The First Rule of Being God

The First Rule of Being God March 7, 2015

chalkboard-generator-poster-the-first-rule-of-being-god-is-dont-talk-about-being-god (flat text)

I’ve been giving a lot of thought lately to the depiction of powerful godlike beings on Star Trek. There is, on the one hand, a direct rejection on Star Trek of the appropriateness of any being demanding worship or treating less powerful beings as their playthings. Yet on the other hand, Gene Roddenberry said that he views humanity as part of God and becoming God.

And so perhaps the two together suggest that any being that has achieved something like genuine divinity will not proclaim its own divinity, will not manipulate others or torment them or humiliate them.

And so that led me to think the phrase might be encapsulated in a variation of the famous quote from Fight Club.

The first rule of being God is: don’t talk about being God.

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  • Jonathan Bernier

    Interesting. The Organians are perhaps the lynchpin in your argument. God-like, but first appear as primitive farmers. Then they use their powers to stop a war. No demands, and they act in a benevolent (albeit heavy-handed) fashion.

  • Gary

    Isaiah 45:5-6, 21-22 “I am Jehovah, and there is none else; besides me there is no God…there is none besides me: I am Jehovah, and there is none else…and there is no God else besides me, a just God and a Saviour; there is none besides me. Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is none else.”
    46:9 “Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me;”

    These Isaiah verses were footnoted in these Nag Hammadi texts edited by Marvin Meyer. Gnostics seem to be saying, “All right, already”! You are becoming a little obnoxious!” Maybe a Greek polytheistic reaction. Or maybe panentheism against anthropomorphisms today?

    On the Nature of the World “Now when the heavens had consolidated themselves along with their forces and all their administration, the prime parent became insolent. And he was honored by all the army of angels. And all the gods and their angels gave blessing and honor to him. And for his part, he was delighted and continually boasted, saying to them, “I have no need of anyone.” He said, “It is I who am God, and there is no other one that exists apart from me.” And when he said this, he sinned against all the immortal beings who give answer. And they laid it to his charge.”

    Nature of the Rulers, “Their chief is blind; because of his power and his ignorance and his arrogance he said, with his power, “It is I who am God; there is none apart from me.” When he said this, he sinned against the entirety. And this speech got up to incorruptibility; then there was a voice that came forth from incorruptibility, saying, “You are mistaken, Samael” – which is, “god of the blind.””

  • cameronhorsburgh

    This is very much the theme of the Futurama episode ‘Godfellas.’ This conversation seems to be the climax of the episode:

    God Entity: Bender, being God isn’t easy. If you do too much, people get dependent on you. And if you do nothing, they lose hope. You have to use a light touch, like a safecracker or a pickpocket.

    Bender: Or a guy who burns down a bar for the insurance money.

    God Entity: Yes, if you make it look like an electrical thing. When you do things right, people won’t be sure you’ve done anything at all.

    • Confession: I haven’t watched Futurama. It sounds like I’ve missed a great deal as a result.

      • Gary
      • Gary

        Sorry, but just one more. It seems so appropriate for a religion blog.–star-trek–wars

      • cameronhorsburgh

        If you ever find yourself with time to research and subject matter’s hard to find, Futurama’s not a bad way to go. Religion isn’t dealt with in every episode, but there are religious themes that turn up from time to time.

        Apart from ‘Godfellas’ the most important episode from a religious perspective is ‘Hell is other robots.’ I used it once for a Spirituality class I had to lead in a rehab centre I was training in, with interesting results.

  • Michael Wilson

    James, since God is the sole reason any thing exist, don’t we owe God worship? How is it then unjust for God to demand worship? Rosa Parks was not arrogant when she demanded respect. They owed it to her. What sort of integrate says “God, I don’t worship you, but I will continue to exclusively support my every indulgences with your shit.”

    • Nick G

      1) Assumes facts not in evidence.
      2) None of us asked to exist, so we cannot owe anything to anyone merely for existence.

      • Michael Wilson

        Nick, what fact am I assuming? That things exist and there is reason that is so? Ok, if you don’t accept that premise, ignore the the rest. If your doubting God is the reason things exist, I have to point out that one simply cannot be God if anything exist that wasn’t dependent on one’s self. If there is something else your not responsible for existing, then there is something higher and one is not properly God, the higher thing is actually God.

        Doesn’t matter you didn’t ask. If you receive a gift, you eithier say thanks or you don’t take it. Don’t think any gratitude is owed for the gift of existing? Fine, jump off a cliff.

        • Michael,

          Let me see if I understand your convoluted first paragraph correctly. “God” is simply your word for whatever explanation of existence happens to be correct?

          • Michael Wilson

            Yes. God is described as the highest power in existence and originator of all things. So thrn God is a word meaning, the highest power. That which is un-created , and the originator of all. So what ever is sole cause, or reason, explanation for the existence if reality is the ancestral thing and worthy of highest respect.

