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LostInParadise's avatar

What does God do?

Asked by LostInParadise (24936points) June 6th, 2009

Given that the Universe follows scientific laws, what is left for God to do? Does God selectively intervene to perform miracles? Do these miracles violate physical laws or are they just highly improbable? Does God answer prayers? Does God follow a set of rules or guidelines in determining who should be helped? Are these rules beyond our comprehension? If we could know these rules, would we agree that some good people need to suffer and some evil people need to prosper to bring about the greatest good? Does God reward people in the afterlife and, if so, does He not see the irony of people being good only to receive eternal reward?

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DarkScribe's avatar

_What does God do? _

He provided us with a whole range of curse words that we wouldn’t otherwise have.

Now here is an interesting problem. With the current “server- try again error” can we edit or will it become a new post?

That worked, so it seems that we can still edit. That’s good.

LostInParadise's avatar

One more question. Is God free? If God always does what is absolutely best, then is God not just as much constrained by moral law as inanimate objects are by physical law?

DarkScribe's avatar

@LostInParadise If God always does what is absolutely best,

You are kidding. Absolutely best? Where did you get that idea.

We don’t what he does, but we know who he does. He did Mary, got her pregnant, and she was a married woman. Apparently he is a hypocrite, as he committed adultery. Didn’t look after his kid too well, so he wins no prizes in the “Good Parenting” stakes. Likes punishing children for imaginary transgressions on the part of their parents, is a racist and discriminates against Gays and minority groups. He is a misogynist and has no problem with slavery. He is a real charmer.

How is any of this “absolute best”?

Luckily he is also fictional, so we don’t have to worry about him, just his lackeys and stooges. Some of them aren’t too bright and extraordinarily bigoted. A dangerous combination as many millions of their victims over the centuries have discovered.

dynamicduo's avatar

God is fictional. This is because there is no proof supporting the theory of her or his existence. Science has done tests to see if prayer helps in many areas, and the results are either no it doesn’t help (as in, prayer and non prayer had the same outcome) or that prayer is WORSE than not praying.

It would be very hard to answer any of your questions as an atheist without dismissing them on the basis of god not existing. It would also be hard to answer those questions as any member of a religion, as each religion has their own interpretation of god and how he acts. Thus I must conclude your questions are inherently impossible to answer for many reasons, or at least if you asked many people, you would get many answers which are really opinions versus concrete answers.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

Mortimer Adler’s own journey let from the rejection of the Judaic faith of his parents to atheism, to his surrender to The Hound of Heaven just prior to his death.

laureth's avatar

If God always does what’s morally best, wouldn’t that possibly be less a “constraint” (God complying with external moral law), and more of a “definition” (God does it, so it must be defined as good)?

I don’t actually believe, so this is not what I think. But for those who do believe that God is by definition the origin of what is morally good and right, He cannot be constrained by anything outside Himself, right?

bezdomnaya's avatar

@dynamicduo God is fictional. This is because there is no proof supporting the theory of her or his existence. A lack of evidence is not evidence. This is a logical fallacy called argumentum ad ignorantiam .

@Lost There is a philosophical argument pertaining to this question. This is ‘Is something morally right because God decrees it so, or does God decree something morally right because it is morally right?’ This ends up getting you into a dilemma. If something is morally right because God decreed it so, then morally right is arbitrary, and it could have been any other way. If, on the other hand, God decreed something morally right because it was morally right to begin with, then God is not the ultimate authority. Very interesting stuff.

Mr_Callahan's avatar

( Lost In Paradise ) I have forwarded this question to God, although quite busy he’s usually very prompt with a response but you must be listening for HIM.

MacBean's avatar

God watches us in the shower and LOLs.

AstroChuck's avatar

He twiddles His thumbs and counts the hours and then when He’s through He takes cold showers.

DarkScribe's avatar

Sudden prayers make God jump…

mattbrowne's avatar

All of my answers are beliefs. Nothing more. Nothing less.

‘Given that the Universe follows scientific laws, what is left for God to do?’

God could create other universes.

‘Does God selectively intervene to perform miracles?’

