On Philosophy

April 6, 2007

God Is Irrelevant

Filed under: General Philosophy — Peter @ 12:00 am

Nietzsche said that god is dead. I think for god the situation is much worse than that though. Not only is there reason to believe that god doesn’t exist, but that even if he did exist he wouldn’t matter. We simply don’t need god, and thus it is probably best to relegate him to the dustbin of history, much as we did with the ether and the vital force, other ideas we discarded, not because we could prove that they didn’t exist, but because they were simply no longer needed.

Almost everyone agrees that we can cut god out of our explanations for physical events. As best as we can tell the physical universe is causally closed, so there is no room for god to meddle with things. It is true that we don’t have complete explanations for every feature of the physical world, such as why the initial conditions of the universe were they way that they were, but god is simply not a satisfying answer to those problems. Arguing that god explains some feature of the world only postpones our desire for explanation, because we will then want to know why god made that feature the way it is. And if we appeal to god’s desires or will to answer that question then we can ask why god has the desires he has, ect. Eventually we will have an unanswered question about god, and so we are no better off than we were before, and might as well just accept that we don’t have any suitable explanation for that physical feature yet. And of course not positing god to explain things has historically been the better approach, because science continues to expand and explain more and more, with no end in sight, and so positing god as an explanation for some phenomena only serves to hinder a proper scientific investigation.

But really only the “unenlightened masses” see a need to posit god as an explanation for the physical world. More rational believers tend to give god responsibility for various non-physical aspects of the world, or as fulfilling some practical need of ours. In either case we are encouraged to accept the existence of god because he fulfills some philosophical need, rather than some explanatory need, and furthermore that we are better off if we believe in his existence. Let’s go through those one by one.

Some theorize that we need god to justify or explain ethics. I contend that we do not.

Some propose that belief in god is needed to overcome our fear of death. But I do not fear death.

Some say that without god our lives will be meaningless. Not really.

Or that without god we would simply be nihilists or hedonists and thus would not lead worthwhile lives. Again, I would claim otherwise.

Thus I see life’s more philosophical questions, about whether it has meaning, whether it is valuable without god, whether we should act ethically, ect, as being completely answerable without appeal to god. And that is why I conclude that god is simply irrelevant; even if he existed, or I believed that he existed, my life wouldn’t be any better. And not only is that a good reason to treat god as non-existent, it is a good reason to simply set god aside completely, and to waste no more time on the issue.

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