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Meditation 671
Defining God Into Existence

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One of the fallacies used in various proofs for God's existence is the defining of God into existence. It involves defining terms in such a way that the argument becomes nothing more than a tautology. One such argument comes down to: God is perfect; existence is an essential element of perfection; therefore, God exists. Another version is: God is everything; everything exists; therefore, God exists.

These are not logical arguments, they are nothing more than wordplay.

In the original version of Rob Lockett's Discussion 10 to Talk Back 86, he asserted that God was synonymous with reality. Again this was a case of trying to define God in existence. I pointed this out to him in my message telling him it was being published, and that it was an invalid argument that would get him a failing grade in a philosophy or logic class. Subsequently, he entirely rewrote the article, and as one part of the revision came up with an online dictionary definition that gave as its primary definition of God: the supreme or ultimate reality.

Does this definition[1] prove that God exists? Does it even prove there is such a thing as a supreme or ultimate reality? To me both sides of the definition are meaningless. I don't know there is any reality beyond the one I am (and you are) living in. I suggest you compare the same dictionary's primary definition of Galahad:  the knight of the Round Table who successfully seeks the Holy Grail. Should we take from this that Sir Galahad existed; the Round Table existed; and the Holy Grail existed?

Regardless of a dictionary containing that particular definition of God, I reject it just as I rejected it when it was presented as Rob's personal definition. It may be inherent in his religious beliefs (and those of that dictionary's editor), but it is not the definition of God as used in ordinary discourse.

Other dictionaries (I checked half a dozen hardcopy dictionaries) do not define God the way Merriam-Webster online does; and in their definitions of Galahad which are similar, they include the term Arthurian legend as a signal that we are not dealing with a validated historical fact.

In a logical argument, both the person presenting the argument and the person to whom the argument is directed must agree to the premises if the conclusion is to be accepted. In the each arguments for God's referred to above, at least one of the premises is a definition which should be rejected as it directly or indirectly assumes the conclusion.

You cannot define God into existence.[2] Nor can Merriam-Webster Online.


  1. If dictionary definitions were sufficient, then a pastern would indeed be the correct term for the knee of a horse. The first edition (1775) of Samuel Johnson's Dictionary of the English Language included as a definition: Pastern: The knee of a horse. (It is not - the pastern is part of the hoof.) When asked what had led to this error, Johnson replied: "Ignorance, Madam, pure ignorance."
  2. Nor should an argument be framed in such a way as to define God out of existence.