The metaphor of god

ShaunPhilly
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The metaphor of god

I was in the middle of replying to a post by Cpt_Pineapple when I got into a flurry of writing. What resulted was a very rough and in-need-of-revision essay. I am posting it here because I would like some feedback and discussion about my thoughts. I will eventually turn this into something for my recently ignored Way of the Atheist series, but for now it's too rough.


 

Once one has used the finger to indicate the moon,

one no longer has use for the finger.

What distinguishes the worldviews of the believer from the non-believer? In many cases, nothing is the most likely answer. But there is a fundamental difference between methodologies, ways of figuring out the world, which leads to better conclusions. The methodology gives one a perspective that will either conform to our experience with the world or it will create cognitive dissonance with the world. The conclusions drawn from a worldview will, therefore, ultimately be the result of that methodology as it has been applied to the experiences and language game of any particular person.

The scientific method is a tool that leans on empiricism. It cannot rely on anything accept that which can be measured, directly or indirectly, as having some relationship with the universe in which we live. That is, it must exist within space-time, and not be anything, for example, supernatural. When a person utilizes this methodology of science to determine a way of interpreting the world, they are doing so in an attempt to check their conclusions thus far drawn with the world around them. If they find that what they have constructed as a working descriptive model of the world is not consistent with the world, then revision is necessary.

This methodology uses the world itself as the foundation, the text from which we gain understanding. The letters are the constituent parts of the world that interact in their subtle and mysterious ways. The sentences are the various facts and simple objects that orbit our mind. Going further, the great chapters, books, and libraries range from the ideas, people, and cultures with which we interact and in which we swim. This, of course, is metaphorical language. And we all use metaphor as a tool for describing the world when we are unable—or unwilling—to be exact.

Metaphors are not exact enough to be the descriptions of the world we would need to be a sufficient description to be scientists. And none of us, I believe, is a scientist through-and-through. None of us utilize the methodology of empiricism sufficiently or solely, as our minds cannot ascertain the world’s reality exact enough to create a sufficient map—a sufficient theory. Thus, we use inexact language to create a broad brush-stroke of a description. These insufficient models of the world can be beautiful, sublime, puzzling, or down-right terrifying. With the range of our languages and imaginations, we can create imagery that can contain important meaning, inspiration, or even fear.

But these descriptions will never satisfy the most rigorous of methodologies. Thus, the tension is realized. We cannot be exact enough, epistemologically, to live up to our most precise of methodologies; science. Does this mean that we simply stop using those methodologies? Does the fact that our minds cannot apprehend the world with sufficient precision imply that we give up on trying to be scientists—or the versuchen of Nietzsche’s ubermenschen?

This is one facet of the tension between science and religion. The mind thinks in inexact metaphors. The many doctrines and ideologies of religious traditions have saved the most beautiful, sublime, puzzling, and terrifying of metaphors from our past, and hold them in esteem. This is why they are so pernicious, because they contain images that we find beautiful and meaningful, not because they are necessarily true.

So, therefore, we should adhere our worldview the true conclusions of science, right? Not exactly. Science very well may be the best tool humans have at their disposal to distinguish between better and worse descriptions of reality—theories. But telling the difference between two theories to see which conforms better to our empirical data is no better than our best description, which is admittedly dependent upon our inexact perceptual tools (the brain and our extended perceptual tools of technology). Our best theories do not necessarily exactly conform to the world, and thus science is a tool for getting closer to the truth through theory choice.

Religion offers us no better an option. The descriptions of the world that comes from religion come from a different methodology. Religion has traditionally been the product of descriptions of gods and other proposed divine or natural forces envisioned not from the same process as science. They survived in lieu of or in ignorance of science, not as an equal alternative. Religion depends on the tools of metaphor, imagination, and story-telling that dominated human minds and cultures prior to or adjacently hidden from scientific process.

