January 2009

Obviously, it's a little convenient that my idea of god so closely matches my own ideals. Assuming – for the sake of argument – that yes, there is a god in the monotheistic Christian sense, there's four possibilities for how this happened:

One, God and I both received our values from the same external source. (Neither of us are the source.) That external source would then probably be by definition the real God, and we're back to square one, so this theory can be chucked straight out.

Two, God and I came independently to the same values. (We're both the source.) All well and good, but just a little too convenient for my liking. And how does one explain that everyone's god matches their value system so well? It also seems to end up relying on, if not some other external entity, at least some external system or order.

Three, I [came to these values through a tradition which] received these values from God. (God is the source.) This one seems good at first glance, except there are plenty of people from this very same tradition who not only have different values (for example, a focus on judgment and punishment, or purity, or reproduction) but who are just as sure that God shares their values as I am that he shares mine.

So, with those looking improbable, we're left with one last possibility: I'm just projecting my values onto God. (I'm the source.) Which raises one huge question: what if God doesn't actually share my values? If my god and I have different values, then someone's wrong. The problem is, I believe in my values more strongly than I even believe in a god. If my values are such that I'd get sent to hell for them, then, well, I'd go to hell.

But that's a logical conundrum in itself, because all of the possible answers to that question end up referring back to the earlier answers for our first question, and which we've already eliminated:

  • If God's wrong and I'm right, then there is some other external order by which these things can be judged.

  • If God's right and I'm wrong, then, well, God is a tyrant and a bully and I still maintain that there must be some external order by which I can even make that claim. And you still have to deal with the fact that Yhwh and Allah (as the principle monotheistic gods) have their own pretty significant differences of value, and someone's wrong there, too.

  • Sure, we might both share the same values, but that obviously causes a conflict with everyone else who believes the same as I do here, but with a different set of values. And between Allah and Yhwh. And so on and so forth. This might be stated as: there are many different versions of ‘God’ claimed to exist, but they are mutually exclusive; only one of this set can actually be.

Of course, the most common resolution to this little paradox is the one known formally as ‘I'm right and everyone who disagrees with me is wrong’ – a gambit not entirely unrelated to Pascal's Wager, and one which basically puts you somewhere between ‘blind guess territory’ and ‘moral-buffet land.’ But for most people that seems to be a better possibility than the other option, which is that a god of that kind just does not exist.

kelly commented:

Wow, that was really interesting!

On a far less philosophical note, the way that I have dealt with such questions tends to be:

If God is a God of people from all cultures, philosophies, religions and worldviews;

If God is a God of all that is good;

If God is a God of the poor and uneducated, of children and the simple;

If God accepts our humanness (ie. the fact that in one way or another we WILL get it wrong) and loves us anyway;

And if God judges the heart and shows Himself to those that seek Him;

Then... oh well. We just gotta do the best we can.

Aeonsim commented:

Personally I'd go with that we don't exactly share the same Ideals as God (assuming it's existence).

It's likely that if it exists and is much more intelligent than us it's likely to have a different, more complex (at least to us) set of ideals. Either that or it has a much more pure simplified ideal than we do.

Either way I don't think we share the same ideals I would argue that perhaps Gods ideal is a lot closer to perfection than us (having had a lot longer to think about it etc) and that most other peoples ideals are heading towards it's ideal but are differing distances away from it based on their capacity to think and understand, and the culture in which they are in.

As an absolute our ideals are different but they are different in that they're just little fragments of a whole greater whole. Rather than something completely different and alien or steps on many different paths that eventually lead to a similar/the same place/ideal.

At the same time though I'd say there's a decent chance that we are so different from this "God" and it is so alien to us that we may not understand it at all. That in truth it is so alien to our way of thinking that we can not fully or at all, understand it's ideal even though it may be superior to our own, because it requires a mental structure or experience that is so vastly different from our own.

"The problem is, I believe in my values more strongly than I even believe in a god. If my values are such that I’d get sent to hell for them, then, well, I’d go to hell."

I completely agree with this. Should there be a god and an afterlife then after taking into account the stuff above if it is what I consider "evil". Or is unwilling to accept the many "good" or "decent" people that for some reason or another rejected the idea of god then better to turn away from such a entity than to continue to follow it.

Universalism for those who at least tried to live a decent life or I'll be damned by my own conscience.