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# Forum:Argument for the existence of limited god

This discussion was moved here from Talk:Arguments against the existence of God.
I have an argument which I believe proves God exists.
First I need to define "God". I define "God" as "an immortal person who knows all there is to know, who is perfectly good, and who loves with perfect love every other person who ever exists". Note I have intentionally ommitted the idea of omnipotence and God as creator – by the definition I have given, God has only limited power, and did not create the universe, but perfectly loves it and knows it without creating it or having any great ability to change it. I make these restrictions in order to wholly avoid the problem of evil. (If the problem of evil could somehow be solved, then we could remove these restrictions and my argument might work for the traditional idea of God – but, truly solving the problem of evil is a very difficult ask, maybe even an impossible one, and I don't want my argument to depend on it.)
Given that definition, here is my main argument:
(1) If we are morally obliged to believe that P, and if P is inherently unfalsifiable, then P is true
(2) We have a moral obligation to believe that "God exists"
(3) "God exists" is inherently unfalsifiable
(4) Hence, "God exists" is true.
(5) Hence, God exists.
This is a valid argument, in that if its premises are true its conclusion must follow. I expect you will probably agree with premise (3) but deny premises (1) and (2). I think subsidiary arguments can be used to justify premises (1) and (2).
To justify premise (1):
(5) If we have a (rational or moral) obligation O to believe that P, yet P is false, then the obligation O must be conditional
(6) But, conversely, if we have an obligation O to believe that P, and O is non-conditional, it follows that P must be true
(7) If proposition P is inherently unfalsifiable, then an obligation O to believe that P cannot be conditional, since being inherently unfalsifiable there is no possible falsifying evidence that could defease the obligation
(8) Hence, if we have an obligation O to believe that P, and P is inherently unfalsifiable, it follows that P is true
To justify premise (5), observe that we can sometimes be obliged to believe falsehoods – consider a trial where there is very compelling evidence produced by the prosecution, and the defence has been silent – in such a case, we rationally ought to believe the defendant's guilt, even if, by some unlikely confluence of events, the defendant is actually innocent. So we can be rationally obliged to believe falsehoods. However, whenever we are rationally obliged to believe a falsehood, there will be some further evidence which if we had it would justify us in believing the truth instead, so our obligation to believe the falsehood is conditional upon our not having that further evidence. Try to conceive of an unconditional obligation to believe a falsehood, I do not think anyone can; indeed, the idea has the whiff of contradiction about it. So, if there are no unconditional obligations to believe a falsehood, then any obligation to believe a falsehood must be conditional; thus, if there is an unconditional obligation to believe a proposition, the proposition must be true.
Premise (2) you will probably find very doubtful. Some of that doubt may be due to doubts about the very idea of being morally obliged to believe something. If you reject that idea, then I think there are plenty of arguments to be made that some beliefs are in fact immoral – e.g. beliefs in racial supremacy, irrational beliefs that lead to actions which harm other people, etc. Once you've accepted the idea that we might be morally obliged to believe certain things, then we can ask – what criteria determine whether a belief is morally obligatory or not? Once we have determined those criteria, we can evaluate "God exists" against them.
Anyway, I doubt that this will convince you, but it convinces me. (((Zack Martin))) 20:50, 23 March 2017 (UTC)

