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Here is my argument:

Until recently, I considered the pursuit (and eventual determination) of the ultimate nature of reality to be one of the most (if not the most) important goals for me. This is because if God does exist, and I die a non-believer, then I go to hell (and experience eternal misery), and if I follow His religion, I get heaven (eternal pleasure): thus the placement of the pursuit of truth (with regards to God) at the top of my priorities list. In consequence, I did not think that the meaning of one's life could reasonably be found without the discovery of the answer to the ultimate question (Does God exist?).

Reading this paragraph is not necessary. As I did not find an answer to the aforementioned question, I was left without substantial meaning in my life. I went through life half-heartedly, which resulted in a noticeable decline in my grades. As I was tired of constantly lagging behind, I decided to find a solution to the question (that was plaguing me for the last 4 years) in my semester break.

Reading this paragraph is not necessary. Upon primary investigation, I found that the literature is so vast! How would I ever know that I reached the "correct" conclusion? It is probably impossible to be certain about one's apparently robust conclusion; there might be a philosopher out there whose work you just haven't come across, and he has refuted your argument. Moreover, there maybe an argument present that completely refutes your argument, but that argument has just not yet crossed your mind. There seems to be a global doubt always present. There seems to be always more journal articles and more philosophy books waiting to be read.

Reading this paragraph is not necessary. Is it even possible to reach certainty if one doesn't know if he has reached the limit of knowledge itself? How can one be certain if she doesn't know all knowledge? If she doesn't know all knowledge, there is always the chance that an argument, which she is ignorant of, and which also destroys her philosophical/epistemological framework, exists.

Now, let us get to the main part of my question. It does not seem obvious to me that I should look for the truth with regards to the existence of God. It is indeterminate whether or not I should seek the truth about God. Let me explain.

My prior reasoning for seeking the truth about God was that if God does exist, and I die a non-believer, then I go to hell (and experience eternal misery), and if I follow His religion, I get heaven (eternal pleasure). However, my (wrong) presupposition was that only these outcomes were possible. In contrast, there are infinitely many outcomes possible! What about the God that punishes me eternally for seeking the truth? What about the God that is indifferent to me? and so on and so forth. This leads us to a deadlock.

So, it would seem to me that my spur for seeking the truth was misguided. I made naive presuppositions. So, now, I can either seek the truth or not - no choice (clearly) is better than the other one. I can do whatever I want. I am not bound by my devotion to the pursuit of truth anymore.

Is my position a philosophical position, and is it coherent and plausible?

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16 Answers 16

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Why should I seek to determine the ultimate nature of reality (i.e. whether God exists or not)?

In effect, you are looking for a justification for doing philosophy which you believe is necessary because it ultimately lead to positive and negative consequences in the afterlife.

Upon primary investigation, I found that the literature is so vast! How would I ever know that I reached the "correct" conclusion?

Philosophy and theology have been going on for more than 2,500 years, and with 8 billion earthlings, is more robust than ever.

So, it would seem to me that my spur for seeking the truth was misguided. I made naive presuppositions. So, now, I can either seek the truth or not - no choice (clearly) is better than the other one. I can do whatever I want. I am not bound by my devotion to the pursuit of truth anymore.

We all make naive presuppositions which is true and unavoidable by virtue of how we learn when we carefully think through issues.

Is my position plausible?

What you are seeking is affirmation for your experiences and how you interpret them, in which case I'd say that your experience is rather typical and quite plausible. While the site is more intended to function as a repository for technical Q&A rather than Ask-Amy-style feedback, I'll respond.

We each come into the world with nothing more than our intuitions to guide us. We are born into a lottery of sorts where we don't decide what culture or which parents. We then are forced into constructing a description and story about the world around us often without sophisticated guidance around us. Synagogue, mosque, and church have traditions we can explore. Secular popular culture is another place we find ideas and experiment with them. But for some of us, the last word on that description and narrative are to be found in the Western Canon of philosophy including thoughts of the theologians.

I can do whatever I want. I am not bound by my devotion to the pursuit of truth anymore.

Yes, this is the ultimate freedom that places you firmly in the territory of existentialism, with the concomitant realization that you must make choices and take responsibility for them because you are not being told by some greater power or operating in fear of consequences from it. From WP:

Existentialist philosophers explore questions related to the meaning, purpose, and value of human existence. Common concepts in existentialist thought include existential crisis, dread, and anxiety in the face of an absurd world, as well as authenticity, courage, and virtue.

