God Does Not Exist

Jonathan Finegold worries that God might exist. Let me re-assure him, God does not.

To exist is to be an object among other objects. Things that exist we can stumble upon in the world, point to, pick up, knock into, and so on.

But God is transcendent. Eric Voegelin would describe this by saying "God is a non-existent reality."

So, don't worry, Jonathan, God certainly is non-existent.

18 comments:

  1. I think I see what you mean, but I also sense that what you're saying is that anything intangible doesn't exist -- I don't know if I can agree with that.

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    1. Not intangible: trascendent.

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    2. The problem is that transcendent means, basically, 'otherworldly'. Does something 'otherworldly' exist? If you are a character inside of a dream, does the Dreamer exist, at least, for you? All of your reality is contingent upon Him and His continued action, but for you He is both everywhere and nowhere. He is totally outside your frame of reference.

      I don't think it's necessarily a 'yes' or 'no' answer, because it is a different conception of what it means to exist than we normally encounter. God can't necessarily be said to merely exist, because (for us) He is existence itself. And you can't really say, well, objectively, outside my frame of reference, He exists, because in this sense, 'outside my frame of reference' is sort of nonsensical. You would be stepping outside of what we understand as existence itself, into Eternity -- basically, God. There is no 'outside God.'

      At least, according to the transcendent view of things...according to my own, sad, rudimentary understanding...

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    3. "The problem is that transcendent means, basically, 'otherworldly'. "

      No: That is wrong. That would be existent, just someplace else.

      And yes, language itself becomes very tricky at these altitudes!

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    4. Well, I think this is a bridge too far for me, then. If all of reality's continued existence is contingent on God, and I (a part of reality) exist, then I have to say that God exists, just not in the sense that I am used to thinking about things existing. He's just 'outside' of the Cosmos, of which I am a part (which is the sort of language I know Voegelin used -- that which is transcendent comes to us from 'outside.' Which is why Jonathan has this creepy feeling someone is watching and judging his actions -- because he is right. He is an immortal soul, and so he is sensitive to the transcendent because he is connected to it.)

      Anyway, I'm not sure it is the best idea to play philosophical chicken with the transcendence bus right out of the chute. I'll bet 99.9% of Christians don't believe this stuff and 80% haven't even heard of it. It's too hard. I hadn't until you mentioned it.

      (I must say, it is kind of fun, though... :) And greatly rewarding.)

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    5. "If all of reality's continued existence is contingent on God, and I (a part of reality) exist, then I have to say that God exists, just not in the sense that I am used to thinking about things existing."

      Yes, language gets tricky at these heights!

      "Anyway, I'm not sure it is the best idea to play philosophical chicken with the transcendence bus right out of the chute."

      But I am not playing a strategy or trying to forward a program: I am trying to think these things through for myself. I share them here because some people find my struggles "kind of fun"!

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  2. Things that exist we can stumble upon in the world, point to, pick up,knock into, and so on.

    How would something like social facts play into this.

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  3. Ideas exist. Your idea that God does not exist, exists. So, uhm...

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    1. Well, yes Rob, my IDEA that God does not exist, exists. But God != "Gene's idea that God does not exist". So, uhm...

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  4. Do you think that God is purely transcendent? Or do you think that he's both immanent and transcendent, as Hindus do?

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  5. If God is transcendent, then does that mean that we can't know about him?

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  6. Gene, if I may be so bold, you can write in a very confusing fashion, or you can mock your readers when they don't understand you, but it's a bit unfair for you to do both simultaneously.

    In your post you wrote:

    To exist is to be an object among other objects. Things that exist we can stumble upon in the world, point to, pick up, knock into, and so on.

    That really makes it sound as if something has to be physical in order to exist.

    At first I was going to say, "Gene, does there exist an integer between 4 and 6?" but then in your answer to Rob you are saying of course ideas exist.

    If that fits your original post because you can "point to" an idea, OK, but can't we "point to" God in the same way? I mean I can't literally point my finger at an idea, etc.

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    1. 1) Rob decided to close with a sarcastic "So, um..." like he had "got" me... by pointing out that my idea God does not exist exists! If he had just said "I don't understand you" my response would have been different.

      2) I'm sorry the idea is difficult. But that is not the faulty of my writing: it is a difficult idea. I have been grappling with it for a couple of years, since I encountered Voegelin talking about "non-existent reality." I certainly can't explain these ideas fully in a blog post, but maybe someone will get interested.

      In any case, no, God is not like an idea: he is more like the source of the idea, which we can't point to.

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    2. Gene, do you believe that ideas transcend the physical world?

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    3. See my latest post, where I clarify: God is not like the *expression* of an idea, which exists: he is more like an idea, which does not.

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    4. Are you simply defining existence to be limited to existence in the physical world? Or are you stating that as a matter of fact, the only things that exist are things that are in the physical world?

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