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Post Options Post Options   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Topic: what makes a god a god
    Posted: 04-Jun-2009 at 15:44
(Or a goddess assuming political correctness hasn't caught up wth theology.)
 
This spins off from another thread (Who was Jesus, Prophet?) where Akolouthos suggested, perhaps a tad optimistically, that all that was needed to discuss the theme was agreement on what consituted a god, if there was one.
 
It isn't easy, is it? It seems to me that three necessary conditions are that it, he or she be conscious, wilful[1], and possessed of extraordinary powers. But those are surely not sufficient, and offhand I can't think of any characteristics that would seem to be sufficient.
 
[1] In the original sense of willing their actions.


Edited by gcle2003 - 04-Jun-2009 at 15:45
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Post Options Post Options   Quote es_bih Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Jun-2009 at 18:28
Interesting topic.

Must agree with you - supernatural powers cannot be the only requirement.

In the sense of my own perception and some of the Founding Fathers, and other deists - I would say that God (the Geat Architect) should fall in line with what we understand of the Universe. One thing being the Big Bang - God may not have created people 5, 000 years ago, but more likely is the spark that provided the Big Bang to us.

From an Islamic point of view, too, the Big Bang and physics are in line with God - and understanding God.


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Post Options Post Options   Quote Parnell Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Jun-2009 at 19:26
A God is anything which is capable of explaining the inexplainable.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Flipper Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Jun-2009 at 19:57
Originally posted by Parnell

A God is anything which is capable of explaining the inexplainable.


Amazing quote Parnell! Clap

Let me add... In some cases anything that gives hope, to the hopeless.


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Post Options Post Options   Quote Akolouthos Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Jun-2009 at 22:32
Who's an optimist? Wink

I will state that I believe, given the context of that particular thread and the post I was responding to, my remark had something to it. After all, we had enough of a common understanding to discuss the question. Still, you are quite right to point out that what passes for a common understanding of divinity is often superficial.

I suppose the best way to go about it would be to examine different conceptions of God. You and I have discussed the Christian apophatic application to God of seemingly irreconcilable characteristics, which has always been done by theologians who were fully conscious of the limitations -- indeed, the inadequacy -- of human language. In this sense, we have all the "omnis" (omnipotence, omniscience, omnibenevolence, etc.). I believe the Muslims have a similar understanding, although I think they generally shy away from applying characteristics to God a bit more than we do. I'm sure Omar or es_bih could clarify. I should have more on this topic later, but I'm interested to see how the conversation develops. Great topic idea, graham. Thumbs UpClap

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Post Options Post Options   Quote eaglecap Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 04-Jun-2009 at 22:57
This all probably depends on the theology your were brought up under and if you still believe it or not. People have the right to believe in a god, goddess or an it or nothing at all. I once saw a situation comedy were the black actor got into some weird cult and shaved his head and worshipped a head of cabbage, so just remember when you eat the next head of cabbage- it could be god.
I believe in a creator of some type but not defined, although, I am influenced by my Lutheran, Greek Orthodox upbringing along with the Baptist grade school I went to. In some new age beliefs you are really god and do not know it.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Northman Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05-Jun-2009 at 01:58
"What makes a God a God?" is the question.
In my opinion, the answer is more simple than we might think.
 
My ancestors, or some of them, made Odin and Thor and a number of other guys their Gods - The Greeks and the Romans had their own two sets of parallel Gods -  Jews made Jahve their God - some people called the Christians added Jesus to the equation and the Muslims were told his name was Allah some 600 years later 
It's all about people at different times and places. So the answer is, that it is people that makes a God - a God.
 
I know that was not the premise for the question - but to answer that - this, the first part, is necessary.
God(s) and religion was defined by the people in top of society, the clerics, the rulers, any authority, to acheive control over common people. Either by the promise of certain rewards, such as an afterlife, even in a green garden if they behaved - or if they dared to stray away from the narrow path, the promise of eternal condemnation in hot places.
 
To make people believe this, the most powerful Gods were naturally defined to be equipped with mighty supernatural powers, all seeing, all knowing, creating everything, deciding who goes up and who goes down and so on.
 
