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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » A Hypothetical: What if God Proved His Own Existence? (Page 2)

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Author Topic: A Hypothetical: What if God Proved His Own Existence?
Mucus
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quote:
Originally posted by Foust:
If your answer is "nothing," then this hypothetical isn't worth talking about, now is it?

The answer isn't nothing. The answer is that it would be complex and many of the sub-claims involve so much rewiring of reality, history, and science that there is a problem with the "just" in
quote:
If your answer is X, then just imagine this being did X.
.

In other words, you can't just propose a few simple parlour tricks. Just for *one* of the subclaims, that this God says that libertarian economics is workable would require a huge re-writing of history and of human nature. Humans would fundamentally act differently in such a world and history would be very different.

Or evolution for example would require explanations for why all the mountains of evidence we have are either incorrect or faked by the god in question. Plus, you'd probably have to rewrite reality to explain why the various medicines and software tools we've based on this evidence works, or rather seem to work.

The answers to these questions would have large consequences on how we would treat such a god, but these answers are also required to explain how we were convinced there is such a god. These are answers that cannot be simply glossed over.

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Foust
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quote:
I'm afraid I'm much too unfamiliar with Pat Robertson's advice to take your meaning.
You're unfamiliar with Pat Robertson? Here you go.

quote:
But you may as well ask your hypothetical question of hypothetical people.
Well, let's say I'm asking my hypothetical of hypothetical people who will, hypothetically, answer the hypothetical rather than refusing it.

Hypothetically.

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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by Stone_Wolf_:
Might I suggest, if you are going to ask a question, then reject the answers people give, then answer the question yourself...you can skip the part where you post the question on the internet.

I'm going to have to agree.
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kmbboots
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quote:
Originally posted by Foust:


If your answer is X, then just imagine this being did X.

X would necessarily include the opposite of those things you suggest that your hypothetical being does.
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Foust
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Mucus, the question is not "what would convince you this being was god." The question is "if you were already convinced..."

You want an answer for evolution? God did it to test your faith. You say that's immoral? god says so what, or, if you want the long version, [i]"I am only capable of acting out of my nature, which is perfectly good; it only appears evil to you because you are fallen." You say "But philosophical argument Y!" And god again says "so what, bow or go to hell."

So, if anyone wants to answer the hypothetical, go ahead, but I'm not going to answer anymore questions trying to dodge it. (I'm not even sure why anyone would want to dodge it, just ignore it in the first place)

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Mucus
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quote:
Originally posted by Foust:
You want an answer for evolution? God did it to test your faith. You say that's immoral? god says so what, or, if you want the long version, [i]"I am only capable of acting out of my nature, which is perfectly good; it only appears evil to you because you are fallen." ...

That's precisely what I mean though. You're postulating a god that is as good at explaining things as the guy holding up a cardboard sign at the side of the road and preaching about the end of the world.

A god that is incapable of providing convincing answers and answers wouldn't have convinced me. So there's a big problem here. How do I reason about being convinced by an unconvincing god?

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Stone_Wolf_
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quote:
I am only capable of acting out of my nature, which is perfectly good


quote:
bow or go to hell.
Whether you like or accept the answers is one thing, but people have been answering your question.

I'll try again:

I would rather rot in hell forever and keep a false hope that God is not the lame Ahole you describe then to have to accept that "goodness" includes coercion and torture.

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Raymond Arnold
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It's not a matter of "I'd seek to defy this God." It's just, this God would be a jerk. I'd accept that he exists, but I wouldn't change my morality. Not out of spite, but because I CAN'T. At least not without deliberately trying to brainwash myself.

Essentially the question is equivalent to "if a powerful dictator takes over your town and said that anyone who doesn't dye their clothes pink is immoral and will be put to death." The dictator is powerful so I pretty much have to do what he says, but I can't actually change my belief that dying clothes pink is a perfectly okay thing to do.

In the God example I'd accept that there's a very powerful being hanging around, impacting the world. I might try to appease the being or I might speak out against him if I thought doing so could help anyone, but I wouldn't actually change my beliefs about right and wrong.

[ November 14, 2011, 01:10 PM: Message edited by: Raymond Arnold ]

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Javert
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quote:
Originally posted by Foust:
Javert, I still don't think that is an answer to the hypothetical but rather a refusal of it.

No. I've answered your hypothetical. I just haven't arrived at the answer you seem to think I would.
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capaxinfiniti
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quote:
Originally posted by Foust:
Here's a hypothetical scenario. Let's say God does something - or a series of things - to prove his own existence. Whatever standard of proof you wish, whatever actions God would have to take to prove he exists and that he is indeed omnimax.

Then, he points at various conservative Evangelical figures - Tim LaHaye, Pat Robertson, etc - and says: "These guys basically have it correct. Gay is not ok, I like libertarian economics but whatever, I do think abortion is murder, and oh yeah, if you don't accept Jesus as your savior you will go to hell. Jews, Muslims et al take note. The rapture is going to happen in a few days, it's time to make a choice." Add whatever conservative evangelical positions you wish to this list.

What would you do?