## Contents

### Argument against the definition

You are absolutely correct. You have not convinced me.
Secondly I note that you have very carefully defined one particular version of a God which I am not sure that anyone has ever believed in. Given that you are creating a bespoke version of god I think you have made life unnecessarily difficult for yourself.
It is quite easy to define god in such a way that it is trivial to demonstrate its existence. "God is this coffee cup I see before me. It has no powers or attributes which are in any way different from any other coffee cup of the same type except that this one happens to be god. Does this coffee cup exist? Yes. Therefore God exists."
But clearly nobody believes in my "coffee cup" as god and I doubt you will get many takers for "an immortal person who knows all there is to know, who is perfectly good, and who loves with perfect love every other person who ever exists" as god either. But my coffee cup is a lot easier to demonstrate.--Bob"Life is short and (insert adjective)" 21:07, 23 March 2017 (UTC)
Well, to quote that great sage Humpty Dumpty, "When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less." So, if you want to define the word "God" to mean your coffee cup, no one can stop you.
However, not all idiosyncratic definitions of words are equally respectable. We can distinguish redefinitions which still have some substantial common elements with the traditional definition, from redefinitions with little or nothing in common with the traditional definition. We can also distinguish redefinitions which have some decent motivation to justify the change in definition, from those where the change is done purely on the basis of whim or fancy or trivial reasons.
A good example is the change in the definition of marriage. The traditional definition in historically Christian countries is "a legally-recognised relationship between a man and a woman". The modern definition in an increasing number of countries is "a legally-recognised relationship between two adults of the same or opposite sex". Now, is this a respectable redefinition? I think it is, because it meets the two criteria of (1) having something substantial in common with the traditional definition (legal recognition of a sexual/romantic relationship between adults), and (2) having good reasons to justify its differences from the traditional definition (such as trying to remedy the long and shameful history of discrimination against LGBT people)
Similarly, I think my definition of God as "an immortal person who knows all there is to know, who is perfectly good, and who loves with perfect love every other person who ever exists" is a respectable redefinition, since it (1) has something substantial in common with the traditional definition (e.g. God as a person, God as omniscient, God as immortal, God as perfectly-loving) and (2) its differences from the traditional definition (dropping God-as-creator and omnipotence) have a serious reason to motivate them (avoiding the problem of evil).
By contrast, your "God is my coffee cup" redefinition has little or nothing in common with the traditional definition, and you haven't given a decent reason for redefining the term in this way. So your redefinition of "God" is far more Humpty-Dumpty than mine.
I am also not so sure that nobody has ever accepted my definition of God. Certainly a number of process theologians have denied the traditional idea that God is omnipotent. I have gone a bit further than that and suggested God is not the creator either – my motivation for doing that is to fully avoid the problem of evil, because I don't think denying omnipotence alone is enough – but maybe I am going too far and denying omnipotence is all that is needed. The idea that God did not create the universe is not completely unheard of – many ancient pagan religions held to the idea that matter is uncreated and that all God(s) did was rearrange pre-existing matter rather than creating it out of nothing, there is some evidence that the earliest historical stages of Judaism held the same belief, and Mormons believe it today. Whether or not anyone else has ever accepted my exact definition of God, certainly other people before me have proposed similarly limited definitions. (I actually want to believe that God is the omnipotent creator, but I am trying to limit myself to what I feel confident I can prove.) (((Zack Martin))) 23:10, 24 March 2017 (UTC)
But by reducing your definition this way you are trying to "prove" the existence of a "God" you yourself do not believe in.
So let's look again at your definition: "an immortal person who knows all there is to know, who is perfectly good, and who loves with perfect love every other person who ever exists"
You confirm there is no mention of omnipotence or creation. Furthermore in your definition there is no mention of a requirement that people should believe in or worship the individual. There is certainly no suggestion of moral judgement, no morality given, no heaven no hell.
Finally there is no mention of any influence on, or even desire to interfere in the working of the world in any way.
So even if such an all-loving, non-interfering, morally-irrelevant, non- reward/punishment entity were to exist – so what? Why would anyone care about the god you have invented? It’s an irrelevance.--Bob"Life is short and (insert adjective)" 09:06, 25 March 2017 (UTC)
I wouldn't say exactly that I'm trying to prove the existence of a God I don't believe in.
It is more that I admit that the problem of evil is a very hard problem, which I think maybe I have solved, but I am not totally confident in my solution.
It is possible I haven't solved it. It is possible I can't solve it. It is possible it can't be solved.
So, suppose it is unsolvable – do I abandon theism entirely? Or fall back on some more limited form of theism that avoids the problem of evil? I will admit to vacillation between the options of "my solution to the problem of evil works, I'll be something like a classical theist" and "the problem of evil can't be solved, I'll be a limited theist instead"
I agree my definition doesn't say we must worship God as defined. But I don't think it excludes the possibility of worshipping such a being. Suppose you knew there was a being who perfectly loved you and in the same way perfectly loved everybody, but the being didn't create you and has limited power over your life – do you think we shouldn't worship such a being? Maybe, if it loves us so perfectly, we ought to love it back? Or at least, that might be a legitimate choice for a person to make? And if we love it back, isn't that worship? So, my definition contains the idea of "worship", not explicitly, but implicitly.
You say "There is certainly no suggestion of moral judgement, no morality given", but my definition includes "perfectly good", so the definition presumes some morality. And, my argument has as one of its premises that we are morally obliged to believe that God exists, so both the argument and the definition presume some morality. But, I am intentionally quite vague about what that morality involves, yes. Everyone has their own views about morality, and I'm largely not trying to change them, beyond trying to convince people that they are morally obliged to believe that God exists. I would hope that my morals better reflect God's than those of other people, but I cannot be sure about that; maybe, actually, your own morals are closer to those of God than mine. How do we know what God's morals are? Well, how do we know what is moral? If we could know for certain that X is moral, then we would know God's moral position on X.
My definition is silent on an afterlife. Maybe I should add that to the definition. I don't think an afterlife, a moral afterlife (in which the good are rewarded and the wicked get their just deserts), triggers the problem of evil, so I have no good reason to exclude it. (BTW, I believe in hell, but a non-everlasting one; I think even Hitler goes to heaven eventually, although Hitler probably stays in hell for a very long but finite time. But, that's just my personal view, it is not central to my argument, and a person could have a different view on the afterlife and still accept my argument.)
"Finally there is no mention of any influence on, or even desire to interfere in the working of the world in any way." Well, I think God probably has some influence on the world, and my definition doesn't exclude that possibilty – it fails to include omnipotence, but it doesn't require divine impotence. We can say that God's power in the world is greater than zero, but not enough to validate the problem of evil.
"Why would anyone care about the god you have invented?". Well, if someone feels unloved, but they believe there is a being which loves them perfectly – might that offer them some consolation? Belief in the God I've described may provide psychological comfort for some people. Maybe, if a person believes that they are perfectly loved by a being which perfectly loves everyone, that belief might inspire them to try to be more loving themselves? To love more people, and to love the people they love more perfectly?