So not only is your position plausible, it is rather a routine occurrence among thinkers. At a certain point, people who think a lot summon enough doubt to break free from the narratives of their societies and begin to psychologically individuate. The traditional view on individuate in analytical psychology, for instance according to WP:

Individuation is a complex process that involves going through different stages of growing awareness through the progressive confrontation and integration of personal unconscious elements. This is the central concept of analytical psychology first introduced in 1916. It is the objective of Jungian psychotherapy to the extent that it enables the realisation of the Self.

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  • We are born into a lottery of sorts where we don't decide what culture or which parents. Some go as far as to claim that our ideas and beliefs are completely determined by socio-economic conditions.
    – Roger V.
    Sep 25, 2023 at 13:50
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    @RogerVadim Some do, but that's essentially all nurture and no nature, and that doesn't sit right with me. Our personalities and constitutions are just as important, I believe in determining how we respond to the environment as the genes of a seed determine the success of a plant.
    – J D
    Sep 25, 2023 at 13:53
  • "Common concepts in existentialist thought include existential crisis, dread, and anxiety in the face of an absurd world" - I'd like to point out the definition of absurd here: Absurdism The conflict between the human tendency to seek inherent value and meaning in life and the human inability to find any; does not mean 'logically impossible' but rather 'humanly impossible'; - I personally spent quite some time before realizing it wasn't simply the same as the daily usage: "that's absurd". Sep 25, 2023 at 20:52
  • @DaniëlvandenBerg It's apropos to point out the deeper meaning of absurd in the lens of absurdism, indeed! I often take it to be the fruitless effort of trying to find meaning in particular events and instead being greeted with irony requiring one to embrace dialetheia as a strategy of coping. For instance, going to a church as an atheist to reflect on the fact that a Christian atheist is more likely to be knowledgeable about theology than the average believer only to be disappointed to discover what one already knew walking in the door.
    – J D
    Sep 25, 2023 at 21:42
  • @DaniëlvandenBerg Is it possible to distinguish between logically impossible and humanely impossible? Is it possible to conceptualize logic outside the human experience? Sep 26, 2023 at 5:22
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I find it interesting that you ask:

Why should I seek to determine the ultimate nature of reality (i.e. whether God exists or not)?

You seem to be equating "the ultimate nature of reality" with "whether God exists or not". Now, I know that's only the question title and you explained yourself more in the question body.

The search for God (which I see as different from the search for meaning, ultimate nature of reality, etc.) assumes many things.

  • There could be a god to discover.
  • If there is a god, there is only one god.
  • If a god exists, it has set up two afterlives, one good, one bad. (Why only two? Why not 100? Why not 8 billion? Why not just one?)
  • If a god exists and there are two afterlives, both of these afterlives are eternal.
  • If a god exists, it is very concerned with your genitals and what you do with them.
  • If a god exists and it is very concerned with your genitals and there are two afterlives, doing things it doesn't approve of with your genitals will consign you to the bad afterlife.

What this does is make you feel guilty for being a human being with natural, normal, and healthy impulses. Can these impulses cause you to do bad things? Sure! But so can all other human impulses. However, most of use learn to control our impulses so we rarely harm ourselves or others by our behaviour. The concept of an afterlife also causes very strong fear in many people, which makes it very hard to totally impossible to think through these issues.

I could come up with some other fear inducing system (and historically many other systems have been created) that could get you mentally stuck.

If any of these systems are true, we should seek to discover that they're true to avoid the eternal punishment that goes with them. However, there are too many to investigate within a single human lifetime, and it's too easy to create new ones.

How can one be certain if she doesn't know all knowledge?

Nobody can know if they know everything. There's even an argument that no one can know if there's something extra that they don't know. We have the set of everything we know. By definition we don't know anything in the set of things we don't know. Therefore the set of things we don't know is uncountable. This is valid even for an all-knowing god. Such a god might know everything, but it can't know that it knows everything. Therefore it doesn't know everything, therefore no being, not even a god, can be all-knowing.

To answer the final part of your question, you should only seek the truth if you already know the truth, and the truth is that not seeking the truth will lead to eternal punishment. However, no one can know whether that's true or not and a person could waste their entire life investigating as many of these claims as possible, only to die with the very next claim that they hadn't got to yet being the actual truth.