          • Oh, well that answers my question. “Highest power” and “originator” are not concepts that physicists use to describe universal origin theories. You won’t find philosophers agreeing to such terms either. So Nick was right to begin with. You are assuming facts not in evidence.

          • Michael Wilson

            The terms used aren’t relevant, only the meaning. If you have a term for the ultimate thing, like God or yahweh, then that is what you call the ultimate thing. If you find sonething greater though, it will now be the ultimate thing. If their is an irreducible answer to why things exist, and I call it God, then it it is true that God is an irreducible answer to why things exist. I think to argue, no, God is a beared, flaming man who rides a chariot and hurles lightening bolts at creeps misses the meaning of the text.

          • That’s just it, Michael. Most origin theories don’t require an “ultimate thing”.

          • Michael Wilson

            Then it is not a complete origin theory since there would still be something whose origin is un-accounted for.

          • There it is again – the presumption that an “ultimate thing” is required to account for an origin. Michael, you’re very good at making assertions that have no evidence.

          • Michael Wilson

            If one gave an account of the origin that required nothing else to be explained, would that not be the ultimate thing? If their is nothing else that caused it, then it is ultimate, right?

          • Why? Because it was first? Not necessarily. Most physical models of the universe recognize that time has no meaning at the moment of the Big Bang. As Einstein demonstrated, time is a dimension of space-time. Once you look beyond the Big Bang, “first” or “before” no longer has meaning.

            And even if there is a “first cause”, it is not by definition “greater”, “higher”, or a “power”. In fact, whether scientists are modeling star formation, evolution, crystal growth, or vulcanism, virtually all the most complex systems studied in the universe begin with less complex (and certainly not intelligent) beginnings.

          • Michael Wilson

            Since time is something that happened and is not eternal, I wouldnt say first, only not dependent on anything else. Their is no time before the big bang, but I suspect their is a rational explention, not just, “it happened”.

            While less complex than what follows, what follows owes itself to what was before. To be thankful for the sunshine is to also be thankful for the ball of gas that formed it and the giant stars that proceeded it and so forth. So I think a case could be made that the cause of existance merits the highest praise.

          • So … If you want to praise the explanation … OK – I don’t feel so inclined. I don’t see any problem with those who like to thank the sun; but it’s not my habit. I don’t think that the sun shines on us with any particular good intentions. The sun shines for the same reason that the rock falls. I do thank people, frequently; they serve each other with intention. I even praise my dog, who I also think is capable of good intentions (though I’m prepared to admit that I may be anthropomorphising my dog).

            I thank my father, but not just for conceiving me – I thank my father for intentionally providing me with a loving home, an education, and a great start in life. If the only part my father had played in my life was my conception, then I would have no inclination to thank him at all. Indeed, I think that fathers who abandon their children deserve scorn rather than praise. So, I certainly see no sense in your argument that causes deserve thanks merely by virtue of causing things.

          • Michael

            ‘First’ never had a temporal meaning in the tradition of philosophical theology. The order in question is one of explanation or understanding. That it is an ‘order’ gives sense to ‘first’, ‘before’, ‘after’; that it is an order of *explanation* gives (some) sense to ‘greater’ or ‘higher’ or ‘deeper’ and so on. Of course Michael Wilson is never going to get to an object of praise without thousands more pages of argument about the character of the first, total, absolute explanation, or the ‘ultimate ground’, or the answer, if you like, to the question, why is there anything (happening, that happens generally, etc.) rather than nothing and the like. But his account of the God-concept is the classical one for sure. The going atheism really is the claim that the demand for is illegitimate; this is why e.g. they think one should be satisfied with e.g. physics, which can at best arrive at principles that must be viewed as contingent, for the simple reason that the enquiry is empirical.

          • Michael

            Sorry, a formatting decision in there triggered some html nonsense from discus; just omit the angle brackets and equal signs and double quotes.

          • Nick G

            Unless everything that is true is true necessarily (i.e., unless there is only one logically possible world) some things are going to remain unexplained.

            why is there anything (happening, that happens generally, etc.) rather than nothing

            There’s only one way of there being nothing, and an infinite number of ways of there being something, so the probability* of there being nothing is zero 😉

            *Actually, you need something a bit more general than probability in the ordinary sense, but I think whatever measure theory you adopt for the space of logically possible worlds, the empty world (that in which nothing exists) will have measure zero. (I’m not being wholly serious here, but it’s a better answer than “Magic man done it by magic”, which is what theism amounts to when all the pompous twaddle is stripped away.)

          • Michael

            > Unless everything that is true is true necessarily (i.e., unless there is only one logically possible world) some things are going to remain unexplained.