But religion persists because it clings to the human experience in some way. Humanity’s religious texts would not have survived if they had not contained something of value to human minds. They have undergone a sort of natural selection of their own, and have evolved into a form that adheres to human minds and cultures because human minds and cultures evolved with them. There is a sort of symbiosis involved. Religion speaks in the language of metaphor, and the human mind thinks and talks in metaphor. The relationship is, therefore, fundamentally linked.

So from whence comes atheism?

Atheism is nothing more than looking at the world, through use of some methodology, and finding that one does not—and often cannot—believe that a so-called ‘god’ exists in the world. The question is whether it is that god does not exist literally or does not exist metaphorically (or neither). The former would imply that there is no being in space-time that can be associated with the term—there is no referent for the term in reality—and the latter would imply that the idea itself has no meaning or use in our description of the world, even in inexact metaphorical language.

The former, the literal lack of god in the world, is a question for the scientifically minded person. It is a question of what actually exists according to our best data to date. Someone who concludes that there is no god while using this method will most likely say something like ‘I see no evidence of such a being, and thus lack belief until sufficient evidence is presented.’ They are agnostic, in that they don’t ultimately know, but they lack belief, thus are atheists. This person cannot go very far with this without bumping into description, theory, and interpretation. It is at this point when metaphor takes over.

The latter, the person using his metaphorical toolbox, has a more subtle route to atheism. What does the term ‘god’ mean? What, from the data in the world gathered, can we put together into a cohesive concept that we can call ‘god’? Once the data is gathered, some way of making sense of it must develop in order to continue to inform a worldview. To make the connections between ideas that come from new information, we have to use association of concepts and comparisons of ideas to create the interconnected web of ideas in order to literally build a neural network responsible for thought patterns. In the mind, this is viewed as a connected coherent worldview or at least a concept that relates to other concepts—whether in dissonance or not.

If a person has a worldview that cannot find a place to put the term or concept of god that coheres with the rest, then that idea becomes nonsensical to them and they have no choice but to declare it as such—nonsense. From here one can construct many arguments of god being nonsensical, as god being no-thing, because the term doesn’t fit into the set of things that exist, or however they formulate the argument. In the worldview that this type of atheist, the term god does not refer to anything identifiable in their worldview. So what about the theist?

The theist can try to argue that they see evidence for god in the world—in the design, as a cause for, etc of the actual world. But they don’t see god itself, just its interpreted effects. Thus, on the level of data itself, a theist cannot place their idol and expect it to rest there. From a scientific point of view, the claim that god exists is only meaningful if it can be pointed at directly and unambiguously. This has never been done, and until it is done to the sufficiency of the empirical method, the claim is not even meaningful. The conclusion of god as designer or cause is an interpretation, an inexact description, of the data. God is never observed directly, but rather prposed as an explanation for or fundamental ground for the world which is observed. It is always, therefore in the realm of metaphor that god is talked about.

But cannot the same be said of the atheist? Cannot it be said that the atheist has an interpretation that god does not exist behind the world, and thus their lack of god is a metaphor? This is absurd; the lack of observing some object or being is not a metaphor—it is literally nothing. The atheist at this level simply states that a ‘god’ is not observed, and this belief in its existence is not justified. If someone proposes a description of the world that includes a god, the atheist can say that they are taking the data and comparing how the data interacts with a concept they call ‘god,’ and thus god is a metaphor for either the world itself or the cause of or foundation of the world. If god is a metaphor, then being an atheist is simply not accepting said metaphor, and thus being without an ultimate metaphorical description of all things by use of a being called ‘god.’

The distinction between most atheists and most theists is one of a use of metaphor. But since all humans use metaphors in descriptions due to the lack of exact descriptions for the world, it cannot be said simply that atheists lack metaphor altogether, but simply a class of metaphors. In a sense, the idea that the map is not the terrain is relevant, as it is as if the theist, in crating a map of reality, sees a pattern of intent, intelligence, etc that helps construct the map. If they call this fabric that they print their map on ‘god’, then it seems justified in claiming that the fabric of the world must be god too, and thus god exists. The mistake is carrying the role of metaphor that we use in describing the world unto the world itself, where metaphor has no place. Metaphor is a tool of the mind, and to project the language of the mind onto the world itself is to project the device of perception onto the perceived object. Even now I cannot help but use metaphor to describe my point, but what my point refers to is not a metaphor.