No, I don’t believe so. God can be seen as the intelligent origin of our universe with all its attributes and rules. Once ‘in motion’ the universe evolves with God observing, not intervening. This includes the origin of life. Evolution is so to speak God’s method of upgrading species.

‘Do these miracles violate physical laws or are they just highly improbable?’

Miracles in a real physical sense is an infantile way of picturing God. Viewing the concept of God as fiction (like characters of a novel) is also an infantile way of not believing in God.

‘Does God answer prayers?’

Not directly in a sense you’re having a phone conversation with him (and T-Mobile charging you for it). But since human beings are a consequence of his original creation and human beings are capable of having complex thought processes you could interpret this his doing of us being able to help ourselves.

‘Does God follow a set of rules or guidelines in determining who should be helped?’

No.

‘Are these rules beyond our comprehension?’

I don’t believe in those rules.

‘If we could know these rules, would we agree that some good people need to suffer and some evil people need to prosper to bring about the greatest good?’

Without suffering and challenges there’s no progress. Crisis is the mother of invention. Meteorite impacts helped mammals to evolve.

‘Does God reward people in the afterlife and, if so, does He not see the irony of people being good only to receive eternal reward?’

Maybe.

mehmetaydin3's avatar

God can do anything. Anything you think God does.

westy81585's avatar

When you do things right, people won’t be sure you’ve done anything at all.

-God

Jeruba's avatar

@DarkScribe, I have to say that you have got the story wrong. As the Biblical narrative goes, Mary was Joseph’s espoused wife. That means they were betrothed. They weren’t married. She was a virgin. And he hadnt “known” her. That’s why he got so upset when Mary told him she was pregnant.

DarkScribe's avatar

@Jeruba

Do you really believe that a woman would be “espoused” to a religious man in those days, go through a pregnancy to the stage of childbirth and no one would notice?

Aside from the mentions in Mathew and Luke, and those don’t give any real detail, almost nothing is known about Mary. There is quite a bit known about marriage and the law in those days however. A woman would only come to a man after marriage, until then she would remain with her family.

Although Joseph was supposedly talked out of divorce by the Angel, that wouldn’t affect the opinions of those who saw a heavily pregnant woman if she was unmarried. As she was with Joseph, not her family, she was either married or living in sin. Pregnant women didn’t wander about unattached without risking stoning.

The whole concept of a virgin birth is as ludicrous as the concept of a God, particularly in view of the strictness of the law with regard to fidelity. If it did happen, then there are a lot of conveniently skipped questions as to how the local population would regard an obviously pregnant women in the company of a man who wasn’t married to her.

Regardless, if you want to believe the Bible, God got her pregnant without so much as taking her out to dinner – not a good look. Nowadays it would regarded as a form of date rape, getting an unaware woman pregnant.

By the way, if you were right, then she was always living in sin, as an essential legal requirement for marriage in those days was consummation with proof of virginity – a blood stained cloth. If she had a virgin birth, then she wasn’t married. The proof of consummation was an essential part of marriage in case the husband changed his mind and wanted the “bride price” back.

Deuteronomy 22:15
Then shall the father of the damsel, and her mother, take and bring forth the tokens of the damsel’ virginity unto the elders of the city in the gate: 16 And the damsel’ father shall say unto the elders, I gave my daughter unto this man to wife, and he hateth her; 17 And, lo, he hath given occasions of speech against her , saying, I found not thy daughter a maid; and yet these are the tokens of my daughter’ virginity. And they shall spread the cloth before the elders of the city.

tinyfaery's avatar

Help people win Oscars and gold medals. God chooses sides in war. God chooses what countries to bless. God helps people find parking spaces and hit home runs. God is actually quite busy.

AstroChuck's avatar

@westy81585- I thought Bender made a pretty decent god.

bea2345's avatar

@DarkScribe – ”A woman would only come to a man after marriage, until then she would remain with her family.” Actually, I read somewhere that among the commoners, it was a frequent occurrence that the young people anticipated the wedding, with the usual results. All these prohibitions and “thou shalt nots” surely arise from a recalcitrant and sinful (that is to say, human and ordinary) population.

