A Definition Of God

  • Category: Philosophy
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A Definition of God

        The name God has been applied to the Supreme Being who is variously understood in the many different religious traditions. Even within a single tradition, there is often great diversity of thought about God, which has resulted from changing conceptions of God's nature as they have evolved over the centuries. Taoism defines "god" as a permanent Tao, which is considered to be the essential unifying element of all that is. While Aristotle believes that God is the first cause of the world, or the "unmoved mover," Nietzsche believes that the very concept of God is "dead", that God no longer has the power, as it once did, to transform lives. Ms. Smith's position on God is similar to that of the Taoists in that she holds that there is one force, which is invested in everyone and in everything that is the Higher Being known as God.
        Taoism speaks of a permanent Tao in the way that some Western religions speak of God. The Tao is the rhythm of the universe or the "way" and acts as the Holy Being of Taoism. The Tao is considered unnamed and unknowable, the essential unifying element of all that is. Everything is basically one despite the appearance differences. Because all is one, matters of good and evil and of true and false, as well as differing opinions, can only arise when people lose sight of the oneness and think their private beliefs are absolutely true. Welch describes this concept as "a person looking out a small window and thinking he sees the whole world, when all he sees is one small portion of it. Because all is one, life and death merge into each other, as do the seasons of the year. They are not in opposition to one another but are only two aspects of a single reality. The life of the individual comes from the one and goes back into it."(143)
        The goal of life for a Taoist is to "cultivate a mystical relationship with the Tao."(Lao-tzu/Porter 23) Adherents therefore avoid dispersing their energy into the pursuit of health, power, or knowledge. By shunning earthly distraction, the Taoist is able to concentrate on life itself. "Taoism maintains that the individual should ignore the dictates of society and seek only to conform with the underlying pattern of the universe, the Tao."(Eliade 462) To be in accord with the Tao, one has to "do nothing", that is nothing strained, artificial, or unnatural. In the Tao Te Ching, Lao-tzu tells us that through "spontaneous compliance with the impulses of one's essential nature " and by emptying oneself of all doctrines and knowledge, one achieves unity with the Tao and derives from it a mystical power. This power enables one to transcend all mundane distinctions, even the distinction of life and death.
        The Tao itself is considered permanent and nameless and calls for a harmonious, well-ordered universe in which all things are of one centralizing element. Chapter 41 of the Tao Te Ching describes the Tao:
                "When a great person hears of the Way
                he follows it with devotion
                when an average person hears of the Way
                he doesn't know if its real or not
                when a small person hears of the Way
                he laughs out loud
                if he didn't laugh
                it wouldn't be the Way
                hence these sayings arose
                the brightest path seems dark
                the quickest path seems slow
                the smoothest path seems rough
                the highest virtue low
                the whitest-white pitch black
                the greatest virtue wanting
        the staunchest virtue timid
                the truest truth uncertain
                the perfect square lacks corners
                the perfect tool does nothing
                the perfect sound is hushed
                the Tao is hidden and has no name
                but because it's the Tao
                it knows how to start and how to finish"
On this passage, Li Jung said that "The true Tao is not fast or slow, bright or dark. It has no form, no sound, no shape, and no name. But although it has no name, it can take any name." The Tao is unnamed, unknown, permanent, unifying and all-powerful. It emphasizes the individual's and the group's need for unity and harmony and is always present in all aspects of life. "The Tao is what we can never leave. If we can leave it, it isn't the Tao."(Confucius 41)
        Aristotle proved the existence of God through the cosmological, or first, argument, which calls God the Unmoved Mover, or the Prime Mover. This argument contends to explain the existence of the contingent universe in saying that it is essential to postulate a necessary being, a being whose existence is not contingent on anything else. "The chain of causation needs to be grounded in a first cause that it itself was not caused."(Acknill 204) Aristotle holds that there are in the world change, causality, degrees of excellence, and varieties of design. All of these together require a first cause, or a Prime Mover. Aristotle's treatment of the Prime Mover, or first cause, as pure intellect, perfect in unity, immutable and as he said, "the thought of all thoughts," is given in Metaphysics. In his Metaphysics, Aristotle argued for the existence of a divine being, described as the Prime Mover, who was responcible for the unity and purposefulness of nature. God is perfect and therefore the aspiration of all things in the world, because all things desire to share perfection. Other movers exist as well "“ the intelligent movers of the planets and stars. Aristotle puts forward the theory that there are 47 or 55 celestial spheres, each eternal, and for each of them there is an unmoved mover.