If you'd kindly grant me some assumptions - I imagine this God would clarify and expound upon the current teachings and views within modern Christianity once He (I use "He" because, traditionally, that's the gender of the Christian God) has arrived. Meaning, "gay" is not ok because of X, I don't make gay people straight because of Y, and libertarian economic principles are superior because of Z. Such reasons (X,Y,Z)) would likely be derived from the God's purpose in creating this universe and, therefore, our existence.

As others have stated, this God would have to prove himself the creator of the universe and justify the reason for creating us, to the point that inhabitants of this world have an absolute certainty as to the veracity and justification of these claims. This is critically important because belief in the omnibenevolece of this Being really comes down to the belief that this Being is the origin of all the moral laws that govern this universe. An omniscient being would have the power to explain the "how" and the "why" or at least expand our understanding and mental capacity so that we might accomplish this on our own.

As for those who claim they would change little were this hypothetical true - I find that highly unlikely, unless, of course, God showed up, said, "What's up? I'm here. It's Me", then kicked back and chilled - which isn't what the hypothetical states. I find that claim to be unlikely because the proven existence of God would change the entire context of discussion concerning morality. You can't add or modify variables and expect the same results. Moral values are tied to what one perceives as the "purpose" of this existence. If a God came along it would upset the entire premise that there is no identifiable and universal reason to live or behave in a "moral" manner. If this being showed, for example, the existence of a life after this life, not only do I think strongly entrenched moral positions would be modified, I would expect them to be.

Still, I'm not saying this Being would be deserving of adoration or worship but this hypothetical comes with a whole list of unarticulated givens that should have more bearing on the direction of the discussion as well as the responses given.

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Marlozhan
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Joseph Smith, in his Lectures on Faith, said this:
quote:
1. Faith being the first principle in revealed religion, and the foundation of all righteousness, necessarily claims the first place in a course of lectures which are designed to unfold to the understanding the doctrine of Jesus Christ.

2. In presenting the subject of faith, we shall observe the following order —

3. First, faith itself — what it is.

4. Secondly, the object on which it rests. And,

5. Thirdly, the effects which flow from it.

6. Agreeable to this order we have first to show what faith is.

7. The author of the epistle to the Hebrews, in the eleventh chapter of that epistle and first verse, gives the following definition of the word faith:

8. "Now faith is the substance (assurance) of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."

9. From this we learn that faith is the assurance which men have of the existence of things which they have not seen, and the principle of action in all intelligent beings.

10. If men were duly to consider themselves, and turn their thoughts and reflections to the operations of their own minds, they would readily discover that it is faith, and faith only, which is the moving cause of all action in them; that without it both mind and body would be in a state of inactivity, and all their exertions would cease, both physical and mental.

11. Were this class to go back and reflect upon the history of their lives, from the period of their first recollection, and ask themselves what principle excited them to action, or what gave them energy and activity in all their lawful avocations, callings, and pursuits, what would be the answer? Would it not be that it was the assurance which they had of the existence of things which they had not seen as yet? Was it not the hope which you had, in consequence of your belief in the existence of unseen things, which stimulated you to action and exertion in order to obtain them? Are you not dependent on your faith, or belief, for the acquisition of all knowledge, wisdom, and intelligence? Would you exert yourselves to obtain wisdom and intelligence, unless you did believe that you could obtain them? Would you have ever sown, if you had not believed that you would reap? Should you have ever planted, if you had not believed that you would gather? Would you have ever asked, unless you had believed that you would receive? Would you have ever sought, unless you had believed that you would have found? Or, would you have ever knocked, unless you had believed that it would have been opened unto you? In a word, is there anything that you would have done, either physical or mental, if you had not previously believed? Are not all your exertions of every kind, dependent on your faith? Or, may we not ask, what have you, or what do you possess, which you have not obtained by reason of your faith? Your food, your raiment, your lodgings, are they not all by reason of your faith? Reflect, and ask yourselves if these things are not so. Turn your thoughts on your own minds, and see if faith is not the moving cause of all action in yourselves; and, if the moving cause in you, is it not in all other intelligent beings?

I am not athiest, but I agree with those in this thread who expect God to be able to prove both his omnipotence and his perfection in every other manner, namely, goodness, mercy, justice, etc.


quote:
2. We here observe that God is the only supreme governor and independent being in whom all fullness and perfection dwell; who is omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient; without beginning of days or end of life; and that in him every good gift and every good principle dwell; and that he is the Father of lights; in him the principle of faith dwells independently, and he is the object in whom the faith of all other rational and accountable beings center for life and salvation.
I would not exercise faith in a being that was not perfect in every attribute. Absolute power is not just enough in my mind. How could I trust in a being that has the potential to make mistakes? I could never be sure that he was 100% correct, therefore, he could lead me or others astray. If a god had absolute power, but was not perfect in love, justice, mercy, compassion, wisdom, etc., I would view such a being as among the most dangerous of beings: like giving a terrorist a nuclear bomb...they have great power, but they would definitely not use it for good.


quote:
2. Let us here observe, that three things are necessary in order that any rational and intelligent being may exercise faith in God unto life and salvation.

