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    Silver Member Bartmanhomer's Avatar
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    What's The Purpose Of A Deity

    You know I've been a Christian, then a Taoist, then Christian again and I always wonder what is the deity purpose for being in the world and the universe. So my question is what is the purpose of a deity?

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    Kick Ass Little Crow Corvus's Avatar
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    Re: What's The Purpose Of A Deity

    Some belief systems would say it's a point of arrogance to ask a god what it's for. If one is to interpret a mythology as literally true, or at least true in terms of it's internally consistent narrative, then a deity exists because it does. There doesn't need to be a purpose, or else the deity itself is the purpose. For example, Hindu deities (vastly oversimplifying and this isn't true for all sects) are manifestations of the universe itself, they exist because they are existence in some sense. This is true in other instances too, for example the Greek Gaia is the literal physical material of the earth. With this perspective, deities exist as a way to understand the universe, either because you believe this thing is a god, or as a method of contextualizing, interpreting, and often anthropomorphizing some aspect of nature, the universe, whatever. This perspective can be used when a religion is believed to be literally true, or when deities are used as symbolic representations, since the deities will generally be explicitly responsible for how the world operates, or the world's operations are inspiration for the deities.

    Viewing the progression of deities and their progeny in a more .. demystified sense, one could argue a god is a type or species of thing. They exist because their progenitors reproduce, like any other thing. In this sense, they'd just be another kind of life. They would exist because they do, like a human would, or a fox, or a deer, or anything else. This is a more borderline blasphemous perspective, but it's in line with the new age thinking that gods are just "more evolved" or "ascended" souls or something. Viewing spiritual beings as a kind of life form, likely divorced from any real inherent religious nature, and positing that they're the product of some form of evolution, is a ..reasonably valid interpretation.

    I'm generally assuming you mean in a more philosophical or anthropological sense though, why does humanity create deities? Mythology is inherently archetypal; it is a lens through which we make judgement about our morals, culture, what we put importance on, and how we view not only the world at large, but ourselves and our communities. Gods, spirits, and heroes are an expression of our humanity, what that means to us, and how it relates to the world. People who are smarter than me have suggested a culture's mythology reflects the environment that culture survives in, and how they relate to it. The Mesopotamian civilization was centered in a chaotic river valley, with irregular and violent flooding, surrounded by a somewhat harsh climate and relatively open to outside dangers and disease. It may not be a coincidence that, fittingly, the Mesopotamian pantheon includes capricious, malicious, and dangerous gods, very likely to cause harm, with a bleak afterlife and fairly violent stories. In comparison, ancient Egypt was a paradise with fairly high quality of life even in ancient history, a favorable climate, a regularly and gently flooding river, and near total isolation due to natural barriers. Egyptian religion was focused nearly entirely on order and the goodness inherent to that order, with gods that heard court cases, were generally allied with one another, and interested in aiding humanity, when applicable.

    A culture's religion is a reflection of that culture and society. That's probably a sufficient, and open ended enough, explanation for why gods are the way they are, but it fails to address why we feel the need to create gods. Now the common explanation says religion was ancient mankind's way of explaining phenomena they didn't understand, and I've always found that kind of nonsensical with any kind of thought. Maybe for some things, but I don't think it's reasonable given the full extent of things we've attributed to spiritual beings. Then again, as a modern person my thought processes and cognitive biases are fundamentally different from someone in the stone age, so who knows? If I asked a child to explain how light bulbs work, they probably would jump to "small god with matches in the wires" before "electricity" and I'm not sure I could blame them.

    I think in a very real way humans are afraid, and realistically that fear is totally valid. Even now, in a world that is demonstrably more peaceful than most of history, where antibiotics, high life expectancy, and indoor toilets are common, being alive is super scary. It's important to realize there's no substantial (or at least demonstrable) cognitive difference between modern humans and our ancestors going back tens of thousands of years. They're just as smart as we are, so it's very wrong to look down on our "primitive" forebears and think they didn't know any better. There's records of bronze age atheists, yet we still have this idea that ancient cultures were monolithic, that they all held the same religious beliefs, culture, and values. In reality though, their outlooks, dreams, and anxieties shouldn't really be too far from some of our own. The legacy of humanity is an unbroken chain of the same repeating patterns.