The definition of who/what God is has changed through the eras to adapt into the general increased knowledge of commoners and development of societies.
Ie. less than 100 years ago, everyone saw God as a (mostly) gentle, white bearded man, sitting somewhere in heaven. People won't buy that today - so now he has changed to be exclusively spiritual.
 
So - the answer I produced above is still valid - people have always defined "What makes a God - a God" - but the standard definition of "a God" is constantly changing.
 
~ Northman
 
 
 
 
 
  
 


Edited by Northman - 05-Jun-2009 at 02:03
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Post Options Post Options   Quote es_bih Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05-Jun-2009 at 05:08
Not necessarily Northman. When you look at the underlying dynamics of Divinity in World religions they are for the most part the same. The concept of a Divinity, or "God" is very much alike. In some systems Divinity is spread out to different "gods," but really those are characteristics of a "creator." Sometimes you have to separate the folklore from the theology. Especially in early religions, where popular thought shaped mainstream wings of a belief system. A lot of systems have a set of core characteristics, or better yet a blueprint that is shared in concept with other systems through out the worlds. So the name necessarily does not matter - the underlying blueprint is what needs to be deciphered to understand the concept of "God."

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Post Options Post Options   Quote Blacksun Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 05-Jun-2009 at 16:17

what makes a god a god is us.


"we" , people, human being...

Every individual has their own definition for God. For ages people needed to believe  in a higher being-whether that be God,  Allah, Zeus, RA, Buddah, etc.

Why do we people need to believe in a superior power? There are plenty of reasons of course but I believe that the main reason is to bring security to our very insecure lives. We have our own fears..even the most privileged  people, in the most privileged  places... And none of us like to admit or accept the fact that there’s nothing we can do to eliminate some dangers and truths which we can never control like death. Therefore , having a god will allow us to believe that we have  control over circumstances in our lives that we wouldn’t  have otherwise.

Actually this issue is very deep and discussable and can be extended by many questions such as :

What is the history of God? (which I would really like to learn )


To make it short, imho " What makes a god a god is our needs to believe in a higher power which will protect and reward us and punish the people who deserve."


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Post Options Post Options   Quote Omar al Hashim Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06-Jun-2009 at 02:36
Not to be the iconoclast here, but God is the name of a singular creating entity.
Everything else is not a god. That's rather the point.

There are concepts of God across all religions and peoples, but certainly not all individuals. When people create deities, or replace God by a Deity, they don't have a different concept of God - they just don't have any concept of God.
Originally posted by Parnell

A God is anything which is capable of explaining the inexplainable.

You mean a teacher??
Originally posted by Ako

I believe the Muslims have a similar understanding, although I think they generally shy away from applying characteristics to God a bit more than we do. I'm sure Omar or es_bih could clarify.

Exactly right.
Muslims are discouraged from asking pointless theoretical questions that no human can possibly answer. You run the risk of telling a lie against God, and the only benefit is the intellectual satisfaction.
Not that this discouragement has stopped alot of people. Its really only stopped the pious and the fundamentalists. Actually, the Persians/Iraqis were famous for asking such questions (or rather, having sects that asked such sections) in the Abbasid period.
Originally posted by Northman

God(s) and religion was defined by the people in top of society, the clerics, the rulers, any authority, to acheive control over common people. Either by the promise of certain rewards, such as an afterlife, even in a green garden if they behaved - or if they dared to stray away from the narrow path, the promise of eternal condemnation in hot places.

In Danish history, that's probably a fairly good description (it is as far as I know at least), but in a global sense, that's not true at all. So much so that I don't even think I need to provide you with a counter example.
The definition of who/what God is has changed through the eras to adapt into the general increased knowledge of commoners and development of societies.
Ie. less than 100 years ago, everyone saw God as a (mostly) gentle, white bearded man, sitting somewhere in heaven. People won't buy that today - so now he has changed to be exclusively spiritual.