The scientific method is not completely deprived of metaphor. Even the best and most consistent theory is inexact, assuming a perfect theory is unattainable (whether this is the case is a question for the philosophers of science). But compare the foundations of science with that of religion. Note the degrees of usage of metaphor in each. And, further, note the difference in use of metaphor in the fundamental assumptions of an atheist and a theist. What metaphors underlie the assumptions of an atheist and what metaphors underlie the assumptions of a theist.

Atheists are people that don’t believe in god. Theists are people that believe in god. God is a metaphor to describe the world and how it operates, since it is never observed directly but always inferred from the world. Atheists are people that do not believe that a specific metaphors is meaningful in describing the world, and a theist is a person that feels that that metaphor has meaning.

But what meaning does god have? What is god? Perhaps god is whatever is meaningful to the theist. Perhaps one thing which is meaningful many atheists is not placing too much emphasis on metaphors, but rather to that which their metaphors point.

Once you have used your metaphor of god to indicate what is truly meaningful to you, the atheist no longer has use for the metaphor of god.


Thanks for reading, and I'll wait for comments.

Shaun

 

 

 

I'll fight for a person's right to speak so long as that person will, in return, fight to allow me to challenge their opinions and ridicule them as the content of their ideas merit.


ShaunPhilly
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No comments? So, I've

No comments?

So, I've either dazzled everyone with brilliance, bored everyone with my lack of interesting thoughts, or confused everyone with an idea without coherence.

I'll bump this once, and then leave it be to edit later.

Shaun 

I'll fight for a person's right to speak so long as that person will, in return, fight to allow me to challenge their opinions and ridicule them as the content of their ideas merit.


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It's a bit too long for my

It's a bit too long for my 'forum-viewing-mode' attention span.
I've made a mental note to give it a crack sometime.
Perhaps you could summarise the main point for us all?


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Thanks for bumping this

Thanks for bumping this Shaun.

It indeed is a brilliant essay.  It is one of the best descriptions of what this "god" really is/means for people. Very refreshing compared to most of the shortsighted, inexperienced attempts I am used to seeing on these forums.  Makes me wonder, are you an ex-Christian?

 Anyways, the depiction of god as metaphor you draw is superb.  I find that many atheists struggle with such a concept, but you have outlined it exceptionally well here.  I hope some will learn from it.

I'd say a point of frustration between atheists and theists lay somewhere in this vein of discussion.  Atheists are often overwhelmed or confused as why someone would ever believe in such a thing as god, and thus look to more explicit direct explainations, such as what the Bible says, for clues.  But this often leads to no results and claims of "conflation" from theists, because it IS often NOT the religious texts or whatever explicit items availabe that create most people's god belief.  It usually exists, yes, as a certain "class" of metaphor that one uses to consolidate a paradigm through which to understand life.  This can also explain why logical, rational arguements are no where near as effective on theists as emotional, metaphorical arguements are.

The Enlightenment wounded the beast, but the killing blow has yet to land...


Cpt_pineapple
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ShaunPhilly wrote: No

ShaunPhilly wrote:

No comments?

So, I've either dazzled everyone with brilliance, bored everyone with my lack of interesting thoughts, or confused everyone with an idea without coherence.

I'll bump this once, and then leave it be to edit later.

Shaun

tl;dr

 

Seriously though

Quote:

Atheists are people that don’t believe in god. Theists are people that believe in god. God is a metaphor to describe the world and how it operates, since it is never observed directly but always inferred from the world. Atheists are people that do not believe that a specific metaphors is meaningful in describing the world, and a theist is a person that feels that that metaphor has meaning.

Is this your main point?

Are you saying Theists start out with there being a God and try to use science to rationalize it? 

 

I would have to agree to a certain extent. However, God might be a philosphical question, not a scientific one. I don't think there is anyway to use science to confirm God. I think whether there is a purpose to life and a God  is a philosphical question. It is up to the person, not science. 

