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Most people, even atheists, often at least recognize the possibility that God may exist but claim that it is very improbable.

But if God is defined as an immaterial being, is the notion of that even coherent? Is He dare I say impossible? When something is deemed to be logically impossible, it is unimaginable and leads to a contradiction.

Now in order to establish a contradiction in a phrase, the phrase must obviously first mean something. But in what sense can a being ever be immaterial? Can you imagine one? The very notion of a being seems to imply physicality. Even beings that seem to have “immaterial” experiences such as humans seem to have “materialness” pictured fundamentally within the concept. Can you imagine an immaterial human or is there always a physical component such as the human body that makes up that object in your imagination?

Strip a human being of all its physical parts and imagine it to immaterially exist. Can you? Many have argued that this can be done through the concept of a soul but in what sense would a soul exist? When imagining a soul, most, I bet would still imagine some sort of ghastly or ghostly figure that is ultimately material in the sense of it at least taking a form or some shape.

So, can one definitively say that an immaterial god, who has the powers that he is imagined to have, cannot exist?

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    Pick up a dictionary to play 20 questions with. Half the nouns in there are not material objects. Beauty? It is an abstraction. The USSC? It is an organizational institution, with neither location, nor fixed membership. Pain? what are its dimensions? Doing self-questioning, before you bother posting a question to the rest of us, is a good idea.
    – Dcleve
    Jul 15, 2023 at 19:27
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    The question says immaterial being, not immaterial concept. Beauty neither the USSC are beings. An immaterial concept is actually a redundant phrase since a concept by definition is immaterial. Reading the question before commenting is a good idea.
    – user62907
    Jul 15, 2023 at 19:28
  • So are you saying only agents have "beingness"? That strikes me as an unusual retro-fit to your question, beingness is generally held to apply to all sorts of non-agent items. What your question simply boiled down to is what is "realism" and your inability to "imagine" anything being real other than matter. Abstract objects, plus experiences, plus sociological inventions, are all well known and long discussed exceptions to this. OR -- in your retro-fit, are you claiming that AGENCY needs materiality???? Why? Alternatively, why not accept advice, rather than inventing rationalizations.
    – Dcleve
    Jul 15, 2023 at 19:42
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    @thinkingman a lot of the time you claim that things are given "by definition" in some way, or are logically impossible, etc. but we know that there are other definitions and logical possibilities, we cite sources to said effect, and hardly anything ever comes of it. I know you said one time that you want to inspire discussion, but again, the SE isn't a forum, so we need to try to ask our questions in a more resolute way. I know that's hard with philosophy, but the reason it's hard should undermine your apparent overconfidence/dogmatism about things like possibility/probability, no? Jul 15, 2023 at 22:49
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    He didn’t reframe abstractions as material. His point was that god isn’t just some idea. He is posited as an immaterial being that simultaneously manages to cause PHYSICAL effects. The USSC doesn’t cause anything. Members of the USSC do.
    – user62907
    Jul 17, 2023 at 21:09

3 Answers 3

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An immaterial being cannot exist since the very notion of a being implies that the being must be physical, by definition.

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    What do you mean by "being" and "physical"? Is your meaning trivial or nontrivial (makes no difference or makes some specific difference)? Why do you think definitions have so much discursive power that they can settle substantive questions "just like that"? Jul 16, 2023 at 22:49
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    "Being" is also a modification of "to be," which is cognate with "is," and has historically been used to refer to anything that exists, be it intelligent/conscious or not. In fact a Google search for "being definition" lists existence as the first definition, then moves on to a reference to persons, the next two Google results on the first page start with the generic sense. Jul 17, 2023 at 4:09
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    FWIW, the concept of persons, as per the word "person," depends, historically, very much on the sense attached to translated reformulations of "hypostasis" when that word was used to refer to the elements of the Christian Trinity, so even the definition of "being" in terms of persons has some deep roots in talk of an immaterial entity. Jul 17, 2023 at 4:16
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    @KristianBerry +1 on setting aright the assumptions around 'being'. To see how stuck the OP is in his Abrahamic assumptions, see the native American God is not a noun but a verb
    – Rushi
    Jul 17, 2023 at 14:26
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    After above comment I'm happy to find the God is a verb meme in esoteric Judaism as well: Kabbalah
    – Rushi
    Jul 17, 2023 at 14:28
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God clearly does not exist in any sense with which we are empirically familiar.

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Most people, even atheists, often at least recognize the possibility that God may exist but claim that it is very improbable.

What atheists recognize is that not everything is amenable to experimental study, particularly all the things non-physical. There is pretty strong evidence that the World was not created in seven days or that Humans and Monkeys evolved from the same common ancestor. But proving that there is no life after death is more challenging - we are just sure that this post-mortem existence is not physical. We simply cannot study anything that has no contact with our physical world, and hence we can neither confirm nor deny existence of non-physical world. This is when scientists usually follow the Occam's razor suggests that we can ignore whatever is non-physical for all the practical purposes. God, as understood by modern religions (at least those that are not in outright denial of scientific facts) belongs to the realm of such unprovable and undisprovable things.

In this sense, scientists do not "recognize the possibility that God may exist" or assign any probability to it - they mostly do not care and/or do not mind others believing and/or do not mix their personal beliefs and their research. Atheists are those who actively believe that God does not exist in any non-physical way, or more frequently simply those who object the claims that God may have any physical influence.

On the other hand, one could claim that God exists as an idea in human society. The belief in God is certainly documented in many texts, passed from generation to generation, and has great influence on the mankind - wars continue to be fought in the name of God, sacrifices continue to be made in his name, and many other things happen. This existence is immaterial in the sense that this God is not a distinct being. But it is physical in the sense that it depends on a physical carrier - in the same sense as the information store in a computer memory exists only as long as the computer itself exists.

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  • @Rushi thanks! Fixed.
    – Roger V.
    Jul 17, 2023 at 12:48
  • It's probably better to say science doesn't say anything about God (at least if you're talking about a god who has no detectable influence in the material world). Because scientists consists of plenty of both atheists and theists, who do care about the topic (and also others who don't).
    – NotThatGuy
    Jul 17, 2023 at 13:17
  • @NotThatGuy I modified the sentence that you are probably referring to. The point is that a scientist's belief in God is not involved in their research work - one could mention here all kinds of academic institutions associated with the Catholic church, as well as those who are practicing religion for traditional reasons.
    – Roger V.
    Jul 17, 2023 at 13:23
  • Evolution and neuroscience has arguably gone a long way towards disproving life after death. If we can trace and explain our origins going back to single-celled organisms, and we understand both the low-level structure of the brain, as well as the high-level functions, and brain injuries and disease can fundamentally change someone's personality, it gets quite difficult to fit any sort of transcendent existence in there (that may still be compatible with some convoluted imaginings of an afterlife, but those wouldn't be all that compelling).
    – NotThatGuy
    Jul 17, 2023 at 15:46
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    I would argue that an immaterial being causing a physical effect is impossible. This is because in order to cause a physical effect, one must convert an immaterial source into a physical effect, but this can’t happen without a physical source such as the case of me making a decision to move my hand. In the case of god, many have often claimed that he is completely immaterial while simultaneously being able to cause physical effects on the world. So I actually DO think we can firmly deny even the possibility of this kind of being’s existence. God as a being must be physical if He exists.
    – user62907
    Jul 17, 2023 at 21:04

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