            This assumes that all explanation, understanding, grounding etc. exhibits the explained, understood or grounded as necessary. This is not true of many orders of explanation and grounding, for example ordinary functional explanation of parts of a machine or organism: thought it we think we see what’s up with this chunk of metal or goo, but nothing that necessitates this kind of metal or goo rather than another kind with suitable properties; similarly with quantum-mechanical explanation and so on ad naus. Note further that through these we think that, at least when they are ideally formulated, we can also understand *why* the ground *doesn’t* necessitate the grounded.

            Where is the idea of a space of possible worlds coming from? In Leibniz it is a specifically Christian-theological idea: the space is opened up by the possibilities of creation; that God doesn’t to create isn’t even one of them among others. But there is also the twentieth century idea (‘logical space’) which springs from the Tractatus. (He in fact does explain ‘objective’ probabilities more or less as you imagine.) for him the possible worlds are the different ‘truth possibilities’ for elementary propositions, however they are expressed. The case where all the elementary propositions, thus expressed, are ‘false’ is fine. Maybe it’s the one we’re living in. Of course where we re-express the elementary possible states of affairs in a ‘dual’ language, so that each (elementary) predicate means what its negation meant in the other language, then we are living in the world in which all elementary propositions, thus expressed are true. None of this affects the status of the things the enter into the states of affairs expressed: the question of their ‘existence’ is precisely ‘das Mystische’ etc. If you think you can somehow think a system of possible worlds in some other way, there is the question how do they differ, how does the space keep from contracting to one point? The intuitive answer is that we distinguish ‘possible worlds’ proposition by proposition. Each of these will involve subject and predicate (not to put too fine a point on it); in one the predicate holds and in the other it doesn’t. Here ‘das Mystische’ will come out in the question, why the materials for distinguishing possible worlds exist.

          • Nick G

            I find much of your comment unintelligible. Whether this is your fault or mine, I can’t say, but I don’t think using unexplained foreign expressions (“Das Mystische”) is helpful.

            This assumes that all explanation, understanding, grounding etc. exhibits the explained, understood or grounded as necessary.

            No, it doesn’t. Obviously, many explanations do not do that. But if the explanans is itself contingent, then it is always possible to demand an explanation for that in turn.

            If you think you can somehow think a system of possible worlds in some other way, there is the question how do they differ, how does the space keep from contracting to one point?

            My understanding of “possible worlds” is derived from this book. Its approach to possible worlds does not appear to require a commitment either to the notion of God, or to the notion that there are “elementary propositions”. If I understand you correctly in the quote above, the space of possible worlds would contract to one point if and only if all propositions are either necessarily true, or necessarily false (but this is just a restatement of the fact – if it is one – that there is only one possible world). If this is not so, then as far as I can see, at least some of the contingently true propositions would always remain unexplained. That doesn’t necessarily mean that any specific fact is without explanation; for example, if the universe has always existed, then any given fact might be explicable in terms of what went before, but there would never be an end to the chain of explanations.

          • Nick G

            “But if the explanans is itself contingent” should be:
            “But if the explanans is itself apparently contingent (i.e., if there is no obvious contradiction in postulating its falsity or nonexistence)”

          • Yes, though this did not appear to be Michael Wilson’s understanding of “first” (at least not consistently).

          • Michael

            The word ‘thing’ is importing unnecessary associated ideas; the idea in question is presumably of what is ultimate in an order of explanation, and needs no such explanation. This could be e.g. a chunk of physical law, which is not ‘thing’-like. The question is whether something like physical law can rationally be accepted simply as given and not require explanation — that the question ‘why not the opposite?’ is somehow unintelligible. Of course Michael W. is wanting scope for praise etc. but this will require separate argument about the ‘nature’ of the ‘ultimate explainer’. It is quite clear that at the end of the five ways of Thomas Aquinas, for example, we don’t have anything we could intelligibly ‘praise’. One has to go on and prove e.g. that ‘the ultimate explanation’ in some sense thinks, that ‘the ultimate explanation’ knows contingent facts, etc.

          • Nick G

            It’s quite clear to everyone except Thomists, that what you have at the end of the five ways is a gaggle of begged questions.

          • Michael

            I don’t particularly go for the five ways, I was using a feature of that discussion (which has some similarity with way he is talking) against his ‘praise’ and gratitude nonsense. Notice in any case that the so called five ways don’t pretend to prove what almost every exposition and attack presupposes. In particular, the five ways do not pretend to show that the world was ‘created’ — most of them are copped from Aristotle, after all, who didn’t think it was in any sense. The whole topic of ‘creation’ only comes up many chapters later. The idea of a beginning in time in particular is famously declared to be just one among many ‘arbitrary’ features that have no bearing on the ‘God’ and the relation of things to ‘God’. That the ‘ultimate ground’ in each form of successive understanding, or whatever he’s thinking of, e.g. has ‘intellect’, that it ‘lives’, that it ‘will’ this or that — all this is theorems that have to come later, none of them is viewed as essential to the ‘God’ concept; the whole tradition is at one on this, thus e.g. it is obvious that Spinoza is working with the idea (“God”) that the five ways are supposed to be validating, though he approached it from a different direction.