3. First, the idea that he actually exists.

4. Secondly, a correct idea of his character, perfections, and attributes.

5. Thirdly, an actual knowledge that the course of life which he is pursuing is according to his will. For without an acquaintance with these three important facts, the faith of every rational being must be imperfect and unproductive; but with this understanding it can become perfect and fruitful, abounding in righteousness, unto the praise and glory of God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I think too many Christians, particularly fundamentalists, have an elementary and immature view of God and perfection. They view power as simply owning a giant wand in which God can wish whatever he wants into existence. They view faith as something along the lines of..."if you are powerful enough, then I have to have faith in you because you said so." This is not real faith. At first, we exercise faith based on the belief that something might work, just like you trust your college professor the first day of class, even though you have not had a chance to test his theories or logic.

If your professor is a good professor, his teachings will line up with reality. If he is lying to you, you will stop having faith in him once you start to realize what he tells you to do isn't working as it should.

God gave us the ability to reason. Just as fundamental, God gave us the power to say NO to Him. Why is there so much suffering in the world? Because God gave us the power to make choices. If he robbed us of the ability to make bad choices, then we wouldn't have free will at all. It is not God's fault that there is evil in this world. It is the fault of His creations who He gave free will to. God is trying to teach us to become like Him, and He is a being who has the ability to choose and who knows how to make the perfect choice in every scenario, thus He has all power and perfection. He is trying to teach us how to make choices that reap good results.

So, though I am Christian, I do not expect others to believe in God just because they might go to hell otherwise. I expect them to test what God says and see what works, just as the gardener must learn, through trial and error, the best ways to make specific plants grow.

Joseph Smith taught that you can't exercise true faith unless you have true knowledge. If you have false knowledge and try to exercise faith in it, it won't work...kind of like trying to water your plants with gasoline just because your neighbor told you to. You may believe your neighbor, but it still won't work.

I have never understood the rift between science and God. God is the perfect and ultimate scientist. He knows all of the laws of existence and He doesn't violate any of them. He puts the universe into existence by perfectly exercising the laws of existence. Mortal scientists are discovering what God already knows every year. I believe in evolution and many other scientific ideas, but I only believe them as long as they hold up. Every one of our laws our subject to change, because we don't have a perfect understanding of them. The discovery of quantum physics and how it changed Newtonian physics is a good example. If evolution turns out to be a fact, not just a theory, I am not going to be like, "ZOMG, God must not be real!"

I don't understand why many people find it so hard to believe that God must not be God if you discover all of the scientific laws by which He operates. We worship Him because He perfectly understands the laws behind physics, nature, emotion, psychology, relationships, etc. We worship Him because He is the guide to helping us learn these laws one step at a time.

God only expects people to truly worship Him when they understand that His ways are perfect in every way. He does not need our worship. He wants us to worship, because by modeling Him, we learn how to progress in understanding the correct laws behind all things. This is a motivation that comes from love. God doesn't need minions. He wants His creations, whom He loves, to be happy.

The Book of Mormon says this: "Adam fell that men might be, and men are that they might have joy."

quote:
2. Let us here observe, that the real design which the God of heaven had in view in making the human family acquainted with His attributes, was that they, through the ideas of the existence of His attributes, might be enabled to exercise faith in Him, and through the exercise of faith in Him, might obtain eternal life; for without the idea of the existence of the attributes which belong to God, the minds of men could not have power to exercise faith in Him so as to lay hold upon eternal life. The God of heaven, understanding most perfectly the constitution of human nature, and the weakness of men, knew what was necessary to be revealed, and what ideas must be planted in their minds in order that they might be enabled to exercise faith in Him unto eternal life.
The true God would do nothing that does not lead to our ultimate eternal joy. Is there pain along the way to that ultimate goal? Yes, because other beings around us have free will, and also because growth comes with pain. God will never rob people of their right to choose, and this proves that He is not interested in minions. In fact, LDS doctrine teaches that Satan was the spirit in God's presence that wanted to have God's power and to have dominion over all of us, precisely because he lusted after power. Satan used the argument that it was too dangerous to come to this world of free choice, and that we should just be robbed of free choice so that we could "play it safe" here, so to speak. God cast Satan out, because he understood that to rob us of our free will, just to play it safe, would rob us of our very identity. It would turn us into minions, not independent beings who can learn to be happy by making good and bad choices along the way. God loved us enough to not take away our free will, so he fought for us.

Yet, because God is a perfect being and therefore cannot tolerate any imperfection, He needed to send His Son to give us grace while we learn. God knew we would learn through our mistakes, and the only way to keep this growth process from preventing us from living in a perfect kingdom was to send His perfect Son to pay the price for our sins. Thus, God maintains both His perfect justice and His perfect mercy. He will never violate any of the laws of perfection, because to do anything else would rob Himself and us from having perfect joy.


quote:
20. But secondly; unless He was merciful and gracious, slow to anger, long-suffering and full of goodness, such is the weakness of human nature, and so great the frailties and imperfections of men, that unless they believed that these excellencies existed in the divine character, the faith necessary to salvation could not exist; for doubt would take the place of faith, and those who know their weakness and liability to sin would be in constant doubt of salvation if it were not for the idea which they have of the excellency of the character of God, that He is slow to anger and long-suffering, and of a forgiving disposition, and does forgive iniquity, transgression, and sin. An idea of these facts does away doubt, and makes faith exceedingly strong.

