Imagine the cave man crawling out of a cave already frightened by night time noises, cold and virtually defenseless against predators to see, for the first time, a giant gray moon. He begins to yell and throw rocks at it. Later he settles down to try and figure out what that was. It is this kind of thing that lead to the earliest gods and goddesses. As our minds grew and civilization granted human beings the ability to think in more and more abstract terms we, amongst other philosophical endeavors, contemplated the Gods
Early definitions of the Gods were typically given qualities and/or powers associated with the realm of the natural world they ruled over. I.e. Thor, God of Thunder wielded a mighty hammer that created thunder claps when it struck. They were also usually humanoid and carried human failings such as anger and vanity.
Soon the personal God of the Abrahamic religions came, this is the kind of God most commonly worshiped and/or believed in still today. So what is this God?
God(s) come in all shapes and sizes and the definition can vary from person to person but usually has some or all of the following traits:
Usually believed to have created the world and/or the entire universe and continues to interact with it in from very little to very much interacting with all of creation.
Some of the most common philosophical positions on God:
Theism: The position that God exists in one form or another.
- Monotheism: The view that there is only one God. Typically a ‘personal’ God.
- Pantheism: Deny the existence of a personal god ‘They deny the existence of a “minded” Being that possesses the characteristic properties of a “person,” such as having intentional states, and the associated capacities like the ability to make decisions'(Stanford)
- Process Theism: Similar to basic Theism but insists that an essential attribute of God is that God is fully involved in and affected by temporal processes.(link)
- Polytheism: More than one ‘personal’ god exists
Deism: ‘Deism is knowledge of God based on the application of our reason on the designs/laws found throughout Nature. The designs presuppose a Designer. Deism is therefore a natural religion and is not a “revealed” religion.'(Deism.com)
Agnosticism: A position that God may or not exist. Agnosticism can be defined in many ways such as the belief the God is unknowable or that questions of God are irresolvable. Most agnostics are simply undecided or withholding judgment until something convinces them to change their position to belief or unbelief.
Theological Noncognitivism: The belief that the word ‘God’ is meaningless. There is no definition of God fully understood enough to explore the issue. Some people in this position argue that ideas like omnipotent and omniscient are beyond human comprehension and so talk of God begs the question ‘What is God?’
Ignosticism: Nearly synonymous with theological noncognitivism but ignostics differ in that they are willing to discuss God if an agreeable definition is put forward.
These are the most common positions although there are countless others. Regardless of a person’s position of the definition of God needs to be agreed on by everyone before a discussion can begin.
It is this blog’s position that the most common definitions of God have not stood up to logical scrutiny.