The universe is a sum of material and spiritual parts?

I had a thought tonight [applause] – it struck me that if you consider the universe, and subtract everything that is “material” from it, what is left, is “God”.

I wondered to what extent theists and atheists (and the whole (multi-dimensional) spectrum in-between) might agree on this point?

I don’t suppose that this is anything more than classical dualism, except it caused me to see in sharp-focus that I do not see “room” for a god – that is, I don’t see anything that could be left after the arithmetic is done.

Opinions, please, and thank you.

I agree totally. As long as people don’t claim that non-material things can bung around with us, they can exist all they want.

(I can feel TVAA composing his stock reply as I type this.)

I’m hurt, robertliguori, really I am.

But seriously, we distinguish states by their differences.

Let’s consider that these non-material things exist, but don’t interact with us in any way, shape or form (implied by being non-material, but I digress).

Now let’s consider that these non-material things again don’t interact with us in any way, shape, or form, but they don’t exist.

How are these two cases any different? How can we distinguish between the existence and nonexistence of the non-material things?

Okay, enough hijacking.

Regarding the OP, one could define an atheist as someone who believes that, once you subtract the material parts of the universe, there’s nothing left. By the same token, an agnostic would be someone who doesn’t know what’s left, but doesn’t see or care how it could make a difference if it has no measurable impact on the material.

I don’t think the formulation of the question adds anything to the debate over God’s existence.

So all ideas, emotions, stories etc, which rely on material stuff to exist - in the form of neurons and various types of media (electric, magnetic, optic, paper) - are also removed?

I think this was done. Wasn’t it called Battlefield Earth?

We can’t, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist by default.

I thought your comments were very pertinent, not hijacking at all.

I agree that it doesn’t allow us to make any more inferrences than other formulations, but as I said, I saw my own (atheist) position in sharper focus. I also wondered if both theists and atheists could agree on the formulation.

If I understand your question correctly, yes, those things are most definitely part of the material world unless you know of some compelling reasons to believe that “ideas, emotions, [etc]” have some non-material component?

“By default”? Do you mean “anyway” or “regardless”? Or are you suggesting that there’s some reason to posit the existence of a god as an a priori fact.

Universe - matter = God?

Surely everything in the Universe is material, even thought (and/or Spirit if you like)?

So: Universe - matter = void

void != God

I think, Meta-Gumble, that where you add and/or Spirit into the equation, that the equation is:

Universe - matter = Spirit


This is a very speciesist question… since to me the “spiritual” parts of the universe only exist within human consciousness (and perhaps a few of the higher mammals), which is transient and dependent on our being alive, I’d say that no, if you take away the material, then you’re left with a void. IMO.

That’s interesting jjimm, you see a “spiritual” aspect to our consciousness. If this spirit is merely an emergent property of our material selves, is it not just as material? Does it therefore deserve (or require) the name spirit?

I agree though, that if this is the “Spirit” referred to by Meta-Gumble that his equation holds, but it certainly doesn’t seem like the classical dualist spirit (which I took it to mean).

Then what do we mean by saying that they exist? What property are we implying?

If there’s no difference between the two conditions, then what are we basing the assertion that the non-material things exist on?

Well, you and I might have different definitions of “spiritual”: I see it as that which transcends the mundane and prosaic, and communicates emotion to us humans subconsciously (via art, music, natural splendour, etc.). But that doesn’t make me think that it’s anything other than electrical and chemical activity in our brains. To use an analogy - turn off the PC, and the programs cease running.

This is a very interesting question.

For me, like jjimm, I consider the spiritual world to be an aspect of the human experience. It is by its nature material, since our minds are material - faith, beauty, spirituality require our minds to exist.

Anything else is irrelevant to us because it cannot touch our senses and minds. So this definition of god (universe - matter) is ‘the irrelevent’.

In this case, the already-made assertion that (universe) - (materialitic universe) = God. It is not logical (Occam’s razor and such) to assume that an entity which does not affect anything exists, but reality defines logic, and not the other way around. There may well be some divine spirit flitting through the universe utterly indetectable from random chance. As long as no one claims that said spirit is detectable or observable, then there’s not much that can be done to disprove the claim.

Besides, if someone wants to define something that doesn’t exist as X[the universe] - (X - 0)[the universe minus everything that is not material], who are we to stop them?

Why can’t spirit be a kind of matter, or perhaps energy? I don’t deny the existence of spirit, but think that if it does exist, it can’t be separate from matter - in humans, the body.

So it must have some sort of physical existance.

I’d also claim, robertliguori, that the spirit is detectable and observable.

Teleologically; our faculty of reason could not have arisen in, or make sense of an unreasonable universe. Which is to say that reason is evident in all of the universe, and is not a human creation.

Unless you are a hardened empiricist who says there is no objective reality, I beleive the above argument holds.

I guess it all depends on how you define “material” and “existence”. I could be cyincal and say that, sure, any good atheist would agree that the “immaterial” part of the universe must be God, since the entire concept of “immaterial existence” is oxymoronic in the first place. In other words, to an atheist, your argument simply proves the non-existence of God.

Let me not go there, however. Instead, let me ask whether an idea, for example, could be considered as something that exists and yet is not material. One can point to an entity that has an idea, and one can explain the cause of an idea, but you can’t actually point to an idea and say, “There it is.” And yet, I don’t think even many theists would be willing to state that every idea is an manefestation of God. Perhaps your original question would be better phrased as follows: “If you consider the universe, and subtract everything that is ‘material’ from it, what is left, includes God.”

Another point would be to ask why you assume that God is necessarily not part of the material world? A lot of modern-day “new agey” (for lack of a better term) theists have reduced God to complete immateriality, mostly to avoid having to prove his existence to skeptics, but for much of recorded history God has been portrayed as a physical being who routinely interacts with his creations.

In short, if you accept the possibility that immaterial things can exist, then the realm of the immaterial likely includes more than God. And the question remains as to whether God is immaterial in the first place.



Then we have fallen off the cloud of philosophy and the mountains of science are approaching at speed. Or, cite cite cite citey cite?