If none of these claims are true, it would be a waste of time investigating them. They all have equal evidence for them, i.e. none, or purely anecdotal, or based on faith only, etc. In the absence of a symmetry breaker, you're left with guessing, and even if you guess, there's no guarantee that any of them are correct. Perhaps they're all wrong. Perhaps we exist in a universe of unconscious indifference, basking in the glow of a warm sun preventing us from freezing in the near zero temperature of space.

Personally, I ignore all such claims and I will continue to do so until one of them comes up with either:

  1. evidence that it's true
  2. a symmetry breaker

As Christopher Hitchens said:

What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.

Occam's Razor says:

Entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity.

Which translated into understandable English is "Don't use more assumptions than necessary to sufficiently explain a thing". I.e., if there's a god (assumption), there must be only one god (assumption), it must have set up a good afterlife and a bad afterlife (assumption), it must be all-knowing (assumption), it must be all-good and all-loving (assumption), it must be all-powerful (assumption), it must have a holy book of what it wants us to know (assumption), etc.

And lastly from David Hume:

When anyone tells me, that he saw a dead man restored to life, I immediately consider with myself, whether it be more probable, that this person should either deceive or be deceived, or that the fact, which he relates, should really have happened. I weigh the one miracle against the other; and according to the superiority, which I discover, I pronounce my decision, and always reject the greater miracle. If the falsehood of his testimony would be more miraculous, than the event which he relates; then, and not till then, can he pretend to command my belief or opinion.

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  • 4
    Small nitpick, but your point "such a god might know everything, but it can't know that it knows everything," fundamentally misunderstands what "God" means in a monotheistic/Platonist conception - things are true because God decides that it is so. God is the only brute fact. From this definition of God, it is logically impossible for there to be anything unknown to God. Anything which God doesn't know isn't real. Obviously, you don't believe in such a God, but you should at least understand what the thing you're trying to refute is. Sep 25, 2023 at 17:58
  • 2
    DV for the simplistic and absolutely juvenile strawman around genitalia... Sep 25, 2023 at 19:17
  • @DarkMalthorp That means that God decides that it's true that God exists, which is obviously flawed.
    – CJ Dennis
    Sep 26, 2023 at 6:55
  • God's existence is a (the) brute fact. That means, alone out of all things, God's existence is not contingent on anything else. This is definitional for monotheistic philosophies. If you're defining God differently, then your argument is irrelevant to the truth of, say, Christianity. One could say the only thing impossible for God is to not exist. In a sense, you could say God exists because he decided to exist, but what you're picturing is anthropomorphizing God's decision process a bit too much. It's not like God didn't know something and then figured it out and it became true. Sep 26, 2023 at 20:14
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    @Joshua I have a Discord server for discussing such topics if you're interested.
    – CJ Dennis
    Sep 27, 2023 at 23:01
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(Answering from a Christian perspective)

First, why do people wonder about God in the first place? For a Christian, the answer is simple: God designed us to exist in relationship with him. He has created us to desire more than this finite world (Ecc. 3:11), a desire which can only be satisfied by him. To quote Augustine: "You [God] have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you." (Confessions 1.1.1)

So, the answer to the question in your header is: Because that's what you were designed to do.

You have presented a form of Pascal's wager, but you have found a critical problem with the argument! What if there is a God, but he actually wants us not to believe in him, and sends us to hell if we do? If there is a God, how can you know what he is like? At this point it becomes clear that logic can only get us so far: If God (all-powerful and all-knowing) wanted to deceive us, he could, and there is nothing we could do to outsmart him. If he wanted to hide from a logical argument, or from science, he could. Logic will not distinguish between the tricky God who sends people to hell for asking about his existence, and the Christian God who gives his followers with eternal bliss. [If you're not convinced at the limitations of logical analysis of evidence, you should take some time to seriously try to refute solipsism.]

So, how should you seek to know the truth about God? I'd like to suggest that you're taking the wrong approach. You could spend the entire rest of your life reading books on the subject and evaluating arguments, and never get anywhere. While I think that Christianity is very sound logically, I don't think that's a very good place to start, because of the inherent limitations of that approach. Instead, I suggest you seek out some people to learn from: Go to a church (or more than one!) and talk to the pastor and the congregants. Ask your tough questions. Faith comes through hearing (Romans 10:17). At the same time, I do recommend you talk with scholars from other traditions, including atheists. Compare and see what resonates the most with the real world as you experience it, what worldview has the best answers, see which people are the most satisfied.

