The Debate Around God's Existence Needs a Reset
Updated: Nov 21, 2022
The debate around God's existence is not really a debate about the topic at all. Debates on God's existence are always shrouded in religious baggage on both sides and seem always to become religious debates rather than metaphysical ones. If we want to have substantive debates and discussions on God's existence that contribute to a growing knowledge of the field, then we need a reset to move it back from a religious argument to a metaphysical one. It may seem impossible to many of you reading this to separate religion from the idea of God's existence, but there won't be any progress in this discussion if we don't move the question away from religion. The reason for stagnation in this topic is that debaters are arguing in entrenched frameworks (or traditions) which have very different ways of using rationality. The religious debater will often want to appeal to a higher order of reason which we must all adhere to but which then descends into a form of conformism. Everything must conform in some way to this objective reason which lies outside of each individual. This, however, leads to an unquestioning of this objective reason, which might prevent new innovations in thinking and entrench thinkers in reactionary frameworks that are unable to progress. On the other hand, the anti-religious debater may fall into another form of rationality that is purely formulaic and used as a means to some end. Rationality, then, becomes a tool and is unable to grasp higher realms of truth. This debater couldn't rationalise about the nature of what is good because whatever formula it uses must already presuppose something about goodness. They might also just try to find the most rational way of getting to an already held conclusion, but would be unable to judge between equally rational conclusions. These uses of reason and rationality are unable to find progress because the frameworks of their attitudes to this subject are restricted by their own limitations. Fortunately, these limitations would be extinguished if we got the debaters to adopt a shared framework/tradition to argue from, such as metaphysics. The start of this reset would have to make a stark distinction between the questions, "Does God exist?" from "Does this particular God exist?". Unfortunately, the religious baggage around this question has made this distinction impossible. When someone is arguing whether God exists, they must always argue for or against a particular conception of God. The reset would first require that God had a set definition that could apply to an inclusive range of the metaphysical views of God while also excluding arguing for views of God that fall outside of the metaphysical tradition. So, Pantheism, Panentheism, and Classical theism would be included, while polytheistic notions of "the gods" would be excluded since they deal with what might be called 'divinities' rather than what is strictly called God. However, this wouldn't mean that polytheistic religions wouldn't have a concept of God that could still be included in the metaphysical definition, such as Brahman in Hindusim. This starting point would set a clear beginning point where atheists could argue not against particular conceptions of God but this unified metaphysical definition of God, and likewise, God-believers would defend not their particular understanding of God, but this unified definition. Further debates and discussions could then progress from that shared viewpoint and then go into debates about the nature of God from that metaphysical definition. This is the reset that we need in this debate. It will help create progress in discussions where meaningful dialogue can occur outside the entrenched frameworks (traditions) where the debate is currently residing.