 

 

Or I could have completly missed the point.  

 

 


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Cpt_pineapple I don't think

Cpt_pineapple wrote:
I don't think there is anyway to use science to confirm God.

I agree, and the mainstream of atheists who use science as their main arguement to convince theists that their belief in god is wrong are excercising in futility.  Stop it! lol

You didn't miss the point, el Capitan.  It's just that most everyone else here misses the point...

The Enlightenment wounded the beast, but the killing blow has yet to land...


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Tomcat wrote: Thanks for

Tomcat wrote:

Thanks for bumping this Shaun.

It indeed is a brilliant essay. It is one of the best descriptions of what this "god" really is/means for people. Very refreshing compared to most of the shortsighted, inexperienced attempts I am used to seeing on these forums. Makes me wonder, are you an ex-Christian?

Anyways, the depiction of god as metaphor you draw is superb. I find that many atheists struggle with such a concept, but you have outlined it exceptionally well here. I hope some will learn from it.

I'd say a point of frustration between atheists and theists lay somewhere in this vein of discussion. Atheists are often overwhelmed or confused as why someone would ever believe in such a thing as god, and thus look to more explicit direct explainations, such as what the Bible says, for clues. But this often leads to no results and claims of "conflation" from theists, because it IS often NOT the religious texts or whatever explicit items availabe that create most people's god belief. It usually exists, yes, as a certain "class" of metaphor that one uses to consolidate a paradigm through which to understand life. This can also explain why logical, rational arguements are no where near as effective on theists as emotional, metaphorical arguements are.

Well said. 


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I disagree Tomcat. Science

I disagree Tomcat. Science and religion are two seperate entities that do not prove or disprove one another, although some do make such claims. Things like logic, critical thinking, research, and how hypocritical religions are is what drove me to being an atheist and I only use these in my arguements.

For example, why worship a God that is capable of eleminating evil but doesn't? Also, if he can't eliminate evil, then why worship him?


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CrimsonEdge wrote: For

CrimsonEdge wrote:

For example, why worship a God that is capable of eleminating evil but doesn't? Also, if he can't eliminate evil, then why worship him?

I seem to recall you (or perhaps it was someone else; I've been known to make such mistakes of identity before, but I think I remember you from your avatar) making a topic asking the same question, and then proceeding to never respond to anyone's answer to the question.


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Dude, I need like Cliff

Dude, I need like Cliff Notes or something for something that long.


Cernunnos
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 Search for a pseudo truth

 Search for a pseudo truth amid commonality:

 

Effectively all humans see the world in the same way and expect the same results every time for the vast majority of actions. To get a better idea think of the perceived very simplistic and mundane actions required to make a sandwich or ride a bike, stuff taken for granted is taken for granted universally. Both tasks are unique to humans however.

I would say that the principle that we all understand our environment in an extremely similar if not identical manner is a key underlying assumption that allows us as a species to cooperate and succeed. We can realize shared goals and imagine how others can aid us. If the concept of groups of people having significantly different ways of figuring out the world was a reality I would expect to find far better defined strata isolating the particular groups.

There is a trite saying among some believers that God can not do much miraculous stuff or the universe would become unintelligible. Hence believers still have their foundations in the same fundamental reality as everybody else.

I would suggest the altering methodology is a result of the irrational belief not a cause of it and the scope of the novel principles does not enter into the typical user models (method of doing stuff) of the believer. The unfounded belief is treated as very special and an exception to normal procedure. One might say that they do not expect the unexpected ordinarily.

In fact even the origins of many defunct beliefs do not attempt to alter the accepted view they instead aimed to expand it. The prevalent and undeniable God of the gaps model established itself via earlier Gods being responsible for a slew of now understood natural processes and phenomena. I would like to know when faith became, essentially, a policy of religions.

