Kuro5hin.org: technology and culture, from the trenches
create account | help/FAQ | contact | links | search | IRC | site news
[ Everything | Diaries | Technology | Science | Culture | Politics | Media | News | Internet | Op-Ed | Fiction | Meta | MLP ]
We need your support: buy an ad | premium membership

[P]
The Purpose of Religion

By localroger in Culture
Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 07:51:44 AM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

Recent events have caused a lot of people, including several story submitters here, to raise longstanding questions about the role of religion in human affairs, its purpose and usefulness, and the tendency of religion itself and of particular religions toward good or evil.

This is my personal theory on the subject, some of which is straightforward and some of which is very unconventional. To begin with, trying to understand religion by starting with Christianity is like trying to understand art by starting with Andy Warhol or Jackson Pollock. As with art, later and more mature religious systems tend to be more abstract than primitive ones. And the most popular religion in Europe and America has abstracted out nearly everything obvious about why religion works.


For all the controversy surrounding it, the purpose of art is simple and obvious -- it exists to arouse powerful feelings in the viewer. Sometimes it succeeds, and sometimes it doesn't, and whether it does depends as much on the viewer as the artist. While religion is more complicated than art, there are strong parallels.

Once representational perfection is achieved in an art form such as painting or sculpture, further evolution usually involves removal of information to reduce images or scenes to their essential, pure elements. The reason for this is that it can produce a more vivid, startling impression than a true representation.

Like art, religion exists to produce a powerful feeling, usually (but not always) an epiphany.

Epiphany is a powerful, specific, and for most people rare experience. Just as humans have feedback systems (called "feelings") to let us know we are hungry or tired or cold and satisfied or alert or comfortable, we appear to have a specific feeling which rewards the act of learning. It is probably tied to the biochemical procedures by which new nerve processes and synapses are grown.

Sometimes, we realize that a new experience ties together many old ones in a vast web of neat relationships; the result is a powerful euphoric rush comparable to (but noticeably different from) an orgasm. There is a positive feedback because the epiphanic rush is itself a startling and new result which must be processed, enhancing the experience. Because I think this event is mediated by dopamine (as are the effects of cocaine and amphetamine), I personally also call this a "dopamine avalanche".

Epiphany is a powerful altered state of consciousness which, if you've never experienced one before, can literally change your life. While an epiphany can happen by accident, it can also be triggered deliberately by certain devices. This is one of the things a religious system will usually try to do.

The epiphany (or other altered state of consciousness) is half the formula for a religion. The remainder is a nearly universal observation among humans that such altered states can be used to reach forces which can reveal or affect the world of normal perception (the "World of Form" in neopaganspeak). Please note that it doesn't matter whether this observation is correct. It is the fact that, subjectively, it appears to be true which is important to us here.

Methods for Producing an Epiphany

The most obvious way to produce an epiphany is to contemplate and fully comprehend a marvelously complex yet internally complete symbolic system. This is the purpose of symbolic systems like the Qabala; the Tarot; the Greco-Roman, Hindu, and similar pantheons; the Yin/Yang duality of Chinese religious thought (incorporated into the I Ching); and so on.

These systems all supply a library of symbols by which nearly everything in the world can be neatly described, and which also seem to neatly describe some real thing no matter how the symbols are arranged. They can be used for divination (communication with unseen forces) by allowing random forces to arrange the symbols, as well as for magic (manipulation of unseen forces) by using the system to make coded requests or commands. Because of this double-pronged utility the complex interlocking symbolic system was once a universal feature of religion.

You can also trigger an epiphany by simple meditation. Stare at a common word like "stork" until it appears to be completely different, spelled wrong and alien in meaning. This is the purpose of the Zen koan, to comtemplate some absurd paradox until it actually appears to make sense. (It seems that some aspect of consciousness causes anything. to seem to make sense if we stare at it intently long enough.) Christianity, which lacks an interlocking symbolic system, relies on koans like the idea of salvation through Jesus' crucifixion and the intentionally meaningless three-in-one-in-three nature of God.

A related technique is to submerge yourself in meaningless, repetetive ritual. Your mind will eventually create meaning for your activities in a kind of meatspace koan effect. This is the method of Islam (Salat and Shahada) and of a divergent array of monastic orders.

Sometimes you can trigger an epiphany by simply placing yourself in a new and unfamiliar environment. Like any pleasurable experience the epiphany can be addictive, and those who get their fix through newness of scenery have the "wanderlust."

Methods of Magic and Divination

Unlike the artist, who simply seeks to create an impression, the religious seek to use that impression to change either the world at large or themselves.

The most robust and obvious version of this is practiced by pagans (of both the neo- and paleo- variety); they conduct full-blown rituals in which the symbolic system is used as a language in which statements are constructed. These requests or commands are directed at the hidden forces which have power over the world, whose existence is revealed within the altered state of consciousness. The affair is powered by dancing, chanting, incantation, drugs, meditation, ritual sex, sacrifices, and anything else consistent with the symbolic system and alien to normal life.

Even religions which don't appear to have magic usually do. Catholic Christians have a variety of strong rituals ("sacraments") such as communion, confirmation, and confession which tend to focus one's attention on the central koans. The Protestant reformation ditched many of these rituals but replaced them with a more central emphasis on the personal epiphany of "salvation." And even protestants have prayer, turn to random pages of the Bible for advice (divination!), and make sacrifices (the abstract but noticeable tithe).

Rituals and such which don't appear to be directed externally are usually intended to change and perfect the querant. Many Christian rituals are meant to foster humility and awe in the worshipper rather than to influence the outside world. Eastern meditation exercises are meant to build up self- control. Taoist Tai-Chi and Confucian propriety rituals are meant to harmonize one's self with the natural and social world, though in diametrically opposite ways.

And, as we have re-learned recently, religious methods can be used to steel you for battle in the manner of the Viking "berserkers," al-Hasan ibn-al-Sabbah's "assassins," and modern suicide bombers.

Nonreligious Religious

It's worth noting that a large percentage -- In My Experience at least half -- of American Christians don't practice religion at all. They belong to a social club called "Church." The rituals have had no effect on them, and they are secretly a little bewildered by some of the emotionalism they've seen there. Meanwhile they network and pass out business cards and act like the message in the sermon is important to them even though it goes right over their heads.

Religious Nonreligous

On the other hand there is a large population in the Western world who think they aren't religious, but who are fiercely devout to a very fundamentalist belief system. These are the scientific materialists, whose symbolic system is the Handbook of Chemistry and Physics and whose epiphany was the rejection of a social club whose teachings didn't make sense and acceptance of the One True Scientific Method.

Chances are, if you've rejected the religious system you were taught as a child, it's only because you found one that works better for you. Some find David Koresh, some find Isaac Asimov and James P. Hogan. Much of it depends on the rest of your personality; what "words" have you learned that might form part of an interlocking, comprehensive, Explanation Of It All. If those "words" express qualitative feelings, you'll probably find a religion. If you've focused on quantitative "hands-on working" explanations and math, traditional religions will make no sense to you, but that doesn't mean you have somehow transcended your own humanity.

Scientists tend to get hacked off when their discipline is compared to religion, but science has all the trappings, up to and including a priesthood with sacred white coats. The fact that science magic is so immensely more reliable than the traditional kind is only marginally important. If the Scientific Method admitted the importance of inspiration and included standardized brainstorming rituals with LSD and meditations where you take on the "personalities" of equipment and phenomena, science would pose a serious challenge to other religions even among normal people.

(And before someone says that would ruin it, don't forget how many scientific advances, from the structure of Benzene to the possibility of nuclear chain reaction, have come from dreams and inspirations. And that's not even to get into the case of Nicola Tesla.)

Bad Religion

People acting under the influence of religion sometimes do stuff that sucks.

Christians don't like to be reminded of it but their faith is among the worst offenders. Constantine's ink was barely dry on the order Christianizing the Roman Empire before the internecine squabbling turned lethal. Later there would be the Massacre of the Cathars, the "burning times," and most notoriously of all the Inquisition. The central koan of the agonized saviour tends to make the agony of one's enemies seem a bit, well, abstract.

Then there is Islam.

Islam is not as "advanced" and abstract a system as Christianity; it is ritual rather than koan driven. Neither religion has a symbolic system comparable to the I Ching, but where Christian texts and myths tend to speak elliptically of God's imponderable superlativeness, the Koran is quite concrete with its (sometimes loony sounding) promises and advice.

Mohammad also clearly created Islam and its scripture in a climate of war, so the religion reflects the realities of such an environment. It was further refined and divided into quarrelsome factions during internecine squabbling after the Mohammad's death. (This is where distinctions like Sunni and Shiite Islam came into being.) Unlike Christianity, Islam had no clear winner in this conflict and so all the players are still around to bicker and fume today.

Yet Islam is a religion which is clearly capable of producing tremendously contemplative, studious, and peaceful people. Muslims burned the Library of Alexandria in 640 A.D., but then they kept the light of knowledge alive during the Christian Dark Ages. Muslims introduced us to one of the most important foundations of science and technology, the "Arabic" numbering system, which was actually invented in India but quickly adopted and brought to Europe by Muslims.

What is difficult for any of us to contemplate -- one risks an epiphany :-) -- is that to a Japanese Shintoist, a Taoist, or a Hindu... Christianity, Islam, and Judaism are all minor variations of the same religion. Similarly, a Muslim cannot easily differentiate between the beliefs of an Irish Protestant and a Catholic. And to an aboriginal shaman, all modern religions are hopelessly abstract and remote from the real work.

Is a Particular Religion Really the Problem?

Religion is a tool, like a hammer. You can use a hammer to build a house or to kill your neighbor; nobody can really design a hammer that can't kill, if the hammer is to perform its more positive function.

And religion, like a hammer, surely has positive functions. This may reflect our deficiencies as a species more than any absolute truthfulness of the belief systems used, but history shows that religion can make people happier and more productive and catalyze truly useful breakthroughs.

Any tool becomes a weapon when turned against your enemy. There is a real problem with the "sacred passages" in Islam and Christianity which advocate stifling other religions. One could interpret around these if one was so inclined; both Christian and Muslim believers have found ways to do this. One can cut the spikes off the hammer that was meant for murder and use it to pound nails.

No religion can ever be completely "safe," and that includes the antireligion Science with its atomic bombs and purified anthrax. But trying to ban religion is like trying to ban hammers. It's a tool that works, if you are a human being. Trying to legislate the Standard Hammer doesn't work either, because you need different hammers for different jobs. One religion just doesn't work for everybody.

Religions can change. In particular, fusion religions can form where the epiphany is that two different religions have common ground. Buddhism is the most syncretic modern religion, having even formed hybrids even with the intrinsically xenophobic Christianity and Islam. But it's instructive to look at the most syncretic religion ever known, that of the ancient Egyptians.

Their idea was simple. Any god or deity which you can think up actually exists. Whatever you say its rituals might be are its rituals. There was a central symbolic system, which was used by the State and certain important "cults" (not the modern idea, but more like "standardized sub-religions"). But if you decide that the local hawk is your totem animal and that it speaks to you in its own language which only you can understood, that was just OK too. You'd probably find it more fun to join one of the mid-level cults where the "sermons" had the quality of a modern TV soap opera, but if you were a real loner you could still have your beliefs validated as long as you didn't step on anyone else's.

Christians need to remember that their ancient founders were themselves instructed to worship "no other gods." That does not invalidate the idea of other gods, or that it is inherently wrong for certain others to worship those gods. The original instruction was actually given to the Jews, and doesn't even apply to most Americans. But we're all adaptable here. We've adapted before, and I'm confident we could do it again.

Muslims need to remember that they have much more in common with American Christians -- and even the Jews -- than any of us do with most of the world. The house divided against itself falls apart. The vacuum created by a semi- official religion that does not work is filled by people like Jim Jones and Osama bin Laden. And I'm sure that in India the Hindus will be amused at this spectacle of nearly identical monotheistic religions squaring off while they spectate, until somebody pulls the first nuke and it stops being funny.

It All Comes Down to People

In America, and probably everywhere else, the vast majority claim to be religious. But we probably have the largest subgroup who don't really know what religion is and are just socializing. The truth is that only a minority are really devout and getting out of their religion what religion was invented for. Ironically, among that minority are a lot of scientific/materialistic self-proclaimed nonbelievers who don't realize that they are practicing a religion.

Religion itself is amoral. Morality is a standard accessory, usually found, but it can be unbolted when it's inconvenient. Religion works without it. Morality can act like a supercharger for religion; it's an artificial limitation that can enhance rituals and meditations. It can be especially important to an evolved modern religion like Christianity, which doesn't work for a lot of people without some kind of boost. But the religion doesn't really need it, if the other components are in place. And a truly entrenched religion can readily violate its own precepts, as Christianity did during the Massacre of the Cathars and the Inquisition, and as some Muslim extremists are doing now with suicide bombings.

The ancient religious understood that religion follows the epiphany. Modern religions in their art-nouveau purity have forgotten where they came from, which is why they lose followers to people as diverse as David Koresh, Jerry Falwell (Christian apostate by any real definition) and Arthur C. Clarke. Sometimes you don't want the fancy sauce, you just want a piece of cheese or meat. If the meal isn't satifying you go to the next restaurant. There are things you expect to accomplish by eating or worshipping, and if you aren't satisfied you will turn elsewhere.

The Purpose of Religion

...is to make you, the believer, feel good and empowered.

There are many ways for it to do that. How does yours work?

Sponsors

Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure

Login

Poll
Religion is intrinsically...
o Good 5%
o Bad 14%
o Stupid 24%
o Necessary 13%
o Obsolete 24%
o Incomprehensible 17%

Votes: 151
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o Andy Warhol
o Jackson Pollock.
o removal of information
o epiphany
o Zen koan
o "assassins,"
o syncretic
o Also by localroger


Display: Sort:
The Purpose of Religion | 351 comments (315 topical, 36 editorial, 1 hidden)
Nice one. (3.50 / 4) (#5)
by M0dUluS on Thu Nov 01, 2001 at 11:47:03 PM EST

I'm going to have to re-read this, but for now a couple of thoughts occur to me:
1.Means of reaching epiphany: Aldous Huxley in either "Heaven and Hell" or some other work speculated that chanting and singing could cause altered states of consciousness because unless a singer is very well trained Carbon Dioxide builds up in the blood. (Pretty cynical!)
2.You might be interested in the response of Richard Dawkins in his "Religion's Misguided Missiles" essay.

"[...]no American spin is involved at all. Is that such a stretch?" -On Lawn
oh those Huxleys... (4.00 / 2) (#10)
by Lode Runner on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 01:22:43 AM EST

Those Huxleys have long been a thorn in the side of established religion.

Aldous Huxley's profound deathbed essay on Shakespeare and religion is an epiphany-inducing experience for many.

What's more, Aldous Huxley's grandpop, Thomas Henry Huxley (1825 - 1895), who was already in trouble for being "Darwin's bulldog" in the evolution debate, coined the term "agnostic" to describe his views on religion.



[ Parent ]

Ever read (3.00 / 1) (#46)
by M0dUluS on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 11:35:23 AM EST

"After Many A Summer"? by A.Huxley?
It's really fun because of the whole family connection to evolution that you point out.
It's about the idea of neoteny: evo-devo (evolutionary development) has a concept of the separate development of soma (body) and reproductive apparatus. So, the reproductive apparatus can develop faster and thus appear fully functional in an immature body. So, dogs can be speculated to be fetal wolves, and humans fetal apes. "After Many A Summer" is about what happens if you are able to slow the degenerative processes operating on the somatic genome long enough for development to run its course. It was quoted from extensively in S.J.Gould's "Ontogeny and Phylogeny" which was an important textbook in the early 80's.
I'd never read the deathbed essay before, thanks!

"[...]no American spin is involved at all. Is that such a stretch?" -On Lawn
[ Parent ]
Deathbed (4.00 / 1) (#59)
by FredBloggs on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 12:39:20 PM EST

Huxley took LSD on his deathbed, so i`d imagine that the essay was written some time earlier.

[ Parent ]
ehhh... (4.33 / 9) (#12)
by xriso on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 01:41:02 AM EST

religion exists to produce a powerful feeling, usually (but not always) an epiphany.
No. Religion exists to change you. Maybe some use epiphany, but the core purpose is change (how many of them say "stay just like you are; there is no way to improve yourself"? Even buddism gives directions.) eg. Christianity is about trying to develop the right relationship with God, by changing yourself (with numerous side-effects, mind you), because that's what God wants us to do. Maybe it will take an "epiphany" to get you going the right way, but for most people it is a slow progression.
Religious Nonreligous ...
You make Science sound like a desperate scramble to throw out Religion. Maybe some scientists are doing this, but really, Science is about figuring out how stuff works. Lots of people have this weird idea that Science and Religion are battling eachother, despite their past.
Muslims need to remember that they have much more in common with American Christians ...
Yeah, so we have common spots. We are also different. Different enough that we cannot unite because we are incompatible. For example, "Jesus is God." vs "Jesus is a just a prophet." If you even try to put yourself in a compromise, you throw yourself out of both God and Allah's favour (even though they cannot coexist).
There are things you expect to accomplish by eating or worshipping, and if you aren't satisfied you will turn elsewhere.
Go ahead if you feel that Doing-What-Feels-Good-ism is the One True Religion, but I think I'll go for The Truth, and stick with it.
--
*** Quits: xriso:#kuro5hin (Forever)
Mr. Chesterton says it best. (4.00 / 2) (#15)
by codepoet on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 02:10:35 AM EST

how many of them say "stay just like you are; there is no way to improve yourself"?

[People] say they want a religion to be social, when they would be social without any religion. They say they want a religion to be practical, when they would be practical without any religion. ... They say they want a religion like this because they are like this already.

--G.K. Chesterton, in The Catholic Church and Conversion

"We're going to find out who did this and we're going after the bastards." --Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah
[ Parent ]

root (4.25 / 4) (#17)
by Artful Dodger on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 02:30:22 AM EST

Yeah, so we have common spots. We are also different. Different enough that we cannot unite because we are incompatible. For example, "Jesus is God." vs "Jesus is a just a prophet." If you even try to put yourself in a compromise, you throw yourself out of both God and Allah's favour (even though they cannot coexist).
Many, many people would disagree with you.

According to the Second Vatican Council (Nostra Aetate 3):

The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself...this sacred synod urges all to forget the past and to work sincerely for mutual understanding and to preserve as well as to promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom.
and the Quran (Al-Baqara 2-63) :
Those who believe in the Qur'an, and those who follow the Jewish scriptures, and the Christians and the Sabians, any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.
you are completely and absolutely wrong.

Thank $DIETY for reasonable people.

[ Parent ]

Woah. (4.16 / 6) (#37)
by kitten on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 09:34:27 AM EST

You make Science sound like a desperate scramble to throw out Religion. Maybe some scientists are doing this, but really, Science is about figuring out how stuff works.

Quite the opposite - religion hates science. It is no coincidence that the more we (as a whole) learn about the universe, the number of religious followers drops.

Lots of people have this weird idea that Science and Religion are battling eachother, despite their past.

Need I remind you of Galileo? The Catholic Church tried to lay down law on the question of science, declaring that the sun went round the Earth. Galileo was jailed, his heliocentric views dubbed "atheistic". One Church Father declared that "geometry is of the devil" and that "the concept of the double-axis rotation of the Earth around the Sun is entirely contrary to the teachings of scripture". Galileo was tortured and forced under threat of death to denounce his theories.

Only after a long and bitter stuggle, when the evidence for the heliocentric theory became ridiculously overwhelming, did the Church accept it - stating that the Scriptures supported it all along, properly interpreted, of course.

It is rather amusing that now every Christian can deliver an impressive account of how the rotation of the planets actually magnifies the wonder and glory of God.

Religion has destroyed, killed, and persecuted countless millions for rejecting her dogmas, and most of her dogmas have been proven false. Science has not killed, destroyed, or persecuted anybody for rejecting it's teachings, and most of those teachings have been demonstrably correct.
mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
[ Parent ]
People vs. their Faith (4.33 / 3) (#49)
by codepoet on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 11:39:59 AM EST

You make a nice argument, though you have one glaring fallacy. There is the religion, a set of beliefs and truths, a set of traditions and the knowledge of how things are done now and have been in the past. There is also the follower, the imperfect soul that attempts to make religion a part of his life, and will always fail at some point, large or small.

You blame religion itself, that intrinsicly neutral code of conduct that must be applied to cause love or hate, for all the evils and woes that follow the misapplication of it by its followers. That does not logically follow. The fault of the actions of man lie on man himself, not on his misinterpretation of a faith. Indeed, any Christianity at all that tourtures is a misapplication and is something that must be seen as an action of man and not man through his God or his Faith. The Church, as in that which man has made here and not that which God holds His adherants in, has had centuries of wrongdoing attached to its name and is completely at fault for millions of individual injustices. Indeed, Pope John Paul II recently said this in the open and apologized for the actions of the people in history who did these things in the name of God, for it was not something God wished.

You can hate religion all you want, but it's not something that's receptive to love or hate; it's merely a worldview. More productive would be to hate those that misapply the principles of a faith and harm others with the teachings of love and acceptance. More correct, however, would be to know that they were either confused or Christian by name or nation only and that their actions, while proliferous, were the exception and not the rule.

What happened to Galileo and those like him is a shame, truely, but it was the action of many, many confused individuals and not that of the religion, or the ideas themselves.

"We're going to find out who did this and we're going after the bastards." --Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah
[ Parent ]

different perspective (4.50 / 2) (#219)
by norge on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 01:15:29 AM EST

> More productive would be to hate those [who] misapply the principles of a faith ...

More productive yet would be to not hate at all. I have seen precious few examples in my life of hate doing many people a lot of good (either the hater or the hatee). Of course plenty of hate comes from religious and non-religious people alike every day.

> You can hate religion all you want, ...

Most reasonable non-religious people who I know don't hate religion; they just think that religious people are superstitious and wrong about lots of things. I suppose people who grow up in an oppressively religious context that they don't believe in might have feelings approaching hate for what they see as an oppressive force. However, I think the volume of hate in the world felt by adherents of a particular religion towards another religion makes the volume of hate felt by non-religious people towards religion in general pale in comparison.