21. But it is equally as necessary that men should have the idea that he is a God who changes not, in order to have faith in him, as it is to have the idea that He is gracious and long-suffering; for without the idea of unchangeableness in the character of the Deity, doubt would take the place of faith. But with the idea that He changes not, faith lays hold upon the excellencies in His character with unshaken confidence, believing He is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and that His course is one eternal round.

22. And again, the idea that He is a God of truth and cannot lie, is equally as necessary to the exercise of faith in Him as the idea of His unchangeableness. For without the idea that He was a God of truth and could not lie, the confidence necessary to be placed in His word in order to the exercise of faith in Him could not exist. But having the idea that He is not man, that He cannot lie, it gives power to the minds of men to exercise faith in Him.

23. But it is also necessary that men should have an idea that He is no respecter of persons, for with the idea of all the other excellencies in His character, and this one wanting, men could not exercise faith in Him; because if He were a respecter of persons, they could not tell what their privileges were, nor how far they were authorized to exercise faith in Him, or whether they were authorized to do it at all, but all must be confusion; but no sooner are the minds of men made acquainted with the truth on this point, that He is no respecter of persons, than they see that they have authority by faith to lay hold on eternal life, the richest boon of heaven, because God is no respecter of persons, and that every man in every nation has an equal privilege.

24. And lastly, but not less important to the exercise of faith in God, is the idea that He is love; for with all the other excellencies in His character, without this one to influence them, they could not have such powerful dominion over the minds of men; but when the idea is planted in the mind that He is love, who cannot see the just ground that men of every nation, kindred, and tongue, have to exercise faith in God so as to obtain eternal life?

Wow, that turned out to be longer than I thought. [Smile]
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The Rabbit
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I'm not sure what the purpose of your question is Faust. An all powerful being, by definition, would have the power to persuade me that doing anything he asked was good. But that pretty much renders the scenario ridiculous. If we were all persuaded that everything this being asked was in fact good, why would any one choose eternal torment rather than submit?

So I'm presuming that your question is really more, if you were convinced of the existence of an all powerful being that you believed was bad, would you worship him just to avoid eternal punishment.

Which then begs the question, what does it mean to worship? Is it sufficient to go through the motions or does it require sincere reverence? I could go through the motions but I don't think I could ever sincerely revere a being that wanted me to obey just because it had the power to punish me.

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King of Men
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At some point you have to submit to overwhelming force; if I were sufficiently convinced of the existence and power of the god in question, I would not go to hell deliberately. On the other hand it's an interesting question whether you actually can submit, in this case, as a deliberate act of will. Is it enough to just say the words, "I accept Jesus as my Saviour", and so on? Or do you have to genuinely believe that you need a saviour?
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Traceria
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It seems to me that you're just trying to fabricate a situation where free will is pushed out the window.

I know not all Christians subscribe to it, but if the ones that do are the ones that believe in this being you've presented, I think you would not be accounting for the fact that individual humans have choice.

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Graeme
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For wisdom, we must, as always, look to Star Trek.

In the episode entitled "Devil's Due" (ST:TNG, Season 4, Episode 14), the Enterprise assists a planet threatened with extinction unless it yields to an entity claiming to be that planet's version of the Devil. Of course, the entity, called Varda, is not really the Devil, but rather a fraud using relatively advanced tech to appear supernatural. The Enterprise exposes the fraud -- naturally -- countering with some tech of its own.

Now, if a being were to do works and wonders to convince me that it was God, I would continue to have a small voice reminding me: well, perhaps this entity is no more than a first-rate Varda, equipped with excellent tech. (Cf Arthur Clarke: "Any sufficiently technology is indistinguishable from magic.")

This is the central problem with your hypothetical, Foust: it might well be impossible for me ever to be "convinced" that the entity was God, no matter the works and wonders it showed.

Now, it won't really matter for my personal fortune, in the near term, whether the entity is a Varda or actually the omnipotent creator of the universe. In either case, my goose is cooked unless I tow the party line. If there is truly no hope of appeal, I would yield. But then again ... If the entity is a Varda, maybe some "Enterprise" will come along and save me; or maybe I can eventually overcome it on my own. So I'm right back where I started from: I can't be sure this entity is unstoppable, so I may well continue to fight it.

This is also why many people insist on "conflating" the attributes of Benevolence and Omnipotence in their conception of God. To them, God can only be benevolent. Any being that lacked it, but appeared omnipotent in every respect, would be construed as nothing more than an entity with some very heavy tech. Whether to obey it or not is the same question as whether to obey Hitler, Stalin, or Kim Jong-il.

So, when you, Foust, ask us to imagine being convinced that an entity is God, you are asking for the impossible. We don't know there is a God. We believe there is a God. And that act of believing includes a list of necessary qualities, such as benevolence.

Certainly some people will be convinced that the works and wonders emanate from the Supreme Being. But those who know their Trek will merely recognize another Varda and look to the stars for a better alternative.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
Are you saying that because I say I'd be willing to take an eternity of hellfire in opposition to god's perceived immorality, I should be willing to give up every bit of my "comfortable" life and devote every waking moment to righting the wrongs of the world?
I think Foust is, rather, asking whether this is the case. Is it rational to posit that you would be willing to suffer an eternity of torment to defy -- to no measurable purpose -- an authority figure when you are clearly not willing to suffer a life of torment to defy other authority figures to perhaps more measurable good?