Theism may make some people more moral. Of course, you will likely object that there are plenty of moral atheists. I don't deny that. But, maybe, theism is more helpful to some people than others? Maybe the people who find theism most helpful to improving their own emotions or morals are most likely to be theists, whereas the people least likely to experience those benefits from theism are more likely to be atheists instead. This would explain the facts that (1) many theists believe they get emotional/moral benefits from theism and (2) many atheists believe they can be emotionally happy and moral without needing theism – by saying that both beliefs are true. (((Zack Martin))) 12:50, 25 March 2017 (UTC)
Zack. You've lost it.
You say: "I wouldn't say exactly that I'm trying to prove the existence of a God I don't believe in." But that is exactly what you are doing. You really feel that the "god" you believe in has more attributes that this - you admit this elsewhere on the page - but you know that adding them would put you in an even more difficult position. You explicitly state that you have reduced the attributes of your proposed god to avoid these difficulties.
You say: "I agree my definition doesn't say we must worship God as defined. But I don't think it excludes the possibility of worshipping such a being. Suppose you knew there was a being who perfectly loved you and in the same way perfectly loved everybody, but the being didn't create you and has limited power over your life – do you think we shouldn't worship such a being? Maybe, if it loves us so perfectly, we ought to love it back? Or at least, that might be a legitimate choice for a person to make? And if we love it back, isn't that worship? So, my definition contains the idea of "worship", not explicitly, but implicitly.." But my dog loves me unconditionally and didn't create me. As far as I can tell it - like your limited god - loves everyone unconditionally. (well I think it does. I was never sure about the cat.) I guess I love it - but that doesn't mean I worship it.
You say: "You say "There is certainly no suggestion of moral judgement, no morality given", but my definition includes "perfectly good", so the definition presumes some morality. And, my argument has as one of its premises that we are morally obliged to believe that God exists, so both the argument and the definition presume some morality." and there is so much wrong with this. Yes, your definition says "perfectly good" but without defining what this means it's pretty useless. And, yes, your argument, bizarrely says, "we are morally obliged to believe that God exists". But given that your definition of god makes no mention of morality I had and have no idea why - based on your definition- you would include that in your argument.
You repeatedly state that although your definition doesn't mention X quality this is not a reason to suppose that your very closely and carefully crafted god doesn't have this additional incredible quality. But this is absurd. You have gone out of your way to create the most limited god possible, but when challenged on these limitations - morality, afterlife or whatever - we are suddenly expected to assume that were meant to be included, or to simply to give you the latitude to just keep adding attributes in order to meet objections.--Bob"Life is short and (insert adjective)" 13:37, 25 March 2017 (UTC)
Go back to my definition of God: an immortal person who knows all there is to know, who is perfectly good, and who loves with perfect love every other person who ever exists. Would a Christian (which I'm not calling myself) say this definition of God is wrong? I think they would say that they agree with every element of it, but it is incomplete, there are more elements needed to create a full definition of God. I can say the same thing. Suppose you have an argument which proves that a being with some of the distinctive attributes of God exists, but not all of them–is that a useless argument? Well, if you can prove the existence of a being with half the attributes of the traditional concept of God, we are halfway to proving the traditional concept of God, and we can always turn to other arguments to close the gap. Alternatively, if the gap can't be closed, we can ask, can we found some sort of meaningful religious belief or practice on this limited concept of God, and I think we can. I admitted to vacillating in my own beliefs, so saying at one point I believed something, and then at another point suggesting that I don't, is actually a perfect valid thing for a self-confessed vacillator to do.
As to But my dog loves me unconditionally and didn't create me. As far as I can tell it - like your limited god - loves everyone unconditionally. (well I think it does. I was never sure about the cat.) I guess I love it - but that doesn't mean I worship it. You raise a good point. I think we have to unpack exactly what "worship" means, and how "worshipping" a "god" is different from loving a dog. I don't think it is necessary that a being created you for you to worship it, since in many ancient pagan religions, people worshipped non-creator deities–you can worship a pagan deity even if the deity's myths say it didn't create you, some other deity did that. Actually, I am not even sure you cannot worship your dog. Apparently, Hindus in Nepal worship dogs on Kukur Tihar, which is the second day of the annual Tihar festival. So if Nepalese Hindus can worship dogs, why can't you? (Hindus in Deshnoke, Rajasthan, India, worship rats – Hindus worship some odd things – I visited Rajasthan some years back, really wanted to see the rats being worshipped, but from Jaipur where we were to Deshnoke is about five hours by car, and we didn't have time – maybe one of these days.)
The word "worship" actually comes from Old English "weorþscipe", which means the state of being honourable or worthy – "weorþscipe" is not an explicitly religious term, although it was sometimes used in religious contexts, but also saw use in secular ones. I think, as the English language evolved, and "weorþscipe" turned into "worship", those secular uses declined and the religious ones came to predominate–the secular usages were transferred to new words like "honourable" and "worthiness". But, the secular ones were never entirely forgotten–it is traditional in England and her former colonies to call mayors and magistrates "Your Worship", although certainly here in Australia that usage has died, and I'm not sure how alive it is in England either. But this isn't calling the magistrate or mayor divine, it is simply recalling the original meaning of "weorþscipe" as worthiness or honourableness. So, what then does it mean to "worship" someone or something? May I simply suggest it is to accord it love or respect, to declare it to be worthy. Now, to love God and to love your dog are both "love", but they are different in some ways, and their difference reflects the differences of their objects. You think highly of your dog, who loves you, and so you should; but, should you not think even more highly of a being who perfectly loves you and everyone who ever is, for your dog's love for you might not be perfect, and it certainly doesn't love everyone who ever is? So, then, maybe one definition of "worship", in a monotheistic religious sense, is "to think of a being so highly that you could not possibly think of any other being more highly". It seems God, as I have described her, would be a fitting target for "worship" under that definition, but your dog would not.
And, of course, by your current personal understanding of morality, my claim we are morally obliged to believe God exists is no doubt "bizarre"–but I will try to convince you your moral ideas are lacking, in that specific area. But I'm not interested in trying to overthrow your morality as a whole, just change it in that one specific area. (Which is normally how moral debates proceed anyway – someone might try to convince you that eating meat is wrong, but they are not trying to change your whole morality, just change it in one area.) And, in my response to Anim/Randír, I gave some reasons why we should conclude that we are morally obliged to believe that God exists.
You have gone out of your way to create the most limited god possible, but when challenged on these limitations - morality, afterlife or whatever - we are suddenly expected to assume that were meant to be included, or to simply to give you the latitude to just keep adding attributes in order to meet objections – in my defence, let me just say that I am "field testing" my argument, trying it out on this website to find any weaknesses and deficiencies and to try to improve them. And thank you, you have made some valid points I need to address. I would be happy to amend my definition henceforth, to define "God" as "an immortal person who knows all there is to know, who is perfectly good, and who loves with perfect love every other person who ever exists, who is worthy of being loved and worshipped by us, and who provides us with an afterlife in which the victims of immorality receive recompense for their sufferings in this life, and the perpetrators of immorality are required to make atonement for their wrongdoing". If we rewound to the beginning of this discussion, and I offered that new definition in place of the old one, I think it would answer some (but not all) of your current definitional complaints. I think my argument works for the new definition as well, and it still avoids the problem of evil, because while it means God has extensive power over the afterlife, he is not claimed to have any power over what happens in this life. (((Zack Martin))) 22:44, 25 March 2017 (UTC)

