Thursday, October 04, 2012

The Invisible God


The fact that God has no body is one of the fundamental principles of Orthodox Judaism. The antiquity of this belief is seen in Deut. 4:15 which notes “for you saw no manner of form on the day that the LORD spoke unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire”.

Sometimes my children ask me “What does God look like?” I have to explain that we cannot see Him. Then they ask “Why not?”

Atheists also like to ask, “Isn’t God simply an imaginary friend?” In other words, doesn’t God’s invisibility imply that He may not exist at all?

To me it seems obvious that God must be invisible and in fact this is one of the first things which attracted me to Judaism, rather than for example Christianity.

For us to see something, for something to be tangible to us, it must have borders and limits and it must exist in space. Therefore, logically, an infinite being who created space itself cannot be visible. God is everywhere and furthermore everywhere is within God, therefore it is impossible to see Him.

Additionally, God’s level of reality is different from ours. Let’s say someone is thinking about a person. That person exists only in his imagination. The imaginary person cannot see the person who is imagining him. Likewise, we are like thoughts in God’s mind. He is the only true reality. This is what (Jeremiah 10:10) meant “The Lord God is truth”. He and He alone is real.

God is not our imaginary friend - just the opposite. We are God’s imaginary friends.

This makes clear the fallacy of Richard Dawkin’s question, “Who created God?” This question assumes that God is a material being. God is essentially entirely unlike any physical being, therefore He requires no creator.

45 comments:

Dave said...

His invisibility, from a visual perspective, is not the problem. You totally miss the question. obviously there are many things that we can't see which we know exist.

The problem is the lack of his apparent action in the world, in distinction from the world of the Bible when he spoke, did supernatural things, and invoked justice.

jewish philosopher said...

Due to our many sins, we have become less worthy of clear divine guidance.

Even in biblical times, this was true as more time passed from Sinai. Manasseh was both the most evil king and also the longest reigning.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manasseh_of_Judah

But even in modern times we see miracles.

http://www.torahphilosophy.com/2009/06/holocaust-clear-evidence-of-gods-hand.html

Dave said...

"Due to our many sins, we have become less worthy of clear divine guidance."

I can't tell you if that is good or bad theological reasoning. You are the theologian, not me. But it would seem to me that the opposite should be true-- the more sins, the more we need "divine guidance" to get us to our correct path.

(as a manager, I know that if there is a problem, the organization needs more intervention, not less)

But I know that this is the "hester panim" school of reasoning...

In any case, this is a much bigger theological and philosophical problem than just not being able to detect god with the senses.

ksil said...

"Due to our many sins, we have become less worthy of clear divine guidance"

yet god is granting us longer lives
and healthier lives
and more knowledge
and welath
and pleasure
and quaility of life
and abundance

weird god you got there

ksil said...

the tooth fairy is also invisible!

lol

jewish philosopher said...

"In any case, this is a much bigger theological and philosophical problem than just not being able to detect god with the senses."

God's guidance is a privilege, which can be revoked.

Consider a typical addiction intervention:

If your loved one doesn't accept treatment, each person on the team needs to decide what action he or she will take. Examples include asking your loved one to move out or taking away contact with children.

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/intervention/MH00127

"god is granting us longer lives and healthier lives"

Not exactly.

http://geography.about.com/b/2011/06/16/u-s-life-expectancy-decreasing-county-level-map.htm

"and more knowledge"

Not sure about that.

http://www.cnn.com/2011/09/21/opinion/bennett-education/index.html

"and welath
and pleasure
and quaility of life
and abundance"

Not too sure about that either.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2007–2012_global_financial_crisis

"the tooth fairy is also invisible!"

Actually, no.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tooth_fairy#Appearance

laugh out loud said...

ksil:

I don't think people are happier now. Lots pf people need do do things like take drugs to mask thier unhappiness.

Abe said...

"God is not our imaginary friend - just the opposite. We are God’s imaginary friends."

