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Is God Imaginary?

God Is Imaginary is a site that offers 50 simple proofs that the Christian God is not real. The articles are good and should give any Christian plenty to think about, but I'm not sure how I feel about their use of the word "proof." I think that many varieties of Christian faith today have been winnowed down over the years so that they're almost impossible to disprove.

Early on in the Christian myth God is someone who can walk, talk and wrestle with a human. Then he withdrew to Heaven, that place up in the sky. The story has Jesus going to Heaven by way of the clouds and promising to return by the same path. We've taken rockets beyond the clouds and the atmosphere and we don't see a gold-plated kingdom floating up there. We see only the vacuum of space. But now God and Heaven have moved to "another dimension" or "outside of space and time."

Another example of this can be found in prayer. The stories say that humans used to talk directly to God and he talked back. Then he only communicated through prophets. Early in the Christian era (and among some denominations today) it was thought that any believer could do miracles and expect answers to prayers. But today, most liberal Christians admit that they don't expect prayers to be answered as the Bible promises. Or, if they refuse to admit that, then they're quick to excuse God for not giving them what they ask for. Some go so far as to downplay prayers that ask for something in favor of seeing prayer as an act that conveys a spiritual benefit to the person praying. Early Christians and modern fundamentalists would see this as a very weak and non-Biblical view of prayer.

So, in my opinion, today's Christians can choose to divorce themselves from historical Christianity or they can divorce themselves from reality.

Prayer is something that can be tested. The Bible promises that prayers will be answered.

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
- Mark 11:24

You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.
- John 14:14

Yet study after study has shown that prayer has no supernatural effect. When you pray for something, it's no more likely to happen than if you didn't pray. Many Christians, aware of this fact, are careful to not pray for anything unless there's a decent chance that it will happen anyway. When it does, they rejoice in the power of prayer. When it doesn't, well, that was just God's will.

This video makes the case that prayer is just another superstition:

But what about liberal Christians who admit that the passages I quoted above are not inerrant or at the very least don't mean what they seem to mean? Perhaps they value intercessory prayer for the calming effect it has on all involved and the social connections that it creates. Knowing that others are thinking about you and praying for you can have a real subconscious effect on a person. Studies on the efficacy of prayer have to control for these factors by making sure that patients don't know whether they're being prayed for or not. Why would we want to spoil the effect by pointing out that prayer actually has no supernatural effect? Preventing stories like this one is one reason. And I think we can get all the social and psychological benefits of prayer using completely rational methods.

If you're a believer, then what convinces you that God is not imaginary? Is your belief subject to falsification? If so, what evidence would prove to you that God is not real? If not, then can you claim that your beliefs are any more rational than Islam, FSM or Scientology?

20 comments

What a silly question! Of course God is imaginary. That’s why they call religion “belief systems". Seems like you’re using it to say “God doesn’t exist” though, which is completely false. Meaning “to say that the thing we imagine to be real is not real” is false. Sometimes the thing that goes bump in the night is real. Sometimes.

Hey why do you always equate God with Christianity?

BTW Yes I believe in God. No I am not a Christian or Jew or Muslim even though I accept some tenets of their faith. I also accept that FSM and IPU are perfectly valid belief systems that are as correct as any of the common religions, my “belief without religion", and your “only the logically provable is valid” belief system.


EdB [Visitor] • http://wonderwinds.com05/02/08 @ 12:02

“today’s Christians can choose to divorce themselves from historical Christianity or they can divorce themselves from reality.”

Another post presenting a false dichotomy. You assume too much when you speak for historical Christianity, I think. Further, there are many who work on epistemology and hermeneutics–Christians or not–who would strongly disagree with your basic assumption that the scientific method is the only valid way of apprehending reality, truth, or whatever else you want to call it.


peter [Visitor]• 05/02/08 @ 18:23
dan [Member] • http://www.brendoman.com/05/02/08 @ 19:36

“I know it’s easier to pull out my most inflammatory quote and make a quick dismissal of my post than to actually engage the points I made"–Sounds like pulling out a quote on slavery to dismiss either Christian morality or scriptural inerrancy?

I pulled that quote out in my first comment not because I thought it would make your post easy to dismiss, but because I judged it to be your core point. You are presenting another dilemma; this time it’s a choice between historical Christianity and modern credibility. Engaging in debate on the particulars would not be productive if I have to assume that your dilemma is even valid.

A stupid (but perhaps familiar) way of putting it would be to ask you to choose one of these two options: either you still beat your wife, or you have stopped. If I present these to you and say that you must choose one, the only appropriate response would be to not answer the question because the basic premise is flawed–you do not and have not ever beat your wife.