Neither is that true. I'll admit that I haven't read many medieval religous texts but the modern and the ancient are certainly well in tune.
The former definition you described I'd describe as a deity rather than a concept of God (its merely superhuman), and its one that many people choose to believe in, but it is niether old or new, its adherents come from all ages and generations.
Originally posted by Blacksun

Why do we people need to believe in a superior power? There are plenty of reasons of course but I believe that the main reason is to bring security to our very insecure lives. We have our own fears..even the most privileged  people, in the most privileged  places... And none of us like to admit or accept the fact that there’s nothing we can do to eliminate some dangers and truths which we can never control like death. Therefore , having a god will allow us to believe that we have  control over circumstances in our lives that we wouldn’t  have otherwise.

Although commonly said, I don't think that is true. It implies that insecure people are more likely to believe in God.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Parnell Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06-Jun-2009 at 09:11
You mean a teacher??


LOL! No. What I mean by that is an agent who can explain profound and/or complex and/or essentially irrational things with his mere grace. ie, The grace of God.

Such as in the Christian tradition. Evil and good being the ultimate themes. What drives men to be evil? God can answer that. Its certainly more satisfying than hearing it from a criminal psychologist.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote es_bih Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06-Jun-2009 at 20:10
Originally posted by Parnell

You mean a teacher??


LOL! No. What I mean by that is an agent who can explain profound and/or complex and/or essentially irrational things with his mere grace. ie, The grace of God.

Such as in the Christian tradition. Evil and good being the ultimate themes. What drives men to be evil? God can answer that. Its certainly more satisfying than hearing it from a criminal psychologist.


What drives you to associate the Christian tradition of original sin to all others?, or better yet that an answer to such a trivial answer would create conditions for "God?"

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Post Options Post Options   Quote Parnell Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06-Jun-2009 at 21:04
Originally posted by es_bih

Originally posted by Parnell

You mean a teacher??


LOL! No. What I mean by that is an agent who can explain profound and/or complex and/or essentially irrational things with his mere grace. ie, The grace of God.

Such as in the Christian tradition. Evil and good being the ultimate themes. What drives men to be evil? God can answer that. Its certainly more satisfying than hearing it from a criminal psychologist.


What drives you to associate the Christian tradition of original sin to all others?, or better yet that an answer to such a trivial answer would create conditions for "God?"


I'm not sure what angle your coming from here Es Bih. It was an example of how a divine being can provide answers to uncomfertable or irrational questions. Answers much more simplistic than the findings of scientists. And before there was an entirely 'rational' explanation for these things God filled the gap. Hence God explained the inexplainable.
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Post Options Post Options   Quote es_bih Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 06-Jun-2009 at 21:56
That has nothing to do with what makes God, God however. That is the angle I am coming from.



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Post Options Post Options   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Jun-2009 at 13:55
I'm still digesting all this.
 
However I did deliberately write 'what makes a god a god?' not 'what makes God God?' The latter question is a very different one, largely because it immediately implies monotheism. A monotheist God is by definition unique: there is only one and there has always only been one[1] and it never had to have been made. So I'm not even sure that it is a properly formed grammatical question.
 
Yet monotheists comfortably enough use the term 'god' to refer to members of various pantheons, and various people, like Aristotle, manage to believe both in gods and God, or at least to write and act as though they do.
 
In that sense the monotheist God, while unique in assumed reality, is also a member of a conceptual class, and it's determining membership in that class that interests me here.
 
I accept what someone said, that it is people who 'make' gods by believing in them and classifying them, but that rather dodges the rather deeper question of what makes them do that.
 
Like I said, I'm still digesting.
 
[1] Allowing respectfully for the Christian position.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Northman Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Jun-2009 at 13:57

Originally posted by Northman

God(s) and religion was defined by the people in top of society, the clerics, the rulers, any authority, to acheive control over common people. Either by the promise of certain rewards, such as an afterlife, even in a green garden if they behaved - or if they dared to stray away from the narrow path, the promise of eternal condemnation in hot places.
Originally posted by Omar

In Danish history, that's probably a fairly good description (it is as far as I know at least), but in a global sense, that's not true at all. So much so that I don't even think I need to provide you with a counter example.

No Omar - it's not only valid in Danish history - all Abrahamic religions have the concept of "heaven or hell" - including your own religion of course.
In an answer to EB in the sister thread, you said:

Originally posted by Omar

Lets analyse the risk.
If you believe in God, and are wrong
You die, nothing happens.
If you don't believe in God, and are wrong
You die, get judged, and don't have a resume as good as it could've been. You risk eternal damnation.