DarkScribe's avatar

@bea2345 I read somewhere that among the commoners, it was a frequent occurrence that the young people anticipated the wedding, with the usual results.

The usual results in those days of proven sex was a bit different to now.

Deuteronomy 22:23

If a damsel that is a virgin be betrothed unto an husband, and a man find her in the city, and lie with her; 24 Then ye shall bring them both out unto the gate of that city, and ye shall stone them with stones that they die; the damsel, because she cried not, being in the city; and the man, because he hath humbled his neighbour’ wife: so thou shalt put away evil from among you.

Is she has a bulging belly it won’t take much guesswork to figure out that she has “lain” with someone and not screamed out about it as soon as she had the chance.

There is simply no way to reconcile the myth of a virgin birth with the mores and laws of the day.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

God no longer has a place in our society – we don’t need religious explanations for things, because we have scientific and philosophical explanations. Therefore it is safe to assume that such a being does not exist.

DarkScribe's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh God no longer has a place in our society

You’re kidding? When did that happen?

There is no God, he has never had a place in society, sanctimonious men mouthing Biblical platitudes have pretended to represent him in our society.

It is fun to see how those who claim to believe can conveniently distort both the Bible and the history of Biblical times when it becomes convenient. The implausibility of the “virgin birth” is just one. Mary would have been stoned to death long before finding a manger if she had been marching around pregnant and unmarried.

Even now they stone women to death in the Biblical lands. It has happened several times recently. It certainly wasn’t better in the days when this was supposed to have taken place.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@DarkScribe Thanks for picking up on my poor wording. What I mean is that there is no longer need for him. In ages past, the idea of a deity may have been useful to comfort and to explain, although these benefits may well have been outweighed by the atrocities committed in the name of religion. I am not sure how an ancient people would respond to the knowledge of the absence of gods. Today, we do not need to invoke deities for the purposes of explaining what we cannot, we just say it is yet to be adequately explained.

I like your point about the virgin birth. I guess this is where they fall back on “God allowed it as part of his plan” or some similar cop out.

DarkScribe's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh Thanks for picking up on my poor wording

I wasn’t picking on your wording, I was being facetious.

I love winding people up who claim to be Christian but who in every aspect of their lives do thing that are not remotely Christian. If someone is a genuine believer, follows all of the teachings rather than just picking the ones that they like, I am never offensive to them. I respect that. It is the pretend Christians whose tails I like tweaking. The easiest way to do that is to look at the whole Bible rather than convenient excerpts from it.

mattbrowne's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh – Explain why there’s a universe (or multiverse) and why it’s the way it is. Science can’t do that.

Mr_Callahan's avatar

FMF: A well-read Christian knows that humanity will always fall short and never achieve God-like status. Thats the start my friend, KNOWING that we are flawed human beings in need of God, otherwise God would have no mission for us. ( My humble opinion )

bea2345's avatar

@DarkScribeDeuteronomy 22:23. ... I have no doubt that on occasion the law was carried out; then, as now, it almost certainly depended on whose wife, son, relative was to be stoned. Such savage penalties do suggest that the offense was common, if not very common; and “premature births” were probably a well known phenomenon in Galilee. As for that comment about the virgin birth, I don’t understand your point. Could you explain?

DarkScribe's avatar

@bea2345 As for that comment about the virgin birth, I don’t understand your point. Could you explain?

If you have followed the whole thread and don’t understand then I am not sure how I can elucidate further. The fact that for Mary to have gone to full term while not married – only betrothed as claimed – everyone around her would have to have ignored the law. Betrothed women live in their father’s household, married women live with their husband. To have a husband she could not remain a virgin, losing her virginity was a public part of the marriage ceremony in those days.The showing of a bloodstained cloth, not the consummation. No consummation, no marriage.

bea2345's avatar

@DarkScribe – you must be of the male persuasion. Women have known for more than four thousand years that virgins don’t necessarily bleed the first time they have sex. Do not suppose that careful mothers don’t, and didn’t, prepare their daughters. In fact, I believe that many of these prohibitions, made in a male dominated world, were more honoured in the breach than in the observance. A lot of these OT women were far from being beaten down drudges. Think of Sarah, Rebekah, Hagar.