### Argument against the logic

Mmk. Premise (1) rests (in my opinion) on shaky ground as, though P is inherently unfalsifiable, that doesn't mean it is by necessity true. Just because I can't disprove the existence of a teapot floating in the asteroid belt doesn't mean there's one there.
Premise (2) I don't think we have a moral obligation to believe that God exists. I simply don't. We haven't any reason to believe that it is our moral duty to believe in the existence of God.
Premise (3) is the property of - err - I can't remember the name but I'll spell out the formal logic because that's all I can currently remember lol. I'll name the existence of God premise E. It's a solid use of logic.
∀ P, E ∈ X : (P ⊆ E ∧ E ⊆ P) P=E
Now, (4) rests on (1) and (2) and (5) is a conclusion from (4). Given that (1) and (2) may not be true, I'm hesitant to accept (4), and, by proxy, (5).
On to the other argument. You got your numbering wrong (as (5) was already taken in the previous argument so in the second argument (5) should read (6)).
Ok. (6). Solid, but it rests on a pretty big 'if'.
(7). Solid; rests on (6).
(8). Correct; rests on (7).
(9). Also correct; rests on (8).
Now, I was thinking about this earlier, and I don't think that we can say P = E. First, we haven't even defined P, so it's like saying P = 1 even if we don't know what P is. Second, we don't even know that P and E are both members of set X. If we say that set X is the set of existing, then P and E must both be the condition of God existing in order to be subsets of each other, which makes your argument cyclic. Cyclic arguments are logically fallacious. And another thing: if we knock down that 'if' in premise (6) then the rest of argument two falls. Anyway, this is just opinion. Best wishes, Anim (Carfa) 22:41, 23 March 2017 (UTC)
Thanks for pointing out my duplication of point (5). I added the earlier point (5) at the last minute so didn't realise I had done that. I don't need it, it is just restating point (4), so I regret adding it now. I have struck it out.
I don't see "Russell's Teapot" as being relevant to my argument. My argument is about the "inherently unfalsifiable" as opposed to the merely "practically unfalsifiable". What is practically unfalsifiable today may become practically falsifiable in a few years/decades/centuries/millennia, whereas what is inherently unfalsifiable today will still be inherently unfalsifiable in a million or billion or trillion years. "Russell's Teapot" is only practically unfalsifiable, not inherently so. Furthermore, my (1) is not "If P is inherently unfalsifiable, then P is true"; it is "If P is inherently unfalsifiable AND we morally obliged to believe P, then P is true". Who could possibly claim a moral obligation to believe in the existence of "Russell's Teapot"? Of course, you reject my claim that there is a moral obligation to believe God exists–but, however implausible you may think an obligation to believe in God's existence is, surely a moral obligation to believe in the existence of Russell's Teapot is even more implausible, far more implausible.
As to (2), I understand that you don't feel any moral obligation to believe that God exists. Let me ask you this question though – is it that you don't think we have any moral obligations to believe or disbelieve anything at all? Or, do you think we can have a moral obligation to believe or disbelieve certain propositions, but not the proposition that "God exists"? In which case, what is different about those propositions from the proposition "God exists" which makes the former the subject of our moral duties but the latter not?
I'm slightly struggling to follow the rest of your comments. I take it you have some doubt about (3), that "God exists" is inherently unfalsifiable, but I don't quite follow what that is. You end by suggesting my argument is circular, but I can't quite follow your reasons for thinking that. (((Zack Martin))) 23:37, 24 March 2017 (UTC)
I missed the 'and we are morally obliged' part. My apologies. This being the case, yes, Russell's Teapot has no bearing on (1). As for (2), I don't think we are morally obliged to believe in the existence of God. It does nothing for us. I don't have any obligation at all to believe in the existence of God as I am no more moral for doing so and no less moral for abstaining. Please, don't think that I am saying that humanity has no moral obligations; on the contrary, I do believe that we are morally obliged to believe in propositions like "Murder is wrong". My issues with (3) come from the fact that proposition P from (1) and the existence of God must be equal in order to be interchangeable.
∀ P, E ∈ X : (P ⊆ E ∧ E ⊆ P) P=E
The problem with (3) is that you substitute P for E and keep going (remember that I defined proposition E as the proposition that God exists). The problem is that I don't think we can say P and E are equal as we haven't defined P.
(1) If we are morally obliged to believe P, and if P is inherently unfalsifiable, then P is true
(2) We have a moral obligation to believe that "God exists"
(3) "God exists" is inherently unfalsifiable
(4) Hence, "God exists" is true.
Gott verdammt, I called it a cyclic argument. Perhaps I should proofread before I post (and maybe not post while tired). A hinge of this argument is that we can't say P and E are equal because we haven't defined P (sorry for the incoherent cyclic part). If we can establish that proposition P is equal to E, then sure, this is a fine argument. Well, we also have to prove that we hold a moral obligation to believe E. Also, that's a pretty convenient definition of God to hold. Anim (Carfa) 01:17, 25 March 2017 (UTC)
Okay, so you say we can have moral duties to believe certain things and not to believe others, and you cite "Murder is wrong" as something we are morally obliged to agree. Great, we agree on that. But you can't see why we would be morally obliged to believe that "God exists". Let me sketch out some reasons.
One reason is, if people believe in God (or at least some versions of God), it may make them better people and the world a better place. If believing something has positive moral benefits overall, and we lack any strong rational reasons to disbelieve it, and that lack of reasons to disbelieve it is likely to be permanent rather than temporary, how can we morally justify not believing it? Of course, some will respond, that belief in God makes some people fly planes into buildings. No denying that. But that is not pure belief in God–pure philosophical theism–but belief in God combined with a whole host of other beliefs–e.g. that a certain someone is God's prophet, and some text they authored is divinely inspired and inerrant, and then you have some extreme interpretation of that prophet and text, and then yes someone may try to fly a plane into a building, or blow themselves up on a bus, or drive a car into a crowd, etc. But the pure philosphical theism isn't to blame for them doing that, it is the other beliefs they have layered on top of it. Some might claim that accepting pure philosophical theism might make people more likely to accept these other claims on top–while that could be true, I personally doubt it is a very great likelihood. Even if it is true, we have to weigh up the inherent moral benefits of belief in pure philosophical theism, against the moral costs or hazards of other beliefs being layered on top. Maybe there is a way to effectively vaccinate people against these other beliefs without rejecting philosophical theism. (And even though, in recent times, most terrorism has been religiously based, it is not true that there have never been atheist terrorists, because of course there have been, I will cite the Red Army Faction as just one example–some will say that there has never been atheist terrorism, because no one has ever committed terrorism in the name of atheism alone, but only ever due to some other ideology, e.g. communism, combined with atheism–of course, that is true, but if we go by that standard, there has never been any theist terrorism either, since no one has ever committed terrorism due to theism alone, but always due to some other belief combined with theism, e.g. a radical interpretation of Islam–anyway, if there have been both atheist terrorists and theist terrorists, is the terrorism caused by theism, or by some other factor?)