My own answer to this is that having God as an obvious target of that defiance actually produces an interesting distinction, in which the point of the act becomes the defiance itself; that the defiance is meaningless makes it easier, on one level, than if the defiance were just one tiny step towards changing some larger, complex system.

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The Rabbit
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I think what Foust is really asking is whether we'd rather suffer eternal torment than admit Pat Roberson was right. I must admit, its a very difficult choice.
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The Rabbit
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quote:
My own answer to this is that having God as an obvious target of that defiance actually produces an interesting distinction, in which the point of the act becomes the defiance itself; that the defiance is meaningless makes it easier, on one level, than if the defiance were just one tiny step towards changing some larger, complex system.
Which supports my contention that you aren't really so much an unbeliever as you are bitter and angry believer.
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kmbboots
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Rabbit, I am not sure how that supports your contention. I agree that it is easier to believe something no matter what than to actually make the constant efforts to do uncomfortable or even tedious things.
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Foust
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A little from column Tom, and a little from column Rabbit. They have the right of it.

King of Men, under this hypothetical it is enough to act and speak like a conservative Christian.

A lot of people are flatly asserting that there is a logically necessary connection between God and morality that is acceptable to 21st century American liberals. As if, when I say that this hypothetical god is uninterested in said contemporary morality, I am speaking nonsense. Like I am speaking about a square circle. These assertions are deeply myopic, but if they are insisted on I have nothing else to say.

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TomDavidson
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Yeah, Rabbit, I'm not sure how "it is more personally satisfying to rebel pointlessly against a hypothetical God than it is to rebel pointlessly against a complex system" can be considered useful evidence for belief. [Smile]
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Vadon
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quote:
Originally posted by Foust:
A lot of people are flatly asserting that there is a logically necessary connection between God and morality that is acceptable to 21st century American liberals. As if, when I say that this hypothetical god is uninterested in said contemporary morality, I am speaking nonsense. Like I am speaking about a square circle. These assertions are deeply myopic, but if they are insisted on I have nothing else to say.

The issue is declarative. My definition of God requires not just omnipotence and omniscence, but omnibenevolence. I'm not trying to appeal to the problem of evil objection, but I would say that God should be compatible, if not the source, of morality. If the being you describe were to claim things (ala Pat Robertson) as moral truth, they cannot prove themself God to me. It's not that I don't think a Pat Robertsonesque God would be bad (though I do), and it's not that I'm claiming such a being shouldn't be God (though I think they shouldn't), it's that by my definition of what it takes to prove Themself God, They cannot represent something immoral.

For your hypothetical to work, I'd need to be convinced by this being that they're right about Pat Robertson in order for them to sufficiently prove themself as God. If you leave it open for disagreement (God proves Themself, then They claim something about morality you disagree with) they haven't proved themself God. It's a contradiction.

The fact that we don't have a proof of God is what allows for competing interpretations of morality. If there were a proof for God, it would be logically impossible for me to disagree with them. If I'm allowed to disagree, they haven't proven themself and it remains a matter of faith.

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kmbboots
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Faust, you asked what we would do. How is it a meaningful question without taking into consideration what we believe about the nature of God? Otherwise, you are just asking if we think we would cave under torture from some being that has the power to torture us.
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Glenn Arnold
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quote:
Mucus, the question is not "what would convince you this being was god." The question is "if you were already convinced..."
I think that the two are linked. As Traceria said:
quote:
It seems to me that you're just trying to fabricate a situation where free will is pushed out the window.
God, being omnipotent, could very easily convince anything of whatever he wanted to, simply by moving a few molecules of neurotransmitter or perhaps a few synapses. I've referred to this in the past as the "God bit." Once the God bit is flipped, a whole cascade of logic would naturally and unavoidably follow. It doesn't really matter how the bit is flipped, whether through supernatural means or shear unassailable logic, the effect would be to render free will moot.

Now, I've talked to fundamentalist Christians that don't believe in free will. They believe that I am an atheist because God made me that way, and that unless God offers me his grace (that is, makes me believe), I will go to hell. They have no problem with that, because it's part of God's plan. If this is the God that convinces me he's real, then I don't have free will anyway and he can damn well convince me of anything else he wants.

But if an essential part of the "Pat Roberston God" includes free will, then if he flips my God bit, he violates my free will. Thus a contradiction, and this God can't exist.

So we're left with possible Gods that aren't omnipotent.

What you're asking is similar to asking if you were being held captive and tortured, would you do what your captors tell you to do, simply because they are powerful. But it's not merely a matter of "doing what they tell you to do." I have no intention of having or performing an abortion in the next few days, I'm not gay, and I have no intention of cheating on my wife, etc. What am I supposed to do differently, in order to get myself raptured? What's being asked here is not to do something different, but to believe something that I don't believe.

This gets to another aspect of free will. Can you choose to believe something that you don't believe? Well, there are brainwashing techniques. Are you suggesting that I try these on myself in order to gain God's favor? Does this God not want me to be true to myself?