Benjamin

[ Parent ]
I said that. =) (none / 0) (#290)
by codepoet on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 01:26:29 PM EST

  1. I said that in the next sentence. =)
  2. It's my general feeling that hate is just misunderstanding in many cases. Most of the time people hate because they are hated or believe that they are, which is the general thrust behind most religious hate (or they feel a god hates them so they should). Education tends to relieve hatred in most cases. Middle-Eastern Islamic, Northern Ireland Christianity, and Atheism alike.
    [runs like hell]

    But the feelings of hatred are sometimes a bit disguised as feelings of superiority or of enlightenment as well. Most Atheists tend to feel that any theist is uneducated, backwards, and/or plain gullible. In my eyes that's a very hateful viewpoint.



"We're going to find out who did this and we're going after the bastards." --Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah
[ Parent ]
Religion vs. Science (5.00 / 4) (#51)
by codepoet on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 11:54:04 AM EST

It would be incorrect to assume that "religion hates science" but, rather, those with a weak faith hate anything that might possibly give them a question their sole source of a worldview cannot answer.

When I was younger, dumber, and Baptist (hehe), I remember getting into an absolute ton of fights on Usenet about evolution. Some arguments I saw used went as far as to say evolution is a heavenly hoax; that the bones were put there to test our faith and we must ignore them and remain true to God. Sounded as highly improbable to me then as now, to be honest, but some people bought it and ran with it because it was a explaination that jived with their worldview.

If someone's only view of existance is through the eyes of one not versed on the tremendous amount of information we have about the universe then they will not be receptive to new information based on that foundation (i.e. new intermediate forms of man found). Sure, they can get violent about it, but if someone told you the sky was yellow you might get a little annoyed at him. If a dozen, or a hundred people said it you might get downright upset about it. Same deal. You have a knowledge in your heart (right or wrong, it doesn't matter) that the sky is blue. Someone is saying it's not when for you it's a fundamental part of everyday life. It's upsetting and annoying that someone could question something so obvious to you. Then you see they're all wearing hunter's sunglasses and it starts to make some sense. You decry people looking at the sky through hunter's sunglasses and say it perverts the way they see everything in the world and obscures the natural beauty of it. Now what if someone knew when to use the glasses and when not to? That would probably be the perfect balance. Someone who would be acceptible to either side and could see what either side could and, because he knows he's using glasses, can see the truth and similarities in both views of the world.

Hi. =)

"We're going to find out who did this and we're going after the bastards." --Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah
[ Parent ]

Galileo (3.66 / 3) (#58)
by M0dUluS on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 12:35:26 PM EST

Need I remind you of Galileo? The Catholic Church tried to lay down law on the question of science, declaring that the sun went round the Earth. Galileo was jailed, his heliocentric views dubbed "atheistic".
This is in fact a popular and unfair statement of the Galileo controversy. The problem was that Galileo was initially very chummy with the Church and providing them with pre-release copies for their perusal. He had unfortunately included a biting personal criticism of the then Pope. He was asked to remove it and didn't. So they went for him. So, it was not primarily about the actual heliocentric theory, it was about an attack on the Church.

"[...]no American spin is involved at all. Is that such a stretch?" -On Lawn
[ Parent ]
Wha?! (5.00 / 1) (#60)
by codepoet on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 12:40:15 PM EST

Citation, please? That's an interesting piece of info.

"We're going to find out who did this and we're going after the bastards." --Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah
[ Parent ]
Before you jump (3.66 / 3) (#68)
by M0dUluS on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 01:11:36 PM EST

all over me, I'll point out that I trained as a geneticist and don't believe in God. I am however interested in accuracy and think that there has been a mistelling of this story by simplistic "Religion bad, Science good" people.
I first heard it in an evolutionary biology talk several years ago from either Richard Lewontin or from Elliot Sober. I think it was Sober. A book had just been published about it and it was reviewed in "Science" around the time they had the special issue about Scientists who are also Believers.
I just did a google search and came up with this:
The second trial, like the first, was a result of Galileo's lack of tact. In 1623 his long time friend Cardinal Barberini became Pope Urban VIII. Naturally, Galileo thought the ban of 1616 would be lifted, but he misjudged Urban's patience. His Dialogue made it clear that not only did he consider the defenders of Aristotelian thought fools, he named one of the characters in the Dialogue Simplicio ("Simpleton"), and made him a mouthpiece for Urban's personal views on cosmology. He mocked the very person he needed as a benefactor. He also alienated his long time supporters, the Jesuits, with violent attacks on one of their astronomers.
The result was the infamous second trial, which is still heralded as the final separation of science and religion. The second trial, like the first, was a result of Galileo's lack of tact. In 1623 his long time friend Cardinal Barberini became Pope Urban VIII. Naturally, Galileo thought the ban of 1616 would be lifted, but he misjudged Urban's patience. His Dialogue made it clear that not only did he consider the defenders of Aristotelian thought fools, he named one of the characters in the Dialogue Simplicio ("Simpleton"), and made him a mouthpiece for Urban's personal views on cosmology. He mocked the very person he needed as a benefactor. He also alienated his long time supporters, the Jesuits, with violent attacks on one of their astronomers. The result was the infamous second trial, which is still heralded as the final separation of science and religion.


"[...]no American spin is involved at all. Is that such a stretch?" -On Lawn
[ Parent ]
Sorry (5.00 / 1) (#71)
by M0dUluS on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 01:15:20 PM EST

about the double quote.

"[...]no American spin is involved at all. Is that such a stretch?" -On Lawn
[ Parent ]
Ahh (5.00 / 1) (#78)
by codepoet on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 01:43:11 PM EST

Catholic Answers. Great site, but they haven't updated their design since I was (re)born. =)

Should have checked there first, really. Thanks! =)

"We're going to find out who did this and we're going after the bastards." --Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah
[ Parent ]

tarski (4.66 / 3) (#90)
by Luyseyal on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 02:35:34 PM EST

Science has not killed, destroyed, or persecuted anybody for rejecting it's teachings, and most of those teachings have been demonstrably correct.

whoa there cowboy, demonstrably correct on whose grounds? I agree, the great thing about science is reproducibility of models. But methinks you need to read some Tarski before you go around spouting about the scientific language demonstrating its own truths.

You give me any scientific language that can refer to its own truth and I can construct a liar for it.

No, this is not a side issue. It is the fundamental issue. If the language of science cannot refer to its own truth, then you need another language to talk about the truths in the science language. In practice, these are our incomplete, unsound, but very flexible evolved languages.

Corellary: there are truths that science cannot countenance in its tunnelvision.

So, what do you do? You look outside of science.

-l

[ Parent ]

The purpose of my faith. (4.50 / 6) (#18)
by codepoet on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 02:33:01 AM EST

My faith's purpose is nothing more than to explain the world around me. With that come two things to the minds of most people: the first being Aztecs or somesuch and the belief in emotional gods creating seasons, or similar acts of divine justification. The second thing is that science exists for this purpose as well.

I do not believe in metaphysics. I do believe in cold, hard science. I also believe in God. For me, that's not a contradiction as many believe. If God exists, then He must be real. To be real, He must follow the rules of science and physics. Indeed, in this world He made (IMO) He must follow what has been set forth. No wonder science, which means to find God through the abnormal, cannot seem to locate God. He's right under their nose when they look into the atom, or DNA, or whatever else. Existance is God (and not in an oversoul way of thinking). To look at anything is to look at His work, so it stands to reason that He's made the rules and He's following them (why else make them?).

So, if that's true, then science is religion in that it is the study of the handiwork of God. Can God's creation contradict God? Of course not, so the two must always be in perfect alignment. This means that both can be used to discover truths about life, the universe, and everything. As much as I would like to believe it for comedy's sake, the answer is not 42. ;-)

Religion's purpose is not for a moral code. It's not for an epiphany. It's not for a happy feeling or a sense of purpose. It's because it can answer a simple question of existance for me. I am here not to serve, but to live. I am here to experience life and existance and the joys therein. I am here not as a testimony to the power of God, but to the consideration He has that He would share existance as much as possible and that I can partake of that. It's about life, and doing what I need to do in order to make life more enjoyable. Not through restrictions, but through truths about interaction and life itself. To keep true to this faith is not a statement that I've been brainwashed, deceived, or that I need something to cling to. It's a statement that I have a view on why the word turns and why things work. To deny that, then, is to deny my own world view. Orthodoxy never seemed so appealing than when you understand that it's not obidience to a higher being as much as an insatiable curiosity as to why He's higher in the first place and what use we could possibly be other than a really, really big ant farm. =)

People have fallen into a foolish habit of speaking of orthodoxy as something heavy, humdrum, and safe. There never was anything so perilous or so exciting as orthodoxy. . . . It is easy to be a madman: it is easy to be a heretic. It is always easy to let the age have its head; the difficult thing is to keep one's own. . . . To have fallen into any one of the fads from Gnosticism to Christian Science would indeed have been obvious and tame. But to avoid them all has been one whirling adventure; and in my vision the heavenly chariot flies thundering through the ages, the dull heresies sprawling and prostrate, the wild truth reeling but erect.

--G.K. Chesteron; Orthodoxy, pp. 100-101

"We're going to find out who did this and we're going after the bastards." --Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah

So why bother with a god? (4.00 / 1) (#67)
by Merc on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 01:02:31 PM EST

If a god follows the laws of science, then how does it affect the world? It obviously can't do macroscopic things like stopping a moving train that's about to hit a car, or creating a thunderstorm on a cloudless day to strike fear into its worshippers. Do you suggest that it can do microscopic things, like influence quantum probabilities? If so then your view of science is different than mine. If not, why bother with a god?

If a god has to follow the rules of science then the last time the god influenced the world was when it created the big bang. After that it has let the rules of physics take over.

Since the creation of a planet like Earth with inhabitants like humans is the result of billions of years of random probabilities following the scientific rules the god created, it is reasonable to assume that the god had no effect on the Earth or human life.

Quantum mechanics also states that the observation of a phenomenon fundamentally changes it. If the god is out there, living within the rules of science, it can't be observing the world.

So where does the god fit in? What purpose is there in having one? How would anybody know the difference if the god died at the big bang, vs lived on? And if it was responsible for the big bang, vs. a random event causing it what difference does that make?



[ Parent ]
Quantum stuff. (5.00 / 2) (#75)
by codepoet on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 01:31:59 PM EST

I'm very happy you brought up quantum mechanics because that's where I see God and His effects the most. But first, I'll answer some small questions:
  • If a god follows the laws of science, then how does it affect the world?

    Many small changes over time to come to an end result. Either the green light was chance or, equally probably, it was a gift. Either the cancer disappearing was a fluke or a miracle. Either is probable.

  • It obviously can't do macroscopic things like stopping a moving train that's about to hit a car, or creating a thunderstorm on a cloudless day to strike fear into its worshippers.

    Just because it is improbable does not mean it's impossible. A train can derail (and be a cargo train) and the storm can suddenly happen if two fronts collide right above you. Both improbable, neither impossible.

  • If a god has to follow the rules of science then the last time the god influenced the world was when it created the big bang. After that it has let the rules of physics take over.

    See, that's tricky. I don't know how to explain this shortly, but I'll take a page from "God and the New Physics" by Paul Davies (a wonderful book) and say it this way: suppose there is spacetime, a four-dimensional fabric of existance. If that is to be created from something, then that something must be outside of it, which would place the creator outside of time and space. So let's assume that happened. Assume also that without the help of said Creator, spacetime would have no form. This leads me, personally, to believe not that God set the world in motion and then reclined with a cigar but that every choice our soul makes, or any soul, causes God to interfere and do what we ask. You see, there are two ways to see things: God does nothing, or God does everything. Either the laws of physics are independant and in no need of maintainance, or there are no laws other than those God chooses to apply at all times. So I chose the latter. God makes gravity and He makes things fall. He makes things move and, indeed, He moves us when we want to move. We're almost like puppets in His hand, but with one very, very large difference. Free Will. That's why it's such a powerful gift. If I chose to disobey God, He will let me; indeed, it is He that does it to Himself if you believe that He is in control of the laws of physics. Then you can compare His love ... to nothing, really. He lets us live and learn and if it is not what He wants He still lets us figure it out, telling us what is right all along the way.

    I can't word that any better, but the author of that book did it very well.

  • Quantum mechanics also states that the observation of a phenomenon fundamentally changes it. If the god is out there, living within the rules of science, it can't be observing the world.

    Unless God is the world, of course. I am my own observer as well as those around me. Thus God is His own observer as well as that for the rest of the world. Then things are equally changed and therefore not noticable in comparison.

  • So where does the god fit in? What purpose is there in having one? How would anybody know the difference if the god died at the big bang, vs lived on? And if it was responsible for the big bang, vs. a random event causing it what difference does that make?

    The fundamental observation you're making is that someone chose to believe in God. I chose to believe in God the same way I chose to believe in my car. It's not me making a god, it's me knowing He exists. There is no point to making up a god, but there is a point to saying one exists if one does. One does.



"We're going to find out who did this and we're going after the bastards." --Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah
[ Parent ]
Creation & Free Will (5.00 / 1) (#254)
by ComradeSeraph on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 09:28:13 PM EST

I liked your argument and enjoy seeing an intelligent defense of deism. Personally, though, I find your model needlessly complicated. If God is everything (and were I deist, that would be my argument as well) why use the God prefix at all? God is everything? No, Everything is. There is no bible, torah, koran etc etc with her uniquely sacred words- everything that exists is her words, as everything is her being.

The source of creation is a difficult point to find agreement on. Deists and non-deists will always see each other as holding a faintly ridiculous viewpoint. On the one hand, it does seems silly to say that the Universe could arise out of nothing. On the other hand, moving the moment of spontaneous appearance to God explains nothing, while adding an extra layer of abstraction. Deists might argue that God has always existed; modern physics suggests that time may be illusionary, meaning Everything has also 'always' existed. To me, the addition of an overall psyche to my model of existence is meaningful only in the sense of the complete range and quantity of all intelligent and non-intelligent matter. That sense does not fit well under the designation "God", though.

I question the existence of free will. It's a source of continual amusement to me that so many scientists who reject deist views out of hand (which I do not) cling to an antiquitated, mystical Enlightenment notion of free will. Science being the progressive beast that she is, neuroscience will continue to make that belief less and less realistic in the decades and centuries to come. I see free will as the greatest claim of your faith in God, but your own arguments can be used against you. Your God is the source and continual maintainer of the laws of physics that define our world. By extension, he is the source and continual maintainer of You, including your constituent atoms and all the protein strands, neurons and DNA storage used to make up the mind that identifies you as You and not me. By definition you have no power to go against yourself. Even rebellion against all you think you believe in is an expression of an aspect of yourself. True freedom from yourself could come only from access to an infinite set of selves, knowledge, and power- God's personal vantage point- Nirvana, in many Eastern conceptions.

I don't think it should particularly matter to one's philosophy of existence that we do not have free will. Our history, knowledge, genes, beliefs, past and present thoughts and experience- that's what makes us what we are and guides who we shall become. Not free will popping from nothing into something. As individuals we are continually defined by the thoughts we have and choices we make, past, present and future. We grow and change our whole lives, always at the threshold of the new self our most choices have prepared for us.

We are special beings living in a strange and beautiful world. To be overwhelmed by a dim, human concept of an abstract God makes it too easy to forget the tangible wonders that are Her.

[ Parent ]

Free Will? (4.00 / 1) (#255)
by schwar on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 10:35:09 PM EST

That was an interesting post but I think I missed/misunderstood the part where you explained why you don't believe in free will.

Whether you believe or not boils down to whether you believe in true randomness or not. Current theories on astrophysics (I can post links if you want) imply that from a scientific viewpoint there is randomness.

If you dont buy into science which religious viewpoint inspires that belief?

[ Parent ]
Response/Clarification (4.00 / 1) (#256)
by ComradeSeraph on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 10:54:09 PM EST

I do buy into science and scientific randomness, actually- my reservations about science stem from the primitive state of scientific knowledge in our time and the human failings of its practitioners, not from doubts about the validity of the method itself. I also doubt any single human will ever be able to assimilate all the knowledge required for a fully scientific understanding of the human condition, no matter how much of that knowledge becomes available through collaborative work and AI in the future.

The free will discussion is a little roundabout and confusing, I admit. Essentially I'm not trying to state a belief so much as deconstructing free will- if it exists, where does it come from? If it is an expression of God's will, it isn't really 'free'. If it is a product of environment, experience, chance and genes, it isn't really free either. If it comes from nothing, eg, the result of pure chance, it is meaningless as an expression of individual will.

The whole notion of free will is built on the notion of a sacred, inviolate self hidden inside or between the physical processes that make our body work and link it to the rest of the universe. This notion is demonstrably false, and is being proven false by neuroscientific research every day.

[ Parent ]

re. Response/Clarification (none / 0) (#268)
by schwar on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 05:47:05 AM EST

Thanks for replying and clearing it up.



[ Parent ]
Ivory Towers of Abstraction (4.00 / 1) (#313)
by On Lawn on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 01:22:36 AM EST


I may be comming in the middle of this, but I have some thoughts on this. First, it is easy to become disjuncted from our own personal experience and accountability in the dissassociative exhaultation of thought in to the ivory towers of abstraction. I think it is easy to lose sence of the dirt on our hands and the immediate and physical reality of our condition. Its times like this we need more Erma Bombecks! But aside from a good consice quote from her, I appologize that you'll have to endure a long post from me that largely agrees and some what disagrees from what I understand your position to be.

For instance we say a soul is comprised of a spirit and body (in easoteric terms at least.) Interestingly enough many languages draw a synonym between that spirit that inhabits the body, and the spirit or ambiance of a place.

Like team spirit, liquor spirits, spirited dance. These usages have roots in a term for an emotional (although not unreasoned) influence on the physical. It is sensed, its outcomes are real and quantifiable, but the source is not to prevelant.

Now its funny that although a "team spirit" has an influence on an individual, or the Holy Spirit has influence on an individual does that mean the person has no free will?

No, becuase in each of us is our own "spirit". This emotional influence drives our own animation. It could be the elusive source of the free will you are looking for.

Funny enough, one cannot have a free will unless other influences act in competition to it and each other. An illustration of this is in the story of the Garden of Eden where Adam and Eve could envoke their own free will only after they were influence by both a good and a bad side.

Today, before we can make real decisions that we consider our own we still have to take in both sides of the matter before we can choose our own path. It is the basis of independant thought and as you point out cannot come ex post nihlo. Otherwise we are too suseptible to being misguided by one side or the other, and haven't excersized fully our free will.

So I guess what I'm saying is that free will exists, and is sometimes the only thing we can call our own. However it does not come from nothing, and is often manifest in a decision of following other influences. But just becuase there are other influences, and just becuase physical body horemones and synapse arrangements have a roll in it also does not deconstruct even the most ignorantly expressed notion of free will. In fact, to me they are requirements of free will.

Now it is easy to express that people are the way they are, and that is evidence enough that something is driving but that could be synapse arangement or prevelant horemonal mixtures. Such a notion would lend one to believe that they are stuck that way and in fact have no choice. That may be true. In fact I do believe there are habits, paradigms, etc... that require external intervention to free us from. Otherwise we are stuck in our condition.

Now one can say that God moves mountains, and changes the course of rivers, but having served a mission in Texas I can assure you it is much more difficult to envoke any change of attitude in those stubborn people than to park the Missippi in your driveway *becuase* they have free will.

Yet as a personal witness I have seen people's lives change from stuck-in-a-self-destructive-rut to 180 degree changes into a new being. One that has different behaviours and a different "spirit". Surely such a change is even greater evidence that people can choose their own path, and even change when they are on that path. It is also (and not contradictory) a direct evidence to me of an external force that is interested in us choosing a better path and expends qualifiable resources in that pursuit. Remember it only takes one psycologist to change a lightbulb, but it has to want to change first.

These people simply choose to let that influence assist them in a way they already decided to go having reviewed their options. It works, its true and I've seen it. The same way I choose to get my car fixed by taking it to a mechanic. I may not be pulling the wrenches but I chose to get things fixed. I may not have any idea what happened, but I know when the mechanic did his job.

Anyway, I just thought I'd share something of a personal experience on the matter. Sometimes I can't logicaly or practicaly show the related causes and forces, but I can see them happen and know they are there. I can also figure out plainly that they denote personal will just as much as they do suggest the existance of external influences. Without them there would be no free will.

[ Parent ]
More Free WIll (4.00 / 1) (#258)
by codepoet on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 11:24:10 PM EST

I see your argument and were it not for one thing I would agree absolutely. That one thing is the human soul. It is not an item of matter that is contolled by the laws of physics or by God. It is outside of spacetime, in my opinion (explaining deja vú and psychics to a degree) and is what we are.

To make an example, there is a puppeteer and there is an audience. and there is a puppet for each member of the audience. Each person calls out what they want to do or say the the puppeteer does such with each puppet. He is in control of the puppets, and does what they wish out of obidience (perhaps love or obligation as well), but he is not the decision-maker; he does not do or say anything that the people involved do not ask for, though events outside of personal wishes might be under the puppeteer's control.

Bringing quantum physics back into the fold, I feel that prayer can be explained in a logical way as well. We each, as observers, wish to exist in a new universe, one where the request is honored. The more people that try to steer the ship, the harder it turns. If a dozen people in a small area want a small change bad enough I believe it will happen. I believe also that God, as an observer, can listen to us and make the appropriate "correction" to make the event happen. All universes exist and we only choose the one we want to exist in. Free will in motion in one of the most powerful forms.

This also explains true magic (or divination or however you want to explain it). If enough people (a coven, for instance) wish an event and go through the motions of showing their intent (the important part here is not the events but the working up of desire for the event to happen; the increase in desire to change something) then the chances of that event happening increase. This is also how some very strong-willed people can wish harm or good on someone and it happen. Seems a coincidence, but the explaination also seems to have some creedence as well.

This also explains why when I say, "I hope it's not a red light" it always is as I tend to concentrate on the bad of an event. The times I've concentrated on the good I find it happens.

No, this does not mean the impossible can just happen. I can't wish a cat has bunny ears and then it will poof into existance for two reasons. The first is you must find it decently believable for you to have the willpower neccessary and the second is that there are six billion other people and many more actual observers that believe it impossible, thus countering your will. Six billion passive intents outweigh even a town of wishful thinkers.

