What does “God is Immaterial” mean?

One of the frequent claims I hear from theists is that God is not material, but is somehow “immaterial.” I have no idea what it means for something to “exist” (in the sense of being more than conceptual) but yet isn’t something we would call “material.”

You and I have plenty of experience with things that exist that are material in nature. Literally everything we interact with on a daily basis is something that is made from material stuff, but God is apparently something altogether different in nature. The problem is, without any experiences of this “immaterial” stuff, it becomes impossible for me to get my head around what exactly God is, which is a massive stumbling block for accepting that such a being exists.

Listening to some Catholics, and other more sophisticated philosophers, I also sometimes hear that “God isn’t a being, God is being”, which I’ve taken to mean that God is existence (although this has never really been clear to me either.) It all makes no sense to me, as I would say that existence is really just a description of something that manifests in space-time. This loving God that wants to have a relationship with me sure is confusing!

My point to this post is simply this: If you want me to accept God exists, and is “immaterial”, you’re going to have to explain to me what this means, and how I would meaningfully distinguish between God existing and not existing. Until then I have to employ skepticism towards your claim, and reject the claim that God exists.

11 thoughts on “What does “God is Immaterial” mean?”

  1. I guess I would have to point out that there really is no material anywhere anyway, so everything qualifies to be god. If you examine the material at the quantum level there is no matter there or here anywhere, simultaneously qualifying as spirit.

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    1. You’re going to have to elaborate on what you mean, because that doesn’t seem right. Electrons, photons, and quarks certainly seem to exist at the quantum level, and would qualify as material. I’d certainly agree that space-time isn’t material, but it is most definitely natural, which is why I tend to describe things as “natural” rather than “material.”

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      1. Can you, even with the finest instruments, see an electron? This is the point. The descriptions of what science is engaged in easily meet all the requirements of spirit. The simplest answer may be there is no difference, only what we call it. Quarks are impossible for us to see and very dificultades to measure. So where’s the difference? The difference may simply be the density or accumulation of it.

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        1. Even if we cannot “see” electrons and quarks, we have been able to create model for them that have incredibly accurate predictive power. The same cannot be said for “God” or any other religious nonsense.

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          1. Religious nonsense, yes. But am I to discount all of the spiritual and stick to hard atheism in spite of the perceptions of nearly 8 billion people? True there are no gods, but is there nothing at all? We’re always given two wrong choices, in this case theism and Atheism. That there is nothing at all discounts every other way of being that historically existed with the shaman, the zen and yogi masters and many accidentals that have looked behind the scenes and realized that we are it. All of it. Everything is god (for lack of a better term) and we are all tits on the same sow (I and the father are one?)
            I think it’s interesting that these methods require no belief, nor do the come with commandments and have no hierarchy (there is no monarchial boss) but are methods that can be taught through specific disciplines.
            The Hindus call it a drama, a never ending play, while the Chinese creation philosophy calls it nature by automática. The Tao way is a very interesting take on the universe and the intellectual level of these other ways is far superior to what we have in the west.
            The Jesus character (or whoever wrote the passages about him) knew this secret to revealing our underlying character.

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            1. I’m not totally against spirituality…

              I have a hard time understanding what this term even means. Am I in awe of the fact that our universe has the necessary components to give rise to me? Sure. If that’s all that spirituality is, then I’m in. Most people seem to have some really fuzzy meaning to the word, and it’s hard to suss out what they’re talking about when they use the word.

              Plenty of evidence that is a con game.

              Completely agree there. The major worlds religions are much more interested in control rather than with human development, or understanding the world better. Organized religions take advantage of our natural desire for dogmatic authority, along with promises of security. It places great emphasis on tradition, regardless of the harm done to others.

              Liked by 3 people

              1. In eastern philosophy, what we call the spiritual, they call liberation. When it is seen, the experience is not “spiritual” in the western sense of the word, but it is moving. It is a complete realization and ethereal awareness that biology and manifestations of matter are natural and that it is (I) us that plays a game that has always been. You are it! All of it. The common reaction to liberation is laughter, for it is so obvious what is happening that laughter is the only thing one can do. All the world is a stage, but really the entire universe is a single, perfect, harmonious happening that trusts the good as well as the bad to work it’s magic.
                The first step is to trust nature completely, but the Hebrew creation theory has us as separate from the creation here to confront it, to master it, and subdue it. If nothing else this has proven futile by its obvious outcomes time and again. This is just another point of view. How the other half of the world sees as god, and what else could an infinite being possibly do to relive the boredom of timeless living?
                This is the experience that has been written about since man could do it. It’s in the Bible as well but it is certainly misunderstood and not Christian in nature at all.

                Liked by 1 person

  2. My thoughts on this: We live a material world. We live in a four-dimensional space-time universe made of matter and energy. Human minds are a part of this material universe.

    If a “supernatural” being exists outside of these constraints, then either it’s capable of interacting with our material universe, or it isn’t. If it can’t interact, then it’s irrelevant and might as well be non-existent as far as we are concerned. If it can interact, then it is interacting with material things, and that interaction should be able to be detected and investigated.

    If the theists are saying that the interactions exist but can’t be investigated, then they are just trying to handwave away the problem that their god never shows up outside of their imaginations. I’m not buying that excuse.

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  3. 1) Immaterial means “no energy or matter”.
    2) We have no understanding at all of “no energy and matter”.
    3) Therefore God, an immaterial intelligence, is something we have no understanding of at all.
    C: We cannot justify God’s intelligence thus the word God is meaningless.

    God is an immaterial intelligence but the word immaterial is “something we have no understanding of” so how can you say God is intelligent? You can’t justify God’s intelligence so you can’t say an intelligence created the universe.

    If you don’t have any understanding of what immaterial is how do you know it’s intelligent?

    Liked by 1 person

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