Here's another line of thought. I hear about something really horrible – oh, like some teenage rape victim being stoned to death by Islamists. I think, that's gravely immoral. I think to myself, not only do I believe that it is gravely immoral, I feel morally obliged to believe that it is gravely immoral. I believe its immorality is objective rather than subjective, and I feel morally obliged to believe that its immorality is objective rather than subjective. I actually feel that I owe her peronally the moral duties of believing these things, even though I have never known her personally, and even though she quite possibly will never know whether or not I am meeting these moral duties to her. (Well, maybe, if there is some kind of afterlife, she might know, or come to know eventually, whether I am meeting these obligations to her or not.) But I actually feel like my owing her these obligations is not dependent on whether she will ever know whether I am meeting them or not. Now, one of the moral obligations I feel I have to her is to believe that the immorality of what happened to her is objective rather than subjective. But, I actually think objectivity is not purely a yes-no matter, it is in some sense a matter of degree. Consider some moral obligation not to do X. Consider two different realities, R1 and R2. Now, in both R1 and R2, it is objectively true that everyone is morally obliged not to do X. However, in R1, no one ever does X, whereas in R2, people do X all the time. Even though it is objectively true in both R1 and R2 that X is objectively immoral, there is some sense in which its immorality is more objective in R1 than R2. In R1, objective reality shows greater respect to the immorality of X than it does in R2. We can make other comparisons. In R3 and R4, X happens, but in R3 its incidence approaches zero as time approaches infinity, while in R4 its incidence never converges to zero. Again, the objectivity of the immorality of X is greater in R3 than in R4, in that R3 shows more respect to the immorality of X than R4 does. So, now consider R5 and R6. In R5, there is God (or a God-like entity), that always knows X is wrong, that always respects the wrongness of X, that perfectly knows all the victims of X, that perfectly loves all the victims of X, that maybe even provides some sort of afterlife in which the victims of X are compensated for their sufferings, and receive vindication, in which those who violated X are clearly declared in a way in which no one can deny to be wrongdoers and maybe even receive some sort of punishment. By contrast in R6 there is no such God-like entity, although X is still objectively immoral, maybe in some sort of Platonic sense. Now, if I am morally obliged to believe that the immorality of X is objective, it seems I must also be morally obliged to believe that its immorality is as objective as possible. Now, "as objective as possible" does not mean I must believe that we are in reality R1, in which X never happens–that would actually be wronging her rather than fulfilling my duties to her, and it would be believing against the evidence which is that X actually happens, which is irrational. But, "as objective as possible" means that I must believe that reality is more like R3 than R4, more like R5 than R6. Since there is zero evidence which convincingly disproves the claim that reality is more like R3 than R4 and more like R5 than R6, I am morally obliged to believe it. Now, I think it is reasonable for me to want to avoid holding beliefs that might be disproven in the future–and any belief which is not inherently unfalsifiable might be disproven in the future–so if R3 or R5 is inherently falsifiable (even if practically unfalsifiable–practicalities can change, and what is impractical today may be practical tomorrow), that gives me a morally valid excuse for not believing R3 or R5. But, if R3 or R5 are inherently unfalsifiable, such that I could never have convincing evidence for their falsehood, I have no moral excuse for not believing them. Since R5 is equivalent to "(some version of) God exists", I am morally obliged to believe that God exists.
Also, I think you are maybe misreading (1). "P" in (1) is not a reference to any specific proposition. P is a variable. You can read it as a statement of second order logic, like this "For all propositions P, if P is inherently unfalsifiable, and if belief in P is morally obligatory, then P is true". So this question of whether E ("God exists") is P or not doesn't really come up, because of course E is a proposition, so the "For all propositions P" part in (1) applies to E. The only questions are whether (a) "P is inherently unfalsifiable" is true when P=E, (b) whether "belief in P is morally obligatory" is true when P=E, and of course (c) whether (1) is actually a true proposition or not.
To avoid certain logical paradoxes, we may need to restrict (1) so it actually reads "For all first-order propositions P", with (1) itself being a second-order proposition – this assumes E is first-order, which may well be true. Or else, if E is higher order, which maybe it needs to be to account for omniscience–e.g. "X is omniscient if for all first order propositions P, if P is true then X believes that P"–then we still avoid paradoxes so long as (1) is formulated as "For all propositions P of order less than or equal to n", where n is the order of E, and then (1) would have the order n+1. Another option would be to use paraconsistent logic, in which case we may be able to just ignore any paradoxical applications of (1). (Which is actually my preference, since I think it is simpler.) But, however we solve this, I think this is just a technical point, not essential to the correctness of the argument.
Finally, no denying this is a "pretty convenient definition of God". I actually prefer a more expansive definition, closer to the traditional one. But, that brings the problem of evil into play, which is a hard problem to solve. I actually think I can solve it. However, even if I can solve it, it would complicate the presentation of my argument – I'd be simultaneously defending my positive argument that God exists, and my proposed solution to the problem of evil – which is likely to overload my readers. So, I asked myself, if I cut all the bits out of the definition of God which make the problem of evil possible, is it still a definition of God worth believing in to me? For me the answer is yes. Of course, I'd rather believe in a "bigger God", and I believe I can justify belief in a "bigger God", but if a "smaller God" is easier to defend, and is still worth believing in, I will stick to arguing for that for now. If there exists a being who is perfectly good, and who perfectly loves me, and who perfectly knows me, and who indeed perfectly loves and knows everyone–even if that being didn't create me and has only rather limited power over me–is that being worthy of being "worshipped" by me? What is "worship"? To love that being back, to think of highly of it, to desire to emulate it as well as I can, to turn my thoughts to it on a regular basis–well, I think such a being, if it exists, would be worthy of such a treatment, and my giving it that treatment may benefit me–it may have psychological and moral benefits for me. (((Zack Martin))) 09:32, 25 March 2017 (UTC)