"We're going to find out who did this and we're going after the bastards." --Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah
[ Parent ]

Well done (3.40 / 5) (#21)
by puzl on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 05:21:52 AM EST

Kuroshin has, IMHO, too much emphasis on rigorous argument. Scientific argument and proof are the finest tools of knowldge and understanding, but some ideas must be expressed as above to really convey a meaning - the evidence can follow. And truth will be born out on evidence, but understanding of an idea is a prerequisite to scientific investigation.

Had you littered the above with endless reference and statistic, it would have detracted from the flow of an extremely well written argument.

An argument presented without supporting facts and figures is not invalidated because of this lack. It is possible for a reader to validate a position over a long period with curiosity and attention to the details presented.

So I think sometimes it is important to present an idea as a discussion. This is what I call fuel for thought. Had I not already agreed with you on the above, I would now be reminding myself to keep an open mind on the above, to explore the interesting ideas, to validate as much as possible and to think about ideas that would contradict your point of view.

For many a year I considered my self to be one of those non-religious, with my handbook of chemistry and physics by my side. In recent years, out of curiosity, I've developed a better understanding of religion. I have very little time for the ritual and dogma of organised religion, but I appreciate the essence of what they are trying to achieve. I do not find any contradiction with my own atheism anymore. What I try to do with science and evidence, they try to do by different means.

I say + 1 front page.

Lack of evidence is no reason to vote down such a well thought out idea.


"If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." - Thomas Jefferson

Science and Religion (4.40 / 5) (#24)
by anansi on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 06:08:16 AM EST

I grew up (off and on) in a religious environment, and have found myself defending science in conversations with those who take a mostly religious stance. I also find myself defending spirituality (and its more rigorous cousin, religion) in conversations with those who like to think of themselves as science minded. And really, I don't see what the fuss is all about.

While science is in direct competition with the shamen who would tell us where we came from, it doesn't pretend to be the final authority on why, the way some churches do. I get to engage my mystical thinking, ask my big questions, and yet use science as a lens with which to see just what a complex and wonderful world Frith has created.

In thinking about this, I've decided that both institutions of science and institutons of spirituality are both engaged in the asking of questions, of different types and different sizes.

Science can ask really small questions rather well, like, "how far away is the nearest star". But it's not so good at predicting or managing large economic behavior, as we might expect from, say, a medicine-inspired field. (The dirty little secret here is that not all 'sciences' deserve the title. Political Science and Psychiatry in particualr, are in the stages of the four humors and bloodletting.)

Religion tends to sound uptight and prissy when asked about the smaller questions of life. (Read Leviticus for some obsolete examples) But when you want to know humanity's place in the universe, or even your own place in the sea of humanity, that's not a science question, really.

And think about those coded signals that Carl Sagan and company sent out through the Aricibo radio telescope, to whatever intersteller civilization might be listening. How is that different from the bedtime prayer that your son or daughter might whisper before bed? Is it the fancy equipment? The intent of the message? Knowlege of the recipient?

I would argue that there is no intrinsic difference at this point in humanity's evolution . Which begs the question, "What would the next stage look like?" I have one idea... One of my favorite books is, Murmurs of Earth a book by Carl Sagan about his efforts to put an interstellar time capsule aboard Voyager. In all the images and text we sent out to be read by those ETIs that SETI is searching for, nowhere is a reference made to either military history, or religion. When we can tell those things about ourselves to galactic neighbors, unflinchingly and without shame, that will be a sure sign that we've matured beyond our current adolescence.

Don't call it Fascism. Use Musollini's term: "Corporatism"

Very interesting artical (2.16 / 6) (#29)
by AmberEyes on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 07:25:38 AM EST

I, personally, agree with almost 90% of what you said - +1 FP for me. It's good to see an article dealing with religion without "my religion is awesome cause MY god loves me" or "all religion sucks and my life is a hellhole" in it.

*eagerly waits for lee_malatesta to respond*

-AmberEyes


"But you [AmberEyes] have never admitted defeat your entire life, so why should you start now. It seems the only perfect human being since Jesus Christ himself is in our presence." -my Uncle Dean
One thing missing (4.50 / 2) (#30)
by Zeram on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 07:54:10 AM EST

is the idea of the brains "god spot". There is a part of the brain that has been show to only be active during epiphany.
<----^---->
Like Anime? In the Philly metro area? Welcome to the machine...
Its "purpose" is to perpetutate itself (3.33 / 9) (#31)
by LQ on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 08:03:47 AM EST

All religions are mutations of a memetic virus. They exist only as symptoms. Some of these symptoms give pleasure to the sufferer as a reward for propogation. Other symptoms harm people who do not have the virus. This often helps the virus spread.

Since the virus changes by evolvution rather than design, some mutations are harmful to the virus itself. Causing the sufferer to fly a plane into a building is probably in this category.

Interestingly, the US constitution has some anti-viral protection accidently put there by one virus form trying to protect itself from harm by another form of the virus.

Issues. (4.77 / 18) (#33)
by kitten on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 09:01:55 AM EST

Overall, a well-written and thoughtful piece. But one thing immediately leapt out at me:

On the other hand there is a large population in the Western world who think they aren't religious, but who are fiercely devout to a very fundamentalist belief system. These are the scientific materialists, whose symbolic system is the Handbook of Chemistry and Physics and whose epiphany was the rejection of a social club whose teachings didn't make sense and acceptance of the One True Scientific Method.

I'm going to have to ask you to justify this statement. First, I don't think science can be "religious" in nature, as religion by definition requires some aspect of the supernatural. Science, by definition, forbids the supernatural.
I would also point out that the "dogma" of the scientific method can be demonstrated. Whether you want to call it blind faith in science or what, the fact is, it works. Anybody who says otherwise is an idiot, quite honestly - especially if they're doing so in an online forum by using a computer. Or, you know, if they have electricity in their home.

Religion is a tool, like a hammer.

I use a hammer to accomplish very specific tasks which no other tool is capable of performing. When I use a tool of any sort, I first identify exactly what needs to be done, and then select the best tool for the job.
What task is religion used for? Identify the precise task. What can it accomplish that nothing else can?


What is the purpose of religion?

What are the three major questions that people have, answers to which are not blindingly obvious?
1. Where did we come from?
2. Why are we here?
3. What happens when we die?

Important issues. Unfortunately, pre-industrial savages, without access to science or any methods of logical thinking, had only one real option for "explanation" open to them: a supernatural force put us here, because Humans Are Very Special, and don't worry about dying, you won't reallydie.

I'm going to try something different for a change and not ask "Can religion answer these questions?"
Rather, I ask: Do these questions need to be asked at all?

Take a look at the first one (upon which all the others depend). "Where did we come from?" By "we", I mean "all this"; "the universe". What's the story here? Where did it come from?
People, incapable of coming up with any real answer, take it almost for granted that "god" did it.

The problems here are multifold:

1. "Supernatural", by definition, is beyond our ability to understand. By explaining natural things in terms of the supernatural, the theist is admitting that no explanation is possible.
2. Even if I were to accept "god" as the primary cause of everything, the question would remain as puzzling as it was before. How did God create existence from nonexistence? "Somehow" is not an explanation. "Through incomprehensible means" is not an explanation.
3. The argument that God created the universe helps us in no way to pick a particular set of beliefs or religion. Even if we were to accept that the universe had supernatural origins, we could be talking about one god, or many gods. We have no way of knowing if the First Cause was concious or animate.
4. It cannot establish the present existence of the creator.
5. It demands the question, "And where did God come from?" thereby moving us not one step closer to understanding.

Given these problems, it seems that, if one is unwilling to be "without theism" (atheism), then the best one could hope for is agnosticism - just admit that you have no freakin' idea and never will.
Maybe the question shouldn't even be asked. Rather than accepting an eternal God that "just is", maybe we should accept an eternal universe that "just is" - one that stretches infinitely forwards and backwards in time (actual mechanism is unimportant here), and that requires no causal explanation (as if the idea of "cause and effect" without the universe even made sense to begin with).

God as an explanatory concept for those three major questions, is useless.


Ethics.

The other major role that religion seems to play in people's lives is that of a moral guiding light.

I'm going to come right out and say it - this is one of the most patently moronic concepts I've ever heard of.

The idea is that humans are incapable of telling Good from Evil, and therefore need God to tell us.
Pardon me for being obtuse, but if we can't tell Good from Evil, how do we know this god (or gods, or whatever) is Good? Why should we listen to him?

The only way out of this is to state that humans can tell Good from Evil, and in that case, we don't need a divinity to tell us.

God as an ethics teacher is useless.
The Purpose of Religion ...is to make you, the believer, feel good and empowered.


Are we really that insecure that we need constant ego-massaging?

I'd say that atheism (which, by the way, is most emphatically not a religion, but by definition, nothing more than absence of such) is the best alternative. This is the only life we've got, people - we don't get another shot at this, so make it good while you can.
mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
The supernatural (3.50 / 4) (#52)
by Pseudonym on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 11:54:10 AM EST

I'm going to have to ask you to justify this statement. First, I don't think science can be "religious" in nature, as religion by definition requires some aspect of the supernatural. Science, by definition, forbids the supernatural.

Perhaps first you'd like to justify the assertion that religion "by definition" requires some aspect of the supernatural. I don't see that as a given at all.



sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
[ Parent ]
Paper or plastic? (3.60 / 5) (#61)
by kitten on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 12:44:49 PM EST

Perhaps first you'd like to justify the assertion that religion "by definition" requires some aspect of the supernatural. I don't see that as a given at all.

Well, I could do it definitively..

re·li·gion

1. a. Belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe.
b. A personal or institutionalized system grounded in such belief and worship.
2. The life or condition of a person in a religious order.
3. A set of beliefs, values, and practices based on the teachings of a spiritual leader.



Seems pretty clear from the definitions that an aspect of supernaturalism is required for a religion. I could also do it by example.. as in, there are none. No examples I can come up with of a religion that does not incorporate the supernatural (notice I did not say 'god').

Or, I could point out that if a religion is grounded entirely in facts and has zero elements of the supernatural.. it ceases to become religion. Religion is not concerned with facts, it is concerned with things it claims reason cannot know.


mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
[ Parent ]
Here kitty, kitty... (3.40 / 5) (#66)
by codepoet on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 12:56:39 PM EST

Religion is not concerned with facts, it is concerned with things it claims reason cannot know.

That's pretty blatently an opinion, but also clearly shows where you're coming from. I've known a few people who were deathly hostile to religions ("mythologies" as one person put it) and I've never really been able to see why. When the conversation went that way I saw uneasiness and fear in his eyes and a desperate attempt to keep attacking the idea of religion rather than discuss his hatred of it.

On that note, why do you feel religion cannot be rational? I don't know if you know of St. Albert the Great or those like him, but they were some of the greatest scienctists of their time and were almost preoccupied more with how things worked and with the mathematics of creation rather than with faith (and for monks that's more than a little odd). They, with the full backing of the Church, pushed forward in science more than noticably and discovered things we take for granted today. I'd have to say that showed more than a passing interest in things that reason can know, so why do you feel otherwise?

"We're going to find out who did this and we're going after the bastards." --Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah
[ Parent ]

You have lost the lead. (4.28 / 7) (#82)
by kitten on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 02:08:41 PM EST

On that note, why do you feel religion cannot be rational?

* kitten falls down laughing

The idea of "faith" is, obviously, very important - indeed, central - to Christianity, but nowhere are we told what "faith" is. We are told that we must have faith, and we are told - in gruesome detail - the fate that awaits us if we do not have faith, but nowhere in the Bible are we told exactly what faith is.
The closest thing to a definition is in Hebrews xi 1: "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things unseen."

This is not very illuminating as a definition, but it does demonstrate why critics of Christianity have likened "faith" to wishful thinking and emotionalism.

The authors of the Bible were very vague on faith, but they were explicity clear on other related topics such as the sin of rationality and reason, and the need for blind obedience. In fact, according to Genesis, man's desire for knowledge is the source of all evil. God was angered when Adam and Eve gained knowledge and were no longer ignorant.

Jesus often delivered his lessons in confusing parables, and admitted that he intended for these to be as confusing as possible:
I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding, and revealed them only unto babes. (Matt xi 25)
..where "babes" is not referring to youth, but to ignorance.

Paul the apostle was quite hostile towards reason. "See to it that no one makes a prety of you by philosophy, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ." (Col ii 8). He announced that "we are fools for Christ's sake", but saw nothing wrong with being a fool.

Let no one deceive himself: If any one among you thinks that he is wise, let him ebcome a fool, that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. (I Corin iii 18) (my emphasis)
Paul's hatred of reason is also demonstrated by his willingness to lie and deceive if it will help spread Christianity faster:
If, through my falsehoods, God's truthfulness abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned a sinner? Why not do evil things, that good may come? - as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their charges are just. (Rom iii 7)
Martin Luther had a clear grasp on Christian essentials when he attacked reason. The despise of logic and rationality in the Bible is rampant: there is a constant demand that one must believe without proof, evidence, or thought.

Jesus does not demand that people believe him in the name of truth or logic, but as a question of morality. The acceptence of Jesus by faith, not reason, is a virtuous act.
Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe, whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.
A man is not morally free to even investigate the truth by reason; one must believe, uncritically, or be condemned as immoral.

Jesus attempts to bribe us into faith with two promises. First, the promise of miraculous powers, up to and including the literal transportation of a mountain.
If you have faith as a grain of mustard, and you say to this mountain, "Move hence to yonder place," and it will move; nothing will be impossible to you. (Matt xvii 20) Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it.. if you ask anything in my name, it will be done. (John xiv 13)
While these promises are rather deficient, Jesus still appeals to rewards for having faith, only this time the reward cannot be collected until death.

As is often the case, where we have bribery, we also have blackmail. If Jesus' promises of eternal bliss are not enough, we are also promised that the unbeliever - the man who lacks faith - faces damnation of Hell and the wrath of God:
He who believes in the Son has eternal life; he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God rests upon him. (John iii 36)
Paul (who is resported to have struck a man to the point of blindness for doubting Christian theology in Acts xiii 8) informs us that "He who has doubts is condemned." (Rom xiv 23)

Paul - like Jesus - makes no attempt to veil his threats. He makes graphic and specific statements regarding his ultimatum between faith and torment.

These threats are the lynchpin of Christianity's hatred of reason and rationality. It's basically "Believe in Jesus or be subject to agonizing torture."
The Bible offers no logic, no reason, no rational - but rather, intellectual intimidation and supernatural blackmail. Threats replace arguments, irrationality gains edge over reason through an appeal to brute force.

The intellectually frightened, meek, docile, unquestioning believer is held up as a paradigm of moral perfection, whereas man's ability to think and question becomes his most dangerous liability.

Religious faith is to free inquiry what the Mafia is to free enterprise. Like the Mafia, if Christianity fails to defeat its competetion by legitimate means (which seems to be the case), it resorts to strong-arm tactics and threats of violence.

Any doctrine that follows these patterns of bribery, blackmail, threats, and hatred of reason, should be and is excluded from the domain of rationality.

* * * * *

When the conversation went that way I saw uneasiness and fear in his eyes and a desperate attempt to keep attacking the idea of religion rather than discuss his hatred of it.

Can't speak for anyone else.. I prefer to discuss it on grounds of logic rather than emotionalism.. but you're correct in assuming I despise religion. So far as I can determine, religion has wrought very little - if any - benefits to this world, and is responsible for more atrocities than I can count. The notion of a god - any god - is obsolete, antiquated, and a brutal psychological shackle which no man should have to endure.
I hate religion because I despise the unnecessary impediment of any person's wishes.. and no matter what the "pious" might say, that's all religion comes down to. The 'faithful' sheep end up living for something other than their own desires.


mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
[ Parent ]
That was ... interesting. (3.66 / 3) (#104)
by codepoet on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 03:25:29 PM EST

Well, forgive me for completely ignoring all of your first portion for the sake of a few precepts I hold dear:
  1. Do not ever quote one line of scripture, out of context, and then proceed to explain that that one sentence states even a paragraph of information. This will always fail.
  2. Do not pick several sentences from all over scripture, or even a book, and do the same. This, too, will fail.
  3. Do not compare the actions of men in scripture to the right or wrong thing to do. Yes, some of the apostles did some very bad things, some even in the name of God. That's on their head only.
  4. The entire bit about innocence and foolishness is not intelect but action. The foolishness of leaving Judaism as known and saying the Messiah had come. That's the foolishness, not anything on the order of the abhorrance of logic or reason. Indeed, Paul commands people to judge new ideas and test to see if they hold true to their faith. I'd have to say that's using reason there. If it were truely an abhorrance of reason he would have said to ignore everyone but him. 1984 in 100, so to speak.
  5. I feel you are too biased to be rational in that form of analysis in the first place. Sorry, but you were dripping with hate for religion beforehand and I could almost imagine the cackling and wringing of hands as you started to type furiously away (and a mad cackling hand-wringing kitten bent on ideological destruction is high on my list of things to run far away from).
That said I find your idea of dieties as antiquated rather interesting. I say that because there are two ways of interpreting dieties. The first being that man has created them to explain the world, and this is obviously the way you take it. The second is that there is some diety and we are progressively determining the place, power, number, and sort of this diety (and friends, according to some). That would be about where I stand.

It seems as if you compare God to the monsters kids see under their bed, or even Santa Claus. Such ideas that fade with age of the person, we now have an idea that fades with the age of a civilization. Curious way of seeing it, and I'm not going to say it's the first time I have heard of this nor that it's not wildly popular, but it's something I really have to disagree with. The idea of a God that makes this element and another for this other element and so on we both see as antiquated as that sort of ideaology faded out over a milineum ago, but the idea of a diety at all surely has not faded but, rather, the actions of the world and universe that we ascribe to him have evolved and been refined such that He is our Creator and Protector more than the one that makes the seasons change.

So while I can see you disagreeing with the existance of a diety, I really cannot appriciate the concept of one being outdated and antiquated, expecially since there is so much in life that has still made so many to believe. If several billion people still believe, that's hardly an antiquated idea, now isn't it? Antiquated being either unused or superceeded, religion is neither in this day and age. That you're conversing with someone who believes should be proof enough for that.

The Brittish military, well, now that's antiquiated. =) <ducks>

"We're going to find out who did this and we're going after the bastards." --Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah
[ Parent ]

Er. (3.83 / 6) (#117)
by kitten on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 04:14:00 PM EST

1. Do not ever quote one line of scripture, out of context, and then proceed to explain that that one sentence states even a paragraph of information. This will always fail.

How many times have we had just John iii 16 quoted at us? How many billions of T-shirts and bumper stickers and stupid billboards are out there with tiny, brief excerpts from Scripture, worn proudly by Christians? Every single one of these is "taking the quote from it's context" and yet they are up in arms when someone Not Of The Faith does the same thing.
If I agree to stop "taking it out of context", then I assume I will never see pro-Jesus propaganda with one-or-two-line excerpts, ever again.

By the way, if you're going to claim something is "taken out of context", you're going to have to demonstrate that the context it was in would fundamentally alter it's meaning. Far too many people use this "context" argument and as it turns out, the surrounding context makes not one iota of difference.

* Do not compare the actions of men in scripture to the right or wrong thing to do. Yes, some of the apostles did some very bad things, some even in the name of God. That's on their head only.

It's in the Bible, which means that we're supposed to believe it's The Right Thing To Do. If Paul beats people to the point of blindness for doubting Christianity, and God disapproves of that, God should have taken it out. But since it remains in The Word of God, I guess it's okay.

* I feel you are too biased to be rational in that form of analysis in the first place.

Why's that, because I have an opinion? I'm sorry.. from now on I'll never form opinions on anything ever again, that way I can't be accused of being "biased". But then, I won't be able to have much discussions of this type.

It seems as if you compare God to the monsters kid see under their bed, or even Santa Claus.

Hey, you got it. It's stupid fiction that everyone would grow out of if only the constant, ceaseless, unending barrage of society around them didn't tell them that disbelief in God is "evil". The idea that an unknowable being with unknowable attributes 'caused' the universe for unknowable reasons via some unknowable nonprocess.. yeah, I find that about as silly as a big fat guy who slides down the chimney and brings presents.

If several billion people still believe, that's hardly an antiquated idea, now isn't it?

Ask yourself why the believe. It's not as though these people are putting any thought into it. When a person says "I'm Baptist / Mormon / Catholic / Jewish" or whatever, ninety nine times out of a hundred, what they mean is, "I sort of have a vague notion of a very small select few portions of a holy book, kind of. And anyway my parents told me I was $denomination, so I am."
You think they actually sat down and studied holy books until they came across one they liked, and then analyzed various religions to see which best suited them, all without having preconceived notions? Hell no. People are born into a religion. Critical thought has absolutely nothing to do with any of it.


mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
[ Parent ]
Well, this is starting to get pointless... (3.40 / 5) (#124)
by codepoet on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 04:33:22 PM EST

  1. Re: context. I cannot guarantee anything, nor should I. That others want to do it is their game, but I will not participate in a scripture-flinging contest.
  2. You're confusing me with a Protestant. I am a Catholic. I do not believe that every iota of the Bible is perfectly and divinely inspired but, rather, that the whole of the Bible and the comprehensive meaning it delivers was inspired. Some people did wrong and it was recorded. That's history, not something to base a faith on.
  3. Why's that, because I have an opinion? I'm sorry.. from now on I'll never form opinions on anything ever again, that way I can't be accused of being "biased". But then, I won't be able to have much discussions of this type.
    You sound like my wife. I was noting your somewhat volitile nature on this topic and now you're pouting. This actually proves my point rather than helping you out.
  4. Now, regarding the unknown nature of creation, etc. I ask you: do you know, for certain, without any doubt, with sufficient evidence and supporting information why the universe exists, how long it has existed, how it was, or if it was made, and if made, by what or whom? No? Then someone trying to answer that shouldn't be absurd and you shouldn't fault anyone for having an answer you see as wrong, at the very least until you can prove beyond all doubt that it happened another way.
  5. I actually laughed out loud at this point: You think they actually sat down and studied holy books until they came across one they liked, and then analyzed various religions to see which best suited them, all without having preconceived notions?
    I did. Funny, eh?
I'm sorry, but I'm finding this increasingly pointless and have to stop responding to you now. I'm starting to remember Usenet and that's not something I want to ever remember in detail again. Thanks, it's been fun but I have to go.

"We're going to find out who did this and we're going after the bastards." --Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah
[ Parent ]
disingenuous (4.00 / 4) (#108)
by Luyseyal on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 03:41:31 PM EST

The closest thing to a definition is in Hebrews xi 1: "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things unseen."