Oh yes he is. If he were real, I'd be petrefied of dawdling here, contemplating which porn site to visit while visions of virgins prance by, the better to masturbate to.
Yet I'm still here, earning a handsome living despite my contempt for the most holy on high. Yet you still adore the brute who exacted unemployment on you for god knows what unholy offence.
Ah well, better you than me. As long as he's absorbed with you, he won't bother me.
Now lets see ... oh yeah, beatmytuchus.net is where I left off yesterday. ... I'll report my encounter with mistress melissa tommorrow.

Dave said...

"God's guidance is a privilege, which can be revoked."

But he still loves you. Ha!

In any case if he revokes, so do I!

jewish philosopher said...

"Yet I'm still here, earning a handsome living despite my contempt for the most holy on high."

And if you're diagnosed next week with terminal cancer you'll say that if there were a God He would not let the innocent, like you, suffer.

"In any case if he revokes, so do I!"

What happens when an addict in an intervention refuses to get help? Plenty do.

Abe said...

"And if you're diagnosed next week with terminal cancer you'll say that if there were a God He would not let the innocent, like you, suffer."

If I were diagnosed with cancer, I'd hardly blame it on god because because there is none. The cause would have been either a debasement of my immune system due to unhealthy lifestyle, exposure to carcinogen or perhaps genetic disposition a specific cancer.
And if I would pin it on god, it would be because the cancer had reached my brain, inducing halucinatory accusations.

But I dawdle on trivial matters here.
My encounter with Mistress Melissa was excruciatingly salubrious. The agony, anguish and torment she delivered upon me felt almost like it was god smiting one of his devoted apostles. You've probably had a similar experience with god.
I suggest you give Mistress Melissa a try. It feels almost as good as beating your breast on yom kipur.






ksil said...

"I don't think people are happier now"

oh yea, I am sure people (especially jews) were much happier living under brutal dictatorships and regimes, living with christianity and other violent religious evangelical groups, losing untold children to disease and infection, living shorter lives as a result of all this, worried about getting your next meal.

yes, they must have been MUCH happier!

Dave said...

Come on, JP. You're really getting a bit carried away with this whole "addiction" analogy. It sounds silly. The millions of atheists living throughout the world are doing fine, mostly.

"And if you're diagnosed next week with terminal cancer you'll say that if there were a God He would not let the innocent, like you, suffer."

I refer you to the following essay for an honest account of ancient rabbinic insight into the theodicy problem:

http://www.daatemet.org.il/articles/article.cfm?article_id=91

Basically, the rabbis, like their secular philosopher counterparts throughout history, have used their god-given (?) intellect to make educated guesses about good and evil and justice. In the essay there are quotations in which the early rabbis pretty much admit this. No "divine inspiration". Just perfunctory and often contradictory interpretations of biblical verses. They really haven't got any more of a clue than you or I.

So if you want to explain away the problem by saying "in our sins there is no divine guidance", fine. Just have a little self-awareness, and recognize that you (or the rabbis that you listen to) are using their own human understanding to conjecture, having not heard anything from your God since the time of the prophets 2500 years ago.

Dave said...

If you really think about it, JP, all of your moralizing and rationalizing is the product of your (or other rabbi's) philosophy and understanding of verses written long ago, which could be interpreted hundreds of different ways. So ultimately, it boils down to your HUMAN, not divine understanding.

So, if we're in the realm of human understanding, I'll put my bet on scientific reasoning and common sense, rather than your guesses.

Which leads me to conclude that there is probably no afterlife, probably no biblical god, and there is definitely no divine justice.

Joseph said...

Of course there are miracles performed in today's society. How else do you explain the 1969 Mets?

Ironmistress said...

Hmm.

The Russians tend to say that we Finns have no soul.

That is because everything is so well in Finland - no corruption, little crime, people are honest, everything works like well oiled machinery, while in Russia corruption is rampant, crime is high, income differences are grave, poverty is omnipresent and everything has failed. The Russians say Finns have no need for soul - they can survive without, but in Russia the only hope for anything better is in God and in the spirituality.

