What's the difference between a typical religious view of God versus a skeptical view in which there is nothing to the universe but matter and the laws of physics?

Answer: personality

The religious view is that God has a personality of sorts, albeit one that is often unfathomable. And that means God has some sort of intentions, ambitions, goals, or whatever the God version of those impulses might be. If God had none of those impulses, he would just float in space doing nothing.

The problem with the idea that God has a human-like personality is that human personalities are nothing but weaknesses and defects that we romanticize. For example, I might be kind to others because I want them to be nice to me, or perhaps I simply feel guilty when I'm not nice. God wouldn't have feelings of guilt and he wouldn't need a strategy just to be loved. He would have everything he needed all the time. Logically, God couldn't have a personality in the sense that humans do because our personalities are expressions of our defects and our DNA and our neediness.

For example, if you're ambitious, that's a romantic way of saying you're afraid of failure, or you're greedy, or you want to impress someone. God would not need any of that. Pick any human personality trait and it is either trivial or it is based on some sort of human limitation.

Even your sense of humor is based on a brain limitation. As a professional humorist, I make my living by writing thoughts that the normal human brain can't process without a hiccup that triggers a laugh response. God wouldn't have a sense of humor because he always knows how the joke ends, and no idea gives him a hiccup when processing a thought.

You can pick any personality trait and find the human defect that is behind it. Are you a highly social person? It probably means you have a fear of being alone, or you're so needy that you have to have the approval of others to feel right. Would the creator of universe have social needs? It seems unlikely.

If you agree that God wouldn't have a human-like personality and human-like needs and ambitions, you end up with a God who is indistinguishable from the sum of the laws of physics.

Language is part of the problem. Did God personally dictate every word in the holy books, or did the laws of physics guarantee that the particles in the universe would bump around until those books were written by someone? If you take away the human personality from God - because it makes no sense that he would have one - then God can still be the "author" of the holy books because he is the sum of all physical laws in the universe. The only difference between a religious and a skeptical interpretation is the choice of words.

My question of the day is this: If you believe in a traditional God, what personality traits do you think he or she possesses that are not based on defects?


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Oct 9, 2013
[...human personalities are nothing but weaknesses and defects that we romanticize...If you believe in a traditional God, what personality traits do you think he or she possesses that are not based on defects?]

The question itself is flawed because, by its own logic, all personality traits are flaws. If you want an answer to your question we should deal with that first, decide what, if any, personality traits are not flaws and then we can answer your question.
Oct 9, 2013
Scott, I think another way of what you're saying is anything aspect of your personality or choices is out of a desire of obtaining something. "(Like you said ambition to avoid failure, kindness to gain kindness or avoid guilt, etc).

Whether you agree with it or not, the whole point of God is exactly that He loves *completely* without the need for a return on investment. That is something that humans are incapable of. Most Christians believe that it is impossible for a human to truly do good without selfish motive. Only God can. (See Pelagius and the doctrine of free will ).

So you can think of it as saying God has a *perfect* personality. And our own *imperfect* personalities aren't limited to our defects, but confined by our defects.

Now you can call that a load of hogwash, but it still makes sense from a given perspective. The imaginable idea of a perfected personality doesn't imply necessarily that God does exist. However, if there weren't such an idea, it would lead to MORE skepticism of God not less. That is, if God does exist, then he would be infathomable, and a fathomable explanation of His personality would reek of B.S.

But if God doesn't exist, then an infathomable personality is just a cop out. So it's a zero sum argument you're making here.
Oct 9, 2013
God is not human-like. Humans are God-like.

Genesis 1:27
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
Oct 9, 2013
How about curiosity?

Obviously this appears to conflict with the conventional idea of omniscience, but that's not necessary, even assuming a deterministic universe. If I drop a ball, I know its going to fall down (99% certainty). But I don't know what will happen if I kick the ball (I have a good guess, but not precise).

Assuming a deterministic universe, and a god with perfect knowledge of the present, god would have a perfect knowledge of the future. But, he may not know what will happen as a result of any particular intervention until after it happens. If he grants my prayer that the Bruins win the Stanley Cup (again), will it have the desired effect of improving my life/happiness/well-being? No way to know until he intervenes, and sees how that changes the universe.

Maybe god is just curious and kicking the ball to see what happens. And quantum mechanics is just his way of keeping a control group.
Oct 9, 2013
[ then God can still be the "author" of the holy books because he is the sum of all physical laws in the universe ]

Not only that, but the book of Lucifer, KKK pamphlets, Nazi propaganda...

Scott, I suspect what you're going for is Newtons Mechanical Universe.

Only interpretation of God I can wrap my head around is the energy sense. God is energy. HOWEVER, I could imagine a creator with a personality in the simulation theory model. Though that would be more of an observational role than omnipotence.
+10 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 9, 2013
You're using your Cartoonist Mind Tricks again to redefine everything to fit your argument. Ambition is not a defect; it's not [always] caused by fear of failure. Warren Buffett doesn't continue to work because he's afraid of failing (or greedy, or concerned about impressing anyone at this point); it's because he enjoys succeeding.