What I was trying to see is which option you wanted to actually discuss. Your version of historical Christianity is an extremely rigid interpretation of a few verses taken out of both their literary and historical context. This is, again, the kind of scripture interpretation that you have criticized as dangerous in your previous posts. (On a side note, I wish you could see that you didn’t need to become an atheist to stop being a fundamentalist.) My guess is that improving your exegetical skills is not high on the priority list.

If it’s the question of why God doesn’t answer prayer, that would seem to be more of a pastoral concern. It is indeed a serious one that every believer must face. I don’t think you’re trying to get anyone to convert to atheism out of their disappointment with God, though.

So I decided to go with the basic disagreement that the scientific method is the only true mode of inquiry. You are now stepping back from where I thought you were, and I must confess that what you now say does not make much sense to me. What would you say are some of the “various spiritual pursuits” that can discover truth? I am not sure what you mean now, as spiritual pursuits would seem to be ruled out by the scientific method altogether.


peter [Visitor]• 05/03/08 @ 09:37
dan [Member] • http://www.brendoman.com/05/03/08 @ 15:16

Yeah, I was actually kind of hoping Doug would jump back in on the slavery thread because I thought he was doing a better job than I was with the questions. Plus, after we chatted privately I forgot that there were questions left on the blog. I’ll take a look more in depth at the questions you ask here–as you well know, they are live questions for me. (I’ll try not to be so narcissistic as to assume that’s what you had in mind.)


peter [Visitor]• 05/03/08 @ 19:05

I have never understood why people would forego medical treatment for a major illness of disease and claim that they were expecting God to heal them. Did God not create all creatures on this earth? Did he not create men and women with the desire to become doctors and help their fellow man?

To allow someone to die because you chose to pray for help is an oxymoron (or is it ironic?). Help is everywhere. If you believe in God, why can’t you see miracles in everyday life? Doctors and medicine are one of the biggest miracles I can imagine. Not to say there isn’t bad medicine and corruption in the field, but that shouldn’t mean that you simply reject the entire idea of medicine and medical help. When these people get cut, do they clean it up and slap on a bandage, or do they pray that they stop bleeding and not get an infection?

As far as God being imaginary, I think so. However I think the ideas of God and religion allow many people keep a positive outlook on life when they might not otherwise (which is not to say that I believe that is why the Bible was written or Christianity became).

But you cannot convince those who truly believe that their God is not real, or that their religion is in any way incorrect. There is always the fallback argument: any evidence pointing in that direction is a test of their faith, put there by God. Since God is basically all-powerful and can create anything (the earth itself for example), he can also create obstacles to test his followers’ belief in him.

It’s a losing battle.


Lori [Visitor] • http://www.piperenterprises.com05/10/08 @ 07:09

Many Christians, aware of this fact, are careful to not pray for anything unless there’s a decent chance that it will happen anyway.

Where do you get that from? My experiance is the opposite - Christians seem to pray when things get out of control - when the chances are that an unintended outcome will happen are high.

Besides, I don’t find the prayer studies useful for two reasons. First, they are trying to measure the supposed actions of a God with a personality. there is no law there to discover - perhaps a tendency, but no principle. Secondly, the God you are arguing against is a hidden God, one that purposely hides herself from the world.

Lastly, all those studies show is that there is not a positive correlation between those outcomes people pray for and the actualized outcomes. It really does not show anything about God from an existential standpoint. If you assume from the begining that God does not exist the studies are only confirming, if you assume beforehand that it does exist, then all you say is that it is not easily swayed to act as humans want it to act.

Is your belief subject to falsification? I doubt it, given the givens.

Why does a presupposed spirit God have to be physically observed? I’d submit we see indirect evidence of god everyday. Beautiful mountains, happy children, the fib sequence in nature, etc… as I would interpret those things.

It is an unanswerable question from a empirical standpoint. We can interpret the observable phenomena as evidence for a creator/God or as natural and random processes.

What it comes down to is your interpretive framework does not allow for a god who hides himself - mine does. It is a difference in framework.


Honzo [Visitor] • http://hundiejo.com05/17/08 @ 15:03

Answered Prayers cannot be a test for God.

Jesus himself prayed and at least two of his prayers didn’t get answered either. He prayed ‘Take this cup from me’ before he was crucified, and before that night, he prayed for his church to remain united (One Church).

God is not wish machine.


E. I. Sanchez [Visitor] • http://www.thechristianalert.org05/17/08 @ 16:48
dan [Member] • http://www.brendoman.com/05/18/08 @ 06:45

You don’t believe in unicorns??? :o)

Perhaps this ‘hidden god’ would purposely not answer prayers spoken in the midst of a scientific experiment.