Seems pretty clear to me what this means. I don't know why you find it confusing. It's no more confusing to me than the successor function in set theory. You accept the axiom and move on. Same difference, but different goals. Axioms serve for systematization of models. Faith serves for systematization of psychologies. Whether you agree with the axiom in particular or not is of interest, but lies outside of justification. However, being outside of justification does not mean there are no reasons for it at all. Rather, you use your intuition, observation of corellary behavior, heuristics, etc. to judge.

man's desire for knowledge is the source of all evil.

I am astonished at your lack of honesty here. The tree is named "the tree of knowledge of good and evil." Ergo, eating the fruit meant that Adam and Eve would become morally culpable beings and die as an eventual consequence of their sin of disobedience. Your characterization is not only false, but reprehensibly so.

The entire philosophy of the Bible hinges on the notion of the corrupted universe separated from God through original sin. On this thesis, does it not make sense that the only sinless act is the act of belief in God/Savior and all resulting actions?

As far as Paul is concerned, I suggest a more Kierkegaardian reading of "Their charges are just." I.e., ironic. I.e., in light of the above thesis that everything is fundamentally corrupted.

First, the promise of miraculous powers, up to and including the literal transportation of a mountain.

Rabbis say lots of things to make a point. Paul seeded the memes of Christianity throughout Greece because of his beliefs without justification. It grew into a religion with mountains of followers. Ergo, I think Jesus' point holds.

As far as damnation for disbelief, it follows strictly from the premise that the universe is corrupted wholly from God. If you believe God says belief is the only way out, I guess that's your option, huh? Yes, that implies there is a whole swamp of interdependent axioms to believe for salvation all at once. It doesn't imply that you cannot use scientific methodology for other kinds of claims.

Why should anyone cry if Paul says Plato, Aristotle, and the rest are wrong? Philosophers, religious folk, scientists, ... lots of people say the same thing every day, yet, we still have no proof for or against Forms. So, why is Paul evil for saying that about Plato, but your friends are not?

As far as wisdom of the world... wisdom is a slippery category, more apt to be described as knowledgeable living, rather than as rationality. Ergo, Paul's pushing his moral belief system. Why should you cry over that? People do it all the time.

Cheers,
-l

[ Parent ]

Try reading the original (4.00 / 4) (#109)
by simon farnz on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 03:44:52 PM EST

I'm sorry but a lot of the phrases you take exception to are badly translated; Islam's insistence on the one true Arabic word of god has a lot for it.

As an example, in Matt xi 25, the word that King James' scholars translated as babes in fact translates to pre-school children; early teens IOW. These are people capable of reasoning, but without preconceptions.

Further, every book of the Bible from John onwards (Matthew, Mark and Luke are different) is written in a literary style that is not intended as literal. To quote two lines of John is equivalent to taking half a sentence from an apocryphal George W. Bush quote: "America is part of Europe"; you omit the important part of the sentence, to make your point. If you only read the rest of the book (as it was written), you could then understand the hyperbole included therein
--
If guns are outlawed, only outlaws have guns
[ Parent ]

Look around you (4.00 / 4) (#149)
by Pseudonym on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 08:50:51 PM EST

Contrary to popular belief, the dictionary is not an authority. Usage is the authority, and dictionary compilers build their entries from the corpus. Despite that, I choose definitions 2 and 3 to concentrate on.

Scientology has no supernatural aspect, unless you count bad science fiction as "supernatural". The cult of Amway has no supernatural. The religious followings around certain free software licences and operating system kernels which I could mention have no supernatural. The cult of Ayn Rand's personality has no supernatural.

Now you may think I'm being facetious in calling these "religions" (especially in the case of Scientology). But why? The only thing they're missing is supernatural. They have systems of belief, often institutionalised, they have values, practices and often they have a leader.

You've defined religion to require the supernatural and concluded that if it has no supernatural, it's not a religion.

I think that part of the problem is the dichotomy which you appear to have set up:

[...] if a religion is grounded entirely in facts and has zero elements of the supernatural [...]

It should be obvious that a belief system can have zero elements of the supernatural and still not be grounded in facts.



sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
[ Parent ]
You won't get it (5.00 / 8) (#55)
by epepke on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 12:18:36 PM EST

I'm going to have to ask you to justify this statement. First, I don't think science can be "religious" in nature, as religion by definition requires some aspect of the supernatural. Science, by definition, forbids the supernatural.

You probably won't get a justification for this.

The ability to do science requires an unusual personal quality. The scientist must have at the very core of his and/or her being the ability to be comfortable with uncertainty. This is more important than anything else. An effective scientist may never be certain about anything. One may be almost certain, but never completely certain. This is not a minor difference: the difference between almost and completely certain is a large qualitative psychological gap.

This personal quality is extremely difficult to learn. I know from personal experience, as I spent thirteen years as a research scientist. It is seldom taught formally; universities just sort of hope that it will be absorbed by osmosis. None of the things that the postmodernists claim are essential to science (e.g. determinism, the social structure, the scientific method) is essential to science. This personal quality, which Feynman calls a "satisfactory philosophy of ignorance" is essential.

What happens is that this personal quality is so difficult and so alien that some people who have not been trained in science insist that it is completely impossible, and therefore science must be driven by something else, some social convention or faith. To be sure, the social conventions exist, but they are no more essential to being a scientist than wearing a white coat is to being a dentist.

I also suspect there's a great deal of envy going on, because people in the humanities see scientists get big funding contracts. (What they don't see is that the funding goes to buying things, and that scientists must flagrantly whore themselves to get them.) In any event, it is much easier for "philosophers of science" and the like to focus on the accidentals of science rather than the essence, which they do not want to understand.

I suppose that one could claim that this quality is a kind of religious thing, but only in the sense that "bald" is a hair color. The quality is, beyond any of the individual discoveries of science, what really causes friction with religion. There are many scientists who are religious, but I do not believe that any of them can view religion in the same way as a non-scientist without some degree of schizoaffectiveness.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
I started off agreeing (4.80 / 5) (#63)
by M0dUluS on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 12:48:36 PM EST

with you when you were talking about a scientist needing to be comfortable with uncertainty. It certainly (!) makes the job easier. But I disagree with this part:
None of the things that the postmodernists claim are essential to science (e.g. determinism, the social structure, the scientific method) is essential to science.
What I specifically disagree with is the inclusion of the "scientific method" in there and also to a lesser extent the social structure. Here's why: imagine a population of dogmatic, narrow-minded, opinionated, certain researchers. They all believe their own model of whatever part of physical reality they are investigating. They have conflicting beliefs. They all however adhere to the a central belief, namely that experiments can be done which provide potential falsification for a model, and that if the falsification doesn't occur then that increases the probability that the model is correct. They agree on recording data and making it available for inspection by the others. They all hate each other and struggle for their own model.
Now, in this picture of science there will still be progress toward discarding of inaccurate models, yet the individual elements of that social grouping do not each possess the balance and objectivity that you claim are essential.
It is true that an individual researcher might be able to better discard ineffectual and outmoded ideas if he possess the balance, but on the other hand he may discard fruitful theories that just don't have enough evidence yet because he lacks the personal drive of the bigot.(I'm sure you've met them in science, they're sometimes the most succesful people!).
So, I'd argue that the method frees the progress toward truth from the individual motivations and characteristics of the scientists.

"[...]no American spin is involved at all. Is that such a stretch?" -On Lawn
[ Parent ]
Justification (3.16 / 6) (#144)
by localroger on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 07:23:59 PM EST

I'm going to have to ask you to justify this statement.

OK.

The crux of my observation is that people aren't motivated by questions. They aren't motivated by ethics. They aren't motivated by knowledge or doubt.

People are motivated by feelings. They may have feelings about questions, ethics, knowledge, or doubt which cause them to act on these subjects, but these reactions aren't universal because some people have no feelings about these topics.

It has been over 20 years but I remember the epiphany which made me an atheist like it was yesterday. (There would be others, later, which changed me again, but this was when I was 15.) It suddenly hit me out of the clear blue that I didn't need God to explain the Universe, that science alone explained it perfectly well. Then no-God explanation was simpler and made more sense. I not only felt an awesome sense of clarity as the many contradictions between my Baptist faith and my direct experience blew away, I felt like a complete fool for ever having believed in something so stupid.

I also felt terrified. I was rejecting something I'd always taken for granted, taught and expected by my parents and all my friends, and endemic within society. But this just heightened the strangeness and wonder of the situation. From that moment I could no more have believed in God than I could have flown by flapping my arms.

Because of this when I was in college I was the model example of a scientific rationalist (and a lot of the time I still am). But it wasn't the purity of the argument that convinced me; it was a feeling. A particular feeling. A feeling I recognized, having been "saved" at an earlier age in the standard Baptist tradition.

So you see, it doesn't really matter what your final belief system is. There are differences between admitted religious systems as great as the difference between any mainstream religion and science. The question is how you arrived at that belief system and why you are motivated to persevere in your beliefs.

I realize there are some controversial statements in this essay -- my theory as to the cause of the epiphany is also pure speculation -- but the point was to get beyond approximate taxonomical distinctions and drive to the root of what makes people act the way they do. And when you look at it from this perspective, science is as much a religion for many scientists as Christianity is for many Christians. (The reverse is also true; there are many "scientific nonbelievers" who hold scientific jobs but whose beliefs are not so fervent or firm, just like the social-club Christians.)

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

Agnosticism, and the strongs (4.60 / 5) (#146)
by I am Jack's username on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 08:00:32 PM EST

> agnosticism - just admit that you have no
> freakin' idea and never will
> -- kitten

To me an agnostic is someone who does not have mystic knowledge. A strong agnostic is someone who has knowledge that mystic knowledge is impossible to have.

Okay, the whole thing goes:

  1. theist - believes in god(s)
  2. strong theist - asserts that god(s) exist
  3. atheist - does not believe in god(s)
  4. strong atheist - asserts that god(s) do not exist
  5. agnostic - doubts that knowledge of god(s) is possible
  6. agnostic theist - believes in god(s) despite a lack of evidence
  7. agnostic strong theist - asserts that god(s) exist despite doubts that knowledge of god(s) is possible
  8. agnostic atheist - does not believe in god(s) because of a lack of evidence
  9. agnostic strong atheist - asserts that god(s) do not exist despite doubts that knowledge of god(s) is possible
  10. strong agnostic - asserts that knowledge of god(s) is impossible
  11. strong agnostic theist - believes in god(s) despite the fact that knowledge of god(s) is impossible
  12. strong agnostic strong theist - asserts that god(s) exist despite the fact that knowledge of god(s) is impossible
  13. strong agnostic atheist - does not believe in god(s) because ultimate knowledge of god(s) is impossible
  14. strong agnostic strong atheist - asserts that gods do not exist despite the fact that knowledge of god(s) is impossible.

When it comes to the God of Abraham I'm an atheist because he's an obvious contradiction; but because theism is a larger and vaguer concept, I'm a humanist agnostic atheist (until I see some proof or a good theory) - which means that I do not believe in gods and have tremendous doubt in their existence, but do not believe that positive knowledge of god(s) is impossible. To me 2, 4, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14 are irrational; but then again it doesn't seem as if reason, logic, proof, and truth are very important to the vast majority of people.
--
Inoshiro for president!
"War does not determine who is right - only who is left." - Bertrand Russell
[ Parent ]

Meaning to the meaningless. (3.30 / 10) (#34)
by Ialdabaoth on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 09:13:11 AM EST

Religion is for people who can't bear to consider the possibility that their lives have no meaning to anybody other than themselves and their friends/relations.

Religion of any kind serves mainly to assuage the individual's need for a special place in an insouciant universe.
*******
"Act upon thy thoughts shall be the whole of the Law."

--paraphrase of Aleister Crowley

Random thought (4.66 / 3) (#70)
by glassware on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 01:15:11 PM EST

I forget who said this originally:

Man is the only animal that needs an omnipotent, omniscient deity to appreciate everything it does. With the exception of cats.

[ Parent ]

Without Religion (2.66 / 3) (#153)
by Ashcrow on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 09:06:59 PM EST

If you don't have any faith then you have a serious crutch. There is no reason for right or wrong. There is no fear of doing what would otherwise be considered evil. It would be so easy to live without religion, do whatever you wanted without caring about others, nothing really matters so much except for yourself.

That road just seems so empty to me.

Flame me if you want; I know Christianity isn't a popular view especially in the United States but it's what I've come to belive after being an athiest for so many years.


----------
"Are you slow? The alleged lie that you might have heard me saying, allegedly moments ago? That's a parasite that lives in my neck."
[ Parent ]
faith and crutches (3.00 / 1) (#158)
by persimmon on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 11:16:22 PM EST

If you don't have any faith then you have a serious crutch. There is no reason for right or wrong.
Having faith in Yahweh or deity-of-the-month doesn't preclude evildoing, and similarly, lack of faith doesn't irrevocably lead to such. Faith makes a fairly handy crutch for beating the crap out of people you don't like, or for your favourite charitable act.
There is no fear of doing what would otherwise be considered evil. It would be so easy to live without religion, do whatever you wanted without caring about others, nothing really matters so much except for yourself.
That sounds like "The only reason people don't do mean things is because they're afraid Yahweh will, yea verily, smite them down," ignoring that non-religious people are perfectly capable of forming codes of ethics without the help of religion, or of being sane, rational people, or just of not ending up as hedonistic psychotics, which it's quite possible for professed people of faith to end up as, despite having the spectre of a cosmic Daddy to spank them when they're naughty.
Besides, it's simple to dream up a hypothetical Dionysian-style faith whose main tenet is "All ye faithful, engage in psychotic hedonism", and there goes the neighborhood.
--
It's funny because it's a blancmange!
[ Parent ]
Wait a minute! (4.00 / 2) (#35)
by Faulty Dreamer on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 09:15:29 AM EST

Isn't it a little early to re-start the religious war here. Ah well, maybe I should take a K5 break for a while.

On the bright side, stirring the religion flame might be enough to shake the WTC after-effect.

No, this article is not fame-bait (in my opinion). But it seems religion cannot be brought up without SOMEONE going over the top into full blown rage.

--------
Faulty Dreams - Barking at the moon 24/7...

If you think I'm an asshole, it's only because you haven't realized what a fucking idiot I am. - Faulty Dreamer

just one link (4.00 / 1) (#36)
by pamri on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 09:23:30 AM EST

This portal has lots of articles about religion & esp., related religion & terrorism, about fear or paranoia after the attacks,etc. Very overwhelming, but a good read.

science vs religion vs faith (4.75 / 8) (#38)
by deadplant on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 09:41:23 AM EST

Science is not a religion.


re·li·gion

1.
. a. Belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe.
. b. A personal or institutionalized system grounded in such belief and worship.
2. The life or condition of a person in a religious order.
3. A set of beliefs, values, and practices based on the teachings of a spiritual leader.
4. A cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion.



As number 4 suggests, people can make a "religion" out of any activity, but science is not itself religous. Science is a logical methadology for expanding understanding. Science does not ask us to believe anything, it does not suggest any answers. It simply suggests a method of testing our own ideas against the observed 'reality'.In this way, science is diametrically opposed to religion and it's core component "faith". Faith (which so many major religions require) is all about control. Faith demands we accept ideas as absolute Truth in the absense of evidence, and often in the presence of contradictory evidence. That doesn't seem to be in the best interests of a reasonably intelligent person, relying on untested conclusions can be dangerous to your health and the well-being of those around you. Which is not to say that faith is all together bad, considering the proportion of humans that are rather stupid (or just ignorant, or irrational) faith is an important "civilizing" force.

So many of the answers the major religions provide are just plain wrong.(but what do you expect? their tomes were written by mere mortals thousands of years ago) I reject their answers. I'll rely on my own powers of observation and logic to guide my decisions, because, frankly, so far my logical reasoning has a much better track record of getting things right.

-Deadplant

Science is a religion (2.25 / 4) (#39)
by Ashcrow on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 10:13:48 AM EST

No, it is a religion by practice but not really by definition. It's not supose to be but it is and it is the States religion taught in public schools.


----------
"Are you slow? The alleged lie that you might have heard me saying, allegedly moments ago? That's a parasite that lives in my neck."
[ Parent ]
More than just a method (4.25 / 4) (#41)
by yonasa on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 10:27:38 AM EST

Strictly spaeking, scientific method involves a certain amount of faith, since there is no way to know that your theory is the right one. It's based on disproving things - or so I thought. I'm prepared to be proven wrong. Your theories are only good before someone else disproves you, but since you never know when or even if that's going to happen, you'll just have to rely on what you've found out as far as it goes. That's faith, believing in something that can never be proven, only disproven.

Also, the word "science" carries a whole load of cultural baggage, and it means more than just "the scientific method". It embodies all the scientific institutions, the things taught in school, the image of the scientific community, and even all the scientific hardware and inventions. Just as Christianity involves more than just the idea of there being a God, "science" has been taken to mean a lot more besides a rational methodology.

--

I wish I was more eloquent
[ Parent ]

partly true, but... (3.50 / 2) (#47)
by cheeze on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 11:35:40 AM EST

science relies on a tested-and-true method. the scientific method is a procedure to follow to find the truth. most religions have a book that are taken as the truth. as a scientist, i do not like to just blindly take the word of a book written by someone that i do not know. i would rather be able to use the scientific method to prove anything true (or false). not looking at the world for what it is leaves you blind to changing problems. even in science, some of the set-in-stone laws have changed. we used to think of the speed of light as a constant. we now know that it is not constant, but can be manipulated. religion relies on it's vague-ness. even things that have not been proven (hell, heaven, parting of waters) are taken as truth. there are no checks and balances in religion. none of the stuff can be proven, and therefore it might or might not be true. religious people take it as true because it gives them something to believe in.

[ Parent ]
Error, Bad Definition (5.00 / 4) (#44)
by ubernostrum on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 11:01:34 AM EST

1.
a. Belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe.
b. A personal or institutionalized system grounded in such belief and worship.

Unfortunately, that's not a good definition, since it only defines a very narrow band of religions which involve belief in a God. Among the major world religions today, that means basically Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and some sects of Hinduism. Then you have things like Buddhism, which (in many of its manifestations) is atheistic, Vedantic Hinduism, which is atheistic, the various forms of Taoism which don't particularly care if there's a God or not, etc. So belief in a supernatural power cannot be a unique identifier of religion, because there are plenty of things that we call `religion' which nonetheless involve no belief of that sort.

I also have to take you to task over your assertion that science does not involve faith - I'd like you to read a little philosophy of science, or just pick up any good skeptic like David Hume, and see just how faithless science really is - you don't ever think about it because science is based on assumptions about the world that you take for granted without evidence, but there is an element of faith in something which is untestable and unprovable. Does that make it a religion? That would depend on the definition. If you define religion as belief in and worship of God (which is a bad definition, as has already been shown), then it isn't. But if you define religion as, say, a system of beliefs and practices which are not entirely falsifiable or capable of being confirmed empirically, and which serve to relate us to the world and explain things to us (a better definition, though still incomplete and not entirely correct), then you see science slipping in under the religious umbrella.


--
You cooin' with my bird?
[ Parent ]

The only real assumptions of science.. (5.00 / 3) (#48)
by JetJaguar on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 11:38:59 AM EST

are that our 5 senses adequately represent the world we live in. That's about the only thing in science you have to take on faith, well that, and the idea that the physical laws are the same everywhere. So far there is only the tiniest amount of evidence that suggests that the physical laws might've changed slightly over time.

The rest of science is pretty much self-supporting. If something doesn't fit, or a better theory is found, the old is abandoned. Sometimes, the human side of science can get in the way of that, but it only delays the inevitable. The mere existance of some form of faith in science does not a religion make. The kind of faith that exists in science is often very different from the religious kind of faith (I'm not saying that "scientific faith" is necessarily better, I'm just saying it's different). What's unfortunate is that many working scientists don't always grasp this point, making it easier for others to make the science is religion claim.

[ Parent ]

Funny. (4.33 / 3) (#56)
by codepoet on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 12:18:48 PM EST

If something doesn't fit, or a better theory is found, the old is abandoned. Sometimes, the human side of science can get in the way of that, but it only delays the inevitable.

Sounds a whole lot like Catholicism to me. We felt that God was overpowering and spiteful at one point. We were shown better and dropped that belief. We felt that it was our duty to kill off people who didn't believe the way we did and were shown better, and dropped that belief. In fact, most of what Catholicism today is exists because we refined it in the above manner.

It would seem to me, then, that you can't say believing in only science isn't a form of religion if the very reason you say it's not one is practiced by one of the largest religions in the world. =)

Religion does not have to be supernatural or irrational. It's just a worldview. Mine is Catholicism, yours seems to be Science (with a capital, mind you). Embrace it; it's what you believe in.

"We're going to find out who did this and we're going after the bastards." --Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah
[ Parent ]

Why science is not a world view (5.00 / 4) (#122)
by JetJaguar on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 04:26:59 PM EST

First of all, let me say that elevating science to "Worldview" status is a dangerously nihilistic position to take. I'm not really all that comfortable with elevating religion, in general, to worldview status either, because somewhere along the line, all these worldviews always contradict each other, and in the end they can't all be right, and you're stuck with trying to figure out which one to choose, or you decide that there is no right one and then it doesn't matter which you choose...

Now, why isn't science a worldview? Well, let me put this way. When I say that I believe in science, I am talking about belief in the ability of the scientific process to elucidate useful information. I am not stating any particular belief or disbelief in any scientific theory, only that the scientific process gives us a way of learning about and describing certain aspects of the world we live in. So science is essentially nothing more than a tool, a useful tool, but not a worldview in and of itself. You can use the scientific process to help you form a worldview, but the process itself is just a tool.

This is where your argument kind of goes awry. The body of knowledge obtained by the scientific process is distinct from the process itself. The knowledge gained by science may point to certain kinds of worldviews, and you can even use science to help refine which worldviews fit best within our current body of knowledge, but that's about as close as you can get to making science into a worldview.

Your position also seems to imply that science and religion are mutually exclusive. The fact is I do have fairly strong religious beliefs, they are not necessarily of the established religion kind, but they are there none the less, and I arrived at them by using a scientific-like process (as best as I could apply it). Now, you might call that a scientific worldview, in that I've attempted to come to spiritual conclusions using a sort of scientific process, but the worldview I have isn't based on science, it's based on my observations of the world we live in and applying some scientific filtering where possible. As Carl Sagan once said, "Science is a way of trying not to fool yourself." That doesn't mean that applying science will give you the right answer immediately in every instance, or that it's even applicable to every situation, but it's just about the only semi-reliable starting point that we know about.