Social people "fear" being alone or are "needy"?!? How about "they enjoy the company of others"?

What about LOVE?

I agree that we tend to attribute human characteristics to God, and your thought exercise about God's personality is interesting. But flat out saying that every feeling is a flaw is too big a stretch.
-4 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 9, 2013
@adt6247 - You make a coherent argument up until 'but because he wishes to share love with his creations.' Now you've introduced a personality defect into god; the desire to share/want/need.
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 9, 2013
Loving children and finding them cute.
+9 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 9, 2013

It's a fair question, and one that I have spent much of my life wrestling with, as a believing Catholic and a man of science.

The answer is yes, I do believe that God has a personality, but not in any way we can understand. The old adage "Deus caritas est" -- "God is love" -- is the real central personality trait that I ascribe to God. And by "love", a better definition would be the self-gift type of love ("agape" in Greek, "caritas" in Latin, which is closer to the English "charity"). As one who loves, one wishes to have an object of love, and thus his nature is that of creator. He creates not out of a lack of wholeness or out of loneliness, or to further perfect himself, but because he wishes to share love with his creations.

Thus the Catholic teaching that perfect charitable love comes from the sacrifice of self and without any selfish motive. I can point to very, very few instances in my life where I have been able to accomplish this.
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 9, 2013
Non-defect: fair play.

Organized religion offers a product: reassurance, security, comfort. Call it what you will. In classic "I'll gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today" style, fork over some currency now for a warm fuzzy feeling about your prospects in the afterlife. Very few lawsuits over failure to deliver.
+23 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 9, 2013
Scott, your entire premise is based on your negative opinion that all personality is based on a defect. So instead of answering your question, I'd rather take a closer look at that.

First, ambition. I'm sure for some people it's fear of failure, but how about the joy of accomplishment? Aim high and be thrilled when you get there. Or at least satisfied.

Sense of humor - Obviously the unexpected punch line can be one source of funny. But how many people like to re-read certain cartoon strips and find it funny each time? I've got plenty of favorite ones, many of them yours, that I find funny over and over. Lots of Far Side, too. I can't explain why I think it's funny - It just is. I fail to see a defect here, too.

Social connections? Why does it have to be fear or need? Why can't some people just really like to hang out with lots of people?

So, bottom line, I just don't agree that every personality trait is based on a defect. Frankly, I find your argument to be a really depressing point of view. Is your favorite Pooh character Eeyore? I know mine is Tigger.
-3 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 9, 2013
1) god exists
2) by definition, god is everything
3) so god is too large to be comprehended by humans
4) religious leaders have the flaws you listed and more; they explain god as having a personality because it helps them to retain power
5) heaven and hell and millions of other religious teachings exist because they exist in peoples' minds; they are components of everything
6) since god is everything, god is "Physics Plus," in addition to nothing and a lot of stuff we haven't thought of yet
7) GovBert's answer below is as good as any

Any questions?
Oct 9, 2013
I think that most religious people think that God has personality flaws, just like every religion before the big Three came around. The Greek and Roman Gods were all power-drunk d-bags.

I think that when most Christians/Muslims/Jews talk about God, they consider him fairly petty and needy. Otherwise he wouldn't require worship. But you can't SAY that out loud. Just like you can't go up to Putin and call him petty and ridiculous and tell him to put on a damn shirt. He may not be all-powerful, but he's sufficiently powerful that you can't really distinguish between him and and all-powerful being when he orders his KGB to kill you. So if you're Russian, you sing his praises and hope he doesn't order someone to shoot you in the back.

Christians believe that God's personality changed between the Old and New testaments. So do Muslims, who consider Jesus a prophet, but not a god. I don't totally get what Jews believe, so we'll leave them out of it.

So yeah ... I think that religious people consider God to be perfection in the sense that he writes the rules about who gets into heaven and who doesn't. And he might make mistakes, but you better ignore those mistakes if you know what's good for you. That's what worship is all about.

Also keep in mind that religions all came into place in a world full of monarchies. So the style of worship that has become popular for god is the same style of worship that was demanded by kings for a very long time. So replace "God" with "King", and add some magic and an afterlife, and that's basically what God is to religious people.
-664 Rank Up Rank Down
Oct 9, 2013
Oct 9, 2013
[ God wouldn't have a sense of humor because he always knows how the joke ends, and no idea gives him a hiccup when processing a thought. ]

I emphatically do NOT believe in a "traditional" God, but I have to say, this is one of the most interesting observations I've heard in a while. It's one thing to make logical arguments for why God does not exist -- arguments which fall almost entirely on deaf ears, since the people who are convinced He does are not listening to reason -- but it's quite another to point out the defects inherent in omniscience. Very interesting.
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