## Not convinced

### (1)

The first problem here is what is and isn't a 'moral obligation.' See the discussion for (2).

Second of all, this premise makes an equivocation between 'morally obliged to believe P is true' and 'P is true.' As you presented in your own example;

 “”...observe that we can sometimes be obliged to believe falsehoods – consider a trial where there is very compelling evidence produced by the prosecution, and the defence has been silent – in such a case, we rationally ought to believe the defendant's guilt, even if, by some unlikely confluence of events, the defendant is actually innocent. So we can be rationally obliged to believe falsehoods.

So we agree that humans can believe something - and indeed, be morally obliged to believe something - which is not true. The point here is that if we agreed that there is a moral imperative to believe in X, it certainly does not mean X is true or false, since what is socially and personally convenient for humans (refer to your reasons, which I quoted under (2)) has no bearing on actual truth value. You may critique this by pointing to (3), and arguing that "inherent falsiability" somehow excludes the entity from normal logic because it transcends normal objects. I would say this is just irrelevant hand waving to allow an argument from desire; if things could be made real/true - not made ought to be real/true, but made real/true - simply by human desire, we would be living in a very different world right now.

On a side note, I would like to address your dismissal of Russel's Teapot by the distinction between "practical unfalsifiability" and "inherent unfalsifiability," which you define as follows:

 “”What is practically unfalsifiable today may become practically falsifiable in a few years/decades/centuries/millennia, whereas what is inherently unfalsifiable today will still be inherently unfalsifiable in a million or billion or trillion years.

So what you're saying is that using Russel's Teapot to critique unfalisability as an attribute for God is a category error, since God and the teapot are not the same type of 'unfalisiable' entities. But I think your distinction doesn't really hold. Let's imagine a teapot which currently exists in close orbit around the Sun. Right now, it's practically unfalsiable, but soon it will collide with the Sun and be no more, at which point it will be impossible to ever disprove it was once there. Does it now become inherently unfalisable? Let's say that in a billion years, humans have such mastery of the universe that they achieve Laplace's demon, and are able to deduce the events of all time, at which point they are able to prove or disprove the teapot's existence. If the entity you define as God is anywhere relevant to this universe - and indeed, you have specified a much less potent and transcendent entity - surely it, too, could be discovered or disproved at this point. And even if we went with the classical idea of an omnipotent being, could even it hide from such knowledge? Can an omnipotent entity hide from an omniscient entity if it wants to?

### (2)

You'll have to elucidate more on why you think believing in the existence of the entity you've defined (it doesn't met my, Abrahamic influenced, conception of 'God' so I won't label it as such). So far, the examples you've presented are things like;

 “”Well, if someone feels unloved, but they believe there is a being which loves them perfectly – might that offer them some consolation? Belief in the God I've described may provide psychological comfort for some people. Maybe, if a person believes that they are perfectly loved by a being which perfectly loves everyone, that belief might inspire them to try to be more loving themselves? To love more people, and to love the people they love more perfectly? [...] if people believe in God (or at least some versions of God), it may make them better people and the world a better place. If believing something has positive moral benefits overall, and we lack any strong rational reasons to disbelieve it, and that lack of reasons to disbelieve it is likely to be permanent rather than temporary, how can we morally justify not believing it? [...] it may have psychological and moral benefits for me.

I'll admit, this is very emotionally loaded language and makes me scream "appeal to consequences," "appeal to emotion," "argument from desire," etc right away. I am not well versed in moral philosophy and I recognize that within the realm of moral philosophy we are dealing with emotional concepts and 'ideals' and hence the fallacies I mentioned may not apply. I won't reject your reasons because of that, but what I will say is that you need to ask whether anyone besides you would accept them. For example, what premises of morality are you relying on? You seem to have - from my quick reading - a Utilitarian like view whereby a belief could be obligatory if it would provide positive effects. How would you justify belief in god as a 'moral obligation' if you were dealing with a moral philosophy which, for example, viewed empiricism itself, rather than consequentialism, as the key to the moral value of any given belief?

### (3)

Refer to what I said regarding Russel's Teapot under 'Premise One.' I don't think we are currently equipped to say what can and cannot be known about the universe from our current perspective, and thus your distinction between "inherently" and "practically" unfalsiabile is void. So, not only does Russel's Teapot and its implications still apply here, but the very idea that God's existence is in any way unfalsiable is in question.

### Conclusion

Ultimately, this is just another proof by logic, another cousin of the silly ontological argument and its lessons for any who would make arguments from desire. The funny thing is that, in my opinion, if such a fantastic and distanced argument were ever to be solid, it would not support its intended conclusion at all; rather it would only provide hard evidence of the dangers of hyper-abstraction, and a proof for the necessity of the kind of cold empiricism which the argument itself must by definition reject.

The key issue in this specific example is that this argument is a gloried appeal to consequences, a trumped up form of the popular(ist) idea that without religion, humans would have no reason to behave morally. Its unique trait is merely the assumption of a human-centric consequentialist moral system - a rather arrogant position, if you ask me, especially when used to assert for things which would affect the entire universe, most of which is still beyond human knowledge much less human presence. Very arrogant indeed.

But now that we're very clear about what this is, let's address the core issue. Zach, it seems you want to believe in God. But you also want a way to intellectually justify that belief, a means to let you sleep at night with your decision. My advice to you is go ahead and believe whatever makes you happy - whatever gives you those " psychological and moral benefits" you spoke of. But don't ever think that you can conjure beliefs from human imagination to reality through logical abstraction, or equivocate ought ("want" is more accurate) to be with is.

But the good thing is, you don't have to. Not all beliefs, especially emotional, personal things, have to be justified. That would be impossible, after all. You may have been hinting at this earlier, it may have even been one of your unstated premises, and I would caution you from mixing these things with any attempt at logic or "proof." It's dishonest, in a way, because it would allow you to fool yourself - and others - into believing that something ultimately born of mere imagination was actually real in any sense beyond the person who thought of it. It's a trickery which isn't fair to anyone involved. These realms truly are non-overlapping magesteria.

To illustrate, I'll share my personal views with you. Here is a slightly longer explanation but the summary is that I chose to believe in a form of pantheism regarding an 'Absolute.' The simplest way to describe it is by a question. Assuming the universe is deterministic, is the 'order' of the universe naturalistic - in our understanding of the concept (such as, say, the speed of light, a constant that simply is) - or, somehow, sentient. Directed. Not by any foreign or distinct entity, but in itself. Of course, my own acknowledgement of the nature of human knowledge demands that I hold an empiricist view, and assume a negative to such questions, but sometimes I like to believe it anyway. It can be comforting, reassuring. It's nice. You could say I have no right to, and I know this. I'm comfortable with it. The difference between me and you is that I don't feel the need to try and prove to others - as a proxy, of course, of proving to myself - that my belief is "true." I'm aware that I can't in anyway justify my view, especially in my own framework. As a result, my belief never affects my views on politics, society, or any other issue which involves other entities. It doesn't affect my interactions with reality outside of my psychologically. And that's all fine.