          • Michael

            Sorry that’s a bit garbled at points, I’m posting as guest so I can’t edit.

          • I’m not sure what associations you are placing with “thing”, but the word can certainly be used to denote an idea or explanation. The word “ultimate”, on the other hand, though you could certainly apply a simple definition such as “fundamental” or “final”, clearly had more specific associations for Michael W. – “to be praised” being the most dubious.

        • Unhiddenness

          Life is an unrelenting nightmare. If some superclever creature was responsible for engineering this then It deserves only hatred and contempt. Gladly, no single piece of evidence has ever been produced to show that such a creature exists.

          • Michael Wilson

            No super clever creature no. If existence holds no joy or hope, I recomend finding the nearest exit.

          • Nick G

            It is thoroughly irresponsible to recommend suicide to anyone, let alone somone who appears, at least superficially, to be in a state near despair.

          • Unhiddenness

            it’s OK, Nick. I’m a Schopenhauer man, that’s all!

          • Nick G

            I’m glad to hear it – but the point with regard to Michael Wilson remains: he had no way of knowing that, any more than I did. BTW, I like Bertie Wooster’s description of Schopenhauer: “A grouse of the most pronounced description”!

          • Michael Wilson

            A. Is it? If given a choice between suicide and being tortured to death, I would pick suicide.
            B. I did not recommend this guy choose suicide. I don’t know any thing about his life but when I speak I assume an audience of sane adults. He didn’t say his life was an endless nightmare but life it’s self. When Buddha said life was suffering and we should exit the wheel of samsara was he advocating suicide? I think not. But think about it, if life were a constant night mare why would you want to be a part of it? What glib philosophy would ask people to cling to existence if you knew it could only bring despair?

          • Nick G

            when I speak I assume an audience of sane adults.

            There is nothing to stop insane people or children reading this blog, but in any case, adults who are severely depressed are usually sane, but may be on the brink of a decision to kill themselves. It is extremely irresponsible to glibly “recommend finding the nearest exit” just to make a rhetorical point.

          • Who are you?! What kind of ugly reply is it to suggest suicide?!

        • Nick G

          1) You are assuming there is a god, for which there is no good evidence.
          2) Yes, it matters very much that we did not ask to exist. That is not a “gift”, because a gift can only be given to one who already exists.

          Edited to take account of your definition of “God”. A gift can only be given by an agent – something capable of having intentions – and gratitude could only be appropriate if the “gift” was given intentionally.

          • Michael Wilson

            I think many people feel gratitude for things that have occured without intention. Environmentalists generally don’t believe that nature give with intent yet they talk about respect for the earth. They argue against thinking of it as an inert utility. I think when one is healthy they ought not take that for granted and should feel thankful even though their is really no one to thank, no one wished you healthy.

          • Nick G

            Respect – especially in the sense in which environmentalists (I am one) say we should respect the earth, is not the same as gratitude.

            I think when one is healthy they ought not take that for granted and should feel thankful even though their is really no one to thank, no one wished you healthy.

            Again, not taking something for granted is not the same as gratitude, But in this case, there are in fact people to whom I feel grateful for my good health: my parents, my wife, the medical staff who have treated me over the years, those who worked to discover effective treaments and preventative measures, those who campaigned and legislated for the NHS (I’m British), and for various laws against pollutants dangerous to health.

    • John Thomas

      I don’t think it is unjust for God to demand worship. But question is whether God actually demands worship. I am not sure about that.

      But assuming God exists, is there a specific or a right way to worship God? If yes, what is it?

      • Michael Wilson

        I don’t think God demands it, in a traditional sense but I think the laws of existence are such that one that respects nothing is in fact already punished for the superficial attitude. I think life is better when one sees beauty in their existance, no matter the circumstance and approaches the world with an attitude of love.

        • Michael Wilson

          On the right way to worship, Im no theologian, but I think that if one approaches the world in the spirit of love, you will practice right worship.

          • John Thomas

            I can relate to what you said here. I am more inclined to the understanding of God in Hindu philosophies like Advaita Vedanta where God (which is Absolute Consciousness & Ground of Existence) does not demand anything from creation, but human beings alone are gifted enough to contemplate that ultimate reality most and it is better for them to use that gift by contemplation and meditation which itself provide peace and tranquility and bliss of mystical union to the seeker.

      • SLB