False Gods

In response to my comment:

I did not declare that I believe in god whether he exists or not; I declared that I do not care if you disprove the existence of god. Any god whose existence can be disproved is an idol and deserves to be smashed. I may have sentimental attachment to it, but I should not worship it.

Sam says:

For you apparently the only “true” god is one that does not exist. After all, a god that can’t be proven to not exist is one that doesn’t interact with reality at all. Even up to the point of not even creating the universe. Tell me, what would you call such a creature that is your God?

The only true god is one whose existence cannot be disproven. The fact that someone cannot prove that a god does not exist would indicate only that the skeptic’s knowledge is limited, which is typical of humans.

I think that the basis of Sam’s comment here is actually the principle of falsifiability, that is, the doctrine that if something cannot be falsified, it cannot be proven true. This idea is commonly attributed to Karl Popper, who used it to distinguish hypotheses that scientists could test from those that they could not. It is used by some science fetishists as a club to beat up on any claim that does not come from a scientist.

One problem with Popperian falsifiability is that it requires an artificial dichotomy. Every claim is subjected to a binary test, such that it may either be proven true or false. If there is no condition under which it could be proven false, they say, then it cannot ever be proven true. The idea is that if it cannot be proven false it must necessarily be an a priori assumption, and therefore it is not empirically verifiable, and that makes it invisible to scientific materialism. Therefore it is an invalid hypothesis, and may be terminated with extreme prejudice.

The truth of some things cannot be subjected to this binary logic, however. The universe cannot be falsified, for example, and universal attributes such as gravity cannot be falsified (it is an inherent attribute of mass in space). That is, for any aspect of the universe’s existence that you can disprove, it does not exist anyway, and so it is not part of the universe.

With regard to God’s existence, this would seem to be a method of withdrawing to a more and more abstract definition of God. Perhaps, but the Christian God makes clear that if I think I can confine him to a whirlwind, a temple, a statue, a lawbook, or any other particularity, I will be proven wrong. He will prove me wrong, and the things I thought were “evidence” of God will turn out to be false gods, or idols. Therefore, I welcome on principle anyone who wants to help me smash my idols. I may not like it, and I will probably call a stop to it at some point because I still have sentimental attachments to them, but I have no basis for claiming that God disapproves of it.

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