Could it be that despite our apparent failures and misdeeds we still are improving into something better and we need actually less divine guidance and intervention than during the past centuries?

Ironmistress said...

It may well be case that we indeed are spirits in material world - just as The Police sings.

In this case this world is nothing but an awfully large LARP - and we are nothing short but player characters in that LARP.

jewish philosopher said...

"If I were diagnosed with cancer, I'd hardly blame it on god because because there is none."

The point is that whatever happens, you illogically use that as a proof that there is no God. In Europe in 1938, probably 90% of Jewry was not Orthodox and the Nazis murdered most of them. This proves that there is no God, because how could He allow that. In United States today probably 90%of Jewry is not Orthodox and no is being murdered. This proves that there is no God, because how could He allow that.

"jews) were much happier living under brutal dictatorships and regimes"

See my last comment. Whatever happens atheists will use it as proof of their beliefs.

"The millions of atheists living throughout the world are doing fine, mostly."

The point is that refusing to communicate with a misbehaving child is one tactic used to persuade him to mend his ways. Three times a day we beg for an end to this tragic situation:

May our eyes behold Your return to Zion in mercy.

http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/867674/jewish/Translation.htm

in addition to fasting four days each year

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ta%27anit#Jewish_Fast_Days

"So, if we're in the realm of human understanding, I'll put my bet on scientific reasoning and common sense"

That's exactly what scientists do basically. Look at all sorts of contradictory data and try to cook up some explanation, often not very successfully. For example, it's well known that general relativity and quantum field theory are contradictory. Yet for some reason you are not concluding that physics is probably bogus, because physics doesn't bother you personally in the way that the afterlife, biblical god and divine justice obviously do.

“Could it be that despite our apparent failures and misdeeds we still are improving into something better and we need actually less divine guidance and intervention than during the past centuries?"

Apparently the Finns prefer alcohol to God.

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-504763_162-57514502-10391704/finnish-psa-shows-effects-of-alcoholism-through-eyes-of-a-child/

That may not be a healthy choice, but that's just my opinion.

natschuster said...

Abe:

The lifestyle you describe doesn't seem very happy. If you are telling the truth, you can't seem to have a normal relationship with a real person. That's really sad.

Ksil:

If people are happier nowadays, why do so many need drugs and booze, especially the non-religious. Why do som nay people need to visit therapists? Why are there so many books for sale on how to be happy?

natschuster said...

Dave:

Have you ever read "Mien Kampf?" It's full of scientific reasoning. And have you ever studied Marxism? It followers calim to be all scientific. Scientific reasoning doesn't seem to do a very good job teaching people how to live.

And who's common sense do you follow? Your's? Kin Jong Il's? Stalin's?

And Orhtodox Jews don't believe that we can interperate passages from the Torah any way we want. the Mesorah does put certain constraints on what we can say. The Mesorah does seem to do a better job guiding ouyr lives than somebodies common sense.

natschuster said...

Dave:

The Rabbi's admitting to being human, therefore they can't know everything. We don't have all the answers, just like scientist don't have all the answers.

Abe said...

" natschuster said...
Abe:

The lifestyle you describe doesn't seem very happy. If you are telling the truth, you can't seem to have a normal relationship with a real person. That's really sad."

What lifestyle are you referring to ?

ABE said...

"The point is that whatever happens, you illogically use that as a proof that there is no God."

You're wrong. It doesn't prove anything. There may be a god who is responsible for all that murderous mayhem. Or there may not.
Other than your appeal to heteroclite logic, god's existence is as meaningless as the discarded section of yesterdays sports news section of the N,Y, Post.
So, why burden yourself with god's irrational precepts under those circumstances?

jewish philosopher said...

If there's no God, how did life originate?

http://www.torahphilosophy.com/2012/05/how-did-life-originate.html

Ironmistress said...

JP, it is true there are alcoholics in Finland. As there are in UK, US and Israel.