There are also those (and I think Pat Robertson does) who say they "Fear God" as though that were a positive thing. If the Pat Robertson God convinced me he existed, I guess I would fear him. Does that count? Is the question you are asking really: If you were afraid enough, would you do or say whatever it takes to prevent yourself from enduring the agony of Hell?

In that case, all I can say is: I don't know. I've never been that afraid.

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Glenn Arnold
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quote:
King of Men, under this hypothetical it is enough to act and speak like a conservative Christian.
Oh. I guess that answers my question. So we're in Pascal's wager territory.
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TomDavidson
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quote:
How is it a meaningful question without taking into consideration what we believe about the nature of God?
It doesn't matter to his hypothetical. In this hypothetical, "God" is an all-powerful and all-knowing being who created the Universe and gets to determine what happens to you in the afterlife, and moreover claims to be an arbiter of morality. Whether you accept such a being as "God" or not is completely irrelevant to the question, which is: do you believe you would refuse to cooperate with an all-powerful being, thus suffering an eternity of agony for no concrete reason -- and if so, how do you reconcile that with not acting more passionately against injustice here in the real world?
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Foust
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
quote:
How is it a meaningful question without taking into consideration what we believe about the nature of God?
It doesn't matter to his hypothetical. In this hypothetical, "God" is an all-powerful and all-knowing being who created the Universe and gets to determine what happens to you in the afterlife, and moreover claims to be an arbiter of morality. Whether you accept such a being as "God" or not is completely irrelevant to the question, which is: do you believe you would refuse to cooperate with an all-powerful being, thus suffering an eternity of agony for no concrete reason -- and if so, how do you reconcile that with not acting more passionately against injustice here in the real world?
Yes, thank you for putting it so clearly.
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Foust
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And Glenn, I'm not making a Pascal's wager argument; in this world, it is a sure thing that there is an omnimax creator. This is not a stealth argument for belief in God; I am a convinced atheist.
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King of Men
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It seems to me, then, that the question is rather, "Given a gun pointed at your head, would you behave a certain way?" It has nothing to do with belief in a god, in some sense; just in the gun. And then the answer is simple: Unless the Hatrack demographic is exceedingly unusual, 99% of it would indeed cave under such a threat. Keep your head down, don't rock the boat, go along to get along - this is what all but the most unusual humans actually do, in such circumstances. Stanford prison experiment, girl getting run over in China, the obvious Godwin - take your choice. Tying the question up in definitions of 'God' is not useful.
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kmbboots
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So how does c,aving to whatever being is powerful enough to torture me not cover it? Why does belief or God have anything to do with it.

Faust, I never suspected you would be anything but an atheist.

Edit: cross posted with KoM.

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Foust
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King, I am using God because it clears out any possibility of benefit or change. If you refuse to participate in a Milgram experiment type situation, you could be saving another person a great deal of pain. or, your moral stand might make the person ordering the torture feel ashamed enough to stop. There is no such possibility with this hypothetical god.

And Kmb, surprising numbers of people have insisted they would not cave when I have asked in the past. So I continue to be curious about other people's responses.

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capaxinfiniti
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
Whether you accept such a being as "God" or not is completely irrelevant to the question

It's entirely relevant. Why do you insist on dismissing this fact? I'll attempt to explain below..

quote:
Originally posted by Foust:
A lot of people are flatly asserting that there is a logically necessary connection between God and morality that is acceptable to 21st century American liberals. As if, when I say that this hypothetical god is uninterested in said contemporary morality, I am speaking nonsense.

A few of us have pointed out that the Being described in the hypothetical isn't "God" if He lacks certain qualities and attributes. Why would one "refuse to cooperate with an all-powerful being"? If it's because you are intransigent on your moral values, and believe your values to be superior to those of an omnibenevolent creator, who, as Tom stated, is the arbiter of morality, then such actions wouldn't be rational. That's like a child telling their mom that a hot stove won't burn them when they touch it. The child is flat-out wrong. By introducing a God-figure, you're establishing a very clear moral structure (rights/wrongs/dos/don'ts) which is whatever He/She/They/It decide that structure to be.

You can't claim this hypothetical God has no interested in the behavior of His subjects then say that the subjects will be punished for behaving in a certain way.

How could an all-powerful God not be interested in the moral nature of His universe? A God would be interested in morality by default, or else He is not the all-powerful creator He claims to be. I don't believe anyone thinks you're speaking nonsense, but what you desire as a response is unclear.

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Foust
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Cap, a not insignificant number of Americans already believe this God exists. A major part of the hypothetical is that this god is interested in morality and the behavior of his subjects; the point is that this God's morality is at odds with contemporary American liberal morality.