But, what if this is exactly what God doesn't want? At some point, we just have to decide to live in some way. And I will add that whatever God has decided to do, that is good, by definition, because God is the arbiter of good and bad. Therefore, logically you ought to accept his will even if that seems bad to you. However, I promise you God is not tricky like that. God does not lie (Numbers 23:19). God has created you to ask about him; heed the call.

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    "For a Christian, the answer is simple: God designed us to exist in relationship with him." - Just because someone is a Christian, they don't have to throw away all of their reasoning ability and turn into a mindless ghoul.
    – Davor
    Sep 26, 2023 at 12:09
  • "You have a desire for an answer" is not a particularly compelling answer to "Why should I try to find an answer". Someone could trivially just respond with "Actually I don't really", and then they're no closer to knowing why they should. Never mind that your answer is actually "you have a desire for this specific answer that I'm proposing, because the answer that I'm proposing says that's the case", which is just a whole lot of circular reasoning. But it is at least good advice to get different perspectives and compare claims based on how well they align with experienced reality.
    – NotThatGuy
    Sep 26, 2023 at 13:08
  • @Davor Yes, that's true. But we work from different assumptions. How do you prove an assumption? That's were plain reason falls short. Sep 26, 2023 at 20:17
  • @NotThatGuy Indeed, you have understood my argument well :) And if someone responds "actually I don't", well, then I've not got anything more to say to that person. In the end we will see who is right and who is wrong. Sep 26, 2023 at 20:20
  • @DarkMalthorp I started from similar assumptions/presuppositions as you, I just found them to be unjustified. The problem is when one's worldview is based on unquestionable assumptions.
    – NotThatGuy
    Sep 27, 2023 at 0:11
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You are asking a question that is nearly as old as philosophy itself, and one that is still hotly debated daily. It would be unlikely that it could be solved in a single answer section. However, you seem to be asking a very specific question about impetus and also relating that to reason.

Defining the question

As Descartes pointed out, the only undeniable truth is the cogito. However, by itself, when fully analyzed, doesn't provide us much direction, either. Therefore, I think that it is safe to say that you cannot confirm which side is undeniably true. You are left with having to find other categories which might have answers. It sounds like you are persuaded, as I and many others are, that the important categories might be reason and impetus.

Impetus

Regarding impetus, or why you should do anything, you will probably have to consider that Materialist approaches will result in Hume's Is–ought problem as all of your "shoulds" will require you personally to choose between an infinite set of potential choices. Sure, there are good emotional reasons to chose one or the other, but if you're seeking reason, if everything is material (and therefore no god), then there is none that's objectively right. This puts you into a sort of Pascal's wager, which only really works to tell you what things you should not believe (that there is no god or afterlife, or in your case, that there is no objective moral arbiter). The only way that I could see around that is if you had some very solid proof that no competing belief were true. Also, this doesn't tell you which non-materialistic religion to believe, and it breaks down when applied in situations where it's not all or nothing. But if you're just asking if you should seek for a god, then lacking any hard evidence to the contrary, it seems the answer is clear:

Either you should believe there is a divine moral arbiter concerned with your actions and who has accurately relayed those expectations or it is not objectively true that you should not believe in such.

Reason

With regards to reason itself, consider that in order for a belief to be reasonable, it must have reasonable justification, rather than just be a belief you hold that you hope you're lucky enough to be right about. Reasonable beliefs may or may not be true, but your bar seems to be reason (as we can't know truth undeniably). Consider that not all beliefs about our ability to reason are themselves reasonable. Consider Alvin Plantiga's Evolutionary argument against naturalism. A similar argument could be made for any process (such as Boltzmann brains, etc) which would be believed to have created our mind without some bias towards making minds which can accurately reason. Therefore:

Either our minds were formed by some method concerned with our ability to reason, or I cannot trust my belief on how minds were formed.

There are many theistic religions which believe that a god formed our ability to reason and if they are true, then we can be reasonable in trusting our reason. This may or may not hint at an intelligence behind that force, but I am not aware of any materialistic models which fulfill this requirement, and at the least, it seems to hint that our ability to reason itself warrants the search you are considering.

Conclusion

Therefore, I believe that if you are wanting to use reason to know whether or not you should consider the question of whether a god exists, I would say that you either pursue the question with highest priority until it is satisfied or you abandon reason as your guiding method.

Things to consider

That being said, there are many things to consider in your search. Ultimately, you are not only trying to determine whether there is a God, but what is the basic set of core beliefs you will use to determine every other thing. Note that even if you were to consider something like science or other logic system, you would still typically need an underlying belief system to rationally justify the transcendental requirements (such as the uniformity of nature). In modern day, Scientism is a common approach by Atheists, and it is often argued by them as the default position, though I am still not certain whether that can be concluded by reason alone.