But nowhere is alcoholism as much a lifestyle - especially amongst men - as in Russia.

Dave said...

JP--"If there's no God, how did life originate?"

That's called, "changing the subject". A convenient distraction from the present argument.

Nat- "The Rabbi's admitting to being human, therefore they can't know everything. We don't have all the answers, just like scientist don't have all the answers."

My criticism is not about having all of the answers. Its about claiming "divine authority" to all kinds of ideas about justice, afterlife and the like. So for instance, if I ask you or JP what is the evidence for "Hell", all you can tell me is a rabbinic (or your) interpretation of a biblical verse, which is merely an opinion. And this opinion is not divine, but subjective and human. So I have no reason to believe it if it doesn't make any sense.


Even if I believe in God I have no reason to believe that you or any rabbi has any idea of what He wants or how justice works.

The "Mesorah" is just a catch word for "traditional belief in rabbi's interpretation". It doesn't lend it credibility.

I am aware that this is a precept of Orthodoxy-- belief in the rabbi's sole authority for determining truth. This belief, however, has not basis in evidence.


jewish philosopher said...

"That's called, "changing the subject". A convenient distraction from the present argument. "

Not really. Let's say someone tells you "There wasn't any Holocaust!" and you ask him "What about Auschwitz?"

"The "Mesorah" is just a catch word for "traditional belief in rabbi's interpretation". It doesn't lend it credibility."

How do you that Julius Caesar or Aristotle were real people? 

http://www.torahphilosophy.com/2009/07/is-history-bunk.html

laugh out loud said...

Abe:

""The lifestyle you describe doesn't seem very happy. If you are telling the truth, you can't seem to have a normal relationship with a real person. That's really sad.""

"What lifestyle are you referring to ?"

The one where you talked about having fun with a cyber mistress.






Dave:

I understood you that the Rabbi's can say anything they want. My point was that this isn't true. The Mesorah puts constaints on what can be said. The most common phrase in the Talmud is "Mino Hani Mili?" "Where do thses words come from?" The Rabbi's didnot just say things on their own. Everything has to have a source.

Abe said...

"What lifestyle are you referring to ?"

laugh out loud said...
The one where you talked about having fun with a cyber mistress.
***********

You're studying too much agadata too seriously.
You need to step back and take a college course on the history of sarcasm before you dangerously peruse Jonathan Swift's, A MODEST PROPOSAL and proceed to eat your first born son as part of the Bris ritual.

Dave said...

LOL-- "The most common phrase in the Talmud is "Mino Hani Mili?" "Where do thses words come from?" The Rabbi's didnot just say things on their own. Everything has to have a source."

That source may be a verse itself, based on an INTERPRETATION. Often the rabbis will argue over a point based on THEIR interpretation of a verse.

"Mino Hani Mili" is said in a small minority of rabbinic statements. The editors of the Talmud did not uniformly use the rules of evidence.

JP- the subject was divine justice and god's physical presence or absence. Not the origins of life. You made an attempt to redirect the discussion into a completely different argument.

I understand that you can tie everything together. My reason for calling you out is that we were discussing a specific issue or problem in theology. Then, when you hit a wall, you change the subject to something which requires a whole different set of arguments and data. You know as well as I that from a biochemical and mathematical perspective, abiogenesis and evolution are very complex. You have devoted many posts to those subjects. And that discussion will contribute NOTHING to resolving the current theological questions which were being asked:
1. Why is god not manifest nowadays?
2. Why should I live as though there is a god who gave the Torah?
3. Why is there no evidence for divine justice in this world?



jewish philosopher said...

Abe and I got off on a tangent about whether God exists or not. 

About your questions, check out these posts:

http://www.torahphilosophy.com/2012/01/why-weshould-beorthodox.html

http://www.torahphilosophy.com/2009/08/kindness-of-suffering.html

And if you think that because you don't like the facts means that means they are false, that's merely wishful thinking.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wishful_thinking

And if you think that because most people disagree with me that means I am wrong, that is simply an appeal to the people.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argumentum_ad_populum

Dave said...