This is also exactly how science differs from religion. Religion often tries to state, more or less what the world is, often (though not always) using some form of revelation as the tool of devination. Science does the reverse. It does not start off a priori with an explanation of the world, science starts by observing the world we live in, and then attempts to explain it.

Now, it's my humble opinion that religion doesn't have to work the way it too often does. Religion could open itself up to more scientific-like thought. I would find most Christian religions much more palatable if they would open themselves up in this fashion. There's also a chance that loosening up a little bit would make the sort of changes that you have referred to a lot less bloody, although I don't think there's any gaurantee of that. We humans (even the most cutting edge scientists) can be remarkably resistant to change of any kind, especially when the salvation of one's soul may be on the line. But to me it only makes sense to try and inject a more thoughtful process for change and spiritual growth into religion. God gave us brains, and we shouldn't be afraid to use them.

Anyway, you can probably argue that I'm splitting hairs through all this, and maybe you're right. But I think the distinction is important.

[ Parent ]

Not just senses and consistency (4.66 / 3) (#93)
by ubernostrum on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 02:55:34 PM EST

The scientific method also takes as granted such things as the laws of causality, and, most notably, the scientific method takes for granted the validity of the scientific method. No matter what the system, something somewhere must be axiomatic, and in this case it's the method.

That's not to say that the scientific method is unreliable, or that it's on the same level as biblical literalism or other such nonsense as the foundation of a belief system, simply that it is taken for granted, because it's impossible to test the methods of science for effectiveness without using the methods of science to do so - this is the sort of tautology that lies at the heart of pretty much any belief system. That doesn't do anything bad to science, or change it in any way, but it does conflict with some rather naive views that some people hold of science, especially when they start looking down their noses at religion without realizing that in one important way they're building their system just as a religion does.


--
You cooin' with my bird?
[ Parent ]

Ok. (4.00 / 2) (#128)
by JetJaguar on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 04:58:02 PM EST

You're points are well taken, although I don't agree with them completely (although it may just be a matter of semantics).

However, I think the sticking point that I have is with the science is religion argument. Just because there may be a single point of intersection at their respective foundations doesn't make science into a religion, anymore that it makes religion into a science (or even puts either on equal footing with the other). That's not a statement of someone looking down their nose at religion, but a statement of someone who has a problem with people who use poor reasoning to turn what is essentially a useful tool into something that it can never be, simply because they are threatened that science might contradict what their religion tells them is "The Truth."

[ Parent ]

Depends on the definition (3.00 / 1) (#139)
by ubernostrum on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 06:54:27 PM EST

Like I said in my first reply in this thread, depending on how you define religion, science can rather easily fall into that category. We don't normally think of it that way, though.


--
You cooin' with my bird?
[ Parent ]

That's a rather broad definition... (4.00 / 1) (#211)
by khym on Sat Nov 03, 2001 at 09:46:53 PM EST

But if you define religion as, say, a system of beliefs and practices which are not entirely falsifiable or capable of being confirmed empirically, and which serve to relate us to the world and explain things to us (a better definition, though still incomplete and not entirely correct), then you see science slipping in under the religious umbrella.
If you make the definition of religion be that broad, then the pretty much all the world views of everyone who's ever lived can be considered religious. Even someone who's never really thought about religion of philosophy implicitly believes in things like causality and the validity of the senses, which can't be confirmed empirically; would that make this person religious? What exactly is the point of making "religion" be a synonym for "belief system"?

--
Give a man a match, and he'll be warm for a minute, but set him on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life.
[ Parent ]
What is religion? (4.00 / 1) (#287)
by ubernostrum on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 01:17:08 PM EST

Note that I said it was an incomplete and incorrect definition - the only claim I made was that as a definition of `religion' in general it was better than the claptrap about supernatural beliefs and worship that had been proposed.

And what is religion? Every religion I know of is certainly a belief system of some sort. And all of them generally have the purpose of providing explanations of the world and relating people to it and telling them how to function in it. Sometimes science falls into that category, and what's wrong with that, unless you feel that there's something inherently bad or inferior in the idea of `religion' that you don't want science associated with?


--
You cooin' with my bird?
[ Parent ]

Science / religion (3.75 / 4) (#53)
by Scrymarch on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 12:04:58 PM EST

The scientific method is not a religion. But people imbue science with religious properties. Most militant atheists I have met are in this category.

This is similar to the shaman in an animistic religion performing a useful task as part of a ritual.

[ Parent ]

random commentary (4.50 / 4) (#40)
by Luyseyal on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 10:15:54 AM EST

Stare at a common word like "stork" until it appears to be completely different, spelled wrong and alien in meaning. This is the purpose of the Zen koan, to comtemplate some absurd paradox until it actually appears to make sense.

I mentioned this book in a previous article and I'll mention it again. You should read Relevance Theory by Sperber and Wilson. It is a psychological account of how the brain processess logical and non-logical information. On their account, the stare-until-paradox phenomenon would be explained the same way that irony is. An intentionally false or misleading statement tells the brain to look elsewhere for meaning, perhaps even supplying some its own. So, staring at a word until it breaks down into sounds and symbols having no longer a logical referrent, the brain will then supply its own non-logical meaning.

the intentionally meaningless three-in-one-in-three nature of God.

Well, I guess it depends on which Christians you want to talk about. The messianic Jews in 1st century Jerusalem assuredly wouldn't call it so. I'll agree that the Greek converts probably would have accepted your thesis, but IIRC, Aquinas spilt a lot of ink on this one.

These days, you could explain it pretty easily with a simple type/token account in a first order language. That doesn't make it true, of course.

Christians need to remember that their ancient founders were themselves instructed to worship "no other gods."

It's pretty clear from the relevant passages in the Torah and subsequent interpretations by the canonical prophets and Talmud that the implication is that no other gods really exist. This is why there are little jokes about idol worship scattered throughout the texts.

Their idea was simple. Any god or deity which you can think up actually exists.

now that's funny. Just yesterday, my professor was explaining how platonic mathematicians hold that if you can think of a number, it exists. How cute.

seriously, though, the Egyptians certainly had their pogroms, racism, and other problems. It bothers me that you praise them and then conveniently forget their shortcomings.

Yeah, I haven't given any data for my counterclaims. Sue me.

-l

Tertullian (4.00 / 2) (#50)
by Pseudonym on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 11:48:46 AM EST

Well, I guess it depends on which Christians you want to talk about. The messianic Jews in 1st century Jerusalem assuredly wouldn't call it so. I'll agree that the Greek converts probably would have accepted your thesis, but IIRC, Aquinas spilt a lot of ink on this one.

Interestingly enough, on the topic of the trinity, Tertullian was on the record as saying "I believe it because it is impossible". If you've ever doubted that the idea is intended to be a koan, there you go.



sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
[ Parent ]
"Yeah, but" speech (4.00 / 2) (#112)
by Luyseyal on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 03:58:43 PM EST

Yeah, but Tertullian was an extremist on a lot of issues. The Catholic church's positon fell with Augustine and later Aquinas, though I'm not sure if they rubber-stamped any one solution.

Obvious response: Just because one guy thought it was a koan doesn't mean it was intended to be so. It is one interpretation it. That said, half of the Gospel of John is just flat out Greek-derived religion spliced into a Hebraic frame. All that talk of Logos and whatnot.

Anyway, that's why I answered all ambiguous like I did. It would be nice to have more commentary from the converted Jews of the time, but alas, it lacks.

-l

[ Parent ]
Understood... (none / 0) (#150)
by Pseudonym on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 08:52:12 PM EST

OK, it was late when I posted that. My real point is that the koan-like idea of certain Christian beliefs is not a new one.



sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
[ Parent ]
Random replies (4.00 / 2) (#141)
by localroger on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 07:04:45 PM EST

It's pretty clear from the relevant passages in the Torah and subsequent interpretations by the canonical prophets and Talmud that the implication is that no other gods really exist. This is why there are little jokes about idol worship scattered throughout the texts.

I think it's pretty clear from the context of the Exodus that, at the time of Moses, the Israelites certainly did think that other gods really existed. Remember where they had just come from. There is nothing at all in Exodus which is inconsistent with the idea that other gods are real -- only the command for JHVH's people to worship JHVH exclusively.

seriously, though, the Egyptians certainly had their pogroms, racism, and other problems. It bothers me that you praise them and then conveniently forget their shortcomings.

Since I have already written my four-part K5 article for this lifetime, I vastly simplified some of the surrounding issues. The Egyptians actually had an amazingly stable and tolerant society over long stretches of time, but nothing lasts 4,000 years without encountering the occasional bump.

For all the complaints levelled against them in the Bible, it is clear the Egyptians did not suppress the Israelite religion during their stay there. That is better behavior than many people get from their governments today.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

woah... bullshit detector... (4.60 / 10) (#42)
by BOredAtWork on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 10:42:31 AM EST

Islam is not as "advanced" and abstract a system as Christianity

So... this omnipotent being who is both loving father, strict disciplinarian and reason for existing isn't abstract to you? You're a better man than I. As well as most members of the clergy. As well as most Islamic clerics. I don't think you'll find a devout follower of either faith that claims to understand the true nature of God and His will. (Well, unless they're into the mind control game, ie David Koresh and Osama Bin laden, in which case they'll even know which way God prefers you to tie your shoes and brush your teeth).

Maybe you've forgotten, Judiasm/Islam/Christianity share much of the old testament, which focuses mostly on God, while the new testament/Koran focus mainly on Jesus and Mohammed, both in the category of "not god but still divine and not simply another mortal." People spend their entire lives trying to understand the nature of God in BOTH Islam and Christianity. Whether it's a worthy way to spend your days is a whole different argument, but don't pigeonhole Islam as unadvanced just because it's not prevalent in the society you were raised in.

the Koran is quite concrete with its (sometimes loony sounding) promises and advice.

Um... "Thou shalt not kill." Four monosyllable words. A direct command. How much more concrete do you think advice for living can get?

Islam and christianity both have promises of an undefined heaven. They both suggest various ways one "should" act. Islam says not to consume alcohol. Christianity (catholicism, anyways) teaches to abstain from meat on certain fridays. Both condem masturbation and physical attraction to anyone but your spouse. Hell, they both suggest self starvation ("fasting") as a way to please God. Sounds like an objective person could find "loony" advice in either faith...

Mohammad also clearly created Islam and its scripture in a climate of war, so the religion reflects the realities of such an environment.

And the roman occupation of half the known world was peaceful? Hardly. Christianity was born in much the same conditions as Islam. Oppressed people, desparate for hope and a savior found what they were looking for in Jesus and Mohammed. Whether you feel Jesus or Mohammed WERE truly sent by God is between you and God. However, the fact is, christianity and islam both were born during times of conflict, and both arose first among the downtrodden and depressed in the worst of environments.

It was further refined and divided into quarrelsome factions during internecine squabbling after the Mohammad's death. (This is where distinctions like Sunni and Shiite Islam came into being.) Unlike Christianity, Islam had no clear winner in this conflict and so all the players are still around to bicker and fume today.

Put Bob Jones and Pope John Paul II in the same room, and tell me there's not a conflict today in Christianity. There's thousands, some big, some small. Ever been to Ireland? Protestants and Catholics, at war for as long as anyone can remember. Ever known a traditional southern baptist? And tried to convince them that the Catholic mass really DOES change that bread into a chunk of Jesus's skin? Good luck. Lutheran, Presbyterian, Orthodox Catholic, Roman Catholic, Baptist, Evangelical, Methodist, Protestant and nondenominational. All out there, all flourishing, all finding fault with eachother at various places. Sorry to disappoint you, but Islam is fractioned as much as Christianity and no more. Maybe less. Islam has various denominations. Christianity has various denominations. Islam has assholes like Bin Laden, and Christianity has assholes like Pat Robertson. (I'd pay for a ticket to that 12 rounder...) Pretty similar, as far as I can see. <hr>

I'm not disagreeing with your conclusion. Religion does take many forms, among many different types of people. But, you seem to be dismissing Islam as something more primative than Christianity for a decent percentage of this article. And it's really weakened the entire thing.

Wrong (3.40 / 5) (#43)
by Vladinator on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 10:56:43 AM EST

I stoped reading here: "both in the category of "not god but still divine and not simply another mortal."

Jesus is part of the Trinity, he is God made man.
--
LRSE Hosting
[ Parent ]
The mystery of faith (4.25 / 4) (#45)
by BOredAtWork on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 11:35:19 AM EST

Well, at least in the Catholic church, that's called the "Mystery Of Faith." The Blessed Trinity is something we're not really meant to understand, nor will we ever, I don't think. God himself is eternal (assuming we're buying into christianity, here), hence, can never "die". Jesus died. So... Jesus wasn't precisely God, but rather a part of God, or an extention of God. The gospels use the word "son" for lack of anything better to describe the relationship, at least, that's the logic of some biblical scholars I've heard. The whole "son of god" term causes plenty of arguments, even among the clergy today. Nobody really knows exactly what the relationship is. More of that "My ways are not the ways that you would chose, my thoughts are far beyond yours" stuff God throws at us from time to time (again, assuming a christian belief system).

[ Parent ]
You're quite close (4.20 / 5) (#69)
by Vladinator on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 01:13:43 PM EST

The Church teaches us that Jesus is in fact both 100% man and 100% God. Jesus did die, but defeated death - and ascended into heaven, still living - just as Mary was assumed into heaven (those of you who don't accept this, I understand your objection - this is a matter that Catholics take on faith and tradition - just as many of you take other things on a tradition basis) rather than dieing here on Earth. There are so many difficulties in translating the Bible into English, and some of it's passages DO take on unintended meanings sometimes just because of that. I may write a good article on some of these, explaining the Church's position on things that I think many are confused on... Now, if I can just eliminate sleeping from my schedule to find the time to write that article... ;-)
--
LRSE Hosting
[ Parent ]
Wrong? (4.00 / 2) (#142)
by phliar on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 07:10:47 PM EST

I stoped reading here: "both in the category of "not god but still divine and not simply another mortal."

Jesus is part of the Trinity, he is God made man.

That would be the Nicene Creed, and would be one of Islam's points of divergence from Christianity.

The Islamic doctrine (as explained by grandparents to children) is that Christ was a prophet of God; but his followers (in the next 300 years) went astray from The Truth and started worshipping him as holy. This required God to sent down another prophet, Mohammed. (Just as Moses had been a prophet, and his followers had gone astray, requiring Christ to be sent down.)

And the line continues: the Mormons believe God sent down Joseph Smith as yet another prophet.


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

The Irish issue (4.00 / 4) (#54)
by jolly st nick on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 12:09:14 PM EST

The Irish problem is not religious. Theological issues like justification do not drive the separation of the parties. It's more that the "Catholics" consider themselves ethnically Irish and the "Protestants" consider themselves ethinically British. The contestants themselves clearly identify themselves are "Republicans" and "Loyalists", but for some reason we outsiders tend to boil it down to religion.

I had a discussion with an imam recently on this topic. His point was that people conflate the dictates of their religion and their culture. Some African muslims practice female circumcision and believe it to be an Islamic practice; however this practice is completely unknown throughout most of the muslim world. In fact, some writers have pointed out that you can read the Quran as laying a duty on muslim males to give their wives sexual pleasure ("Keep not your wife in suspense.").



[ Parent ]

re: The Irish issue (5.00 / 2) (#220)
by kjb on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 03:19:56 AM EST

The Irish problem is not religious. Theological issues like justification do not drive the separation of the parties. It's more that the "Catholics" consider themselves ethnically Irish and the "Protestants" consider themselves ethinically British.

This statement is too much of a generalization. I can't speak to the "Catholic" side of this, but the "Protestants" in Northern Ireland I know most definitely do consider themselves to be "Irish". My relatives in Northern Ireland, for instance, who (from what I've seen) consider themselves to be staunch "Unionists", most definitely consider themselves to be "Irish".

--
Now watch this drive.
[ Parent ]

Interesting (4.00 / 2) (#311)
by jolly st nick on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 11:44:29 PM EST

But I still contend its not theology, but ethnic identity. It seems to me to have more to do with which side of the Battle of Boyne your ancestors fought in than in any kind of religious issue per se.

[ Parent ]
I agree (5.00 / 1) (#314)
by kjb on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 02:49:53 AM EST

But I still contend its not theology, but ethnic identity. It seems to me to have more to do with which side of the Battle of Boyne your ancestors fought in than in any kind of religious issue per se.

You are correct in what you say. There were "Protestants" who fought on the "nationalist" side, and "Catholics" who fought on the "loyalist" side.

I remember something my father said about the whole ridiculous "Protestant"/"Catholic" thing, when he relayed a conversation he heard. It went something like this:
"Are you Catholic or Protestant?"
"Neither, I'm Jewish"
"Yes, but are you Catholic or Protestant?"

I think that sums up what you said pretty well.

--
Now watch this drive.
[ Parent ]

Not criticizing Islam (4.00 / 2) (#65)
by Shpongle Spore on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 12:51:48 PM EST

...but don't pigeonhole Islam as unadvanced just because it's not prevalent in the society you were raised in.

He would only be pideonholing Islam by saying it's less advanced if being less advanced were bad. The article as a whole is actually pretty critical of newer religions:

The ancient religious understood that religion follows the epiphany. Modern religions in their art-nouveau purity have forgotten where they came from, which is why they lose followers...

If anything, calling Christianity more advanced than Islam is a criticism of Christianity for staying too far from the fundamentals of what make religions effective.
__
I wish I was in Austin, at the Chili Parlor bar,
drinking 'Mad Dog' margaritas and not caring where you are
[ Parent ]

Islam (4.75 / 8) (#62)
by jolly st nick on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 12:48:32 PM EST

I think you need to make a better study of Islam.

The relationship of the Islam to war is very complex, both in a theological and historical sense. The pre-islamic arabs lived in a constant state of low level war -- a kind of incessant banditry and blood feuding. Initially, Mohammed's message was one of peacemaking and brotherhood. However when he escaped assasination in Mecca and escaped to Medina (the hijra), they had an immense practical problem. They had left their goods and had no means of support in Medina, so they fell back on the old standby of raiding caravans -- the caravans of the Meccans who exiled them.

I believe what brings people to Islam is peace -- which is what the very word Islam means (Arabic salaam == Hebrew shalom == peace). However the Quran provides them plenty of material for use in times of war. During the years the prophet spent in Medina, the prophet personally fought in many battles, and these grew from caravan raids to full fledged campaigns of conquest and subjugation of unbelievers. Later verses in the Quran frankly contradict earlier ones (which they are meant to supercede); however sorting this out is left as an excercise for the believer. Not only is it unclear which specific verses (if any) are superceded by any particular verse, it is not known with any certainty the order in which the verses were composed. So, as you say, it all comes down to people.

Getting to your point about religion, which I think is interesting, the case of Islam is an good counter example. The prophet's role was threefold: he was first a messenger of God, secondly he was a lawgiver and legal reformer, third he was a political and military leader.

Religions are systems of ideas that exist out there; once they are embedded in people's heads, there is not telling exactly what their boundaries are or what purposes (beyond the personal purposes of the believer) they serve.

Finally, I suggest you research sufism, since it seems to be a good fit with your interests in comparative theology. Sufism is seen by its practicioners as the inner dimension of of Islam -- the believer's quest for a mystical union with God. Their spiritual practices will be of interest to people interested in, for example Buddhist practices aimed at overcoming the ego and experiencing enlightenment.

let me nit-pick (3.66 / 3) (#79)
by persimmon on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 01:43:33 PM EST

I thought "Islam" meant "submission". As in, "submission to the will of Allah". Summary (not mine) here.
--
It's funny because it's a blancmange!
[ Parent ]
Yes, (4.00 / 4) (#96)
by jolly st nick on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 03:01:31 PM EST

From the same semitic root though.

[ Parent ]
Same root (none / 0) (#349)
by vectro on Thu Nov 15, 2001 at 01:29:35 PM EST

Well, symmetric and asymmetric are from the same latin root. Dosen't mean they have the same meaning.

“The problem with that definition is just that it's bullshit.” -- localroger
[ Parent ]
religion and leaders, leadership (3.50 / 2) (#169)
by ragnarok on Sat Nov 03, 2001 at 05:09:58 AM EST

The prophet's role was threefold: he was first a messenger of God, secondly he was a lawgiver and legal reformer, third he was a political and military leader.

I was just thinking, isn't that true also of Moses as we see him in the Torah? It has to be said, though, that it isn't true of Gotama Shakyamuni the Buddha. In the Indian religious tradition, it was perfectly okay for people to take time out of the rat-race to try to find "god", however they defined it.

Nor was it true of the founder of the Jain religion. What is interesting though, is that the founders of both neo-Indian religions were on their own, powerful individuals who had experience leading people.

And in the case of Mithraism, it was the Bhakti worship of a soldier's god related to the shift in the houses of the Zodiac that had become apparent around CE.0. It depended on no one individual, yet it shared many of the features of Christianity and gave it a very good run for its money in the first centuries of the CE.

So like I say, and will continue to say - religion is a social glue. How it turns out does depend on who and where and how it is applied.


"And it came to healed until all the gift and pow, I, the Lord, to divide; wherefore behold, all yea, I was left alone....", Joseph Smith's evil twin sister's prophecies
[ Parent ]
Religion (4.40 / 15) (#64)
by trhurler on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 12:50:12 PM EST

First off, as others have pointed out, a lot of this is just flat out ridiculous(speculation on the relative abstraction of Christianity vs Islam, etc.)

Second, the purpose of religion is not to make people feel good, empowered, etc. It is a shortcut that accomodates the fact that knowledge is gained over many human lifetimes, while also accomodating the contradictory fact that people have a need to understand. Needless to say, in order to bridge contradictions, you use either a falsehood or something that is beyond logic - falsehoods are exposed too quickly, so religion must be beyond logic, or at least beyond disproof. And so it is.