On the other hand, consider that for any theistic religion, you should also demand some kind of evidence, if nothing else than to distinguish it from the competing beliefs. If there is an intelligence which created your mind with reason and cares about your action and has the ability to reward or punish, then it would be expected that such would also provide sufficient evidence, and that evidence itself would have some requirements posed by reason. That's a bigger question than can be discussed here.

Finally, be aware that this is a divisive topic, and many are willing to use logical fallacies and straw man arguments, as I see in posts here. It is very hard not to push some fallacy here accidentally. People usually only see the world one way and they frame their arguments in that way. Try to find out how they justify their fundamentals before accepting them. If they argue with reason, ask how they justify reason. If they tell you what is important, ask them to justify why it is objectively important. You are asking what may be the most fundamental question, so understand that the typical frameworks and assumptions don't work at that level, so question appeals to them.

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You are correct that there are infinitely many possibilities for what deities might exist and how they might punish or reward you for how you live your life. It's a common criticism raised against some religious arguments (especially Pascal's wager, and also the Kalam cosmological argument).

This, however, doesn't mean it's not an important question. If there are possibilities, that suggests that one of those possibilities could be true. It may still be that one or more gods exists, and we may have some empirical evidence, arguments or other ways to determine (to some degree) what a god, if a god exists, is capable of, what they want from us, what traits they have, etc. Similarly, we may determine that a god with certain traits cannot exist.

For instance, one could argue that an all-loving and all-powerful god would be inconsistent with the existence of the large amounts of seemingly-unnecessary suffering we see in the world (related: the problem of evil), or with eternal punishment (especially when combined with the existence of non-resistant non-belief), or with the idea of one being punished for the crimes of another, or with their inspired book containing moral atrocities or inconsistencies.

Don't waste too much time on it

I would say that after you've considered the strongest arguments from both / all / a few sides, and failed to find any good reason to believe a god exists, there probably isn't much sense in continuing the search.

It's possible, if you dedicate every waking moment to trying to find out whether a deity exists, that you may find one. But if you do a cost-benefit analysis, you may find that spending your time on other things would provide far greater benefit. That's my conclusion, anyway.

Having considered the evidence and arguments available, it seems exceedingly unlikely I'd find that a deity exists, and close to impossible that they would exercise some eternal consequences on me for how I live.

As such, dedicating much of what's likely the only life I have, to pursue something I'm unlikely to find, doesn't seem particularly reasonable. There may be eternal consequences, but only if a deity with particular traits exists. Otherwise, it's a question of what fraction of your one life you're dedicating to this question.

What is "looking for god", anyway?

There may also be a bit of a misnomer in "looking for god", since there are also infinitely many ways a deity might present themselves.

Ones that (in a manner of speaking) beam things into your brain or which you can speak to by just thinking is just a particular (if popular) subset of possible deities. If you want to consider all possible deities, you'll have to look in every possible way, in every possible place. In that sense, these claims can all be considered distinct (if perhaps mutually exclusive).

Every moment spent looking for the brain-beaming deities, is a moment not spent looking for the signs-on-toast deities or the pictures-on-leaves deities or the human-sacrifice deities or any others.

Unless you have a way to narrow it down, there are infinitely-many possible deities, and also infinitely-many possible places you can look for them. So the expected benefit from anything you can possibly try in your finite life is essentially zero, even if one such deity exists, and it's possible to find them (which is already way too much to grant for the sake of argument).

One might narrow it down to popular religions, on the premise that this deity might've specifically revealed themselves to some or otherwise made it more likely that they're be found. That's why I started from "after you've considered the strongest arguments".

A god that punishes seeking truth?

A god that punishes one for seeking truth is also a possibility, but you can't really account for that, because not seeking truth would prevent you from establishing whether a god with (almost) any other traits exists.

A deity should be self-evident

As a somewhat trivial argument, one might say that if a deity exists that wants you to act in a particular way or would punish or reward you for how you act, they would make their existence self-evident to you, prior to and independent of you taking any action yourself. Since no deity is self-evident to you, no such deity exists.

Given its simplicity, I suspect people may underestimate the strength of the argument (not that any argument is perfect). Although it may be best used in conjunction with a consideration of evidence and arguments that people present, to just serve to increase your confidence in not accepting the existence of deities. And it seems unlikely to convince anyone else that their deity doesn't exist.