Your posts that you referred to are perfect examples of my point. The rabbis expressed an opinion about hell based on a strange interpretation of some obtuse verses in Nach.

Since as I previously stated, the rabbis had no divine inspiration (by their own admission), there is no way they could really know they things they say about things that can't be checked. Even if the Torah itself were entirely true, the rabbinic sayings about hell are just wild conjecture.
While the rabbis could claim that their statments are based on traditions that they heard, we have no evidence that early proto-Jews from the biblical period believed in anything like hell.

jewish philosopher said...

The descending levels of Jewish literature validate the rabbinical tradition.

http://www.torahphilosophy.com/2010/03/jewish-literature-seeing-effects-of.html

If a Holocaust denier keeps repeating again and again "It's all a myth! It's all propaganda! There is no evidence! The Zionists just made it up!" although he may be sincere and tens of millions of people may agree with him, that doesn't make it true.

Dave said...

"The descending levels of Jewish literature validate the rabbinical tradition."

Of course, the strength of that "evidence" is a matter of your opinion. From a strictly logical perspective, you are using the fallacious "argument by special pleading". While the contents of other literature from different religions is assumed to be bogus and man made, you don't apply that general rule to rabbinic literature for a reason you make up. Who says that "descending levels" is a valid method of verifying truth of beliefs? Do you have other examples of "descending levels" proving that something is true? The whole descending levels argument is entirely circular, anyway-- using the religious tradition itself to prove its own truth.
I'll grant you that Orthodoxy and rabbinic literature is internally consistent-- if that is the point that you are making-- but that is in no way a verification of its truth.

Mein Kampf was internally consistent too, and so was The Communist Manifesto. Doesn't make them true...

ksil said...

the obvious difference is there is mounds and mounds of evidence one can point to if they claim "no holocaust"

verusus your imaginary God and rabbinic orthodox judaism - of which there is ZERO evidence.

but nice try

jewish philosopher said...

"Of course, the strength of that "evidence" is a matter of your opinion."

Like everything we know about history.

"argument by special pleading"

Special pleading involves someone attempting to cite something as an exemption to a generally accepted rule, principle, etc. without justifying the exemption. Where am I doing that?

"Who says that "descending levels" is a valid method of verifying truth of beliefs?"

I explain why it is. Who says DNA evidence is a valid method of proving criminal responsibility?

"Do you have other examples of "descending levels" proving that something is true?"

That's the whole point. Judaism is uniquely validated.

Other than the Holocaust do you have other examples were gas chambers prove the murder of millions?

"The whole descending levels argument is entirely circular, anyway-- using the religious tradition itself to prove its own truth."

Circular reasoning means that the proposition does not meet the requirement of proving the statement, thus it is a fallacy. My proposition (descending levels) proves the statement (the rabbinical tradition is valid).

I think this is just what happens when you read to much Dawkins and Hitchens, who are arguing with Christians, and then try to cut and paste those arguments to Judaism.

"the obvious difference is there is mounds and mounds of evidence one can point to if they claim "no holocaust"

That's what you think, because you're a believer. Don't you realize it's a lie! Jews have a way of blinding people. They were not killed, gassed or massacred.

http://www.latimes.com/news/la-oe-ali16dec16,0,449142.story

Dave said...

"I explain why it is. Who says DNA evidence is a valid method of proving criminal responsibility?"

Reason and evidence is what demonstrates its validity. It has been verified by repeated experiments.

I don't recall ever seeing "descending levels" demonstrated as valid method for validating literature.

Since you are making an argument for uniqueness, this is an argument by special pleading. You are justifying an exemption from the general rule of "false religious literature" by arguing "descending levels" without providing any evidence that "descending levels" justifies the exemption.

jewish philosopher said...

Actually DNA proof is often wrong.

http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-500164_162-555723.html

It's just one more tool to help us guess about a past event which like any historical event can never be recreated in a laboratory.

