Monday, November 4, 2013

The Essence of God and Universality

From guest blogger, David H.

In my upcoming paper, I look to argue for the continuity of gods across various religions, and my my main point that I ultimately am looking to argue is that the concept of ‘God’ is an intuitive quality that we all share. Although the perception of a god has many different layers and interpretations with many of these ideas being molded and constructed in the society and environment we are raised in and partake in. I look to focus on finding a specific and underlying truth and intuition we all share that binds the concept of ‘God’ into a universal understanding. When someone refers to Allah or the Judeo-Christian God, they are dialectically and socially different, but not qualitatively. In my paper, I plan on outlining these distinctions, but because I have had trouble really constructing an argument, I was hoping to utilize this blog post to help brainstorm and set a foundation to my argument? The purpose of this paper is not to prove the existence of a god, or even iron out the differences in interpretation between religions. My truest intent is to lobby that when we are discussing ‘God,’ we are qualitatively talking about the same Essence, and that intuitively, this call for ‘God’ is not theological  but instead something that can be found in all humans, whether we reject it or not. This raises a concern to atheism, for it might seem that they reject this intuition  That will factor into my argument for that is the extent to which atheism will be discussed. As a disclaimer, an atheist still intuitively understands the concept of a god that I claim is one in the same as any other religion, however they reject it. Please throw any input, criticism, or suggestions on as a comment to help me further construct an argument, and to iron out the discrepancies with my thesis. Thank you!


Michael Dean Hebert said...

I'm not sure I'm totally clear on what your thesis is going to be. I take it that you mean something like: "When discussing God, everyone is talking about the same thing (i.e. they are discussing the same referent). When people believe there are differences, it is merely a matter of difference in context or interpretation?"

I think your biggest issue isn't going to be the atheist. It will be easy to say that when they discuss God, even though they deny its existence, they are talking about the same thing as those in the Abrahamic tradition (broadly speaking). Your biggest issue is going to be accommodating polytheistic religions and religions which don't appeal to God(s), like Buddhism. It just seems plainly false to me that the Greeks of old when talking about Zeus were talking about the same thing as you are when you talk about God. And you don't want to define yourself into a correct position by asserting that what the Buddhist is really talking about when they talk about transcendence is God, since Buddhists explicitly deny that there is a personal God.

Also, to get your argument off the ground your going to have to be a lot more precise about what you mean when you say that God is "something that can be found in all humans, whether we reject it or not." What do you mean "found in all humans"? Clearly you don't mean if we cut people open we'll find something of the same kind in every person. Do you mean something which is psychologically a part of every person? If that's what you mean, then it's an empirical question, and one which scientists should investigate. Indeed, many scientists do debate about "human nature." But I take it that this isn't exactly what you were talking about either. With this metaphor I'm not exactly sure where you're trying to "place" God.

Hope these thoughts help on your paper. It's an interesting project. Try to avoid using too much metaphor, since it will sacrifice precision in a paper that is going to require you to navigate through some complex ideas.

Anonymous said...

What you seem to be saying is that there is something in human nature that underlies a yearning for a kind of supreme being. Such a being is invoked because there is a need to explain the very existence of the world and why things happen the way that they do. In thisregard, you should look at a book called, "The Denial of Death," in which it is argued that all religions arise from a need to find a way to reject the idea that a life has an end.

Stoehr said...

I think it'd be helpful to follow Michael Dean's suggestion and state your thesis and pieces of evidence as clearly as possible. If your goal is to prove that when John says "Allah" and Jack says "Yahweh", they are referring to the same being, I'd be careful to make sure you have some solid evidence to back that up.
Are you also trying to say that, as Anonymous said above, it is within human nature to yearn for a supreme being? I think that could also be a potentially interesting idea to address, but might take away from the main gaol of your paper. Seems like a good idea that just needs a little bit of solidifying!

Rashad said...

I like this idea of a continuity of God across various religions; how people share an intuitive concept of God. As we all know, the Abrahamic (Judeo-Christi-Islamic) God has Anselmian qualities. Based on my studies in Religion, I would agree that there is a shared intuitive concept amongst many religions. In specific, is Hinduism, which I proclaim shares the same intuitive Anselmian view of God like the Abrahamic God. Many may consider Hinduism to be a polytheistic religion. Yet, I have learned that one view is that Hinduism is monotheistic in a sense that there is one God with many avatars. Thus, these avatars represent the many qualities of God in an anthropomorphic form. For instance: Brahma is the creator; Vishnu is the preserver; Shiva is the destroyer; Kama is the god of love; Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth and happiness; and Ganesha is the god of wisdom, luck, and the clearer of obstacles. This list could go on forever; there is even a goddess of AIDS called AIDS-Amma. But as we can see, all of these gods are avatars of Hinduism’s one God. This one God is still omnibenevolent, omniscient, and etc. This God just takes many forms based on each attribute/quality. Here we see the intuitive quality and understanding of God shared amongst 4 different religions. Hopefully this helped and I was clear in explaining what my idea.

Enrique Franco said...

I'd be curious to know how you explain the divine quality on such a broad spectrum. If you're going to make this claim that there is this intuitive sense of a divine Essence (whether it be God, Allah, Brahma, etc.) I would wonder what justification you present that this intuition represents a divine deity in any form. It might seem like an odd question, but what's to say that this common intuition of a divine being is representative of any divine Essence. If the purpose of the paper isn't a discussion about the possibility of what this common intuition represents/is then I guess I would worry about the topic becoming more of a discussion of human nature than that of religion. Whether or not that's the case you're going to have to have a clear definition of what the intuitions underlines, as something other than a plain old bit of curiosity present in all humans. I really like the idea of their being a commonality present and I think there are a view. Is there something of more substance you're getting at other than this concept of the "divine"? What about the possibility of religion representing this normative desire to know how/to what end to live one's life? Finally if you're going to discuss the conception of the divine as some basic human intuition you're going to have to weigh it (at least in part) against other possible human intuitions (concepts of right/wrong, life/death, self-preservation, etc.). Just some suggestions.

Caitlin C said...

Although it is interesting that religions tend to have the same principles and even similar stories I don’t think it is an intuitive part of being human. I think it is more of a socially taught understanding of a concept of an all-powerful being. I think certain factors of human life influence one’s need or want for there to be a perfect God looking after them but I don’t think it is innate. It is also likely that religions just simply came from the same first or early religion and that is why they share so many qualities.

David Harms said...

After thinking more and more about this topic, I opted to not write about it for my second paper. It was too dense and too murky of a thesis and I decided to write about something else. However, I came back to see some great responses, and I thought I would take a second and give some feedback.

Michael Dean - Polytheistic religions were a major obstacles when starting out - I had trouble finding much common ground such as in the examples you put forward. Also, I think when I said 'something that is found in all humans' I was looking for something universal in human nature.

Anonymous - The Denial of Death was something I looked after you commented and yes, that would have played right into my thesis. As Stoehr went on to comment, I was looking for an intuitive yearn that is common among all in humans in their nature.

Rashad - Your input definitely exposed me to something that I think had already intuitively been considering. Very helpful for my thesis (if I had pursued this topic).

Enrique Franco - My beginning notes about this topic often drifted away from religion and began to focus too much on human nature. There was a lack of substance in the divine and too much focus on these hypothetical qualities common among human intuition. Nice catch.

Caitlin C - Rebuttals like yours were what also deterred me from pursuing this topic. I wasn't confident enough this intuition to be able to strongly compose an argument. I think there is some merit in questioning and in this discussion, however, personally, I struggled to construct a concise argument.

Thank you all for the feedback!