In terms of a cost-benefit analysis it makes sense therefore to believe in God, and follow the rules of whichever religion you think is most likely. If you are wrong and there is no God you've lost nothing, if you are right you might just increase your chances of a better afterlife.


So we agree on the promises - the good and the bad.
So what is it that isn't true? - is it where I say it was/is used for controlling common people?
Most common people couldn't read, so they had no chance to examine the scriptures themselves to make an opinion, nor did they have the intellect to do so. They had to follow the doctrine, given by the rulers/clerics - or face eternal damnation.
In fact - I see no reason to use past tense - it is still like this.

Originally posted by Northman

The definition of who/what God is has changed through the eras to adapt into the general increased knowledge of commoners and development of societies.
Ie. less than 100 years ago, everyone saw God as a (mostly) gentle, white bearded man, sitting somewhere in heaven. People won't buy that today - so now he has changed to be exclusively spiritual.
Originally posted by Omar

Neither is that true. I'll admit that I haven't read many medieval religous texts but the modern and the ancient are certainly well in tune.
The former definition you described I'd describe as a deity rather than a concept of God (its merely superhuman), and its one that many people choose to believe in, but it is niether old or new, its adherents come from all ages and generations.

With your intellect, I'm sure you can read and defend the texts in a way where you can explain that God is only spiritual - but that has not been the concept from anyone (commoners OR clerics) through the last few millenia - but only since science made it improbable with a physical God.
Most commoners have not differentiated between a deity and a God - to them a God was a God - or God IS God.
Mind you - people like simple concepts and always did, heaven vs. hell, good vs. bad, God vs. Satan, us vs. them.
That is why they are so easily controlled and always were.
If you are born and raised into a certain doctrine - you are controlled by that doctrine by default. 
We all are a result of the environment where we incidently was born, no matter whether we believe in God or not.

My little story about auntie was only to demonstrate there can be some good reasons to believe in God - and simple concepts.

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Post Options Post Options   Quote Northman Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Jun-2009 at 14:54
Originally posted by es_bih

Not necessarily Northman. When you look at the underlying dynamics of Divinity in World religions they are for the most part the same. The concept of a Divinity, or "God" is very much alike. In some systems Divinity is spread out to different "gods," but really those are characteristics of a "creator." Sometimes you have to separate the folklore from the theology. Especially in early religions, where popular thought shaped mainstream wings of a belief system. A lot of systems have a set of core characteristics, or better yet a blueprint that is shared in concept with other systems through out the worlds. So the name necessarily does not matter - the underlying blueprint is what needs to be deciphered to understand the concept of "God."
 
I totally agree es_bih - and I think you confirmed my claim, that various people in various cultures shaped the idea of what God is - and shaped the rules for common people to follow.
The blueprint of Abrahamic religions originated with the Jews - or even before them.
In the old testament, we can read more than 600 strict laws they had/have to follow (Torah) - not only in respect to God and religion, but also laws pertaining every day life (control).
Some of these laws were good and meant to guide people off dangers of that time (don't eat pork ie.) Others were meant to keep people in place.
To my best knowledge, these laws are seen as an authentic revelation from God in both Christianity and Islam as well.
However, in Islam they are considered corrupted by people who changed them (more control) - and I'm not sure if that's Christian view as well.
 
 


Edited by Northman - 07-Jun-2009 at 14:55
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Akolouthos Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 07-Jun-2009 at 19:26
Originally posted by Northman

Originally posted by es_bih

Not necessarily Northman. When you look at the underlying dynamics of Divinity in World religions they are for the most part the same. The concept of a Divinity, or "God" is very much alike. In some systems Divinity is spread out to different "gods," but really those are characteristics of a "creator." Sometimes you have to separate the folklore from the theology. Especially in early religions, where popular thought shaped mainstream wings of a belief system. A lot of systems have a set of core characteristics, or better yet a blueprint that is shared in concept with other systems through out the worlds. So the name necessarily does not matter - the underlying blueprint is what needs to be deciphered to understand the concept of "God."
 