Plenty of theists say the existence of their particular deity is self-evident, but this is either the result of fallaciously equivocating (e.g. God is love and everyone experiences love) or the assertion/conclusion contradicts the available evidence. They could perhaps argue that it's self-evident to them, which I'd still disagree with, but it's clearly not self-evident to everyone else, by any reasonable metric. It's most definitely not self-evident to me, although that only serves to refute their claim for myself and not for others, since I'm the only one with direct access to my mental state.

On a related note, see the question If we can't know whether a divine being exists, would that being be unimportant even if it did exist? and my answer there.

Beliefs inform actions and actions have consequences

Whether a deity exists is also an important question because other people believe it.

This doesn't say much about whether it's true, but beliefs inform actions and actions have consequences.

If people believe that a deity wants them to do something, you (or others) may very well suffer from the consequences of that, regardless of whether that deity exists.

Many objectionable positions on modern social issues are arguably heavily influenced or determined by religion (such as positions on LGBT rights, climate change and abortion).

In this sense, if a particular deity doesn't exist, it would be important not only to establish this fact, but also to try to convince others of this (at least, if you care about preventing harm to yourself and others).

* People frequently try to make the case that religion is a net positive on society. But religion certainly doesn't have a good track record in that regard. Although that's an entire discussion in and of itself. In any case, if you do consider religion to be a net positive, you presumably wouldn't care to talk others out of it then.


How important you consider these "important questions" and to which degree you consider it to be something you "should" investigate are, of course, subjective judgements.

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I went through life half-heartedly, which resulted in a noticeable decline in my grades.

You've got to put a roof over your head, and food on the table whether God exists or not. You need interpersonal relationships whether God exists or not.

Thus, whether or not the supernatural exists or not, you've got to keep calm and carry on (first with school and then at your job); otherwise, as you noticed, you collapse into existential confusion, and that does nobody any good.

Once you accept that harsh reality can you examine the nature of reality in your spare time.

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  • The reason that this is a fundamental question is that it defines all other questions. You've used words like "You've got to", "You need", and "good". All of those things presuppose an answer to the question. If there is a god, then what you need to do, what will happen, and what is good may be relative to that god. If there is no god, then things like oughts, needs, and good might not exist at all.
    – DKing
    Sep 29, 2023 at 14:18
  • @DKing you need to eat whether or not there's a god or not.
    – RonJohn
    Sep 29, 2023 at 15:58
  • Not necessarily. You're running into the Is–ought problem. You think that you need to eat because you think that you should stay alive or avoid hunger, and you furthermore presume that you have a mind capable of accurately reasoning. Theses are all greatly impacted by whether or not there is a god. You could suggest that he acts upon habit or emotion, but you can't use reason, oughts, or goodness in your appeals without begging the question.
    – DKing
    Sep 29, 2023 at 16:54
  • @DKing while I might be a brain in a vat that doesn't actually need to eat, but is being "fed" (pun intended) electrical stimuli to make me think I'm sitting at a desk typing to you while looking at a clock and thinking about lunch... I'm going to follow the easier path: we're all living on a little rock in the middle of nowhere, and I'm about to eat lunch. BECAUSE I NEED TO EAT.
    – RonJohn
    Sep 29, 2023 at 17:43
  • Yes, you can act upon emotion, habit, intuition, and other methods than reason or without having a full understanding of your actions or beliefs and their implications.But this is a conversation about rational appeal. You can appeal emotionally that "You've got to eat", but anybody would be free with the exact same weight to emotionally appeal "Just go ahead and believe God because you've got to believe in something." After all, OP may have a desire to believe something about a god, probably the same emotionally as you feel about needing lunch, if not more.
    – DKing
    Sep 29, 2023 at 18:00
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As far as I can tell, without trying to devalue the other answers, all of them seem to tackle the long slightly rambling part of your post, but not really your actual questions (i.e. the sentences with the question mark at the end), so let me add one further attempt. I have not read the paragraphs which you marked as "optional".

The titular question:

Why should I seek to determine the ultimate nature of reality (i.e. whether God exists or not)?

There is no particular reason for such a search. A great many people are absolutely leading happy and perfectly moral lives not doing either. For example, there are plenty of western atheist (non-religious, non-spiritual, non-mysterious, belief-free, non-tribal) Buddhists who focus on being "in the moment" and recognizing reality "as it is" (with no intent to discover the "ultimate nature" or no assumptions whatsoever about mystic aspects - it's all experience-based). That approach does absolutely work, solves a lot of problems which religions also try to solve, and does not require knowing more about the world than what enters your brain through your senses.