[ November 14, 2011, 10:37 PM: Message edited by: Foust ]

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King of Men
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quote:
How could an all-powerful God not be interested in the moral nature of His universe? A God would be interested in morality by default, or else He is not the all-powerful creator He claims to be.
You commit the fallacy does-not-follow. Great power does not imply great moral interest. If I set up an ant farm, I have in effect creator powers over the universe of the ants; I am reasonably omnipotent within it. Does it follow that I have to take an interest in the doings of individual ants, and judge their disputes, whatever disputes ants might have? I think not.
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Graeme
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KOM: But you probably would have an interest in how the ants functioned. Some of their actions would please you, and others not so much. Some actions would entertain you, some wouldn't. After all, why did you create the ant farm in the first place? So you'd likely start steering the ants in one way or another. Through incentives. Punishments. Little ant-sized tablets given from on high. You would, in fact, almost certainly take a moral interest in their actions -- "moral" in the sense that you'd rather see one action over another. It's hard for me to imagine a creator that didn't have some such interest over its creation, though I certainly concede that the two activities -- creation and moral interest -- are logically distinct.
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Dogbreath
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quote:
Originally posted by Stone_Wolf_:
Episcopalian Dogbreath? They are my fave Christians.

Non-denominational, actually. The pastors who started the Church back in 2003 came from the Wesleyan and Baptist traditions, respectively, and were both dissatisfied with the denominations in which they had been ordained. They spent about a year and half reading the Bible, praying, and studying various theologians (Bonhoeffer was major influence) as well as visiting various churches, carefully trying to design a church that actually followed the teachings of Christ and the example of the early church set forth in Acts, and carry out the words of Christ: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord." They take the words of Christ and the apostles pretty literally - they meet in each other's houses and eat together, they share resources, they give money and food and clothes to the poor. The church has about 200 members, but they've had a very strong, positive (though quiet) impact on their city. (You can read about them on their website if you so desire. The language is a little post modern cliche for my tastes, but not everyone can be a great writer, eh?)

I myself haven't attended church in several years, and can't really call myself an anything. I love Christianity - I think the image of a God so loving he humbles himself and dies for his own creation is beautiful and powerful. But I can't actually bring myself to believe some of the absurdities - I'm a pretty logical person. So maybe you could say I'm a Jesus fan?

And for the same reasons I love Christ, and despise fundamentalism. It's a disease eating away at the soul of Christianity. It takes a deep and complex and mysterious religion and reduces it to a 2 page tract - like turning a rare steak dinner into a stale box of Little Debbie treats. It takes a God who became flesh to live among and minister to the poor and despised into a God who blesses those who rise to richness and power on the backs of the poor. (prayer of Jabez my ass) A God whose closest friends were fishermen and a tax collector and a prostitute is turned into a God who hates gays and damns people for not growing up in the right faith.

It's an infantile, bully, twisted religion that takes away free choice and spiritual growth and replaces them with a handful of trite, meaningless songs and sayings.

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Jiminy
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The whole bit about God and hellfire is mostly just confusing the issue. The meat of the thing is this:

Skeletor finds a way to make He-Man suffer pain beyond imagining for all eternity. He captures He-Man and gives him a choice: kneel before Skeletor, or suffer forever. We'll take Skeletor's actions here to be evidence of his evil-ness.

If you were in He-Man's place, would you kneel, or would you suffer?

If you say you would kneel, then, okay, great, so would everyone else.

If you say you would suffer, then why haven't you converted your net-worth into liquid cash and used it to feed starving children or fund cancer research? It's certainly a smaller measure than burning for the rest of time.

It's a hypothetical, people. Play the game or don't.

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dkw
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quote:
Originally posted by Dogbreath:
It takes a deep and complex and mysterious religion and reduces it to a 2 page tract - like turning a rare steak dinner into a stale box of Little Debbie treats.

Great analogy.
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Samprimary
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quote:
Originally posted by capaxinfiniti:

How could an all-powerful God not be interested in the moral nature of His universe? A God would be interested in morality by default, or else He is not the all-powerful creator He claims to be.

It's actually not only possible, but fairly easy, to envision an all-powerful creator who is completely disinterested and/or uninvested in human morality.

You could go all Solaris on the issue and posit a hypothetical complete and utter irrelevance of human moral structures to a creator.

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Teshi
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I often wonder if, for example, I would have the guts to hide people from a government/army/regime that wanted them dead in a dire situation.

If God is willing to have me burn alive for all eternity for simply wanting gay people to have the same rights as me then it's not as simple as gay people having rights, it's becomes about extreme torture.

If a regime bans reading on pain of eternal torture, it's not the banning of the reading that makes them totally evil (although I would oppose such an action), it's the fact that they regard a just punishment for either reading or not hating people who read to be eternal torture.

If God was okay with me and others experiencing torture for eternity because I was either gay or in support of other people who were gay, I would oppose him not only on the grounds of his assertion about gay people but on the grounds of his punishment of me and others by eternal torture.

I might be to weak to oppose God because, as I said, I often wonder if I would have the guts to hide Anne Frank in the attic when it came down to it. But I would want to and I would know clearly where the side of good was (hint: not with the eternal torture).

To be fair, there's nothing more uniting than a common enemy. And there's nothing less attractive in a supernatural faith-based being than not requiring faith any more.

If God wasn't going to torture me or anyone else eternally, I would still oppose his views on various things as laid down in the Old and New Testaments and I would probably be in trouble with human groups who decide to side with God and now have tons of power. Fun!

