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Unless you are a believer in a physical God, you must assume that God, through some mysterious way, causes physical effects while being “non physical” himself (whatever that means). But each physical effect has a preceding physical cause. Hence, why prefer God causing that physical cause instead of simply the physical cause itself causing the effect? Both involve a physical cause so why not just get rid of God from the picture?

Even if the physical effect had no physical cause at all, then why prefer God causing that physical effect rather than the physical effect simply having no cause at all and in some sense being necessary or random?

No matter which way you draw this map out, it seems as if God is superfluous. Without any independent evidence, is there ever a reason to propose God as an explanation for anything?

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  • How do you know that each physical effect has a physical cause? How do physical causes work? What causes forces to exist? Materialism only seems to provide an answer if you stop asking questions at a convenient place. Commented Feb 18 at 22:27
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    Can you give me an example of a physical effect that has a cause with no physical components? @DavidGudeman Commented Feb 18 at 22:32
  • You have missed the point. You have a set of laws that you think the universe follows. I'm asking what reason you have for thinking that the universe is somehow required to always follow those laws, that there is no exception. What would compel the universe to be like that? Commented Feb 19 at 0:17
  • @DavidGudeman Actually, you are missing the point. Why are you assuming that there must be a reason? This is simply the second case I was referring to. Why should I prefer something occurring for no reason or rather it being necessary as opposed to God causing it? The second doesn’t explain anything more than the first but adds more ontology. It seems to be a lose lose situation for God. Commented Feb 19 at 0:51
  • PSR fell out of favor with you?
    – Conifold
    Commented Feb 19 at 0:55

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According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of the word superfluous is as follows;

  1. exceeding what is sufficient or necessary
  2. not needed or necessary

In the summer of 2015 I converted to Judaism. At the time I was homeless, broke, and dishoned by every member of my very large family. I obviously struggled very seriously with poly substance abuse.

Because of the great number of nonprofits dedicated to assisting men and women who identify as chronically homeless, addicted, and usually seriously mentally ill located in Seattle, WA - that is where I went.

From 2009 to 2015 I blamed it all on the wealthy elites I'd pass on the streets, I blamed my family for not allowing me to live with them. The one I blamed most, though, was G-d. At this point in my life I had a very rudimentary understanding of G-d.

Everything changed when I met my best friend, Frank. Franka taught me the basic tenets of reform Judaism. I soaked it in like it was literally saving my life, which it NO DOUBT was.

6 months after starting to observe the Jewish culture, traditions and teachings - and after 6 months of reading the ancient and sacred texts...I had moved in to an apartment across from the Space Needle, I had an income I could survive on, I shaved my long greasy hair and beard, I was able to get my teeth fixed, the social services group that was helping me along wrote an article about my accomplishments in the Seattle Times, my social worker was featured in a different article on The New York Times, I got a union job at UPS, and though it took a while and a lot of effort, today I am clean and sober.

So, when I hear a question such as the one posted above, I unequivocally say that Hashem, my G-d is my whole body life force. Hashem has never, ever been "not needed or necessary"...I firmly believe without a shadow of a doubt that I would have died a sad death alone on a bed of wet cement if it wasn't for my G-d.

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    Whilst that is great for you, with the right kind of mindset, all of those things you attribute to God, could equally be put down to YOU deciding to change things (which you physically did) instead of Him. Sure Frank helped, but Frank could just have easily been a non-religious person with some really good life skills to pass on. Theoretically, you could have got the same 'spiritual' support and guidance from a football team supporters club and you'd now be in the same position, without a God.
    – Neil
    Commented Feb 19 at 11:29
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When Pierre-Simon Laplace offered Napoleon Bonaparte a copy his book on astronomy, the latter asked: “I am told that in this great book you have written on the system of the world there is no mention of God, its creator”, to which Laplace replied: “Sire, I have had no need of that hypothesis”.

Laplace's statement sums up neatly the atheistic perspective: they don't feel the need to evoke God in order to explain how the world works.

This, however, does not mean that there is no independent evidence of the existence of God. Rather, it means that in order to see such evidence, one might have to attain a deeper, a more nuanced understanding of this world. For example, given how irrational and unpredictable is human behaviour, one might conclude that there has to be some powerful and intelligent entity pulling the strings just to keep our societies from collapsing. Call it God -- or call it Carl Jung's collective unconscious.

Indeed, consider this quote from War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy:

There are two sides to each person's life – their personal life, which is they are the more free the more distractions they can afford. And their elemental, hive life, in which they inevitably conform to prescribed laws. Consciously a person lives for themselves, but unconsciously they serve to attain the goals of humanity as a whole.

The above quote comes from the first chapter of the third volume of the book. There, Leo Tolstoy marvels at the madness that is war -- any war. And it appears to describe the same concept of collective unconscious that was later popularized by Carl Jung.