There are a number of problems with this "solution," not least of which is that it probably isn't correct; it is tempting to say that 2000 years ago or 6000 years ago or whatever, God spoke to His people, but why is that any more credible than the claim that God spoke to David Koresh or the son of Sam guy? Why is it credible that an out of work carpenter with a personality cult was the son of God, but not credible that you are or I am? Why is it credible that Mohammed(sp?) had a revelation from Allah, but not that Mullah Omar has them? It isn't - but many wish to believe otherwise purely on the basis of which of those individuals they perceive as being "good" or "nice" or whatever, and they hold the implicit view that if enough of them believe, that makes the viewpoint "reasonable," and of course they then (wrongly) equate "reasonable" with "true." (I would argue about "reasonable" itself, but that's neither here nor there.)

The biggest problem, though, is quite simple: religion is mostly harmless to anyone except the devout until it becomes organized. There is no real need for organization in a faith, but it IS needed if you want the majority to participate, because otherwise, many of them simply won't be bothered. However, as soon as you organize, you create positions of power - not just over money or time or land, but over what people think, want, dream of, and so on. This is why religion has been the single greatest destructive force in human history - because it is the single greatest concentration of power, and it is in the hands of MEN, not deities.

By the way, there is ample anecdotal evidence for my claims as to the purpose of religion. The scientist who is devout seems a contradiction - until you realize that he is even more aware than most of us that he will never have all the answers. The ignoramus who denies all interest in learning - why would he want answers? Because he's lying, of course. He doesn't lack interest, but rather doesn't believe he can find answers - but why does he need to, when he can get his answers from on high? The athiest who insists on there being no God - he's religious too, you know - and it makes perfect sense. If you can't know everything, and you know that - then why not share the suffering with as many people as you can? Ever notice the glee he has in his eyes when he's beating up on other peoples' beliefs? The "social believer" phenomenon in the US and elsewhere? Well, when your education and exposure to ideas is great enough that you know what real knowledge is, only a select few have the (ability/curse/whatever you call it,) to still really believe. Most become doubters, which is almost certainly why every major religion has had at one time or another an underlying "simplicity, innocence, and ignorance are virtues, and knowledge is a tool of evil" theme running through it. But of course, failure to really believe does not necessarily mean you don't want to believe, or that you want anyone else to know of this "failing" on your part, or even to admit it to yourself. This weakens the power of religious leaders, because you're not a fanatic, but it certainly doesn't get rid of religion, and in some few cases, "the lady doth protest too much." Those are the ones that make the evening news.

I believe in the one thing that is verifiably true: I don't have all the answers, nor do I have answers for any of the "big questions," and I'm never going to - not because there aren't any answers(I don't know whether there are,) but because nobody has them yet, or will anytime soon. You can say I'm right or wrong about anything else, but if you don't agree with me on this one, you're participating in humanity's oldest con game.

Of course, if that's the truth, then your religion's founders, leaders, and other guiding lights have already rendered you immune to such analysis as mine; by now, you are already thinking of Satan's influence on me, of how I am a liar, of how I am deceived, and so on. Convenient, is it not, to have an undisprovable system of thought that accomodates all the possibilities?

Of course, belief in an invisible, intangible, inaudible, odorless giant amoeba with a big brain in the middle is just such a system, which illustrates the problem: in being beyond evidence, it is also beyond any human verification whatsoever - and it was, no doubt, introduced by a human.

God is dead. Long live God.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

A slightly different viewpoint (3.83 / 6) (#74)
by jolly st nick on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 01:30:27 PM EST

I have a slightly different viewpoint about religion. Religious questions are those that are basically a matter of opinion. Scientific questions are ones with disprovable answers.

Over time, our ability to answer questions like, "What keeps the moon in the sky" change. They are no longer religious, but scientific questions.

On the other hand, some issues which will forever remain issues of religion. For example:

p1. It is important to be kind to people.

The answer to this is purely a matter of opinion. There are, in fact, people who have developed philosophical frameworks based on selfishness, for whom the answer to this question is "No, unless it is instrumental in gaining me future pleasure or averting future pain." This viewpoint is equally if not more consistent than the mainstream viewpoint. However there's no arguing this one way or the other -- or at least no form of fruitful argument. It's all arguing over religious axioms.

Take for example these words:

p2. We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men were created equal...

What makes these word powerful is that they are a sword which divides humanity into two camps: those who believe in the equal dignity of all individuals before the law, and those who believe that royalty and aristocracy have inherent rights over the commoners. This is the function of a religious creed, to divide the people who are in from the people who are out. In the end, I think this is a religious question. People argue around it by staking out positions based on economics, politics and history, but it comes down to this: either you believe that its OK for society to be organized for the benefit of a few or an individual, or you don't. Would you want to be ruled by an absolute king, even if it were for your own good?



[ Parent ]

I think you are mistaken on a couple of points (4.60 / 5) (#80)
by trhurler on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 01:44:00 PM EST

Religious questions are those that are basically a matter of opinion.
Notice that religious people dispute this. Religion never claims to be a matter of opinion.
There are, in fact, people who have developed philosophical frameworks based on selfishness,
And who may or may not have nonreligious, reasoned support for that position. The fact that altruism and similar positions are in general an unsupportable pie in the sky daydream does not mean that all ethical positions are such; one must carefully distinguish between characteristics of a given problem and characteristics of some particular solution, and not ascribe those of one to the other.
It's all arguing over religious axioms.
If this were true, humanity would be long extinct. Lucky guesses are not sufficient to propel a species to the heights we've reached - or at least, it isn't statistically reasonable to believe in such a thing.
either you believe that its OK for society to be organized for the benefit of a few or an individual, or you don't.
Do you really think there are no reasons, and that this is an irreducible question? It isn't. It can't be, because it is a question whose answer depends on things, such as "what kind of entity is a man?"

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
If you say so... (3.80 / 5) (#94)
by jolly st nick on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 02:59:28 PM EST

>Religious questions are those that
>are basically a matter of opinion.
Notice that religious people dispute this. Religion never claims to be a matter of opinion.

Hah! Nice point. But you are way over the top if you use words like "never". Many religious folks are mild mannered and quite tolerant of people who think differently. They aren't all raving fundamentalist fanatics.

And who may or may not have nonreligious, reasoned support for that position.

Yes, there's always, economic, social, historical and other reasons to believe in one proposition or another. However in general these are never sufficient in a logical sense to prove the question at hand in a conclusive manner, except to somebody who has already committed to the position. Which is why these points are taken as axiomatic by people who think these things through (even by people with the initials AR). In any case, the problem is human cognition. Forget the way you were taught at school about how people think or are supposed to think. That's ivory tower baloney. For a good cognitive science treatment this subject, I recommend G. Klein's Sources of Power which has a view of decision making actually based on scientific field work, not philosophical noodling.

The fact that altruism and similar positions are in general an unsupportable pie in the sky

Well, so you say; I may disagree with you, but it's a matter of opinion. ;-)

If this were true, humanity would be long extinct. Lucky guesses are not sufficient to propel a species to the heights we've reached -

Darwin might disagree with you there... All our ancestor species got where they were by random processes; the most successful animal species on the planet (judging by biomass) is probably some form of termite -- and they got where they were by random processes as well. You are judging the endurance of our species in terms of human life times, not evolutionary timeframes. From an evolutionary standpoint we're an extremely new species, a few tens of thousands of years old at most. Time will tell whether we become as venerable as the shark or the crocodile.

or at least, it isn't statistically reasonable to believe in such a thing.

It's very reasonable. You can't analyze such results post hoc, because if we weren't here we wouldn't be around to ask the question. Maybe 999/1000 species that think the way we do end up extinct (actually every species ends up extinct, but that's a separate line of argument). In any case, while individual lives are precarious indeed, humans are adaptable like rats and cockroaches. It's easy to kill them but hard to eradicate them.

Do you really think there are no reasons, and that this is an irreducible question? It isn't. It can't be, because it is a question whose answer depends on things, such as "what kind of entity is a man?"

Yes, yes, but if you follow the thread long enough, you end up where you started. It's all circular. Monarchists weren't necessarily stupid, you know, they had and alternative viewpoint that in some cases was well reasoned.



[ Parent ]
Generic subject line here (4.40 / 5) (#114)
by trhurler on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 04:01:34 PM EST

But you are way over the top if you use words like "never".
I don't think so. Even the most mild mannered, considerate true believer does not allow that he might be mistaken; he simply is less concerned with whether other people agree with him. Anyone who says he might be wrong is not really all that religious.
However in general these are never sufficient in a logical sense to prove the question at hand in a conclusive manner
Which could be taken to mean that existing evidence is insufficient, that existing analysis is insufficient, OR that these are merely matters of subjective viewpoint. The latter is the least likely to be true, because the first two are both quite probable, whereas the last requires that large aspects of human nature be essentially undefined.
For a good cognitive science treatment this subject
I don't believe I've ever seen anything "good" come from anything called "cognitive science." If and when that changes, I'll gladly say so, but so far, it looks an awful lot like the alchemy (or more recently, the social sciences) of the 21st century. That which calls itself a science, almost never is.
has a view of decision making actually based on scientific field work
Too bad we have no psychology or neuroscience sufficient to actually let us scientifically investigate such a complex phenomenon as decision making in any rigorous manner, eh? Can you say "crackpot pseudoscience?"
Darwin might disagree with you there...
Not quite. There is a difference between evolution and intentional action, and we do the latter, not the former. For all intents and purposes, we're so successful and have it so easy that evolutionary pressures on us simply do not exist, and haven't for at least a few hundred years. This may change, and it may not, but trying to apply evolutionary models to the rise of our modern civilization is foolery. (Similarly, comparing our achievements to those of sharks(species longevity) or termites(sheer biomass) is absurd; these things are in no way similar.)
Maybe 999/1000 species that think the way we do end up extinct
Consider the number of make or break points we've had, and how many of them were really quite tough, not just 50-50 coin tosses. Multiply out those probabilities, and even though neither of us has the exact answer, you'll quickly have a number larger than the number of protons in the universe. At that point, hopefully you'll be convinced that this is not a reasonable probability to have ever just "happened that way." 1000/1 doesn't even begin to matter on the scale we're talking.
It's easy to kill them but hard to eradicate them.
Yes, but only because they tend to make good decisons quite frequently. The fact that people are so resilient and adaptable is precisely what I am saying is not merely a matter of luck; the argument against this seems truly silly to me. Yes, it may be luck that we evolved the way we did(and it may not, we don't know,) but it is not luck that we do what we do, given that evolution.
Yes, yes, but if you follow the thread long enough, you end up where you started.
To paraphrase an old joke, "What you mean "we," white man?"

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Philosophy foo yung (3.00 / 5) (#127)
by jolly st nick on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 04:47:02 PM EST

I don't think so. Even the most mild mannered, considerate true believer does not allow that he might be mistaken; he simply is less concerned with whether other people agree with him. Anyone who says he might be wrong is not really all that religious.

I hope you realize you are arguing circularly here. Religious people are closed minded. Therefore people who are open minded are not religious whether they think they are or not.

Which could be taken to mean that existing evidence is insufficient, that existing analysis is insufficient, OR that these are merely matters of subjective viewpoint. The latter is the least likely to be true, because the first two are both quite probable, whereas the last requires that large aspects of human nature be essentially undefined.

The phrase "Human Nature" is like the phrase "The Geography of Asia". It covers a lot of ground. This gets back to your earlier point about "what kind of entity is man". The tricky thing is where are you going to start, and what points are you going to take as the salient ones? This is why people who try to reason out the nature of man from first principles always end up going astray: they are confronted with the unmanageable immensity of Asia, so they end up doing all their research in Chinatown.

I don't believe I've ever seen anything "good" come from anything called "cognitive science." If and when that changes, I'll gladly say so, but so far, it looks an awful lot like the alchemy (or more recently, the social sciences) of the 21st century. That which calls itself a science, almost never is.

And exactly how are you supposed to know when things "change" if you aren't open to learning new things? At the very least, the person who goes out and looks and tests a hypothesis is infinitely more scientific than somebody who tries to reason everything from first principles.

Consider the number of make or break points we've had, and how many of them were really quite tough, not just 50-50 coin tosses. Multiply out those probabilities, and even though neither of us has the exact answer, you'll quickly have a number larger than the number of protons in the universe. At that point, hopefully you'll be convinced that this is not a reasonable probability to have ever just "happened that way." 1000/1 doesn't even begin to matter on the scale we're talking.

This is perhaps another area of circular reasoning. We are reasoning beings. How do we know this? Because we managed our affairs in such a way that the species has survived. Rational behavior is that which leads to survival. QED.

Ok, so -- are rats reasoning beings? Of course not. Has their behavior lead to survival. Yes. But that's different from the rational processes that humans have used to survive. How? Here we are adrift in Asia once more. Our advancement as a species is due to a number of traits we share with rats (geographic mobility, ability to adapt to and modify our environment, adaptability to new foods, climates etc.). Other aspects of our advancement have to do with our prodigious brains. How we got here is complicated. All I know is that I've never seen a convincing argument that fits on a bumper sticker.

In any case, it would help your argument no end if you had specific excamples of these cosmimc 50/50 decisions in which people held the fate of the species in their hand. So far as I can see, once modern humans left Africa and spread like wildfire to the farthest reaches of Europe and Asia, nobody has ever had the ability to kill more than, say 1% of the human populace until some time in the mid 1960s. It is not clear even now that it would be possible for humans to completely eradicate ourselves.

Yes, but only because they tend to make good decisons quite frequently.

It's good to see that you have faith in human reason ;-)

>Yes, yes, but if you follow the thread
>long enough, you end up where you started.

To paraphrase an old joke, "What you mean "we," white man?"

Just keep following the thread -- if you don't just stick to the places you already know and are confortable with, you'll see eventually.

[ Parent ]

Hmm... (3.80 / 5) (#135)
by trhurler on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 06:26:29 PM EST

I hope you realize you are arguing circularly here.
If you mean to say that there's a tautology involved, then while I agree with you, it is hard to say why you disagreed with me before; do you make a habit of denying tautologies?:)
This is why people who try to reason out the nature of man from first principles always end up going astray: they are confronted with the unmanageable immensity of Asia, so they end up doing all their research in Chinatown.
It is my belief that a combination of derived reasoning and empirical studies are the only way we're ever really going to fully understand, and that we're not yet in a position to do so in any case. I could be wrong, but that's my best guess. That said, I do not believe purely empirical efforts are going to get very far, because they have the opposite problem: they map out every little nook and cranny of the continent, but they then tend to assume the big picture is a mountain here and a tree there, rather than constructing a proper map. This is particularly true of contemporary "cognitive science," which is mainly the insistance that we can understand the mind by measuring brain responses in crude ways and looking at inputs and outputs as though there's some finite state machine in between. One thing that is abundantly clear to me is that even if the mind were a finite state machine(it probably is, in some literalist description, but probably doesn't function as one, and probably has a lot more states than we can practically treat in this way,) it is well beyond input/output analysis.
And exactly how are you supposed to know when things "change" if you aren't open to learning new things?
I do read this and that. I'm generally disappointed, give up for awhile, and then get back to it, only to be disappointed again.
In any case, it would help your argument no end if you had specific excamples of these cosmimc 50/50 decisions in which people held the fate of the species in their hand.
It isn't any one person. It is all of us, every day, all the time. An animal of most sorts has few choices; most of its activities are driven by pleasure/pain signals, instincts, and Pavlovian learning. People have choices; you aren't forced to eat just because you're hungry, or to have sex just because you're horny, or to sleep just because you're tired; you aren't forced to fight or flee when in danger, and so on. That we have survived that for a long time says a lot about how we make those choices, even if they're rarely optimal. That was my point.
It is not clear even now that it would be possible for humans to completely eradicate ourselves.
Salt a megaton thermonuclear device with a certain cobalt isotope, detonate it, and within a few months, there will be little or no multicellular life left on earth, roaches included, and certainly no humans. Why has nobody built such a thing? Assuming they haven't, what would be the point? You hardly need more deterrance than we already have, so why even allow the slightest risk that such a thing could ever go off? The scary part is, in my lifetime it is entirely possible that someone like you or me could construct such a thing. It gets easier every day.

Unlike the movies, by the way, that scenario would not allow you to hide out and survive in well stocked bunkers, unless you had the resources to terraform the earth when you came back out. You see, plants would most all be gone too by then, and you kind of need those...

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Circularity (4.50 / 2) (#180)
by jolly st nick on Sat Nov 03, 2001 at 10:14:19 AM EST

I'm interested to see you don't deny your argument is circular.

You do realize that tautologies are true by form and not by their content don't you? Technically speaking symbols in a tautology are bound which means they can be replaced throughout without affecting the truth of the argument. You can use the same formal argument to make assertions about the hair color of martians or the mating habits of objectivists.

This is my problem with your mode of arguing. You assume definitions that are uniquely restricted in ways that make your argument true, then act as if the validity of your argument give insights into the truth of your definitions. Unfortunately they can give no insight into anything but their own formal structure. If you accept the definition of "religious" implies "closed minded", then religious implies closed minded by modus ponens. If you accept that if today is "Saturday", then tommorow it will rain blue jello, then Saturday implies Sunday-with-blue-jello-rain. The fact that it all holds together says nothing about the truth of the original Saturday->Sunday-blue-jello argument.

This is not logic in the service of reason; this is logic used as a rhetorical blugeon to support your unfounded opinions. Logical consistency is relatively less important than empirical data. You apparent a priori contempt for people who have made empirical studies of human thinking is a red flag.

Salt a megaton thermonuclear device with a certain cobalt isotope, detonate it, and within a few months, there will be little or no multicellular life left on earth, roaches included, and certainly no humans.

OK, I don't want to go down this side road, which is just a red herring. I'll just note three things. (1)This doesn't correspond even closely to your idea of history being a long series of 50/50 trials with human survival in the balance. It's not like it is possible to get the resources to build, test and deploy something like this by accident, and even on purpose it has only been possible for a few decades. (2) It's pretty weak evidence of human rationality, when you consider that we haven't found the will to limit nuclear proliferation, and we haven't to date done a very good job of ensuring nuclear materials don't fall into the hand of terrorists. The trial on this proposition is not over yet -- we still live with nuclear weapons. (3) If we accept your definition of human rationality as that which leads to survival, it still does not bear on the issue of human equality, except in a vague rhetorical manner.

I'm not arguing against the idea of human equality or even human rationality, just your invalid mode of argument. It's not necessarily that your conclusions are wrong, they are just unfounded.



[ Parent ]

More (none / 0) (#281)
by trhurler on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 12:40:56 PM EST

You do realize that tautologies are true by form and not by their content don't you?
Now you're either forgetting what we were talking about or hoping nobody else will notice. I said that religion precludes the belief that you might be wrong. You disagreed, and then when I pointed out that all I had done was cite one aspect of religion which is true by definition, you're now trying to say that is meaningless because it is by definition. If you want to be silly, that's your business, but don't expect me not to notice.
You can use the same formal argument to make assertions about the hair color of martians or the mating habits of objectivists.
Except for two minor details. One, that formal logic as defined by academics has at this point a discontinuity with reality(ie, statements for which the symbols have no root in experience and therefore no real meaning are always false or at best indeterminate(when the symbols have some intended meaning, but no root in experience,) but logic says otherwise,) and two, that if we move away from less ridiculous examples, there is nothing WRONG with the situation. For instance, I could as well have said "a chair is meant to be sat upon." Yes, you can claim that there's nothing much there, since this is part of the definition of "chair," but if you disagree with the statement(you did, as you may recall,) YOU are the one who has made a mistake.
You assume definitions that are uniquely restricted in ways that make your argument true
I assume that religious people are religious, yes. If we were talking about a scientific or otherwise sceptical worldview, I would assume that they were not religious, but we're not. What, specifically, do you find fault with here?
If you accept the definition of "religious" implies "closed minded"
You are equating "closed minded" with "certain." The two do not mean the same thing. Certain people think they may refer to the same set of things, but not everyone does, and they certainly do not have the same meaning.
Logical consistency is relatively less important than empirical data.
Without logical consistency, your data may be good, but your analysis is not.
You apparent a priori contempt for people who have made empirical studies of human thinking is a red flag.
I'm quite happy with empirical studies - when there's some connection between them and the conclusions they draw. For instance, if you measure red shift and use other tricks to determine relative velocities and pinpoint distances of stars, your results are accurate or not for a reason. On the other hand, when some so-called scientist measures reaction times while playing various kinds of music and then makes broad claims about the effect of various kinds of sound on the human mind, his results mean absolutely NOTHING except that certain people reacted a certain way on a certain day, and even if he found some relative invariant(unlikely,) his explanation would be nothing but guesswork, because the theory to comprehend the data does not exist. Why you have a huge problem with this is beyond me; randomly gathering data in "scientifically controlled" ways is not "experimentation" and does not produce "results." In general, the social sciences are long on fitting theories to existing data points and short on the ability to use those theories to predict anything, which suggests to this scientific mind that their theories are "wrong" and that they are "frauds."
This doesn't correspond even closely to your idea of history being a long series of 50/50 trials
Apparently this is your idea of my idea, because my idea does not fit that description in any way.
It's pretty weak evidence of human rationality, when you consider that we haven't found the will to limit nuclear proliferation,
Nuclear weapons aren't going to end our species. There are worse threats, and they aren't manmade. Keeping some of them around might even make sense, as horrifying as that may be to you.
If we accept your definition of human rationality as that which leads to survival, it still does not bear on the issue of human equality, except in a vague rhetorical manner.
Lots of things can lead to survival, but for people, rational behavior is necessary. Some people can be irrational, but only if others take care of them. This particular fact does in fact bear quite heavily on the issue of human equality; the equality of outcome peoples' position is outright destroyed by it, and the equality of opportunity people are vindicated.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
More silliness, if you will. (5.00 / 1) (#305)
by jolly st nick on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 06:06:35 PM EST

Now you're either forgetting what we were talking about or hoping nobody else will notice. I said that religion precludes the belief that you might be wrong. You disagreed, and then when I pointed out that all I had done was cite one aspect of religion which is true by definition, you're now trying to say that is meaningless because it is by definition. If you want to be silly, that's your business, but don't expect me not to notice.

Well, as long as we stipulate that we are talking about your personal definition of religion, I'm OK with your reasoning. I just don't think it tells us anything about the truths of your assertions when they interpreted as setences in the English language.

For instance, I could as well have said "a chair is meant to be sat upon." Yes, you can claim that there's nothing much there, since this is part of the definition of "chair," but if you disagree with the statement(you did, as you may recall,) YOU are the one who has made a mistake.

I concede that this definition of chair corresponds to the one that most people use. Therefore, we can discourse about chairs intelligibly.