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King of Men
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quote:
Originally posted by Graeme:
KOM: But you probably would have an interest in how the ants functioned. Some of their actions would please you, and others not so much. Some actions would entertain you, some wouldn't. After all, why did you create the ant farm in the first place? So you'd likely start steering the ants in one way or another. Through incentives. Punishments. Little ant-sized tablets given from on high. You would, in fact, almost certainly take a moral interest in their actions -- "moral" in the sense that you'd rather see one action over another.

Perhaps; but to call this a 'moral' interest is to twist the word out of all recognition. If I make the ants do X instead of Y because it's more amusing that way, this has nothing to do with morality - mine or theirs.

There's also the point that I might initially have some interest in the ants, but lose it later on. Our ant farm, the Universe, seems to run fairly autonomously, without the creator (so far as we can tell) dropping by every so often with new supplies of ant food; or then again, perhaps the original intention was not to end everything in maximum entropy. Perhaps after a few months of poking about, I'd stuff the ant farm on a back shelf and then forget about it. Or, to extend the analogy, if I set up a zoo, I might care about the doings of the monkeys but not about the flies that buzz about the piles of elephant dung. It's a big universe; we might be the equivalent of the intestinal flora of the mites that feed on chimpanzee eyebrows. Or maybe the interesting stuff happened six billion years ago in a completely different galaxy, and we just haven't noticed that we've been stuffed on a back shelf with no supply of negentropy yet, because it takes a while to run down.

[ November 15, 2011, 03:57 PM: Message edited by: King of Men ]

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kmbboots
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Shades of Sandkings.
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Glenn Arnold
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quote:
I'm not making a Pascal's wager argument; in this world, it is a sure thing that there is an omnimax creator. This is not a stealth argument for belief in God; I am a convinced atheist.
I'm don't understand what an "omnimax creator" is. It would help to have an understandable description.

And as for Pascal's wager, I was referring to the "fake it if you don't really believe" part.

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Stone_Wolf_
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I think "omnimax" = omnipresent + omnipotent + omniscient + omnietc.

I prefer Fight Club: I am the all singing, all dancing crap of the universe.

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Graeme
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quote:
KOM wrote: to call this a 'moral' interest is to twist the word out of all recognition.
I disagree. A moral interest is a preference for one choice over another: some things are right, others are wrong. Though we often associate morality with the emotional experience of feeling a twinge of conscience, morality is not limited to that experience. Entities express moral preferences whenever they value one choice over another.

As to your second point, while it's true you may lose interest in one of your zoo animals, you as a non-omni kind of being only have so much attention to spare. An omniscient creator, on the other hand, knows exactly what's going on everywhere and at all times. Though it's hard for us to imagine when we consider analogies, such a being would be aware of all of its creations at all times, simply because there would be no cost to its mental processing faculties.

So again, I think it likely that such a being would have an interest in how things behaved. After all, why did it create the universe in the first place? Perhaps it simply wanted to set up an experiment and see what would happen. But why? For such an omni-being, a thought experiment is as good as the real thing. (Iluvatar's theme is all that would be needed. No need for the Ainur to sing it nor for Iluvatar to bring it into existence.)

The decision to create a universe filled with entities must have some value in itself to the creator. This interest is a preference, a choice for one thing rather than another; it is a moral interest.

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Dogbreath
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quote:
Originally posted by Stone_Wolf_:
I prefer Fight Club: I am the all singing, all dancing crap of the universe.

Nobody's ever used that line on the internet before...
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King of Men
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quote:
I disagree. A moral interest is a preference for one choice over another
No. This is not what morality means in any ordinary use of the English language. When I prefer vanilla over chocolate, that is not a moral choice.

quote:
some things are right, others are wrong.
Yes, exactly. But it is not right or wrong for an ant to go this way instead of that way; it is more or less to my taste, like the vanilla.
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Graeme
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quote:
KOM: This is not what morality means in any ordinary use of the English language.
I'll grant you that. But this isn't exactly an ordinary conversation. We're philosophizing about a hypothetical scenario that involves fine distinctions; specifically, whether an omnipotent being must necessarily have a moral agenda. In such a case, I think it's legitimate to more rigorously define a term.

As to whether it's right or wrong for an ant to go this way or that (and this is starting to sound like a Dr. Seuss poem to me), I think it can be right or wrong. For example, in one direction lies a food source; that is the right direction for the ant to go; that is the good choice; that is the moral choice. Of course, it depends on how the universe is set up (viz., the laws of nature, which determine what is beneficial or not), but since the creator set up the universe, it obviously has a big say in the matter.

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Foust
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Graeme, do you think a creator would take an interest in whether a meteor hits the northern or southern hemisphere of Mars? If so, is that a moral distinction?

So far, you've only made a case for why a creator might hold some interest in what happens in creation - the important word being might.

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Stone_Wolf_
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While I think morality is intrinsic to human's definition of God, I have to disagree with Graeme's proposed idea that an all powerful creator would automatically have an interest in the actions of its creations.

I was also going to disagree about a deity's preference = morality, but in writing my dissension I rethought my position...take for instance a yarmulke. Those of Jewish faith believe (as far as I know, that is) that it is immoral to have an uncovered head because of God's preference. Those who do not share that belief obviously wouldn't consider the state of someone's head to be a moral issue. But consider if you were invited to a friend's Jewish wedding, then it would be a moral issue if your head was uncovered, as it would offend your friend.

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