It's just for me :)

Zach Martin, my first interaction with you was when I posted a very in depth ontological argument in the Saloon, asking for someone to help refute it. You were the only one who did so satisfactorily, and ever since then I've respected you for your intelligence. I'll admit, I was surprised when I saw this whole thread. My sincere advice to you is figure out what you most want to believe - without any other consideration - and go with that, while acknowledging its restricted application to your life and worldview. I fully understand feeling the need to justify every position you hold, and its an honorable attitude, but this isn't the place. Some things don't need to be true. All that matters is if they're true for you. :)

Best of luck friend. Lord Aeonian (talk) 09:57, 26 March 2017 (UTC)

Lord Aeonian, I think you are right that my argument depends on a certain conception of morality. And, I intentionally keep my conception somewhat vague, in part because I didn't want to pull too many details into my argument, and in part because my own personal views on morality are somewhat vague. I am convinced that ethics is objective rather than subjective. I find attempts to provide a naturalist/physicalist grounding to the objectivity of ethics unconvincing, so I think it must somehow be grounded in a non-naturalist way. Possibly, a statement like "killing human beings for no reason other than pleasure in killing is objectively always immoral" is a sort of brute fact, a fundamental truth, which doesn't require any other fact as a ground or justification or explanation – just as a materialist/naturalist/physicalist might claim that "The physical universe exists" is a brute fact and fundamental truth which doesn't require any other fact as ground or justification. We find it intellectually useful to reduce (or explain or justify or ground or...) some categories of truth in terms of other categories; but unless we opt for circularity or infinite regress, we must always arrive at some categories of truths which cannot be further reduced (or explained or justified or grounded or ...) Both subjectivist/emotivist and naturalistic approaches deny ethical statements the status of irreducible truth, even as they admit that status of other categories; I think they are wrong about that. (I am not using the phrase "reduced" in a strictly reductionist way – emergentism insists it is not reductionism, but it still maintains a hierarchical view of reality, in which some truths are in a sense more fundamental than others, whether "reduction" or "emergence" are better descriptions of the relations between the levels.)
I wouldn't go so far as saying I necessarily presume a utilitarian or consequentialist ethics. The difference, as I understand it, between consequentialism and non-consequentialism, is both agree that consequences are ethically relevant, but consequentialists claim that consequences are the only thing that is ethically relevant, whereas non-consequentialists argue there are ethically relevant considerations which cannot be described as consequences and which ought in some cases outweigh the consequences in our ethical judgements. So, it may be I am making an ethical argument based on consequences, but one does not necessarily have to be a consequentialist to accept such an argument. I don't think I am completely a consequentialist, because I have some ethical views which are difficult to justify in a consequentialist framework. For example, I think I have special moral obligations to my own children. Consequentialists can try to explain this, in terms of the good consequences of parents feeling that they have such obligations – but the explanation rings hollow for me, because for me my special moral obligation to my children is more important than whatever positive consequences might follow for society as a whole in my belief (or that of parents generally) that I have such a special obligation. Even if you could prove that the belief in such a special obligation was actually bad for society, I would still hold that moral belief, because it is in my view it is in itself more important than consequences.
You ask "How would you justify belief in god as a 'moral obligation' if you were dealing with a moral philosophy which, for example, viewed empiricism itself, rather than consequentialism, as the key to the moral value of any given belief?" Possibly, given such a morality, my argument would not work. However, I think there are some problems with adopting the sort of morality you propose. I would begin by asking what is belief? I would argue that belief is a disposition to act – it is a disposition to engage in the act of privately thinking that the proposition is true, it is a disposition to engage in communicative acts (speech, writing, etc) which seek to communicate that proposition to others. It also is a disposition to act in various other ways which go beyond thought and communication – for example, if you believe a proposition is true, you may be disposed to wager that it is true. If you believe that cyanide is poisonous, you will refrain from drinking cyanide (unless you want to commit suicide.)
Whether consequentialism is ultimately the right framework for ethics or not, it is quite general purpose – it is in principle applicable to acts of any kind, or dispositions to act of any kind. (You might say consequentialism only directly addresses acts not dispositions – but insofar as we have a limited but real power to consciously attempt to alter our dispositions by acts – e.g. a person with a disposition to anger might choose to go see a therapist to try to alter that disposition – I think it follows that consequentialism governs dispositions too.) A consequentialist approach to the ethics of belief doesn't have to subject belief to a special ethical regime which is different from that applied to non-doxastic acts and dispositions. By contrast, an empircist approach to the ethics of belief must by its nature be specific to belief – the principle "we are ethically obliged to form our beliefs according to empircism" cannot by its very nature answer non-doxastic moral questions (such as the morality of war, rape, murder, torture, cannibalism, killing non-human animals for food, abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, homosexuality, polygamy, incest, bestiality, etc, etc etc – it might lead us to believing certain factual premises which are relevant to deciding these moral questions, but it cannot by its nature directly decide them). So, whereas consequentialism possibly might work as an all-purpose ethical framework, empricism cannot. So empricism as a basis of ethics must be supplemented with some non-empiricist ethical principles. And now we have the problem, if we have non-empricist general ethical principles, why shouldn't we apply those principles to questions of belief as well? So, an empiricst approach to the ethics of beliefs needs to accept non-empiricst general ethical principles, but propose to exempt the ethics of belief from them. And then it needs to provide some justification of why such an exemption should be made, and I doubt any convincing justification can be given. But if you don't engage in such an exemption, then there is always the risk that those broader non-empiricist ethical principles you've adopted might end up overriding your empiricism in some case and obliging you to believe something which contradicts empiricism.