    We've discussed what a god is, and how we make them, but still we need to discuss why. As I mentioned, I think it's a matter of fear and specifically it may be a fear of chaos. The world is unpredictable, to some degree it is inherently chaotic, and I think on some level we recognize the effect of entropy on the universe, that is that everything eventually ends, and it does so in unpredictable ways and at unpredictable times. If a culture considers the world a bad place or a not is a matter of that particular culture, or person's opinion, and a subjective value judgement either way, but the world is certainly a painful place. The idea of a god or gods is a validation of that. On the one end, if some element of misfortune is personified, it allows one to attribute that inherent chaos to something of agency, it brings the world more into order, and moreover it allows one to think that there's some level of control they can have over that misfortune, generally by appealing to it's agent. On the other, it might simply be comforting to know that there is a cause, or even someone watching, even if they're indifferent, or outright hostile. It's quite possible even that mankind looking at the vast, frightening expanse of nature was fully incapable of comprehending the sheer stuff-ness that existed and recognizing some inner longing, some primordial fear over that vastness, hoped it was governed by beings of reason, and in being a creature of reason itself, would have a kindred existence with that vastness. In some ways, this is just another way of interpreting "religion is a response to thoughts of mortality" but, I think it's more than death, or nonexistence, or insignificance, that we fear, it's not just that things happen for no reason, or that we as individuals are unimportant, but possibly a fear that our humanity is unimportant; beyond us, beyond culture, and civilization, and the human spirit itself, that our determination of our own sentience, our understanding itself, may be a unique, terrifying curse set upon us purely by chance.

    I could (and have elsewhere on PF, please don't make me look) write an extensive essay on religion being an expression of human desire for ordered existence in the face of an objectively chaotic world, but it would get away from the question. When we examine the earliest notions of gods, possibly our earliest expressions of religion, we see tribalism. People aren't concerned with what the sun or sky or time are, they're concerned with the social group. Who is the god of our clan, our tribe, our city? The earliest gods are spirits, animism is the oldest religion of our species, and often of particular importance are ancestor spirits. The spirit patron of our family is our ancient founder, our first mother who was born from a rock, or whatever, and gave birth to our lineage. These early gods are gods of groups, they are part of a sociocultural expression of belonging and link us to our companions. As we join larger and larger groups we get local gods, like Athena patron of Athens, or Marduk god of Babylon, then pantheons as these cities exchange culture and band together. What else can one call those gods except an expression of our humanity, how we band together and how we, as a species, work cooperatively? Loneliness is anathema to humanity, so we huddled together by our fires and we peopled the world with a vast array of gods and spirits.

    So what's the purpose of a deity? It is to give purpose to our humanity.
    Last edited by Corvus; 17 Dec 2019 at 23:17.
    世の中に潜み落下した「アレ」はねえか? 誰が書き換える 世界の汚れは?
    Do you have 'that' which lies dormant within society? Who can overwrite it, the filth in the world?


  3. #3

    Re: What's The Purpose Of A Deity

    Gods as conceptualized by theism are intercessory agents. We can't argue with the wind, but we certainly can negotiate with a human-alike wind god. This is such a fundamental attribute of what it means to be a god, as we imagine them, that theism is defined by gods filling this purpose - as opposed to deism, where gods do not fill this purpose at all.

    Perhaps a more apt answer for a christian such as yourself, is that god does not (and cannot) have a purpose; god is the purposer. The final cause, the teleological beginning and end. Alpha, and omega. It is only through god that anything has purpose, and the purpose of all things is to glorify god.

    I'd split hairs with Corvus, above, about whether or not great mothers or animating spirits are gods or god-alike in any specific or technical sense, and especially on whether the purpose of a god is to give purpose to our humanity (neither of those things can be said to be broadly true of gods, even if they might be true of some beliefs about some gods) - but the phenomenon of religious observance is remarkably uniform regardless of what the object of worship happens to be. We don't seem to have come up with gods, as we imagine them, until the late neolithic. We'd been doing all of the things we'd one day do in observance of gods, however..for some 40k years or more. We already had a purpose to our humanity.
    Last edited by Rhythm; 19 Dec 2019 at 11:01.

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    Silver Member Bartmanhomer's Avatar
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    Re: What's The Purpose Of A Deity

    Quote Originally Posted by Corvus View Post
    Some belief systems would say it's a point of arrogance to ask a god what it's for. If one is to interpret a mythology as literally true, or at least true in terms of it's internally consistent narrative, then a deity exists because it does. There doesn't need to be a purpose, or else the deity itself is the purpose. For example, Hindu deities (vastly oversimplifying and this isn't true for all sects) are manifestations of the universe itself, they exist because they are existence in some sense. This is true in other instances too, for example the Greek Gaia is the literal physical material of the earth. With this perspective, deities exist as a way to understand the universe, either because you believe this thing is a god, or as a method of contextualizing, interpreting, and often anthropomorphizing some aspect of nature, the universe, whatever. This perspective can be used when a religion is believed to be literally true, or when deities are used as symbolic representations, since the deities will generally be explicitly responsible for how the world operates, or the world's operations are inspiration for the deities.