DarkScribe's avatar

@bea2345 Women have known for more than four thousand years that virgins don’t necessarily bleed the first time they have sex.

I am very aware of that, as well as of the various techniques used if necessary to meet the legal and religious requirement. It still doesn’t change the fact that consummation was a part of marriage and if consummated – no more virgin. If not consummated – no pregnancy to term.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@DarkScribe Thanks, keep it up!

@mattbrowne The Anthropic Principle does quite a good job of this. If the universe/multiverse did not exist, we would not exist to observe it. According to the theories I find most likely, the Big Bang was the beginning of time (I don’t like oscillation theories) therefore it is nonsense to talk about ‘before’ the Big Bang. So whatever may have ‘caused’ it cannot be theorised. We accept that we do not yet know, rather than inventing a god because we do not know.

@Mr_Callahan I accept that we are flawed as humans, because perfection is defined by us to be outside our grasp. It gives us something to aim for. We will never achieve god-like status, because the characteristics of god contradict physical law and themselves. For example, simultaneous omniscience and omnipotence cannot exist. We do not need a god, because he no longer fills an unknown in our understanding. Science explains our observations, as well as life and death, philosophy explains almost all aspects of sentience, and helps to explain the laws of science in terms of humanity, and ethics gives very good guidelines as to how to behave. What purpose is there left for a god? I think it is damaging to say that we need God, because that gives one the idea that they are not only flawed, but also powerless to improve their condition. This is outright false (Christians claim personal experience as evidence, so I will here), because anyone has the power to improve themselves and push on to greater things. Humans have autonomy.

Mr_Callahan's avatar

If ” some ” people find that “betterment” in the pusuit of God, whats wrong with that? If the idea of God “betters” them, what difference does it make? Is finding “betterment” through philosphy “better” than through God simply because you cannot see God? You cant see philosphy, but you know it exists, same with God…..........in my view.

bea2345's avatar

@DarkScribe – as for the virgin birth, I can’t explain it and I have never even tried. Ten to one, the detail that Joseph went ahead and married her anyway should tell us something. Either the story is literally true as it stands, and Christ was born of a virgin and conceived by a spirit. OR, it is not true, the myth was perpetuated to enhance the idea of Jesus as God. Personally, I do not care. To me, the commonsense view is that Mary’s firstborn was God; how conceived is not our business; and almost certainly the couple had other children, but I would not go to war over that question. My point being that human nature being what it is, the scribes and the pharisees could fulminate all they want, light the pyres, line up piles of stones: laws were more honoured in the breach (which is why we have laws). Many a dowager must have had a quiet chuckle over Deuteronomy 22:23.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

I have no problem with betterment from religion, but I do have a problem with people describing it as a ‘need’. We have no ‘need’ for religion, although it may have some positive benefits at times.

Mr_Callahan's avatar

If you wanna split hairs, there are many things humans dont need. Each of us have our own set of needs and some of us fill those needs with religion. Others prefer a philosophy which fits their needs. Its all good if it incorporates peace, love and good will towrads men.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@Mr_Callahan I don’t think I am splitting hairs. On the one hand, the stance is that humanity needs a fantasy to correct their flaws, notably a fantasy that they themselves have invented and is flawed with the same flaws as humanity itself. On the other, we have a coping mechanism for some who are not strong enough to face the harsh reality of the universe. There is a big difference here.

Yes, it is all good if it incorporates peace, love and good will towards humanity, but how many religions actually adhere to these terms? A large problem with religion, is that although one may contain many wonderful elements, there will always be flaws simply because we are human and we invented religion. This is not such a problem for secular philosophies, because they are open to correction and change. Some religions were advanced in their moral thinking for the day, but because religions are not open to correction their imperfections become more evident over time, and the religion becomes archaic as it is left behind by our philosophical understanding.

Critter38's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh I agree, but I’d be careful with this argument “This is not such a problem for secular philosophies, because they are open to correction and change.” I know what you mean, but…

Any non-religious philosophy is by definition secular…so this is just waiting for someone to raise those secular political philosophies that incorporated many of the worst excesses of religious or divinely inherited power: Worship of infallible leaders, sacred texts, mass ceremonies and rituals, the execution of nonbelievers or defectors, and a strong sense of ingroup and outgroup that facilitates war with the outgroup.