I assume that religious people are religious, yes. If we were talking about a scientific or otherwise sceptical worldview, I would assume that they were not religious, but we're not. What, specifically, do you find fault with here?

I find fault that you have restricted the definition to a manner which is only meaningful to you and people who are in your particular camp, and expect people to accept your conclusions in a broader context. I half suspect you accept them in a broader context as well.

This mode of argument is equivalent in operation to, if not spirit with, the kind of irrational polemics of propaganda, which uses words a totems and rhetorical blugeons which appeal to emotions while appearing to cloak themselves in common place logic. Jews are evil. What about so-and-so? Well, he's not a real jew. The shifting sands of convenient definition give you the power to prove any "shocking truth" you wish to, but its merely a puerile debating tactic.

[Me]: This doesn't correspond even closely to your idea of history being a long series of 50/50 trials
[You] Apparently this is your idea of my idea, because my idea does not fit that description in any way.

OK, then perhaps it was somebody else who wrote the following:

Consider the number of make or break points we've had, and how many of them were really quite tough, not just 50-50 coin tosses. Multiply out those probabilities, and even though neither of us has the exact answer, you'll quickly have a number larger than the number of protons in the universe. At that point, hopefully you'll be convinced that this is not a reasonable probability to have ever just "happened that way." 1000/1 doesn't even begin to matter on the scale we're talking.

It seems I have grossly misunderstood what you have said here, so I invite you to correct me. You ask me to take the continued existence of our species as an argument as evidence of human rationality. Without denying the truth of "human rationality" (if such a vague term can be disagreed with), I am merely arguing that even if we accept this historical criterion, the actual historical facts simply do not correspond to the situation you posit in the above. Therefore it cannot be used in support of your contention of human "rationality", and in any case you still have not argued successfully that establishing "rationality" is tantamount to establishing equality.

I should once more stress here that I believe in equality before the law. I just derive my belief in a manner less reckless to the facts.

[Me]:Logical consistency is relatively less important than empirical data.
[You]:Without logical consistency, your data may be good, but your analysis is not.

Here I am guilty of being unclear. Let me be more clear. Logic keeps you from making extremely stupid mistakes, e.g. a->b, b therefore a. However avoiding stupid logical mistakes is relatively easy. Most commonly encountered logical fallacies are not of the simple non-sequitur type, they have to do with standards of evidence and definition. Examples: the hasty generalization, the false analogy, the false dilemma, the slippery slope, the appeal to authority, and a menagerie causal fallacies of various species. In particular I commend to you the fallacies of "begging the question" and the fallacy of the overnarrow definition.

Logical correctness is a relatively minor point and usually readily satisfied. Evidential correctness is extremely difficult and therefore is deserving of greater scrutiny.

I'm quite happy with empirical studies - when there's some connection between them and the conclusions they draw.

Then once more I commend to you Dr. Kline's book.

On the other hand, when some so-called scientist measures reaction times while playing various kinds of music and then makes broad claims about the effect of various kinds of sound on the human mind, his results mean absolutely NOTHING except that certain people reacted a certain way on a certain day, and even if he found some relative invariant(unlikely,) his explanation would be nothing but guesswork, because the theory to comprehend the data does not exist. Why you have a huge problem with this is beyond me; randomly gathering data in "scientifically controlled" ways is not "experimentation" and does not produce "results." In general, the social sciences are long on fitting theories to existing data points and short on the ability to use those theories to predict anything, which suggests to this scientific mind that their theories are "wrong" and that they are "frauds."

Here I recommend you study the "Straw Man" fallacy. I at no point endorsed the social sciences as a whole, nor do my arguments rest upon the nonexistence of nonsensical research in social science as a whole. Nor can I believe that you really intend such a blanket condemnation of the entire body of social sciences except as an appeal to ignorant emotions of hostility against social science researchers.

I merely recommended to you a book which details interesting and I believe field research on human decision making. Reading things outside your faith is often very enlightening.



[ Parent ]

Hmm... (5.00 / 1) (#306)
by trhurler on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 08:03:45 PM EST

I appear to have erred on the side of presuming that you aren't a deliberate pain in the ass. For instance,
Well, as long as we stipulate that we are talking about your personal definition of religion,
What meaningful definition of religion doesn't include conviction? "Religion" in any other sense is just philosophy without reasons, and hardly needs a special name. In both the everyday and (typical) technical uses of the term, religion involves faith - conviction - ie, being convinced that you are right, and putting this beyond doubt. Yes, religious people experience doubt, but notice that they characterize it as a failing on their part.

English sentences indeed.
It seems I have grossly misunderstood what you have said here, so I invite you to correct me.
I quote myself: "... and how many of them were quite tough, not just 50-50 coin tosses." I concede that I was unclear about who had these, what scope they had, and so on. They're mostly small scale but they happen every day, all the time, to all of us. An irrational human being would not survive without the care of others for more than a week at the outside, and three days is being generous.
Evidential correctness is extremely difficult and therefore is deserving of greater scrutiny.
Particularly insofar as certain pseudosciences, devoid of any real theory, simply make up tomorrow's dogmas by doing (literal and figurative) curve fitting to the data they collect.
I merely recommended to you a book which details interesting and I believe field research on human decision making. Reading things outside your faith is often very enlightening.
It would be amusing to hear you describe "my faith." I'm sure you think, given your previous references, that I'm some Objectivist or something very similar. Let me be quite clear: other than a rather steady conviction that things tend to work out ok, I have about as much faith as the British royal family has dignity, which is to say, if I ever had any at all, the world around me and my own actions have stripped it away quite effectively.

I ridicule social sciences because I've never seen anything done in the whole of them that I thought made the slightest bit of sense. By and large, they're a huge fraud of the same sort(and occasionally, of similar influence,) as the Catholic Church was in the Middle Ages. A whole lot of falsehoods based on a few dogmatically held "truths" that turn out not to be true when you actually examine them. What few practical "benefits" have derived are usually barbarisms applied behind closed doors to people who don't and can't do anything about it. (See electroshock "therapy" for a prime example,) but even these are rare; by and large, the greatest condemnation of the social sciences is that those who learn them are no better off than when they started.

That's not to say that your Dr. Kline could not conceivably be the first exception I've ever run across. However, I regard this as unlikely, to be kind. Usually, behavioral research is the worst sort of trivially exposed garbage, which is probably why it invents so much new terminology. Philosophers have the same problem; one in a thousand of them is worth the air he breathes, but couch simple and obviously stupid ideas in language complex enough, and nobody will notice that the emperor is naked.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Predjudice (5.00 / 1) (#312)
by jolly st nick on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 12:59:40 AM EST

I appear to have erred on the side of presuming that you aren't a deliberate pain in the ass.

I never said I wasn't a pain in the ass. I assure you it isn't deliberate though. Since you called me "silly", I called you "puerile"; I like to show a superior vocabulary when I exchange insults ;-) Now that you've called me a pain in the ass, I'll have to think of a good rejoinder --"carbuncle" perhaps?

Let me tell you why you've bugged me. I believe you are using a sweeping generalization that amounts to a predjudice against relisious people. Now let me say that certain religious people aren't my favorite folks either, but I don't toss everyone who is religious into the same category as Pat Robertson, or the Taliban for that matter.

What meaningful definition of religion doesn't include conviction?

OK, conviction is not the same as being beyond the reach of doubt. And how about this dictinary example, for starters.

  1. Belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe.
  2. A personal or institutionalized system grounded in such belief and worship.
  3. The life or condition of a person in a religious order.
  4. A set of beliefs, values, and practices based on the teachings of a spiritual leader.
  5. A cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion.

Now normally it's a craven debating tactic to haul out the dictionary. But I really think that your personal animus against people who consider themselves religious interfere with your understanding of the word. Absolute undoubting certainty is not actually requried by any of these definitions; it's an inference on your part. Most sincerely religious people deal with doubt all the time, and are actively questing for answers.

I quote myself: "... and how many of them were quite tough, not just 50-50 coin tosses." I concede that I was unclear about who had these, what scope they had, and so on. They're mostly small scale but they happen every day, all the time, to all of us. An irrational human being would not survive without the care of others for more than a week at the outside, and three days is being generous.

Here you are being much clearer, and I thank you. I disagree with your assesment though, because it sets an unreasonably low bar for rationality, it doesn't deal with the fact that people also invariable act in highly irrational ways, and even if it we accept this as proof of the statement "man is rational", it still doesn't support the argument you are making that human equality is an empirical matter derivable from this fact.

I ridicule social sciences because I've never seen anything done in the whole of them that I thought made the slightest bit of sense. By and large, they're a huge fraud of the same sort(and occasionally, of similar influence,) as the Catholic Church was in the Middle Ages. A whole lot of falsehoods based on a few dogmatically held "truths" that turn out not to be true when you actually examine them.

What can anyone say to a statement of such willful -- I don't even know what to call it, it is so astonishing. Do you mean you can find absolutely no single idea or issue of value or interest in what generations of psychologists, historians, economists, ethnographers, anthropologists, archaeologists and the like have developed through the years? Operant conditioning? The Milgram experiment? Supply and Demand? Agency? Malthusian crisis (or its denial)? Arrow impossibility theorem? The campaigns of Alexander? Prehistoric migrations to America? The Industrial Revolution? The deciperhment of the Rosetta stone? The discovery of Troy? Truly nothing? I mean, anybody should be able to find both worthless and valuable information in the entire body of social resarch. Personal observation is a virtue, but isn't it possible you could learn something from something smebody else has done?

Particularly insofar as certain pseudosciences, devoid of any real theory, simply make up tomorrow's dogmas by doing (literal and figurative) curve fitting to the data they collect.

I am beginning to detect a pattern here. Take a group of people you don't like, pick out the worst examples, make them stand for the entire group so you can dismiss them out of hand.

It would be amusing to hear you describe "my faith." I'm sure you think, given your previous references, that I'm some Objectivist or something very similar. Let me be quite clear: other than a rather steady conviction that things tend to work out ok, I have about as much faith as the British royal family has dignity, which is to say, if I ever had any at all, the world around me and my own actions have stripped it away quite effectively.

OK, for your amusement, I will describe your religion, as it appears in these posts: rehashed third hand 18th C enlightenment, minus the broad based curiosity about the world.

By the way, I dont' think the queen mum has gotten into to much trouble, so you may have a bit of faith in you anyway.

[ Parent ]

So, (5.00 / 2) (#325)
by trhurler on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 01:26:27 PM EST

Now that you've called me a pain in the ass, I'll have to think of a good rejoinder --"carbuncle" perhaps?
Supercilious venerator of verbiage!
But I really think that your personal animus against people who consider themselves religious interfere with your understanding of the word.
I have a few religious friends. They're the ones that keep their faith to themselves when it isn't wanted. Why? Because even if they have doubts themselves, they would ordinarily (except when discussing that very subject) behave as though they did not, and this is obnoxious to people who disagree with them. You are correct that these people experience doubt all the time, but as I said, they regard it as a failing. They're nothing like the Taliban, you're right - but they certainly, for all their personal doubt, do not allow that they might actually be wrong in any meaningful sense. If I'd ever, out of thousands of people, met a single person who deviated from that norm, maybe I'd see your position, but if the people you speak of exist(actually, they do, and they're generally prone to calling themselves agnostics or former believers, but that's beside the point,) I've yet to meet even one. Given that, I'd say my "prejudice" is relatively well founded, much like saying that felons tend to commit more crimes, except with a much higher rate of incidence in the observed population:)
I disagree with your assesment though, because it sets an unreasonably low bar for rationality
Depending on what you mean, this may be true and may not. People act rationally more often than not, in the sense that, even without any instinctive force driving them to it, they do not try to eat claw hammers or drive nails with blocks of cheese. The fact that we're good at this does not make it "the given" in any humanlike animal. However, it is certainly true that in tough situations, most people have problems; that's why we call them "tough," but "tough" and "easy" are merely markers baselined on our abilities, which compared to complete irrationality, are quite remarkable. If this use of the word bothers you too much, find another, but I am sure you see what I am referring to, no matter what you call it.
it doesn't deal with the fact that people also invariable act in highly irrational ways
See my last paragraph. Also, in my experience, people act irrationally when faced with a tradeoff they don't want to make, and at virtually no other time. It is possible to get used to such tradeoffs, decide what you want more, and move on, but our culture is notoriously bad at teaching that particular character trait.
it still doesn't support the argument you are making that human equality is an empirical matter derivable from this fact.
Equality in the sense of "equal before the law" depends on several things. One, that the law exists to protect individual freedom of action insofar as it does not consist in violating that protection held by another. If this is not true, then the law is merely an instrument of power over people, generally held by tyrants(elected or otherwise,) and equality is a moot point. Two, that people are basically reasoning creatures, and have a good chance of succeeding in that endeavor, at least insofar as it is necessary to manage their own affairs. This seems well borne out by experience, even if some few do fail miserably given every chance. Three, that we need that method of survival.

The third is the trickiest. I can keep you alive in a cage, with no freedom whatsoever and occupy your mind with useless crap continuously. In doing so, I might show a mode by which you could "survive" without any equality whatsoever. However, this is demonstrably worse(for you, and also for me,) than if you were independent of me, did not consume my time or resources, had your own thing going, and (possibly,) produced something useful as a side effect. In principle, we're all better off if everyone is equal under the law. The only sticking point, of course, is that if everyone is not equal under the law, those at the top of the heap might quite possibly be better off than otherwise, because there are very few of them and very many of the rest of us. At this point, though, moral arguments hardly need to be made; the practical one, which is that there are a lot of us and only a few of them, will in time suffice, violently or otherwise.
psychologists, historians, economists, ethnographers, anthropologists, archaeologists
I've never seen anyone sane call history a science. I'm not particularly interested in "culture;" as far as I'm concerned, it is a side effect of other things, and not particularly interesting as a subject of study. Psychology is such a pathetic joke as to be painful; five year olds know more about human behavior than many "psychologists" have allowed themselves to remember. I can't say I have much concern for anthropologists or ethnographers, but this may mainly be related to my opinion of culture. Archaeology can be interesting, but mainly in its raw products rather than the opinions based on them, the latter usually being crap. Economists... well, let me put it this way. The Austrians are the only ones I've seen ten true content-rich sentences from, and that only because they make very, very modest claims. Dominant economic theory is such a load of garbage that "the dismal science" seems quite appropriate.
I mean, anybody should be able to find both worthless and valuable information in the entire body of social resarch.
Yes, but by and large, the results are garbage. There are gems hidden in amongst that garbage, to be sure, but the vast majority is just bullshit, and unlike the physical sciences, which seem to eventually propagate truth to the forefront most of the time, the social sciences are dominated by the worst shit they've produced to date, and this trend seems unlikely to change.
OK, for your amusement, I will describe your religion, as it appears in these posts: rehashed third hand 18th C enlightenment, minus the broad based curiosity about the world.
I already know more about the world, thanks to modern education, communications technology, travel methods, and so on, than most of those 18th century enlightenment thinkers died knowing. I was once curious; now I'm mostly just disgusted, which is a strange contrast with the optimism I somehow maintain anyway. Things are pretty shitty, but given enough time, they'll get better. The main political question of our day is, will they get worse before they get better, and if so, how much so? The answer seems to be yes, and we're not sure yet.
By the way, I dont' think the queen mum has gotten into to much trouble, so you may have a bit of faith in you anyway.
Oh, I'm quite convinced of my own ability to do anything I'm not prevented from doing, within the limits of presently available knowledge. That probably makes me a bit too fearless for my own good on occasion, but fortunately, I'm somewhat lazy, and rather easily amused. If you're looking for something odd, consider this: I am absolutely convinced that I am superior to practically everyone I meet, but at the same time, I am convinced that this is a matter of circumstance, rather than necessity. Far too much of what we call stupidity or incompetence is actually other things. Unfortunately, knowing that doesn't do much for you. In the end, though, there's not much faith involved, except maybe for that abiding general sense that things will get better given enough time. Even that is founded, however loosely, in observation and reasoning, though, so it isn't what a religious person would call "faith."

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
My cards. (none / 0) (#336)
by jolly st nick on Wed Nov 07, 2001 at 06:07:58 PM EST

Supercilious venerator of verbiage!
Nice try ;-)

I have a few religious friends. They're the ones that keep their faith to themselves when it isn't wanted. Why? Because even if they have doubts themselves, they would ordinarily (except when discussing that very subject) behave as though they did not, and this is obnoxious to people who disagree with them. You are correct that these people experience doubt all the time, but as I said, they regard it as a failing.

Here I am more comfortable talking with you, because we are speaking in terms of specific people instead of vague categories of people to whom we apply broad generalizations. And it sounds like you have the capability of addressing these individuals with respect and humanity, and in this I think you show yourself worthy of respect.

Doubt is part of the human condition. Yes, some religious people may see doubt as a failing, but others embrace doubt and uncertainty. I often see this among certain of my Jewish friends, but it is not unheard of among erudite Christians and Muslims. Uncertainty and doubt are things to be struggled with. This is the hidden meaning of the Biblical story of Jacob wrestling with God. Jacob is about to win, and in the end, God cheats by using magic to dislocate his hip. Some people believe this quaint story to be literal history; however others take this to be an alegory for the fact that doubt is something that a strong mind has to live with.

If this use of the word bothers you too much, find another, but I am sure you see what I am referring to, no matter what you call it.

Primarily, my problem is with the inferences you have made, but I can accept this as one sense of the word "rationality", if you can explain how it differs from the self-perpetuating behavior of other animals that live in complex social groups (such as gorillas and chimps) whom I do not believe you would extend full human rights to.

Equality in the sense of "equal before the law" depends on several things. One, that the law exists to protect individual freedom of action insofar as it does not consist in violating that protection held by another. If this is not true, then the law is merely an instrument of power over people, generally held by tyrants(elected or otherwise,) and equality is a moot point.

I think you are making an important point, but it leads me in a different direction than it does you. Here I think I should put my position on the table, so that in fairness you may criticize it equally as I have yours. Laws were instituted primarily for the purpose you say they should not have been: to cement the power of the few over the many. But like all inventions, they can be used in ways they were not intended. Since they can be used in different ways, the question becomes, how should they be used?

My own contention is that they should be used to promote human welfare, and that no system has been shown in the long term to promote human welfare better than equality (or at least systems based on institutionalizing the power of the few over the many are the least reliable in this regard). However, I take this condition as axiomatic. If we don't agree that laws should be used for human good, then there is no point talking to each other until we have disposed of this point one way or another.

In principle, we're all better off if everyone is equal under the law.

I believe this view is too idealistic. If everyone is equal under the law, the most people are better off. However, if I get to be king, my word is law and all interests are subordinate to mine. If I am smart, probably I'll mostly keep hands off most people's business and skim a little extra benefit here and there where I can, but I can still do pretty well in a situation where other folks are suffering greatly (e.g. Sadaam). The only way I am not better of is if I identify myself with the cause of human equality so strongly this gives me pangs of guilt. Most absolute monarchs seem to find they can live with this.

This is the extreme case, and few absolute monarchies exist anymore. However there are countries run by aristrocrats and kleptocrats. You won't persuade them to step down on the basis that they will be better off, because common sense will tell them you are wrong.

At this point, though, moral arguments hardly need to be made; the practical one, which is that there are a lot of us and only a few of them, will in time suffice, violently or otherwise.

Unfortunately history proves this viewpoint to be wrong. Every great empire before the 19th c was organized along lines of inequality, and some of them lasted for a long, long time. The population can be kept down with sufficient violence, to their physical body and to their minds.

[Me]: I mean, anybody should be able to find both worthless and valuable information in the entire body of social resarch.
[You]:Yes, but by and large, the results are garbage.

I don't think either of us is in a statistical position to judge the whole of social science based on our personal experience of a tiny fraction of it. If, as you admit, even the most vanishingly small fractions of it are gems, then by all means confine yourself to the gems and learn what you can from them.

the social sciences are dominated by the worst shit they've produced to date, and this trend seems unlikely to change.

I don't see the relevance of this point at all, even if it were true. What difference does the existence of bad research make to the value of good research, even bad research by in large dominates? After all, I go into a bookstore, and most of what's there doesn't appeal to me. I doesn't make me swear of books.

. If you're looking for something odd, consider this: I am absolutely convinced that I am superior to practically everyone I meet

Yeah, I know what you mean. It stinks, doesn't it? ;-)



[ Parent ]

Religion has no "purpose" (3.00 / 2) (#77)
by M0dUluS on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 01:36:31 PM EST

Second, the purpose of religion is not to make people feel good, empowered, etc
Do you really accept that religion has a purpose as opposed to being a social phenomenon that evolved? I can't see how it can have any intention at all.
accomodates the fact that knowledge is gained over many human lifetimes, while also accomodating the contradictory fact that people have a need to understand.
How are these contradictory? Would the search for understanding be assisted by knowledge accumulated over other lifetimes?
The biggest problem, though, is quite simple: religion is mostly harmless to anyone except the devout until it becomes organized.
Doesn't that depend on the religion? And there is always going to be the problem that if the religion is based upon a specific description of the material world then it will of necessity by anti-Science. In that case the removal of potential scientists by the faith is a problem as it retards our progress toward more accurate models of the world.
Of course, belief in an invisible, intangible, inaudible, odorless giant amoeba with a big brain in the middle is just such a system
What?!!! You too have been cradled in the divine pseuodpodia?