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  • You have my +1. Though why the Tolstoy (beautiful) quote conduces towards existence/Truth of God I don't get... To be more honest I get but I'd like to be sure what iget and you are saying are the same
    – Rushi
    Commented Feb 19 at 9:57
  • @Rushi -- Thanks! Perhaps the collective unconscious is a real-world phenomenon that we have been traditionally perceiving as God? Commented Feb 19 at 10:00
  • In the quote, Tolstoy describes an external force, an entity that, acting under the radar of our conscious awareness, steers us and our societies towards a certain goal. It clearly has agency and, given the enormity of its task, it must possess an extremely high level of intelligence too. Commented Feb 19 at 10:16
  • A highly conscious but non beneficent God?! Hehe! I suspect you'd appreciate Gurdjieff's Beelzebub's Tales where he equates this 'God' with the moon that requires huge amounts of emotion — positive or negative — for its life. So when spirituality wanes and therefore bhakti with it, wars increase by conservation
    – Rushi
    Commented Feb 19 at 10:23
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    @Rushi -- there is a similar book that I highly recommend, Citadelle by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Good look finding an English translation though :/ Commented Feb 19 at 10:56
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My answer to your title question: Yes, the concept of God is superfluous.

The god-concept from your post is the fiction of a personal cause for events where we do not know a natural cause. But in the context of causal explanations the next question would be: What is the cause of God?

Questions like these have been asked and got different answers in the history of philosophy, even from the greatest philosophers. The most striking answer, which ends the whole discussion, is to declare God as causa sui, i.e. as the cause of itself.

Only naturalists abstain from figuring non-natural causes. They accept that some questions did not find an answer. Naturalists do not invent pseudo-explanations, which employ gods or other mysterious spirits or introduce concepts like causa sui.

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    The concept of a natural cause is itself a pseudo-explanation. Commented Feb 19 at 2:44
  • @DavidGudeman More than pseudo explanation, I'd say it's a circular definition — define physical as real then define real as physical then reject «whatever» it is you set out to reject — whether it's telepathy or homoeopathy or ... or God
    – Rushi
    Commented Feb 19 at 6:51
  • @DavidGudeman Enlighten us on non natural explanations then please! Commented Feb 19 at 6:58
  • @Baby_philosopher, demanding that I defend some other form of ultimate explanation is not as strong a defense of natural causality as you seem to think it is. Commented Feb 19 at 7:06
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God is the source of vitality - life and the ability to live. Scientific reasoning enables us to invent stories of a chain of proximate causes of life. The source of vitality transcends all the models for physical causes although we know much about the physics of the Sun-earth relationship, photosynthesis, biological metabolism, etc. Vitality seems to flow from a supernatural source before the organism can begin to comprehend the concepts of a chain or chains of natural causes.

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God has existed ever since the development of language gave parents the ability to lie to their children. Even today when an atheist goes to the funeral of a friend. What does he say to the grieving children of that friend. What platitudes does he offer or does he simply remain mute. It has always been easier to say that they have gone to a better place. Valhalla or some such place. Answering the questions that follow is how religions develop. There is no mystery it is simply lies on top of lies.

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why not just get rid of God from the picture?

Exactly. Why introduce God in the picture in the first place?

To cover the philosophal aspect (i.e., logic): your question implies that a God of whatever kind does in fact exist, a priori (you spell it out as "either you believe that God is physical or your believe that God is not physical" - but in both cases you start with "God exists"). You are starting with "God exists" as axiom. You can try to use proof by contradiction to disprove that axiom, but you can never use this as the basis to prove the positive statement "God exists" outside of your logic building.

So yes, any argument which starts with the axiom "God exists" can be solved by just getting rid of God in the first place.

That said, to take the quoted question more seriously:

Obviously there is some mechanic underway in our brains that leads to people believing in supernatural beings. While we have no proof for the truth of any religion, we have abundant proof that people do indeed believe in them - in fact, in the past you would be very unlikely to find any society which did not believe, for the most part. From early elemental gods (i.e. the Titans from greek mythology), over more human-like gods still being associated with individual features of humanity (i.e., war, peace, love, etc. - again in ancient Greek or Roman religion), to what we had today.

One basic explanation would be that the mind, especially before the advent of science, just needs some kind of explanation for everything - this also would motivate why we obviously have so many people who go into the sciences for no good reason than to enlarge our knowledge. This is obviously an awesome evolutionary trait, being mostly reponsible for where we, as humanity, are today.

Eventually, it is perfectly fine to accept that we are past that stage of believing in made-up, orally transported beings. We don't believe in Poseidon or Thor anymore, and are off no worse for it.

If believing in God (of whatever kind) is beneficial to you (which it absolutely can be, especially if you focus on the value system of one of the more peaceful religions and not so much in the specifics of the deity!), there is nothing bad about it. But it becomes stressful whenever you try to look for objective proof for your beliefs; or if you want to force other people to join your belief; or if you do bad things to humans not part of your belief; or if doubt creeps in and you find no way to solve the discrepancies. If you are a believer and have no reason to get out, then it's probably better not to try too hard for proofs, as you will find that they all have been dismembered many times over in the past.

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