To respond to the terms "appeal to consequences," "appeal to emotion," "argument from desire" – these are often labelled fallacies, and I am sure that in some cases they are indeed fallacious. However, simply labelling something a fallacy does not make it so. And, with all three, I would distinguish two positions – a strong position "arguments of type X are always fallacious" from a weak position "arguments of type X are sometimes/often/in most cases fallacious, but not necessarily always so". I reject the strong position, but accept the weak one. I think appeals to emotion may be fallacious in some cases but not in others. I think emotions are a genuine source of knowledge about morality, but not a perfect source. If something gives you a negative emotional reaction – that doesn't necessarily mean it is wrong, but it could indicate that, it might even be said to make a prima facie case for it. To give a more concrete example, I read a story about a teenage rape victim being stoned to death by Islamists, I have a strong negative emotional reaction and a belief that what was done to her was gravely objectively immoral–I believe my negative emotions actually constitute good evidence for that moral claim. But, on the other hand, some people have a negative emotional reaction to same-sex relationships, and conclude on that basis that such relationships are immoral, but I share neither their emotions nor their conclusion. I think the solution is that emotions can be evidence of morality, but only prima facie evidence, so if a person has a negative emotional reaction to same-sex relationships, they could nonetheless rationally conclude that same-sex relations are moral, if they can identify good reasons why those particular emotions should be disregarded. Some human emotional reactions are more universal than others, and the more universal a reaction, the more likely it points to moral truth, the more idiosyncratic, the less likely – while negative emotional reactions to homosexuality are widespread, they are far from universal; whereas, far more people have a negative emotional reaction to executing rape victims, so the later emotion is likely a more accurate guide to moral truth than the former. Anyway, while I think emotions are a decent (albeit imperfect) guide to moral truth, they are a much poorer guide to truth in other fields such as mathematics or physics.
You also question the distinction between "inherent" and "practical" unfalsifiability, and suggest that there may be no unfalsifiable propositions, or at least no propositions which can be known to be unfalsifiable with any degree of certainty. I think there are some propositions which we can know with certainty to be unfalsifiable. To give an example, consider the proposition "At least one mind ever exists". It is impossible to falsify that proposition, since the very concept of falsification presumes a mind considering evidence to determine what propositions it may or may not falsify. To give an example closer to God, consider the proposition "An afterlife exists". How could you possibly ever falsify that proposition? Most people who reject a life after death say things like "There is no evidence one exists" or "It is physically impossible" but that doesn't falsify the idea of an afterlife which transcends this physical universe. This is a proposition which no one can explain how it could ever possibly be falsified, so how can claims that it is or might be falsifiable any more than empty assertions? So, I think the distinction between "inherent" and "practical" unfalsifiability is valid. I admit there are some edge cases which are difficult to classify as one or the other, but edge cases don't prove a distinction invalid.
In any event, even if some version of Russell's Teapot is inherently unfalsifiable – my argument would only demonstrate the existence of an inherently unfalsifiable version of Russell's Teapot if we were morally obliged to believe that Russell's Teapot existed – and I can't see how such a moral obligation could exist. In a consequentialist way, such a moral obligation could exist if the belief had sufficient positive consequences and no negative consequences (or if the positive consequences significantly outweighed the negative consequences) – but I can't see how belief in Russell's Teapot could have positive consequences. Equally, I can't see how a non-consequentialist approach to ethics (e.g. Kant's categorical imperative, natural law theory or virtue ethics) could ever produce a moral obligation to believe in Russell's Teapot either.
You are right that I am trying to justify my beliefs, principally to myself – I don't expect to actually convince others, I am just checking to see if they have any good responses which might motivate me to modify my beliefs or the arguments I use to justify them. Why do I want to justify my beliefs? I don't just want to believe things – I want to believe the truth. I don't think it is fair to describe my argument as an "argument from desire", since it doesn't rely on the concept of human desire, instead it relies on ethics, and the question of what is the relationship between the ethics of belief and the truth of those beliefs – unless you think ethics is reducible to human desire, a position I myself reject.
I think you should question more your commitment to "empiricism". It is an awfully broad term, it means a lot of things to different people. If by empiricism you simply mean that experience is one of the resources we should use in our quest for the truth, then that is a triviality with which nobody should disagree. But, what most empricists mean, is to advocate for a restricted list of valid sources of knowledge – at the most extreme, that experience is the only source of knowledge. That view tends to struggle in dealing with mathematical truth, so usually gets weakened a bit to allow non-empirical methods in mathematics, but not in anything else. I don't know why I should subscribe to something so limiting. As I mentioned above, I believe in objective and irreducible moral truth, which is something that empiricism doesn't have any room for. You can ask what justification I have for believing in such a thing, and I can ask what justification you have for believing in empiricism.
Empiricists often point to the undeniable practical success of the natural sciences as justification for empiricism. However, that justification doesn't work. The methods of the natural sciences are undeniably good at answering the sorts of questions that the natural sciences ask, but it doesn't logically follow that we should therefore reject the use of completely different methods in answering completely different questions. They also often ridicule various "other ways of knowing" such as astrology or palmistry or so on – I am not inclined to accept those things myself, but it is a bit of a leap from "astrology is nonsense" to "irreducible objective ethics is nonsense". They reason from "some non-empiricial epistemic methods are fallacious" to "all non-empirical epistemic methods are fallacious", but that is an invalid deduction – and I don't think it is even a good induction.
Why do I believe that ethics is objective? Well, why do you believe that the natural sciences or logic or mathematics are objective? I think a belief that something is objective is possibly something which one just has to accept or reject, and one cannot necessarily give reasons for doing so. However, I can make two arguments: (1) most would agree that rationality is objective, but when we observe the many parallels between rationality and morality, I think the conclusion is that it is special pleading to ascribe objectivity to one but not the other, in the absence of a good reason for doing so, and I don't think any good reason for doing so can be adduced. (2) If something is gravely wrong, I am morally obliged to believe it is gravely wrong. Go back to the case of the teenage rape victim stoned to death for the crime of being a victim of rape – considering that case, I have the moral intuition that what was done to her was gravely wrong, and that I am morally obliged to believe that, and furthermore that I am morally obliged to believe that it is gravely wrong in an objective way, which transcends questions of culture and individual taste/preference/etc. I think the moral obligation to believe that X is objectively wrong is just a specification of the moral obligation to believe that X is wrong simplicter. Obviously one can make a consequentialist argument for such an obligation, but as well as that I feel a certain non-consequentialist commitment to it – I feel like I owe it to the victim of this atrocity to believe that what happened to her was gravely wrong, and objectively so.
Why do I believe that ethics is irreducible? Well, why can't it be irreducible? All the attempts to reduce it to something non-ethical seem to me to be unsatisfactory. Furthermore, reducible ethics is (in some sense) less objective than irreducible ethics, so if we are morally obliged to believe that ethics is objective, believing that it is irreducible may better fulfil that obligation than believing it to be reducible to something non-ethical; indeed, if an obligation to believe that X is immoral leads to an obligation to believe that its immorality is objective, it might equally lead to an obligation to believe that its immorality is irreducible. (((Zack Martin))) 09:18, 1 May 2017 (UTC)