However, there is still a plethora of believers that must interpret some information in an unnatural manner. Before considering how a particular viewpoint is given credence when it does not conform to experience. I find it is crucial to first survey the partiality of a subject. I do not find it reasonable to suppose that anybody would adopt an opinion that is at odds to experience without unabashed prejudice.

Prejudice is shaped chiefly from the human nature to seek inclusion within groups. This objective ties in with the aforementioned realization of our species - that we can obtain our objectives more efficiently as a team over doing it alone. The act of belonging to a group forms both kinship and segregation. The feature or rule that confines a group is often very simple, be it tribe, locality or just immediate family. Once this group is formed however different rules or morality can be defined for those within and outside the group. It is a common trait of small tribes to reward killing members of other tribes for example (and obviously not condoning it implicitly within their own numbers).

The problem of discord between immediate neighbours is solved by allowing a hierarchical system to emerge such as nationality, ethnicity or creed. When a whole country is at war local rivals will simply rally together. Once these boundaries are in place they are incredibly hard to knock down especially on a large scale. Consider the reactions if tomorrow your nation was to be known under a new name.

The crux is that humans have a necessity for grouping and on the whole individuals will seek to triumph the things that they identify with. This includes passing on membership to children and acceptance of others with similar views while disregarding alternatives. I consider this of nature and feel the concern for belonging may well defy rational thought. Certainly attachment to anything implies an emotional bond, membership to a group is no different and longevity is thus somewhat secured. Religious cliques also have helping them the consoling nature of their doctrines - in actual fact preaching the everlasting survival of their circle under a true divider of men.

I find it more realistic that the twisted yet fully conceptualized oddities form from a backdrop such as local ideology rather than a penchant to figurative philosophy. I certainly see how metaphors are an ideal method to permit a form of comprehension to the fantastic, be they the peculiar forms of life, the inspiring cosmos or the tenets of a religion and I see how they would be more prevalent in the thinking of today. I do not however think that this was required at the time of the origins of any particular belief and I find the instinctive social drive for approbation among humans to be both the causal agent of the origin and the proliferation of unsubstantiated belief systems.

 

I do not intend to outrightly disagree with the statements pertaining a metaphorical outlook to aid in the resolution of awkward uncertainties. I merely wish to put forward a perhaps more obvious orientation that proceeds such lines of thought. I speak more of the evolution of traditions that have isolated the most appealing and steadfast customs and am maybe able to hint at their cause. I did not mention atheism as I take the view that we are all atheists until we decide otherwise.

 

I often say that when you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind.


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CrimsonEdge wrote:I

CrimsonEdge wrote:

I disagree Tomcat. Science and religion are two seperate entities that do not prove or disprove one another, although some do make such claims. Things like logic, critical thinking, research, and how hypocritical religions are is what drove me to being an atheist and I only use these in my arguements.

For example, why worship a God that is capable of eleminating evil but doesn't? Also, if he can't eliminate evil, then why worship him?

I don't seek to, ummmm, imply that these are mutually exclusive approaches.  They most definately should be, and need to be, combined to have an effect.  We understand the world through a combination of rationality and more earthly-centered? avenues, so to change someone's understanding we should have an arguement that effectively uses the same combination.

It's just that one of these types of approaches are exceptionally well done here at RRS forums, to the seeming absence of the other.  Can you guess as to which I believe these are? Sticking out tongue

The Enlightenment wounded the beast, but the killing blow has yet to land...


ShaunPhilly
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Cpt_pineapple

Cpt_pineapple wrote:
ShaunPhilly wrote:

Atheists are people that don’t believe in god. Theists are people that believe in god. God is a metaphor to describe the world and how it operates, since it is never observed directly but always inferred from the world. Atheists are people that do not believe that a specific metaphors is meaningful in describing the world, and a theist is a person that feels that that metaphor has meaning.

Is this your main point?

Are you saying Theists start out with there being a God and try to use science to rationalize it?

that wasn't exactly what I was saying, but it's relevant.  It is often the case that one has a conclusion then tried to justify it, which is the opposite of the scientific method.  The history of theology, however, is smothered with examples of starting from some text, ideal, etc and then associating it with facts for the world.  