The Prime Mover, or God, described by Aristotle is not very suitable for religious purposes, as many later philosophers and theologians have observed. Aristotle limited his "theology", however, to what he believed science requires and can establish. Aristotle's cosmological argument tells us that if we are to avoid infinite regress, we must suppose that this leads us to one or more prime movers that are themselves unmoved and that have the power to move by acting as objects of desire.
        Friedrich Nietzsche founded his morality on what he saw as the most basic human drive, the will to power. Nietzsche criticized Christianity and other philosopher's moral systems as "slave morality" because, in his view, they chained al members of society with universal rules of ethics. Nietzsche offered in contrast, a "master morality" that prized the creative influence of powerful individuals who transcended the common rules of society. Nietzsche's The Antichrist proposes his fundamental contention that traditional Christian values had lost their power in the lives of individuals and calls Christianity the "one blemish of mankind," criticizing the Christian moral on a number of grounds. He said the concepts Christianity uses are entirely imaginary and psychologically pernicious. The religion deprecates human experience by making Christians paranoid and hostile of their own behavior, and Christians become driven to seek spiritual reassurance at tremendous costs in terms of mental heath and in relationships with others. "The Christian moral worldview thus encourages uncharitable judgements of others, paradoxically despite its praise of neighbor love." (Higgens 436)
        Nietzsche believed that the very concept of God is "dead", that God no longer has the power, as it once did, to transform lives. Nietzsche holds that "belief in the Christian God has become unworthy of belief" and expressed this in his proclamation "God is dead". This famous statement appears twice in Nietzsche's The Gay Science, first in section 8, which opens Book Three:
"After Buddha was dead, his shadow was still shown for centuries in a cave "“ a tremendous, gruesome shadow. God is dead: but given the way of men, there may still be caves for thousands of years in which his shadow will be shown. "“ And we "“ we still have to vanquish his shadow, too."(167)
The more famous appearance of this statement arrives in section 125, entitled "The Madman." In this story, the madman of the section appears in the marketplace and makes the announcement that "God is dead" to the scientific atheists who were there. They merely laughed. He proceeds to tell them " We have killed him "“ you and I."
Nietzsche pronounced the death of God because he saw a society so self-confident over its mastery of science, technology, politics, and economics that for it "God is dead."
        Smith's ideas about God are very similar to the Taoist's portrait of God. She holds that "God" represents one force, one spirit, one unified essence that is instilled in every living thing. God is an active part of all of us and is portrayed through our emotions. It flows through all things, connecting all life. Smith believes that there must be a Supreme Being, which encourages harmony for a number of reasons. We experience a number of sensations, some of which we refer to as emotions, others we recognize as perceptions from our senses. Smith contends that these feelings are the God at work in all of us. If there was no Great force, human beings, earth and life in general would not be, nor have any need to be, beautiful. The world would exist for necessity alone. We would eat to survive, rather than because food tastes good; the sun would rise and set in shades of grey, for there is no real need for color. Smith holds that life would live without God, but life would not be alive. God gives us the ability to breathe in the sweet fragrance of freshly cut grass and God is responsible for our love, our hate, our joy and our sadness. God adds complication to life by giving us happiness and to ensure we fully appreciate the good, God, our unified spirit, counteracts it with bad.
        Smith also takes on the Shakespearean mentality of "What's in a name?" She believes that whether God is called God, the Tao, Buddha, or Zeus, it still represents the same unified essence of all life. The word is simply a name and does not constrict this spirit, which Smith describes as being as vast and free and moving as the wind, to a specific religion or belief. She holds that all the different systems of faith are actually born of one great force, which has moved different groups into a diverse array of beliefs according to how this wind-like God as affected and been interpreted by them.
        All four philosophers and philosophies paint the portrait of God differently. This diversity leads to the conclusion that there is no direct knowledge of God based on
perception "“ seeing, hearing, and the other senses. Knowledge of God is based on intuition, deduction, or induction. This knowledge is a result of perception of the way the world itself is constituted.

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