they want to follow.

As regards God, I think perhaps the way to go here (steering clear of ethics) is perhaps to ask whether, more generally, God is a human projection, and how we might know that.

I'll kick things off:

If we cannot experience God, then it is most likely that He is a human projection. All our ideas of God are anthropomorphic/defined in human terms, and are commonly incoherent. Therefore, it is most likely that God does not exist. Discuss!
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