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  1. #1
    ODN Community Regular

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    Mar 2008
    Seattle, Washington USA
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    Who are we to question the gods?

    From time to time I see a religious argument made along these lines...

    "How can man, who has limited understanding possibly second guess the infinite wisdom of God?"

    It tends to come up whenever someone says an event in the bible is unjust or that something about the narrative or when there is a claim that a religious tenant is illogical or nonsensical. It is also implicit in statements like..

    "The lord works in mysterious ways."

    First Glance
    On the face of things, there is some logic behind this idea and it is straight forward.
    (1) Assuming we humans are flawed or limited creatures.
    (2) Assuming there is an omnipotent all wise God.
    (3) And assuming we know what God's will is on a given subject.
    If we dissagree with god on some point of fact, God is always going to be correct and we are always going to be incorrect.

    Asumptions making an Ass of You and Me
    It is in these three premices we run into some trouble.

    (1) Assuming we humans are flawed or limited creatures.

    Most of us are pretty on board with this assumption. We think therefore we are and we have ample evidince of our own limitations and flaws. That is not to say we don't have any merit. We are pretty clever and we figure out a lot of stuff, even if its often through trial and error. But when push comes to shove we've got a wealth of ignorance and a stupifying number of ways to be wrong about any given subject.

    (2) Assuming there is an omnipotent all wise God.

    And now it gets harder...

    There are actually two assertions here, one dependent on the other. 2a. God exists 2b. God is all wise and knowing etc...

    There are many claims of many different gods, often mutually exclusive to one another as they claim a singular and exclusive god with different traits. Typically in argument you face a particular person with a particular notion of God. Not evey god is credited with omniptence but even those not so much tend to be seen as at least a good deal wiser and smarter than men. You might even say the qualigy of godhood has to cary with it an intrinsic quality of superiority with most gods having ultimate supreme authority and wisdom. It would be hard to really seperate the two and would we consider a God that is stupider than us to even qualify as a deity? I think not.

    So really its mostly 2a. God exists we are working with. The lions share of religious claims come from tradition, either written or oral passed down through social structures. A few come from individual revelation, what you might call original source since all traditions have to come from somewhere. Finally you have the more modern tradition of rationalization of god, chiefly from appologists for a given faith. The notible exception being staunch philisophical deists.

    Now if we skip ahead just a bit, we can drop the Deists out of this discussion. They claim only a philisophical or logical proof for the existence of some kind of supreme god. Yet they don't ascribe to any particular rendition of this god or social tradition. They almost always see god as non-interventionist, remote, and for practical matters unknowable. This means they have no formulation of what God's sense of justice is or any other quality you could be debating about. Thus they would never make such statements as "You can't question God's judgement due to your limited mind." sine they really have no clue as to what God's judgement is in the first place. Since Diests make no claims about Gods nature these arguments just don't happen.

    So that leaves us those who come to knowledge of god by tradition and/or revilation. And here is the rub. Both of these are human sources of knowledge, and as we have established in item (1) humans are flawed and limited. Thus there will always be substantial doubt as to whether there is a god or not. Any argument put forth will be limited by human inteligence and understanding and prone to possible error. This becimes an even more serious issue as we move into #3.

    (3) And assuming we know what God's will is on a given subject.

    God's existence is something of a binary question, but God's will is multi dimensional. On a topic like "Justice" we are examining a whole host of ideas, formulations and principles. To know God's will we must not only acknowledge there is a God, but gain some measure of his understanding of a subject.

    This brings up not only the problem of source, that all knowledge of God's will comes from either humans making claims of direct revilation, or humans using social traditions that presumably were also from some kind of claim to revelation. It also brings up the problem of interpretation and comprehension. What claims we have of how God's will works are in human language and what truth they hold is understood by human minds. This makes such knowledge doubly subject to erorr. Basically, we could have just made it up, and even if its not made up we could have a very imperfect understanding of it.

    Bringing it all together

    So, here we are. We have one human making a possibly flawed claim about the will of a god vs another human making a possibly flawed claim about his own viewpoint.

    One human says its a good idea to kiss his hood ornament for good luck while another says that is worshiping a false idol and will get you sent to hell. The ornament guy things going to hell for kissing a hood ornament is rediculous and the religious man says "who are you to question god?"

    The religious person always has this base assumption that yes, he knows with certainty and without flaw there is a god, and yes he knows exactly the truth about what god thinks on a given subject. The non-religious person is pretty sure that religious guy can be just as flawed on all those points as he is about whether its a good idea to kiss your hood ornament for good luck.
    Feed me some debate pellets!



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