And the bolded final question after your long exposition:

Is my position a philosophical position, and is it coherent and plausible?

Yes, your position reflects Pascal's Wager, but you seem to have gone a step further and started to think more critically about Pascal's argument. This is absolutely plausible. Every philosophical argument is always open for criticism. Your refutation of (or at the very least, doubt in) Pascal's Wager is one perfectly coherent possibility. Other refutations exist of course.

Your refutation seems to be mainly based not so much on arguments involving the existence of God, but about the hard problem of knowing how - even assuming God exists - your behaviour would end up influencing your final score at the Gates of Heaven. Other refutations would maybe approach the Wager in other ways (the Wikipedia page lists a few).

The Wikipedia page also tells us that

Pascal's intent was [...] (a) to show the fallacy of attempting to use logical reasoning to prove or disprove God, and (b) to persuade atheists to sinlessness, as an aid to attaining faith

... so (assuming this statement from Wikipedia is truly the original intent) your own confusion is exactly the point Pascal wanted to make, targetted at the plethora of logical "proofs" for the existence or non-existence of God. It's a bluff.

And assuming b) is also truly his intent, a weak form of the Wager would be to deny someone arguing "I am an atheist, there is no God, so there will be no punishment after my death, so I can do whatsoever I please in life". Again, this has nothing to do with the existence of God, but simply an approach to try to bring atheists to behave well. This is nothing particularly special - other philosophers may have taken other approaches (e.g., Kant's Imperative and so on), but many philosophers give reasons why it may generally be good to act in a moral way (whatever that may be in each individual case). In a way this is a double-bluff, assuming that Christians of the time were compelled to behave well by fear of ending up in hell; and atheists were free of this fear, but could be put into fear again by the Wager ("but what if").

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It is with great pleasure I participate with fellow contributors to the subject; as a matter of distinction between what's not answer presented, instead of affected response sets Beginning to answer with my little thought lab, question in frame with apparatus designed to yeild by response: Yes, you should activate your seeker again from where the 6 year old got handed down the idea in return for asking "the sort of thing children are told" for asking "childish things"; God is the answer to every problem, the most difficult challenges, the very key to knowledge itself is the fear wrought wisdom; validation of more than just how dreadfully vacuous it would be that because onus's heart is full of inspired rationales of the divine that "the love of God has to be a talent", a telent certain to be of exceeding capacity with respect to every countenance in relation to the next being I like programming to the extent that when I constructed a heavenly domain where without problems, coding would have no place which coupled with an eternity on your knees doing worshipping praise with types at work for their ticket to heaven, eternal sleep has become my natural option, hell no! Because thinking is an occupational practice to me, I truely can't fit my head around the idea of the belief, fundamentally of no significance until the rebirth

when is a lie not a lie? when acting I think, therefore I am, right? I believe in being me

I believe your version of the story I accept your narrative base accuracy

I believe in a higher power I accept the extent forces become magnificent by scale with consequences outside my limited control

I believe I think

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  • I do admit that my answer is direct response to the headline question of "should he commit?" application of gaining from impetus released side effect corrected
    – WaksWorks
    Sep 27, 2023 at 3:54
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Why should I seek to determine the ultimate nature of reality?

Whether you are aware of it or not, you seek the ultimate nature of reality in order to achieve your ultimate goal. And what is this ultimate goal? to survive.

Compare any priority against that of surviving (e.g. going to see a movie and dying, or surviving). Your deepest priority is always to survive, because by surviving you can do anything else (e.g. first, surviving, and later, go to the movies).

Then, you seek the truth of all things in order to survive. Knowledge implies increasing your probabilities of survival. Seeking the reality about God implies a possibility living eternally.

That's why we look for the truth (we develop philosophical knowledge), and we look for empirical truth (we develop scientific knowledge). Knowledge increases our probabilities of controlling our future.

Now, why do we want to survive? We don't know that. We just experience the fact that we survive in order to survive. It is perhaps we are part of nature, and nature wants to keep existing.