    Viewing the progression of deities and their progeny in a more .. demystified sense, one could argue a god is a type or species of thing. They exist because their progenitors reproduce, like any other thing. In this sense, they'd just be another kind of life. They would exist because they do, like a human would, or a fox, or a deer, or anything else. This is a more borderline blasphemous perspective, but it's in line with the new age thinking that gods are just "more evolved" or "ascended" souls or something. Viewing spiritual beings as a kind of life form, likely divorced from any real inherent religious nature, and positing that they're the product of some form of evolution, is a ..reasonably valid interpretation.

    I'm generally assuming you mean in a more philosophical or anthropological sense though, why does humanity create deities? Mythology is inherently archetypal; it is a lens through which we make judgement about our morals, culture, what we put importance on, and how we view not only the world at large, but ourselves and our communities. Gods, spirits, and heroes are an expression of our humanity, what that means to us, and how it relates to the world. People who are smarter than me have suggested a culture's mythology reflects the environment that culture survives in, and how they relate to it. The Mesopotamian civilization was centered in a chaotic river valley, with irregular and violent flooding, surrounded by a somewhat harsh climate and relatively open to outside dangers and disease. It may not be a coincidence that, fittingly, the Mesopotamian pantheon includes capricious, malicious, and dangerous gods, very likely to cause harm, with a bleak afterlife and fairly violent stories. In comparison, ancient Egypt was a paradise with fairly high quality of life even in ancient history, a favorable climate, a regularly and gently flooding river, and near total isolation due to natural barriers. Egyptian religion was focused nearly entirely on order and the goodness inherent to that order, with gods that heard court cases, were generally allied with one another, and interested in aiding humanity, when applicable.

    A culture's religion is a reflection of that culture and society. That's probably a sufficient, and open ended enough, explanation for why gods are the way they are, but it fails to address why we feel the need to create gods. Now the common explanation says religion was ancient mankind's way of explaining phenomena they didn't understand, and I've always found that kind of nonsensical with any kind of thought. Maybe for some things, but I don't think it's reasonable given the full extent of things we've attributed to spiritual beings. Then again, as a modern person my thought processes and cognitive biases are fundamentally different from someone in the stone age, so who knows? If I asked a child to explain how light bulbs work, they probably would jump to "small god with matches in the wires" before "electricity" and I'm not sure I could blame them.

    I think in a very real way humans are afraid, and realistically that fear is totally valid. Even now, in a world that is demonstrably more peaceful than most of history, where antibiotics, high life expectancy, and indoor toilets are common, being alive is super scary. It's important to realize there's no substantial (or at least demonstrable) cognitive difference between modern humans and our ancestors going back tens of thousands of years. They're just as smart as we are, so it's very wrong to look down on our "primitive" forebears and think they didn't know any better. There's records of bronze age atheists, yet we still have this idea that ancient cultures were monolithic, that they all held the same religious beliefs, culture, and values. In reality though, their outlooks, dreams, and anxieties shouldn't really be too far from some of our own. The legacy of humanity is an unbroken chain of the same repeating patterns.

    We've discussed what a god is, and how we make them, but still we need to discuss why. As I mentioned, I think it's a matter of fear and specifically it may be a fear of chaos. The world is unpredictable, to some degree it is inherently chaotic, and I think on some level we recognize the effect of entropy on the universe, that is that everything eventually ends, and it does so in unpredictable ways and at unpredictable times. If a culture considers the world a bad place or a not is a matter of that particular culture, or person's opinion, and a subjective value judgement either way, but the world is certainly a painful place. The idea of a god or gods is a validation of that. On the one end, if some element of misfortune is personified, it allows one to attribute that inherent chaos to something of agency, it brings the world more into order, and moreover it allows one to think that there's some level of control they can have over that misfortune, generally by appealing to it's agent. On the other, it might simply be comforting to know that there is a cause, or even someone watching, even if they're indifferent, or outright hostile. It's quite possible even that mankind looking at the vast, frightening expanse of nature was fully incapable of comprehending the sheer stuff-ness that existed and recognizing some inner longing, some primordial fear over that vastness, hoped it was governed by beings of reason, and in being a creature of reason itself, would have a kindred existence with that vastness. In some ways, this is just another way of interpreting "religion is a response to thoughts of mortality" but, I think it's more than death, or nonexistence, or insignificance, that we fear, it's not just that things happen for no reason, or that we as individuals are unimportant, but possibly a fear that our humanity is unimportant; beyond us, beyond culture, and civilization, and the human spirit itself, that our determination of our own sentience, our understanding itself, may be a unique, terrifying curse set upon us purely by chance.