I was saying, i this essay, a similar point.  The idea is that the theist sees a description of reality that includes a god, and the atheist may understand the description while not actually taking it as a real thing in itself.  

Just because an explanation can be found to fit a number of facts does not imply that the explanation is true.  God is an explanation that can be seen to fit many of the facts, but it is largely an inexact gap-filler which has no direct evidence for itself, but only inferred via metaphor of things seen and the gaps unseen.

Quote:

I would have to agree to a certain extent. However, God might be a philosphical question, not a scientific one. I don't think there is anyway to use science to confirm God. I think whether there is a purpose to life and a God is a philosphical question. It is up to the person, not science.

No, science's purpose is not to confirm god's existence or non-existence.  You can think there is a purpose to life if you want, and it surely may be up to you to believe in some god, but without reasonable justification to believe in something, you might just as well believe in anything.

Shaun 

 

 

Or I could have completly missed the point.

 

 

I'll fight for a person's right to speak so long as that person will, in return, fight to allow me to challenge their opinions and ridicule them as the content of their ideas merit.


ShaunPhilly
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Cernunnos wrote:

Cernunnos wrote:

Search for a pseudo truth amid commonality:

Effectively all humans see the world in the same way and expect the same results every time for the vast majority of actions.<snip>

I agree. I think I said that while we all have the same data and generally the same processing equipment, we use different methods of interpretation. These methods differ due to our abilities, experiences, etc.

So yes, we all use the methods of rational thinking when buying things like a house or a car, but for some reason different expectations, methods, and (ultimately) attitudes come into play when it comes to questions about gods, purposes, etc.

Quote:

I would say that the principle that we all understand our environment in an extremely similar if not identical manner is a key underlying assumption that allows us as a species to cooperate and succeed. We can realize shared goals and imagine how others can aid us. If the concept of groups of people having significantly different ways of figuring out the world was a reality I would expect to find far better defined strata isolating the particular groups.

The level of similarity is significant, and it does allow us to largely rise above differences. The question is to what extent the differences in our methods and perspectives effect the many different worldviews that exist.

From some point of view the stratification is not highly visible. But this is because we create a larger shared and extremely vague concept of culture that we move around in, but by necessity. The fact is that so many topics are hardly ever even brought up, let alone actually discussed at length. How different the stratification would appear if we suddenly started talking to people outside of our sub-groups about the things that make us different.

Quote:
There is a trite saying among some believers that God can not do much miraculous stuff or the universe would become unintelligible. Hence believers still have their foundations in the same fundamental reality as everybody else.

And this is the very point atheist try to get theists to see. For everything non-theological, they think like a skeptic. But the compartmentalize this miraculous area of the universe to the "mystery box" or somesuch. They explain away the fact that they don't see miracles yet believe that god exists anyway. Why? Isn't a miracle a metaphor for an event (that may or may not have happened) which is simply unexplained?

Quote:
I would suggest the altering methodology is a result of the irrational belief not a cause of it and the scope of the novel principles does not enter into the typical user models (method of doing stuff) of the believer. The unfounded belief is treated as very special and an exception to normal procedure. One might say that they do not expect the unexpected ordinarily.

You are, I think, partially right here. I think, however, that what happens is the method and the believe then get into some type of viscious cycle and feed off of one-another. In the theists mind, it may be hard to tell which came first, I'd imagine.

(and no, Tomcat, I was never a theist, so I am coming at this from the point of view of one whom has never believed and would like to understand the psychology of faith)

I think you are only partially right because I think that the methodology of using metaphor to exlain the world in prbably universal (or close to it) in humans. Therefore, all people do what theists do for something, just maybe not for god or other proposed supernatural entities. The difference simply is that the metaphor of god either no longer (or, as in my case, never did) have any real meaning or simply never ingrained itself into the worldview of said person (or it was previously ingrained, but no longer).

Quote:
In fact even the origins of many defunct beliefs do not attempt to alter the accepted view they instead aimed to expand it. The prevalent and undeniable God of the gaps model established itself via earlier Gods being responsible for a slew of now understood natural processes and phenomena. I would like to know when faith became, essentially, a policy of religions.