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  • But in the Islamic literature, the sinners will still survive eternally; they just survive in hell in infinite misery. Would you like to qualify your position based on this comment? Sep 30, 2023 at 13:16
  • @tryingtobeastoic You can't be suggesting that Islamic people want to survive in hell, in misery, that is naive. Obviously, you want to survive to enjoy THIS life, not a different one, a hell of pain and misery. Who suffer will look for suicide, not survival.
    – RodolfoAP
    Sep 30, 2023 at 15:04
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Your current outlook is certainly more reasonable than your previous one. You have concluded, correctly, that the idea of god is very ill-defined, and therefore that allowing one's life to be ruled by a particular interpretation of the idea is arbitrary and irrational. You might also want to consider that a search for the proof of the existence , or non-existence, of god is doomed to be inconclusive, so to devote one's life to it would be fruitless in any case.

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I'll try and answer your question with a counter-question.

Consider a hypothetical scientist that was trying to find a cure for cancer. His reason for this attempt, however, was wanting to get the Nobel prize in medicine. Day and night he was dreaming of the Nobel prize, and sleep has evaded him. This has constantly spurred him in his research.

However, the days were passing, and he has (slowly and painfully) come to the conclusion that he is not likely to receive the Nobel prize. His research was not outstanding; just one out of many. Looking at the research of those who actually did get the Nobel prize, he could finally come to the humbling conclusion of not being as outstanding in terms of scientific caliber.

So (as you say about yourself) - the spur of that scientist of seeking a cure for cancer was misguided, and he has made naive presuppositions.

Would you say that about that scientist that now

"He can either seek a cure for cancer or not - no choice (clearly) is better than the other one. He can do whatever he wants. He is not bound by his devotion to the pursuit of the cure for cancer anymore."
?


I would think that trying to find a cure for cancer is still a worthy cause. Helping people becoming healthy, especially considering how deadly cancer is , is not just worthy but noble. The fact that this scientist had low motives, does not make the goal unworthy on its own.

You have found the specific reasons you have had for devotion for truth to be unfounded. This does not have any bearing on the question whether devotion to truth, and a desire to find the ultimate nature of reality is a worthy goal.

The fact that a bad argument is used for true conclusion, cannot invalidate the truth of the conclusion itself. Much in the same way, your discovery of the invalidity of your specific motives, does not have any bearing on the importance of being devoted to truth, and seeking the ultimate nature of reality.

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  • Yes, I think I would. What would you say to the scientist? Sep 30, 2023 at 13:07
  • @tryingtobeastoic added to the answer
    – Sam
    Oct 3, 2023 at 12:11
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Yes will do; "I think therefore I am" from The Meditations titled book written by Rene D3escartes the mathematician who famously invented calculus independently as Isaac Newton did, also he applied himself most rigorously within consummate attention to detail to find answered free from doubt along the same lines concerning your presented conundrum. Being so small a book restrains me from dropping more spoilers to make the journey all yours along Cartesian lines [pun]

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The True Nature of Reality suggests there's a False Nature of Reality. I'm familiar with this notion with my dalliance with Buddhism where it's called maya (illusion). We have to now investigate maya or falsum i.e. false and satya or verum or pravda i.e. true. And, "life is short, nasty, and brutish" says Hobbes (?). How does that alter the scenario? Too, there's a deeper, more fundamental problem: The MahaMaya Problem (errare humanum est ...)

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Not everyone is interested or capable of knowing the real nature of existence. Those who prefer ignorance over knowledge are busy doing their mundane work like cleaning house , getting married, raising kids and then dying without ever worrying about heaven or hell. They believe in purity… purity of heart. Once they believe that they are pure, they do not further worry about the future, their conscience is pure.

On the other hand there are people who believe in kindness and compassion ,they also do not worry about heaven or hell. They see everyone with kindness. They look upon everyone with kindness because they have the knowledge of the nature of existence which is suffering.They are knowledgeable. Getting rid of this suffering is the goal of their knowledge with or without God. They become like Buddha.

End of suffering is the prize they get for knowing the nature of reality.

0

This is a false dilemma. The ultimate nature of reality may lie somewhere between the existence of God and a universe not attached to a divine entity.

0

I think you have already determined the realm of ultimate reality i.e God & No God. The nature of ultimate reality may be Divine , spiritual , material, nothingness ( Non-existent ) or existent (manifested). There may be a creator of God , universe , earth etc.

In philosophy there is enigma for ultimate reality and even science too. Many fundamental question like Consciousness , life after death, free will , intelligent design , reality etc are shrouded in mystery.

So , our quest to know the ultimate reality is intrinsic and liberating. I would say truth or reality won't make us rich but free.Lest we should fall prey of superficial answers of fundamental question , which culminates to philosophical suicide.

D.J

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