    I could (and have elsewhere on PF, please don't make me look) write an extensive essay on religion being an expression of human desire for ordered existence in the face of an objectively chaotic world, but it would get away from the question. When we examine the earliest notions of gods, possibly our earliest expressions of religion, we see tribalism. People aren't concerned with what the sun or sky or time are, they're concerned with the social group. Who is the god of our clan, our tribe, our city? The earliest gods are spirits, animism is the oldest religion of our species, and often of particular importance are ancestor spirits. The spirit patron of our family is our ancient founder, our first mother who was born from a rock, or whatever, and gave birth to our lineage. These early gods are gods of groups, they are part of a sociocultural expression of belonging and link us to our companions. As we join larger and larger groups we get local gods, like Athena patron of Athens, or Marduk god of Babylon, then pantheons as these cities exchange culture and band together. What else can one call those gods except an expression of our humanity, how we band together and how we, as a species, work cooperatively? Loneliness is anathema to humanity, so we huddled together by our fires and we peopled the world with a vast array of gods and spirits.

    So what's the purpose of a deity? It is to give purpose to our humanity.
    Wow that's a lot of information.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rhythm View Post
    Gods as conceptualized by theism are intercessory agents. We can't argue with the wind, but we certainly can negotiate with a human-alike wind god. This is such a fundamental attribute of what it means to be a god, as we imagine them, that theism is defined by gods filling this purpose - as opposed to deism, where gods do not fill this purpose at all.

    Perhaps a more apt answer for a christian such as yourself, is that god does not (and cannot) have a purpose; god is the purposer. The final cause, the teleological beginning and end. Alpha, and omega. It is only through god that anything has purpose, and the purpose of all things is to glorify god.

    I'd split hairs with Corvus, above, about whether or not great mothers or animating spirits are gods or god-alike in any specific or technical sense, and especially on whether the purpose of a god is to give purpose to our humanity (neither of those things can be said to be broadly true of gods, even if they might be true of some beliefs about some gods) - but the phenomenon of religious observance is remarkably uniform regardless of what the object of worship happens to be. We don't seem to have come up with gods, as we imagine them, until the late neolithic. We'd been doing all of the things we'd one day do in observance of gods, however..for some 40k years or more. We already had a purpose to our humanity.
    That I understand. We as mortal human have a purpose on this planet as well. To live our life until the day we die to go to the afterlife. This is coming from me and my belief system by who I worship.

  5. #5

    Re: What's The Purpose Of A Deity

    What do you think about that purpose of life, and the purpose of gods (whatever it is for you)?

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    Silver Member Bartmanhomer's Avatar
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    Re: What's The Purpose Of A Deity

    Quote Originally Posted by Rhythm View Post
    What do you think about that purpose of life, and the purpose of gods (whatever it is for you)?
    To enjoy life. Sure there will be negativity as life goes on. And as for God is to be there for me.

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    Re: What's The Purpose Of A Deity

    Quote Originally Posted by Bartmanhomer View Post
    ....And as for God is to be there for me.
    So, if God's sole purpose is to be there for you, does that make God the servant?

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    Re: What's The Purpose Of A Deity

    Quote Originally Posted by Azvanna View Post
    So, if God's sole purpose is to be there for you, does that make God the servant?
    No that's the other way around.

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    Re: What's The Purpose Of A Deity

    Quote Originally Posted by Bartmanhomer View Post
    No that's the other way around.
    So in summing up, you're alive to have a good time while the deity is alive to serve you. Yet somehow, you're also serving the deity...

    How do you serve the deity and what need does the deity have of you? What is the deity wanting to achieve that it needs your service? What if having a good time on earth doesn't serve the deity at a particular point in time?
    Last edited by Azvanna; 21 Dec 2019 at 19:57.

  10. #10

    Re: What's The Purpose Of A Deity

    How do you do whatever calculus is involved when enjoying this life imperils the enjoyment of your next life?

    If that's a thing in what you believe, ofc. If this life is basically a themepark with no effect on the next, obviously, disregard.
    Last edited by Rhythm; 20 Dec 2019 at 16:06.

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