One of the reasons why I’m an atheist is because I never came across a definition of God that made any sense. So a question I ask theists from time to time is: “What do you mean with the word God?”, because all discussion about God doing this or that is utter useless if we have no idea of what it is we are talking about. And in here lies, what I think, is the biggest problem with theism: God? What do you mean by that?
Problems with Definitions
God often gets defined as a perfect being but perfect isn’t an objective quantifiable property. How do you measure the perfectness of something or some being? These are arbitrary standards and subjective. What does perfect power or wisdom look like? How can I measure that? It’s impossible. Same goes for properties such as maximal greatness. How does one measure greatness? Again, it’s not an objective quantifiable property.
God is also seen as the creator of the universe. A famous argument for the existence of God is the Kalam Cosmological Argument and it presupposes that God created the universe. This to brings along some problems for we can not know what was going on before Planck Time. What happened before the Big Bang, is unknowable to us. We have no method of knowing what was going on before. An infinite chain of causes and events isn’t excluded from the get go. Theists using the Kalam argument often forget that Space-Time had a beginning, but this is not the same as saying the universe had a beginning. If a theist presupposes God did create the universe, I always ask them which trustworthy method of obtaining knowledge they used to arrive at that conclusion.
The omni-properties get dragged in as properties of God, but this also causes problems as you can read for yourself in one of my previous entries on this blog, the one called the Omnipotence Paradox. The omni-properties are ill defined and therefore cause problems that makes the existence of this God logically impossible.
God as a bodiless spirit isn’t very plausible either since everything we know about mind is dependent on matter. Mind changes when matter changes (think of someone who has a stroke who’s personality changed after the illness or someone who turned into a vegetative state after a terrible car accident.) There is no evidence for a bodiless mind or that mind can exist without matter.
But the biggest failure must be that theists often try to define something into existence, as is the case with the ontological argument. As if a mere definition of something automatically establishes the existence of that thing in the actual world. I can define a Jedi as a lightsaber carrying knight, but this does not mean they exist in the real world. I have only created a linguistic label for something. So in the case I might ever come across a lightsaber carrying knight, I can call that a Jedi.
Sometimes theists even try to define God as unknowable to us and beyond our senses. Than how the heck do you know he exists in the first place? God has been literally been defined out of existence this way.
God, in essence, is a supernatural being. And our best way to describe the world is to use the scientific method. Unfortunately the scientific method can’t tells us anything about what is going on in the supernatural realm. So if a theists likes to argue that God exists, ask him or her what trustworthy method of acquiring knowledge he or she used to arrive at that conclusion.
So what definition have you come across and why do you think they are valid or not?