The claim that an event involving God is different than all other events and cannot be proven like other historical events is special pleading.

Dave said...

"The claim that an event involving God is different than all other events and cannot be proven like other historical events is special pleading."

I don't make that claim at all. In fact, quite the opposite. I would require only the SAME evidence as other historical events.

Your "descending levels" is simply an unknown form of evidence.

Using your courtroom analogy, it would be as if during my murder trial I brought in an expert in a heretofore unknown form of evidence showing that a person who owns a red VW with yellow stripes does not murder people. When asked for proof that this method is reliable, I can't give any, in fact, I say that I am the only case, and that my uniqueness proves its true.

Really, JP, I am trying to understand "descending levels". As far as I can tell it is only a statement about the internal consistency of the literature. Its like saying that the 7 Harry Potter books don't contradict each other and follow a consistent story. Does that make them true?

As to your theories about history in general-- well I must admit that everybody (including us skeptics) picks their myths. Mostly based on personality, intuition, and upbringing. The so-called rational arguments come afterwords-- to justify your beliefs to yourself and argue with others--- but they're not the real reason.

Read the very interesting articles by Jonathan Haidt about moral reasoning. Here's a good review of one of his books.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/25/books/review/the-righteous-mind-by-jonathan-haidt.html?_r=2&pagewanted=all&

jewish philosopher said...

I write:

In Judaism, a rabbi living in 1000 CE would never have considered contradicting a rabbi who lived in 100 CE and likewise a rabbi living in 1600 CE would never contradict a rabbi living in 1000 CE. Needless to say, no one after 300 BCE claimed to have the gift of prophesy. This is why the canon of the Bible was closed. There was universal reverence for the sages of each earlier era. This is in spite of the fact that since the destruction of the First Temple, 2,400 years ago, the Jewish people have not possessed any central authority capable of declaring and enforcing a new era of Judaic literature. These eras seem to have formed spontaneously because of a universal recognition that current leaders did not possess the spiritual and academic greatness of earlier ones.

In my opinion, this is clearly proof of the great spiritual level which the Jewish people were elevated to 3,300 years ago at Mt. Sinai and from which they have been gradually descending ever since.

http://www.torahphilosophy.com/2010/03/jewish-literature-seeing-effects-of.html

If you have an alternative, atheistic explanation for this phenomena, I'm all ears.

jewish philosopher said...

I don't mean to ridicule you, however I have a feeling that since this argument is something uniquely Jewish and therefore not mentioned in the atheistic tracts of Dawkins and Hitchins, you are having a hard time understanding it.

natschuster said...

Dave:

What sort of evidence do you consider adequate for accepting historical events? Eyewitness testimony recorded in documents? We've got that in the Torah.

And the descending levels means that the Rabbis don't make things up. They are constrained by the Mesorah. This gives them credibility that no other group has. Even scientists have been known to publish outright fraud in the peer reviewed literature.

Maybe you could clarify for me what exactly your rules of evidence are.

Dave said...

What you are saying is:

Since the time of rabbinic Judaism rabbis believed that there has been a spiritual decline since Sinai. OK.

Therefore it must be true.

The followers of ALL religions believe that their tradition is true. So what is different here? Is this a variation on your "kuzari" argument?

jewish philosopher said...

"Since the time of rabbinic Judaism rabbis believed that there has been a spiritual decline since Sinai."

No, that's not what I said.

Straw man fallacy.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straw_man

natschuster said...

Dave:

The Kuzari is a little different that other religions. The other religions say that the revelation happened to one person, or to someone else's grandparents. Nobody could ask "why didn't my grandparents tell me?" The
Torah says that the whole nation saw the revelation. It's like someone saying that around 1820 two million Americans left slavery in Canada, witnessed miracles, received a communication from an extraterrestrial that included a new constitution, everything was written down and recorded. Would anyone believe him? I know I'de be asking why my Grandfather didn't tell me, or where's the book, or why wasn't anyone else heard about this, etc.