How To Define A Deity?

Some people distinguish between the belief in a deity and other weird and irrational beliefs and as a consequence, they define atheism as restricted to the absence of the belief in a deity.   Logically atheism can only defined by frist defining the meaning of 'deity'.  

There are countless beliefs in for example a mother earth, a monkey god, a holy ghost, a nirwana, a cosmic power, reincarnation, the sun, a plumed serpent.   

To me personally, classifying weird beliefs by what are deities and what not makes no sense.   If a patient is insane and the symptom is a delusion, it makes no difference, if he believes to be a chicken, or to be napoleon or to have a chip inplanted in the brain by the CIA.   Insane is insane.   

Where do you draw a line between defining some entities as a deities and others not?       

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I'd say that the definition has something to do with the anthropomorphism ... or personification of ... whatever it is they're worshiping.  It's the ascription of intention to this fuzzy, spiritual thing.

Where you're going wrong is labeling the two things equivalent, when one is a subset of the other.  All theism is irrational.  Not all irrationality is theism.  Would you consider belief in the efficacy of homeopathy to be theism?  Stupid yes, but I don't see how you'd squeeze a deity in there.

There is no difference between a person, who dies or causes the death of a dependent person, because he prays instead of proper medical treatment or because he uses water called homeopathy instead of proper medical treatment.   Both false beliefs can be equally lethal. 

Both beliefs are irrational and stupid and should be opposed, yes.  Homeopathy is not a deity and is not directly associated with one.  Prayer healing is.

To go through your list of examples:

mother earth - Depends how people define it.  The way most Pagans think of it, yes.

a monkey god - Yes.

a holy ghost - Probably.  It depends what traits people ascribe to it.

a nirwana - Is this an alternate spelling of Nirvana?  Well, they helped bring the grunge rock genre into the mainstream, but I don't know if I would call them gods.  The Foo Fighters might be a little closer to godhood.

a cosmic power - Need far more definition here.  The part that drives me insane about the spacy, new-age, woo-woo types is that they generally refuse to define it any further than throwing a mass of even more vague adjectives at the questioner.  Deepak Chopra is an asshole.

reincarnation - Not by itself, no.

the sun - Depends what additional baggage people are loading it down with.

a plumed serpent - If you mean something like that South American god, then yes.  They personified it quite heavily.

a nirwana - Is this an alternate spelling of Nirvana?  Well, they helped bring the grunge rock genre into the mainstream, but I don't know if I would call them gods.  The Foo Fighters might be a little closer to godhood.

Really? If you had to pick between the two, you'd pick Foo Fighters? Nirvana was much rawer and heavier. I much prefer Nirvana.

But on-topic, nirvana is not a deity; it is a state of being. Some people tend to think that the Buddha himself was an atheist, and there's more than one quote attributed to him that would suggest as much. He did, in fact, ask not to be deified. Yes, some Buddhists have done so, but they did so against his wishes. Nirvana is the state of being the Buddha asked his followers to attain through meditation. It's been distorted, of course, as some sects of Buddhism consider it an actual place, analogous to the Judeo-Christian Heaven.

Over all, it is entirely possible to not believe in a higher power or powers and still believe in an afterlife.

Also, careful how you throw around the term "delusional". I'm pretty convinced that faith is a natural side-effect of our evolution as primarily emotional creatures. It actually makes sense if you think about: children had to evolve a sense of closeness with and obedience to their elders, as this is conducive to survival in a social species. Add on to that the fear of death, sadness towards the loss of a loved one, and the seeming fact that most people don't seem to grow out of that sense of closeness with and obedience to their elders, and it's obvious why faith would become a part of our being. Please don't forget that the human species is insanely young: only 250,000 years old. And what's more is that our current level of understanding can only be attributed to the last 9, maybe 10 decades. It's going to take a long time for faith to die out, if it ever does. If some polls are to be believed, faith just started dying... give it a few hundred years...

I'm something of an igtheist, or ignostic.  I find the concept of a deity to be incredibly ill-defined, and that most believers in such a deity don't actually have a coherent idea of what precisely they believe.  Indeed, I know ex-believers whose main contributor to their deconversion was the determination to define what it was they believed.  With all this in mind, my position is this:  tell me what you mean when you say "God," and I'll tell you whether I believe it or not.  But until such a concept is defined, it makes no sense to believe it.

There is one thing that all deities have in common: Creation

If it didn't create the universe, or if it didn't have a hand in the creation of the universe, then it is not a deity.

What about the Greek and Norse (and most other, for that matter) Pantheons?  Those only had one creator god/creation story.  Neither Thor nor Apollo had any hand in the creation of the world.  Are they still deities?

For that matter, Yahweh didn't create the world.  Yahweh was a war god, before the Jews merged the whole pantheon into one psychotic bastard.  I think El was the creator god, in the original Ugarit Pantheon.  Was Yahweh a deity (during the Pentateuch), before the creator component was merged into him?

Actually, they all played a roll. They each were identified with the creation of certain aspects of human nature. Yahweh, like Mars, was the warrior god, thus responsible for the creation of our war-like nature and the overseer of all wars.

I dunno, man.  Not in the mythology I read.  They just took over aspects of humanity that the creator god created.  The impression that I get, particularly of the Greek gods, is that they were just a bunch of guys (and girls) that you could turn to when you needed help in some particular area.

It's widely believed that they are the creators of the respective natures they are meant to represent.

That might be one telling of it, but that's not the one I read.  Susan also brings up a good counter-example.  Heracles was originally a human, in the mythology.  He didn't create diddly squat.




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