I totally agree es_bih - and I think you confirmed my claim, that various people in various cultures shaped the idea of what God is - and shaped the rules for common people to follow.
The blueprint of Abrahamic religions originated with the Jews - or even before them.
In the old testament, we can read more than 600 strict laws they had/have to follow (Torah) - not only in respect to God and religion, but also laws pertaining every day life (control).
Some of these laws were good and meant to guide people off dangers of that time (don't eat pork ie.) Others were meant to keep people in place.
To my best knowledge, these laws are seen as an authentic revelation from God in both Christianity and Islam as well.
However, in Islam they are considered corrupted by people who changed them (more control) - and I'm not sure if that's Christian view as well.
 


The Christian view (for everyone up to the time of Jerome, and for the majority until the Reformation) is that the revelation, as preserved in the Septuagint translation, is authentic; that there may have been alterations to the Hebrew text by the School of Jamnia, among other early rabbinical and proto-rabbinical circles, to refute Christian claims; and that the Law -- composed of all the laws -- served either a) as a tutor to led the Jews, and eventually the Gentiles, toward Christ through foreshadowing his Incarnation, or b) as a means of preserving the chosen people of God as a repository of Divine revelation and an incubator for the pre-Incarnational Church.

Hope that helps. Since the Reformation, and especially since the advent of historical/textual criticism in the 19th century, there have been a variety of theories proposed, but what is written above represents to consensus patrum.

-Akolouthos


Edited by Akolouthos - 07-Jun-2009 at 19:28
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Omar al Hashim Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09-Jun-2009 at 00:52
Originally posted by Northman

So what is it that isn't true? - is it where I say it was/is used for controlling common people?
Most common people couldn't read, so they had no chance to examine the scriptures themselves to make an opinion, nor did they have the intellect to do so. They had to follow the doctrine, given by the rulers/clerics - or face eternal damnation.
In fact - I see no reason to use past tense - it is still like this.

Oops sorry North, I wasn't clear there.
I meant the first sentence ("
God(s) and religion was defined by the people in top of society, the clerics, the rulers, any authority, to acheive control over common people."
) wasn't true generally.
For example, all the religious thinkers in the early Islamic world were from the common people, and usually were in conflicts with the people at the top of society. Though it should be fairly clear that most religions have experienced as much pain from authorities as benefit.
There are many examples of course where what you say is true, but there are many counter-examples as well, and many of both examples failed.
With your intellect, I'm sure you can read and defend the texts in a way where you can explain that God is only spiritual - but that has not been the concept from anyone (commoners OR clerics) through the last few millenia - but only since science made it improbable with a physical God.

North, the Abbasids once tried to control the common people by use of a now extinct religious sect*, they once used this sect to fight against another sect. While the first sect were disliked by the common people, the second sect were considered heretics by the common people. The second sect were anthropomorphics.
For the last 1430 years, seeing God as a (mostly) gentle, white bearded man, sitting somewhere in heaven, has always been considered heresy in Islam. Christianity has had a more difficult role in refuting anthropomorphism it is true, but the-not-Jesus-part-of-God is not (or should not be) anthropomorphic either.


*the Abbasids failed to define religion for the common people in this case
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Post Options Post Options   Quote Northman Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09-Jun-2009 at 11:34
@Omar...
 
You can do any aftermath you like Omar, but it's evident that common people were/are controlled by religion, maybe even more so today.
The difference is that today, various beliefs pick and chose amongst the +600 laws (plus some extra doctrines) only adhering to what they find "suitable" - or fitting for the occasion.
 
To me it is equal evident that the Qur'an and the Bible both assign physical features to Allah/God and to believe that common people only see/saw God as a spirit is nonsense.
Both the Qur'an and the Bible are using words as He, Lord, King, Father, Thou ie. to address God - if that isn't assigning a physical (human) image, I don't know what is.
That He also could take a spiritual form was never questioned.
 
It would take a hard study of the books to change that perception - something that even the clerics never did - untill recently - like I said.
 
Another issue I think is totally missing in this discussion is this:
If one belive in God and what is said in the Qur'an or the Bible, then one naturally also accept the exsistance of good and evil angels, spirits and ghosts as described in the holy books.
 
But we never hear or see any reference to them from mainstream religious groups - why is that?  
 
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