This is an interesting point. I suppose I'd say that at some point, everything was understood purely (or vastly) in terms of metaphor. Think about the way that history has changed (in terms of it's being recorded) since ancient times; at some point trying to be objective and scientific about history replaced the idea of telling mythological stories. It was a gradual change, but a change nonetheless. I'd imagne the shift from science as mythology to science versus mythology was similar in its development.

Quote:
However, there is still a plethora of believers that must interpret some information in an unnatural manner. Before considering how a particular viewpoint is given credence when it does not conform to experience. I find it is crucial to first survey the partiality of a subject. I do not find it reasonable to suppose that anybody would adopt an opinion that is at odds to experience without unabashed prejudice.

Prejudice, fear, etc. If you emotionally associate the belief in some metaphor of god with something like pain, punishment, etc, then fear often is the place-card of said prejudice. There are others, as well, such as...

Quote:
Prejudice is shaped chiefly from the human nature to seek inclusion within groups. This objective ties in with the aforementioned realization of our species - that we can obtain our objectives more efficiently as a team over doing it alone. The act of belonging to a group forms both kinship and segregation. The feature or rule that confines a group is often very simple, be it tribe, locality or just immediate family. Once this group is formed however different rules or morality can be defined for those within and outside the group. It is a common trait of small tribes to reward killing members of other tribes for example (and obviously not condoning it implicitly within their own numbers).

Right.

Thus another tension is realized. The tension between group solidarity and individual interpretation. What happens when one or a few persons come to think tha tthe group's religious ideas are nonsense? Well, the village idiot atheist, who is sanctioned in some way.

When one starts to think unlike the group, they become the other. The other is already the other, and only through communication with them, and subsequent found similarities, can fighting be minimized.

The problem is that there actually are differences between individuals and groups that may always be impossible to circumvent or compromise with. When those differences are non-rational beliefs in metaphors that don't hold up to scrutiny (religious traditions and other types of ideologies), then fighting is almost always inevitable.

It's not that I think I have the Truth because I'm an atheist. I simply don't believe that one class of metaphors (gods) is useful in obtaining truths. My fight is for the truth (not as an atheist, but as an individual). One truth I've found is that the idea of god is very unlikely, at best.

Quote:
The problem of discord between immediate neighbours is solved by allowing a hierarchical system to emerge such as nationality, ethnicity or creed. When a whole country is at war local rivals will simply rally together. Once these boundaries are in place they are incredibly hard to knock down especially on a large scale. Consider the reactions if tomorrow your nation was to be known under a new name.

The crux is that humans have a necessity for grouping and on the whole individuals will seek to triumph the things that they identify with. This includes passing on membership to children and acceptance of others with similar views while disregarding alternatives. I consider this of nature and feel the concern for belonging may well defy rational thought. Certainly attachment to anything implies an emotional bond, membership to a group is no different and longevity is thus somewhat secured. Religious cliques also have helping them the consoling nature of their doctrines - in actual fact preaching the everlasting survival of their circle under a true divider of men.

I find it more realistic that the twisted yet fully conceptualized oddities form from a backdrop such as local ideology rather than a penchant to figurative philosophy. I certainly see how metaphors are an ideal method to permit a form of comprehension to the fantastic, be they the peculiar forms of life, the inspiring cosmos or the tenets of a religion and I see how they would be more prevalent in the thinking of today. I do not however think that this was required at the time of the origins of any particular belief and I find the instinctive social drive for approbation among humans to be both the causal agent of the origin and the proliferation of unsubstantiated belief systems.

And I don't find the two to be mutually exclusive.

I would say that the tension between metaphor and non-metaphor wasn't quite extant then, but as a different way to view the world that was non-metaphorical emerged, the tension was created. The more time has gone by, the tension has shifted from in-group and out-group problems to one of a difference of interpretation of the world.

