of questions and dumb questions

Now some of you visit quora as often as I do. Some of you don’t. That’s also ok. So today I saw this question which at first glance I think is dumb. On second reading, I still think it is dumb but it raises a very interesting question; nature of existence.

First the question

Why do we believe in the existence of atheism and not the existence of god.

My first reaction was does this investigator know what atheism is. Defined simply as a lack of belief in deities, it does seem to me atheism, if it exists, it does so only as an idea. A concept. Or as others might say, as a conclusion. In what sense then do we say an idea exists? My view is that an idea exists as long as it has been defined or expressed somewhere even if no one still holds onto it. It is not subject dependent.

What gods are, we don’t know. Unless by tying the two questions together, the investigator meant to also argue that god exists only as an idea in our minds but has no separate existence in time and space. If this is not the case, the question, I think is fallacious (equivocation?) in some way even if I can’t pin it down.

Now I come to the reason why I said the question is interesting. Philosophers have argued over the same question and identified two areas which because I am lazy I will just quote and I hope you do the reading when you have time. 

Is existence a property of individuals? and

Assuming that existence is a property of individuals, are there individuals that lack it?

Or maybe I missed something.

Chronicles of YHWH 28: A Metastable Figment

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Angel Gabriel once found YHWH pacing up and down in his library, deep in thoughts. YHWH seemed deeply distracted and anxious.

Gabriel: Lord, is everything alright? You look a bit pale.

YHWH: I’ve just finished reading “The God Delusion” by Richard Dawkins, Gabriel.

Gabriel: And?

YHWH: I feel terrible now. That book raises some pretty disturbing points. I’m now half convinced that I don’t exist in reality.

Gabriel: But I’m talking to you, right now.

YHWH: What if both of us are figment’s of someone else’s imagination? What if we both only exist in the minds of religious people?

Gabriel: That can’t be. You sent your son to the humans sometime ago, and he appeared to them physically.

YHWH: Sometimes I wonder whether that actually happened. What if that too is a false memory by some of the religious people? After all, my so called “son” left no verifiable proof of his existence down there.

Gabriel: There are billions of Christians down there now. They are enough proof that your son really walked on earth.

YHWH: Dawkins states that the human mind is susceptible to memes – ideas that become viral and spread within a population very fast, if left unchecked. Memes can be based on reality, or on fiction. What if we are a fictitious meme – of a particularly contagious nature?

Slight pause.

Gabriel: Surely, there must be a tangible way of verifying our existence, Lord.

YHWH: I can’t think of any. We are invisible, intangible, and our very nature keeps changing, depending on who is describing us. Some Christians describe us as loving and forgiving, while others describe us as militant and vengeful. Gabriel, what are we, really?

Gabriel: Whoa. Let’s try and live apart from the perceptions and thoughts of these human beings. Let’s try and manifest independently of the human mind.

YHWH: I’ve tried that already, Gabriel. And failed. Apparently, we can’t exist outside human minds. This is terrifying.

Long pause.

Gabriel: I need a stiff drink now.

YHWH: Make that two.

 

N/B: For access to all anecdotes in this series, check out List of all “Chronicles of YHWH” notes.

Quotes: Day 3

On our continuing series of posts from the gospel of Buddha, allow me to share this passage from the book.

Again it is said that the Absolute has created us. But that which is absolute cannot be a cause. All things around us come from a cause as the plant comes from the seed; but how can the Absolute be the cause of all things alike? If it pervades them, then, certainly, it does not make them.

Again it is said that the self is the maker. But if self is the maker, why did it not make things pleasing? The causes of sorrow and joy are real and objective. How can they have been made by self?

Again, if we adopt the argument that there is no maker, our fate is such as it is, and there is no causation, what use would there be in shaping our lives and adjusting means to an end?

Therefore, we argue that all things that exist are not without cause. However, neither I?vara, nor the absolute, nor the self, nor causeless chance, is the maker, but our deeds produce results both good and evil according to the law of causation.

Let us, then, abandon the heresy of worshipping I?vara and of praying to him; let us no longer lose ourselves in vain speculations of profitless subtleties; let us surrender self and all selfishness, and as all things are fixed by causation, let us practice good so that good may result from our actions.

Quotes: Day 2

In our continuing series of quotes, I will present two snippets; one on why there is so much sorrow and evil

The world is full of evil and sorrow, because it is full of lust. Men go astray because they think that delusion is better than truth. Rather than truth they follow error, which is pleasant to look at in the beginning but in the end causes anxiety, tribulation and misery.

and a second one that talks about consciousness. And those god people who keep saying an intelligent creator is responsible, the Buddha says shut the hell up. It is written,

In the beginning there is existence blind and without knowledge; and in this sea of ignorance there are stirrings formative and organizing. From stirrings, formative and organizing, rises awareness or feelings. Feelings beget organisms that live as individual beings. These organisms develop the six fields, that is, the five senses and the mind. The six fields come into contact with things. Contact begets sensation. Sensation creates the thirst of individualized being. The thirst of being creates a cleaving to things. The cleaving produces the growth and continuation of selfhood. Selfhood continues in renewed births. The renewed births of selfhood are the cause of suffering, old age, sickness and death. They produce lamentation, anxiety and despair.