I don’t remember god hiding himself to this extent in the Bible, so why would he do that now? It would really only take a few true displays of his existence to change the landscape of society as a whole, yet he chooses not to… why not?

That’s the problem with belief in god - it takes absolute faith in the unproven. I had that faith as a child, but not as an adult. There is no way to ‘decide’ to have faith - you’ve either got it or you don’t. And if you’ve got it, no one can convince you otherwise.


Lori [Visitor] • http://www.piperenterprises.com05/18/08 @ 07:25

if God is imaginary, then why does everybody make such a big stink about Him? and how come people are so put off with the name of Jesus? it’s almost as if the media doesn’t want “Jesus” said unless it’s in a curse! you have your truth, and i have mine. death will reveal its absolute.


denise [Visitor]• 07/07/08 @ 12:31

if God is imaginary, then why does everybody make such a big stink about Him? and how come people are so put off with the name of Jesus? it’s almost as if the media doesn’t want “Jesus” said unless it’s in a curse!

People are put off with the name of Jesus because of comments like this. Just sayin’


brendoman [Visitor] • http://brendoman.com07/07/08 @ 13:47
dan [Member] • http://www.brendoman.com/07/07/08 @ 18:58

God is Imaginary is a great site, though harsh towards believers. Another forum, Is God Imaginary?, is a fun place where believers are treated with a little more respect.

http://isgodimaginary.com/forum


Jake [Visitor] • http://isgodimaginary.com/forum08/15/08 @ 00:49

God does exist! Jesus had to be crusafied. So we would be forgiven of our sins. God could not take the cup from Jesus.


Rose [Visitor]• 08/23/09 @ 16:15

Of course God is real! He/She/It is the Flying Spaghetti Monster. See the website “Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.” The Holy FSM can no more be proved nor disproved than any other of the thousands of deities worshipped by people throughout the ages. So, fall to your knees and worship Him, or not; He doesn’t care, and He doesn’t answer prayers….Ramen, Brother and Sister Pastafarians


FENWICK [Visitor]• 10/29/09 @ 19:39

Have guys ever consider the etymology of the word God? Christianity is a Roman religion: It was organized and directed from there. In the surviving lating languages for example the word God is Dios in Spanish, Dieu in French and Deus in Latin itself. Now one doesn’t need much imagination to make the link with Zeus. But it gets better. Most prayers begins with “Our Father", and in the latin (for example Spanish “Dios Padre").
Now check this out: In latin it is Deus Pater…. which much earlier it used to be Ju’piter (Jupiter). Christianity is nothing more than the continuation of the old pagan religion of Rome. Emuanel Jushua (aka Jesus, because if you would call hime “Hey, Jesus!” he would not react) is nothing than a Apollo figure, mixed with the life of Dionisys (or Baccus the Roman counterpart). The old Greek Monks writers used their own fragmented knowledge of the old mythologies to write the gospels.
But it really dates even further than that, just as we now have 3 religion (with their own numerous fractions) that are very alike, 2000 years ago and before, the situation was the same. Almost all religion in the Middle East were about Sun worship in the form of a Sun person or the son of the Sun. All miracles were same (virgin birth, walking on water, crucifixion resurrection etc). It’s all on big superstition.


Tyler Durden [Visitor]• 07/03/10 @ 20:52

@Tyler – But in Latin the Lord’s Prayer begins Pater Nostre (Our Father). Your “Deus Pater” is “Father God” which is a common opening in evangelical churches but I think less so in Catholic churches. Maybe it’s common in latin prayer, though, not sure, but then I still suspect most prayers would begin in the vocative case “Iove” rather than the English transliteration Jupiter.


Doug [Visitor]• 08/19/10 @ 09:56

This is ridiculous - I can see where this all is going, a circular argument.
We can all but why, but why until ad nauseum but the basic premise is the same. There is no proof of god except joint supersitions from ancient men. Even these have been cast asunder as mythology, not quite sure why we hold onto this new one. Asians beleive in numerous gods and are willing to die for them, Muslims allah etc - and they have lives that they fully belive are rich adn rewarding because of their god/gods that grant their prayers. even those that dont belive in god/gods but in new age science and power of will people have their wills fulfilled and have evidence. So where does it leave you? and each religion feels that their god is the only way yet they all across the board benefit from their beliefs? Think about that as a null-hypothesis.Now go play, and play nice children, God has spoken


lee [Visitor]• 04/03/11 @ 03:44

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