Further examples come on the form of the realism v. constructionism of science, postmodernism v. analytical philosophies, etc. Within many divsions like these is a distinction between how metaphor and language creates ambiguities and our desire to be presice.

Thanks for your thoughts, everyone.

Shaun

 

I'll fight for a person's right to speak so long as that person will, in return, fight to allow me to challenge their opinions and ridicule them as the content of their ideas merit.


Strafio
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I've still only skimmed it

I've still only skimmed it rather than read it in detail, but I think that I have very similar thoughts. I personally use Wittgenstein's concept of a language game, but I think that it means a similar thing to your idea of thinking in metaphor.

To me, the most clear headed theists are the ones who steer clearest from literalism. This is, they have implicitly recognised that their language of faith does not directly interact with the language of science. (an explicit recognition of this would surely be atheism, right? Infact, isn't this the atheism we see in modern Buddhism?)

I think that another thing that sets religious language apart is the aim.
In science the purpose is empirical accuracy.
In a joke the purpose is entertainment.
In religion the purpose is transforming your experience of life.
A clue to this is how theists will justify their faith, like the person that it makes them, and their fear that they'd live a miserable/moralless life without it.

I made a topic in the Philosophy forum about fundamentalists and language games which was about this topic. It ended up in a big tanget with Topher about anomalous monism and how you can be an ontological physicalist without mental concepts being reduced to physical ones, that they could be in a different language game.


ShaunPhilly
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I just wanted everyone to

I just wanted everyone to know that I have started to expand on the central idea of the essay and so far I have around 6 pages.  I don't know what will evolve from it, but I'll post a link to wherever I publish it to, when it's done.

 Again, thanks for your thoughts.

 Shaun

I'll fight for a person's right to speak so long as that person will, in return, fight to allow me to challenge their opinions and ridicule them as the content of their ideas merit.


todangst
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Thanks Shaun, hope to see

Thanks Shaun, hope to see the expanded version.


Cpt_pineapple
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ShaunPhilly

ShaunPhilly wrote:
Cpt_pineapple wrote:
ShaunPhilly wrote:

Atheists are people that don’t believe in god. Theists are people that believe in god. God is a metaphor to describe the world and how it operates, since it is never observed directly but always inferred from the world. Atheists are people that do not believe that a specific metaphors is meaningful in describing the world, and a theist is a person that feels that that metaphor has meaning.

Is this your main point?

Are you saying Theists start out with there being a God and try to use science to rationalize it?

that wasn't exactly what I was saying, but it's relevant. It is often the case that one has a conclusion then tried to justify it, which is the opposite of the scientific method. The history of theology, however, is smothered with examples of starting from some text, ideal, etc and then associating it with facts for the world.

I was saying, i this essay, a similar point. The idea is that the theist sees a description of reality that includes a god, and the atheist may understand the description while not actually taking it as a real thing in itself.

Just because an explanation can be found to fit a number of facts does not imply that the explanation is true. God is an explanation that can be seen to fit many of the facts, but it is largely an inexact gap-filler which has no direct evidence for itself, but only inferred via metaphor of things seen and the gaps unseen.

Everytime, I see the 'gap-filler' argument it makes me cringe, It think it holds back the fact that science and God can co-exist. Dawkins uses it in the God Delusion. It implies that we should give-up if science cannot explain something.

I'll post my sig in case I change it again.

The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious.... Whosoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed ~Albert Einstein

 

The point is one can search for scientific answers while believing in God. 

If by 'gap' you mean a personal/emotional gap, than I would agree.

 

 

Quote:

I would have to agree to a certain extent. However, God might be a philosphical question, not a scientific one. I don't think there is anyway to use science to confirm God. I think whether there is a purpose to life and a God is a philosphical question. It is up to the person, not science.

No, science's purpose is not to confirm god's existence or non-existence. You can think there is a purpose to life if you want, and it surely may be up to you to believe in some god, but without reasonable justification to believe in something, you might just as well believe in anything.

Shaun

 

 

 

 

While science cannot give us a definate answer, we can still use it to determine a probability.