So as long as secular philosophies are open to correction and change, and are actively aware of the dangers of dogma and worship, then I agree. But this is by no means a given, especially when mixed with a heady dose of power.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@Critter38 Good answer, thanks for your correction. I don’t know what I’d do without the scrutiny of so many eyes!

Critter38's avatar

No worries. :)

Same here.

mattbrowne's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh – The Anthrophic Principle does not explain why anything exists at all or why the Big Bang happened, even when excluding any contemplations about a ‘before’. The principle does however help scientists to exclude conclusions as was the case when helium to carbon fusion was rejected as nearly impossible. Since we are here and there’s a lot of carbon in our body the stars must have found a way which they did and which is now called the triple alpha process.

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@mattbrowne Maybe so, but it is still no reason to invoke the supernatural. What is wrong with accepting that we don’t yet know? In a few hundred billion years the universe will appear to be static, because most of what we can currently observe will be over an event horizon due to the ever increasing expansion of the universe. Those alive at that point in time would say the universe had been around forever, since there would no longer be any evidence of the Big Bang. They would be quite wrong, but correct within the evidence they could observe. Since the universe has already been expanding for ~14 billion years, I think it is safe to conclude that there is information about our past that we are now incapable of observing. Therefore I conclude that we either don’t yet know or cannot know. I do not think it is feasible to invent a god to cover the holes in our understanding.

Mr_Callahan's avatar

Inventing God and inventing theories about the origins of the universe are equally fascinating. I choose not to get into these types of endless and fruitless arguments.

wundayatta's avatar

God helps you imagine. God is a character that you can make up stories about, stories that fit within your own personal story. God helps you create an image of your ideal self. God is a psychologically useful tool, but also a tool that fools and confuses you if you don’t understand it’s nature.

mattbrowne's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh – To me God is not about covering the holes. I’m aware that some Christians still believe in a God of the gaps. I don’t.

Science has the potential to explain any natural phenomenon, but it can’t explain and will never be able to explain the meta-phenomenon of existence itself which led to natural phenomena for us to observe and explain.

I don’t think of God as an invention. Harry Potter is an invention. He’s fiction. God represents the theistic interpretation of the universe. To view the concept as a psychologically useful tool can be compared to superstitious atheists making use of the placebo effect. Oh, eight is my lucky number!

FireMadeFlesh's avatar

@mattbrowne I do not for a moment suppose that science is all there is to it. One may conceive a god that is consistent with science, as science in itself does not preclude the idea of a god. I agree that there are some things that science cannot explain, but that is still no reason to invoke a god. Ethics for example may be derived from science, but research into ethics is mostly performed by philosophers rather than scientists. Likewise, existence itself is the realm of philosophy, and I don’t think theology has anything to add to the discussion since theology largely deals with how we react to the assumed fact that there is a God.

I realise that many people do not think of God as an invention, or even as a psychological phenomenon, and I respect that. However if we are to determine if a deity exists, we must begin with no a priori assumption of a deity, or lack thereof. The burden of proof rests on the theist, as they are the one making a claim apart from the default assumption that we exist and nothing else. This default assumption must be made, as “cogito ergo sum” is the only verifiable fact, and anything over and above that is an assumption that requires proof. Incidentally, this includes atheistic theories that make claims about existence. I can find no compelling reason to believe that there must be a god of any sort, therefore I assume that there is none. There is much reason to believe the more commonly believed deities do not exist, and the mere fact that all religions show evidence of all too human flaws rather than the omniscience of their deities, is enough for me to assume that religions and all forms of spirituality are the result of over-active imaginations.

But then if you are comfortable in your beliefs, and these beliefs are not detrimental to either you or those you come in contact with, then I believe that is more important than tearing yourself up over the idea of truth (as I have done for many years).

mattbrowne's avatar

@FireMadeFlesh – “Invoking” a god is one of two options. Therefore we also have the atheistic interpretation of the universe. Fine with me.

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