"[...]no American spin is involved at all. Is that such a stretch?" -On Lawn
[ Parent ]
Hmm... (4.75 / 4) (#105)
by trhurler on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 03:27:25 PM EST

Do you really accept that religion has a purpose as opposed to being a social phenomenon that evolved? I can't see how it can have any intention at all.
My use of the word purpose was not intended to suggest teleological origin.
How are these contradictory? Would the search for understanding be assisted by knowledge accumulated over other lifetimes?
You underestimated the meaning I applied to "need" in this context. Most people feel a burning need to know, right NOW. They don't want to wait, much less be part of a solution that won't arrive until very, very long after they're dead.
Doesn't that depend on the religion?
I do not think so, really. Religion without organization is no more harmful to people who do not hold it than any other idea you do not hold; organization is what gives power(and hence, destructive ability) to religion, or more specifically, to the resulting religious leaders.
And there is always going to be the problem that if the religion is based upon a specific description of the material world then it will of necessity by anti-Science.
Yes, but it can't do anything against science unless it has power over those who do not believe in it - ie, organization.
What?!!! You too have been cradled in the divine pseuodpodia?
I am the divine pseudopodia.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Williams James got one thing right. (4.50 / 4) (#72)
by Apuleius on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 01:28:53 PM EST

In The Varieties of Religious Experience he defined religion as the belief that there is an unseen order to everything, and that one needs to conform to this order harmoniously. I like that definition precisely because it is a broad enough brush to cover not only Christianity and Islam, but also communism, fascism, and dare I say it, Chomskyism, among many others. By this definition, religion may include a Deity, an afterlife, a mythology, or none of these. His book covers, among other things, the experience of conversion, which can be shown as something that is not just the province of Evangelical Christians, but of poor teens who read Atlas Shrugged at the wrong time in their lives, and many other such instances.[0]

Which brings up the issue of whether or not religion is compatible with life in a modern Western Republic. And the answer is "not always." There are belief systems that call for efforts to tear down "the dominant paradigm," "the system," to kill The Man, or to burn down the "nest of the infidels and their cancerous corruption." Those belief systems are incompatible, those who adhere to them deserve suspicion, and those who act on those beliefs deserve the wrath of the state.

So what about Islam? There is an elephant in the room which we are all too polite to mention. But I'm a rude boorish fellow, so I will. The American Republic[1] promises the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to all, including Muslims. But the Republic doesn't just promise this to Muslims. It promises those same rights to heterodox Muslims, to apostate Muslims, and even to apostate Muslims who decide to denounce Islam vocally. And we can't ignore the problem that many Muslims have with reconciling their religion with this facet of the American Republic.

So we have the heterodox Muslim, Khalid Duran, who is in fear of his life because he wrote a book titled Children of Abraham, an Introduction to Islam for Jews, and got a death fatwa for this offense. (For the life of me I have not been able to find out what in the book was so offensive. He is a Sufi, so his offense may have been to claim to speak for mainstream Islam.) There is Ibn Warraq, an outspoken Muslim-turned-atheist, who dares not reveal the real name behind his alias. And as if this isn't bad enough, in France we now have a problem of Muslim thugs regularly assaulting Jews in the streets.

Even after the American Revolution, Christianity in America was not fully compatible with the desires of the Founding Fathers, particularly Jefferson. But Christianity evolved, partly because of the evolution of the Western Republics and because of the efforts of Europe's secular nationalists. Judaism also had to change to be compatible. Napoleon convened a rabinnical conclave in 1802 to achieve that end. He did have a say in how the conclave changed Jewish practices and ecclesiastical law. Now it's Islam's turn, and it may be a rough ride for everyone.

[0] In response to the obvious question, I take the Fifth. [1]But this applies to just about any Western republic or constitutional monarchy.




There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
Reconciling Islam to Democracy (5.00 / 3) (#85)
by jolly st nick on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 02:25:52 PM EST

And we can't ignore the problem that many Muslims have with reconciling their religion with this facet of the American Republic.

I had the good fortune to discuss this very issue with an imam last weekend. Now a word of caution -- imams do not speak for islam as a whole; they are not priests or prophets, but simply learned men. And this particular imam was a liberal Turkish muslim. Turks have a long tradition of reconciling Islam with modernity.

We fenced a bit around the issues of whether you can be an orthodox muslim and live in a democracy. For obvious reasons he was anxious to avoid the stereotype of the anti-democratic muslim extremists; I on the other hand wanted to know about the strains, particularly in Sunni thought, of ultraconservatism.

His ultimate point is that he has never met an muslim ultraconservative who grew up in a tolerant, democratic enviornment. On the other hand, exploitive and anti-democratic governments produce hateful extremists all the time. So, from his perspective, it is not the religious extremism produces political extremism, but the other way around. When somebody is crushed under a corrupt and authoritarian government, they turn to their religion for solace; however their religious outlook is inevitably affected. His answer to the problem is that the authoritarian government in Islamic countries should be replaced by ones responsible to the people. I am suspicious of any political panaceaea, but this makes sense for me. Whatever supports life will tend to be accepted by most people, whatever is associated with pain or humiliation will be rejected.

All muslims all agree that the Quran is the unalterable word of God, written by God in Arabic, revealed to the prophet, and unchangeable forver. However, Islam is in many ways a very egalitarian relgion; they have no popes or priests with special channels of communication to Allah. For this reason, there are probably as many ways of reconciling the conundrums of the Quran and applying it modern life as there are muslims. For some muslims, no doubt being muslim and existing in the modern world with unbelievers is impossible. Other pious and learned muslims take whatever supports life and reject whatever is in their judgement is evil -- whether modern or ancient. These people can and do live in democracies with mutual respect with people outside their faith.



[ Parent ]

Sorry, no verbal fencing allowed. (3.50 / 2) (#116)
by Apuleius on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 04:08:58 PM EST

While I agree with your points, I should point this out: We fenced a bit around the issues of whether you can be an orthodox muslim and live in a democracy. Not good enough. The biggest problem in reconciling Islam with democracy is whether Muslim fatwas can call up the death penalty. Judaism and Christianity retain the power to excommunicate their followers, but both have given the power of life and death over to Caesar. Islam has not. Until Islam does that, unequivocally, Islam is not yet reconciled to democracy.

His ultimate point is that he has never met an muslim ultraconservative who grew up in a tolerant, democratic enviornment. I should have both of you walk through Birmingham, England, some time. It does happen. It cannot be dismissed as a non-problem.




There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
Touche (4.50 / 2) (#131)
by jolly st nick on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 05:03:55 PM EST

Not good enough. The biggest problem in reconciling Islam with democracy is whether Muslim fatwas can call up the death penalty. Judaism and Christianity retain the power to excommunicate their followers, but both have given the power of life and death over to Caesar. Islam has not. Until Islam does that, unequivocally, Islam is not yet reconciled to democracy.

I agree that fatwas are a big problem, because they put Muslims in direct conflict with the legal institutions of the countries they live in. If you like, I will put the question of fatwa to the imam, although it may be some time before I can get a reply here, since he is only an acquaintance and I have no claim on his time. Perhaps I can invite the imam to post an article here on K5.

I should have both of you walk through Birmingham, England, some time. It does happen. It cannot be dismissed as a non-problem.

I'm not dismissing it as a non-problem. I expect that that there are plenty of non-muslim neighborhoods in Birmingham I wouldn't like to tour either. Lack of opportunity and respect breeds violence, simple as that.

[ Parent ]

Islam, democracy, and fatwas (5.00 / 2) (#136)
by phliar on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 06:44:30 PM EST

I agree that fatwas are a big problem, because they put Muslims in direct conflict with the legal institutions of the countries they live in.
Before you give up this argument: who issues the fatwa? Why should an observant muslim take it seriously? For example, after Khomeini issued the fatwa on Rushdie, I doubt many muslims living in (for example) the US would have done anything to act on it.

Since there is no equivalent of the pope, there is no central authority that all observant muslims follow literally. Most sunnis will probably regard the imam of the great mosque in Mecca as a specially important figure, but will filter any of his pronouncements through their own backgrounds and upbringing.

(I'm not a muslim but a "devout" atheist. However, I am very close to many muslims of widely differing backgrounds and beliefs.)


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

The fatwa system. (4.00 / 1) (#138)
by Apuleius on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 06:51:09 PM EST

Any Muslim with a high enough clerical title can issue a fatwa. And fatwas aren't just death warrants. They can be about very benign issues. But they matter. You may not think any Muslim in the US would have carried out the fatwa on Rushdie; but we'll never know, since the guy was under tight security for all those years. I stick to my stance: to be compatible with democracy, Islam must give up the power of life and death when it comes to fatwas.




There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
Fatwas, democracy, from a Muslim perspective (5.00 / 2) (#193)
by robwicks on Sat Nov 03, 2001 at 01:36:16 PM EST

I stick to my stance: to be compatible with democracy, Islam must give up the power of life and death when it comes to fatwas.
I am a Muslim. A fatwa is a religious ruling which is only binding on two parties: the party who issues it, and the party who requests it. The one most bound by the fatwa is the party who issues it. There is no authority within Islam to issue fatwas and bound it to all Muslims unless it is issued within an Islamic state by the Caliph, or those authorized by him. The Caliph is the head of state and his ruling applies within that state.

Muslims are required by our religion to respect the laws of the countries we are in, and if we cannot, to leave. Now, for a number of reasons such as the destruction of traditional systems of Islamic learning and the spread of Wahabbism from Saudi Arabia over the past two centuries, a lot of Muslims are ignorant of the rules governing behavior. For them, there must be education, and if conflict cannot be avoided, then we must fight against them. Every death sentence fatwa I have seen personally is clearly illegal. Those Muslims who issue them and those who follow them are criminals and should be dealt with as such.

Democracy in the absolute sense is clearly not compatible with Islam. One could not permit murder or adultery or fornication, for example. However some of these things are misunderstood by Muslims and non-Muslims alike, such as the high standards of evidence required. To prove adultery, four upright Muslim witnesses much witness actual penetration. If only three can be found, for example, they receive a lashing for slandering the character of the accused.

The Qur'an gives some clear legal guidance (though not as much as you might think), and the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) made some statements which clearly indicated how a government should rule. Not all things which are forbidden in Islam have civil penalties, however. A lot of the stuff you see going on in the Muslim world nowadays are innovations and were not traditionally part of Islamic jurisprudence. Honor killings, for example, are murder, plain and simple. There is no indication than women can be forced to wear the hijab by any of the traditional scholars. These things are required of the believer, yes, but not all things required of the believer require state enforcement according to traditional scholars. But, certainly, the behavior of many of us would lead you to reasonably believe differently.

I think the post regarding eliminating the repressive societies is spot on. Following that, free study of Islam should be permitted. By closing societies and following sectarian concerns, we got ourselves into this mess in the first place. It is also unfortunate that one of the most extreme movements (Wahabbism) managed to hook up with the Saud family and control a quarter of the world's oil, enabling them to export that system (which was considered a heresy among traditional scholars, BTW) to the rest of the world. When Ibn Saud allied himself with the US, who insured that he would not be deposed, the future trouble Wahabbism would bring was pretty much assured. Now, don't take this to mean that Wahabbism endorses these fatwas or terrorism either, it doesn't, but religious extremism will tend to grow if unchallenged and will beget political extremism before it's all said and done. This is one of the reason the Prophet warned against extremism so strongly. I am hopeful that the horrors we Muslims have visited upon ourselves and others will effect something of a wakeup call regarding the extremism within our ranks.


"Logic . . . merely enables one to be wrong with authority" Doctor Who
[ Parent ]

I hope you're right. (4.00 / 1) (#303)
by Apuleius on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 03:10:05 PM EST

If Wahabbi influence is the reason for the plague of fatwas in the Muslim world, then the battle lines are clearly drawn and the struggle for a sane Islam can be won. < spartan >if</spartan>


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
Environment. (5.00 / 2) (#132)
by ambrosen on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 05:56:26 PM EST

I should have both of you walk through Birmingham, England, some time.
Hmm, you make it sound like a village with just the one main street. How lovely. In real life, however, there's plenty of different parts to it, including some very Muslim dominated neighbourhoods. The kind where women who moved to the UK after school age may not learn English, and people can certainly live without much contact with the general trappings of British society. And if you wanted to, you could call that environment one that isn't tolerant and democratic. (I have reservations about that wording, but...).

It's like the fact that Timothy McVeigh was able to form views so counter to the running of the United States from within its own boundaries. It's because free countries do not necessarily have homogenous cultures, but can have many subcultures which needn't coexist peacefully. There can easily be a homogenous Muslim community with Muslim values in a city of 2 million(ish) inhabitants like Birmingham.

--
Procrastination does not make you cool. Being cool makes you procrastinate. DesiredUsername.
[ Parent ]

And the larger environment. (3.00 / 2) (#137)
by Apuleius on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 06:46:47 PM EST

I'm sorry if I implied Birmingham isn't a metropolis. But it's one thing to be in Peshawar, a vast expanse of both Islam and utter helplessness, and another to be in Birmingham, where if not right there, the trappings of Britain are a few blocks away. Also, the McVeigh analogy just doesn't wash. McVeigh was roundly condemned by virtually all of the American public, and that deters would-be copycats. The same isn't true in the Muslim street.




There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
Enough already (1.75 / 4) (#73)
by CrazyJub on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 01:29:51 PM EST

Ok, it took thousands of years to get here, but I think the concept of religion has come and gone.

Ever since the beginning of recorded history, religion and the belief in higher powers has made the people attribute everything they do not understand to a god. Fire, rain, the sun, weather, desease, earthquakes, birth, life, death, northern lights and dinosaur bones.



Enough already (1.85 / 14) (#76)
by CrazyJub on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 01:34:44 PM EST

Ok, it took thousands of years to get here, but I think the concept of religion has come and gone.

Ever since the beginning of recorded history, religion and the belief in higher powers has made the people attribute everything they do not understand to a god. Fire, rain, the sun, weather, desease, earthquakes, birth, life, death, northern lights and dinosaur bones.

Modern science has shown us quite easily that no "god" was responsible for all these things, but the basic fundamental belief system is still in place. Religious folks will tell you that it's because it's all true that people still believe. However a simpler explanation is also true: people are stupid.

I could go on and on, but this George Carlin quote says it better then I could anyday:


But I want you to know something, this is sincere, I want you to know, when
it comes to believing in God, I really tried. I really, really tried. I tried
to believe that there is a God, who created each of us in His own image and
likeness, loves us very much, and keeps a close eye on things. I really tried
to believe that, but I gotta tell you, the longer you live, the more you look
around, the more you realize, something is fucked up.


Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth,
poverty, torture, crime, corruption, and the Ice Capades. Something is
definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am
not impressed. Results like these do not belong on the résumé of a Supreme
Being. This is the kind of shit you'd expect from an office temp with a bad
attitude. And just between you and me, in any decently-run universe, this guy
would've been out on his all-powerful ass a long time ago. And by the way, I
say "this guy", because I firmly believe, looking at these results, that if
there is a God, it has to be a man.


No woman could or would ever fuck things up like this. So, if there is a God,
I think most reasonable people might agree that he's at least incompetent,
and maybe, just maybe, doesn't give a shit. Doesn't give a shit, which I
admire in a person, and which would explain a lot of these bad results.


So rather than be just another mindless religious robot, mindlessly and
aimlessly and blindly believing that all of this is in the hands of some
spooky incompetent father figure who doesn't give a shit, I decided to look
around for something else to worship. Something I could really count on.


And immediately, I thought of the sun. Happened like that. Overnight I became
a sun-worshipper. Well, not overnight, you can't see the sun at night. But
first thing the next morning, I became a sun-worshipper. Several reasons.
First of all, I can see the sun, okay? Unlike some other gods I could
mention, I can actually see the sun. I'm big on that. If I can see something,
I don't know, it kind of helps the credibility along, you know? So everyday I
can see the sun, as it gives me everything I need; heat, light, food, flowers
in the park, reflections on the lake, an occasional skin cancer, but hey. At
least there are no crucifixions, and we're not setting people on fire simply
because they don't agree with us.


Sun worship is fairly simple. There's no mystery, no miracles, no pageantry,
no one asks for money, there are no songs to learn, and we don't have a
special building where we all gather once a week to compare clothing. And the
best thing about the sun, it never tells me I'm unworthy. Doesn't tell me I'm
a bad person who needs to be saved. Hasn't said an unkind word. Treats me
fine. So, I worship the sun. But, I don't pray to the sun. Know why? I
wouldn't presume on our friendship. It's not polite.


I've often thought people treat God rather rudely, don't you? Asking
trillions and trillions of prayers every day. Asking and pleading and begging
for favors. Do this, gimme that, I need a new car, I want a better job. And
most of this praying takes place on Sunday His day off. It's not nice. And
it's no way to treat a friend.


But people do pray, and they pray for a lot of different things, you know,
your sister needs an operation on her crotch, your brother was arrested for
defecating in a mall. But most of all, you'd really like to fuck that hot
little redhead down at the convenience store. You know, the one with the
eyepatch and the clubfoot? Can you pray for that? I think you'd have to. And
I say, fine. Pray for anything you want. Pray for anything, but what about
the Divine Plan?


Remember that? The Divine Plan. Long time ago, God made a Divine Plan. Gave
it a lot of thought, decided it was a good plan, put it into practice. And
for billions and billions of years, the Divine Plan has been doing just fine.
Now, you come along, and pray for something. Well suppose the thing you want
isn't in God's Divine Plan? What do you want Him to do? Change His plan? Just
for you? Doesn't it seem a little arrogant? It's a Divine Plan. What's the
use of being God if every run-down shmuck with a two-dollar prayerbook can
come along and fuck up Your Plan?


And here's something else, another problem you might have: Suppose your
prayers aren't answered. What do you say? "Well, it's God's will." "Thy Will
Be Done." Fine, but if it's God's will, and He's going to do what He wants to
anyway, why the fuck bother praying in the first place? Seems like a big
waste of time to me! Couldn't you just skip the praying part and go right to
His Will? It's all very confusing.


So to get around a lot of this, I decided to worship the sun. But, as I said,
I don't pray to the sun. You know who I pray to? Joe Pesci. Two reasons:
First of all, I think he's a good actor, okay? To me, that counts. Second, he
looks like a guy who can get things done. Joe Pesci doesn't fuck around. In
fact, Joe Pesci came through on a couple of things that God was having
trouble with.


For years I asked God to do something about my noisy neighbor with the
barking dog, Joe Pesci straightened that cocksucker out with one visit. It's
amazing what you can accomplish with a simple baseball bat.


So I've been praying to Joe for about a year now. And I noticed something. I
noticed that all the prayers I used to offer to God, and all the prayers I
now offer to Joe Pesci, are being answered at about the same 50% rate. Half
the time I get what I want, half the time I don't. Same as God, 50-50. Same
as the four-leaf clover and the horseshoe, the wishing well and the rabbit's
foot, same as the Mojo Man, same as the Voodoo Lady who tells you your
fortune by squeezing the goat's testicles, it's all the same: 50-50. So just
pick your superstition, sit back, make a wish, and enjoy yourself.


And for those of you who look to The Bible for moral lessons and literary
qualities, I might suggest a couple of other stories for you. You might want
to look at the Three Little Pigs, that's a good one. Has a nice happy ending,
I'm sure you'll like that. Then there's Little Red Riding Hood, although it
does have that X-rated part where the Big Bad Wolf actually eats the
grandmother. Which I didn't care for, by the way.


And finally, I've always drawn a great deal of moral comfort from Humpty
Dumpty. The part I like the best? "All the king's horses and all the king's
men couldn't put Humpty Dumpty back together again." That's because there is
no Humpty Dumpty, and there is no God. None, not one, no God, never was. In
fact, I'm gonna put it this way. If there is a God, may he strike this
audience dead! See? Nothing happened. Nothing happened? Everybody's okay? All
right, tell you what, I'll raise the stakes a little bit. If there is a God,
may he strike me dead. See? Nothing happened, oh, wait, I've got a little
cramp in my leg. And my balls hurt. Plus, I'm blind. I'm blind, oh, now I'm
okay again, must have been Joe Pesci, huh? God Bless Joe Pesci. Thank you all
very much. Joe Bless You!



(Copyright 1999 by George Carlin.)




Zero rating for... (2.75 / 4) (#178)
by spiralx on Sat Nov 03, 2001 at 09:31:57 AM EST

... flagrant abuse of copyright.

You're doomed, I'm doomed, we're all doomed for ice cream. - Bob Aboey
[ Parent ]

Think Bigger (3.14 / 7) (#81)
by vega19r on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 01:44:19 PM EST

Religions are comprised of 3 components: mythology, philosophy, and ritual.

The philosophy states the ideals and values of the religion. The mythology gives an example of the philosophies through parable; and ritual provides a concrete, tangible representation of the philosophy. But the core of any religious system is the philosophy.

In general, the religions of the world are divided into two groups: those that are faith-based, and those that are truth-based.

Faith-based religions are usually centered around a book, or scripture, if you're a practicer of the religion. Christianity has the bible, Islam te koran, etc. These religions also seem to cause the most turmoil and discourse.

The problem with faith-based, textually-centric religions is that the philosophy of the religion is not explicitly defined. The mythology and ritual are usually competant, but there is no explicit definition of the philosophical system. Hence, followers begin arguing over interpretation of their respective text. For example, look at the extreme ways that the bible and the koran have been interpretated over the years.

Now consider philisophical systems that are not centered around a book, like Hinduism or Zen. In general, these systems are incredibly more mature and their followers are truly at peace with themselves and their surroundings.

So what causes this massive division among these religions: TRUTH.

The mature and evolved religions of the world don't preach to the follower. Real philisophical systems describe an ideal, a pragon-like existence, and then describe a means to reach the idea. They do not attempt to argue the correctness of the ideal. They don't claim to be the only way to reach the ideal. Mature philisophical systems say:
Here is one way to live.
It has these advantages: blah blah
If do A, B, and C, then you can also live this way.

The truth and righteousness of the system is left to be discovered by the practicer.

Faith is thrown away. Faith is useless.

Faith provides an excuse not to search for truth.

This is what I see as the major difference among religions.

The less mature ones provide some philosophy but never provide a concrete way for followers to buy into the philosophy.

Why should I believe in God just because you say so?

Mature philisophical systems would say: there is a God. Do steps A, B, and C, and you'll know for yourself.

Faith is a load of garbage. If you want to know if there is a God, then go find out. Realize truth for yourself. Don't hang on to the dusty words of antiquated parables.






Do A, B, C (2.33 / 3) (#167)
by joecool12321 on Sat Nov 03, 2001 at 03:48:56 AM EST

Allow me to present an A,B,C,D,E for you. I hope you will enjoy this. It's called the Kalam argument. And it is simple logic.
  1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause of its existence.
  2. The universe began to exist.
    1. Argument based on the impossibility of an actual infinite:
      1. An actual infinite cannot exist.
      2. An infinite temporal regress of events is an actual infinite.
      3. Therefore, an infinite temporal regress of events cannot exist.
    2. Argument based on the impossibility of the formation of an actual infinite by successive addition:
      1. A collection formed by successive addition cannot be actually infinite.
      2. The temporal series of past events is a collection formed by successive addition.
      3. Therefore, the temporal series of past events cannot be actually infinite.
    3. Confirmation based on the expansion of the universe.
    4. Confirmation based on the thermodynamic properties of the universe.
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause of its existence.
  4. If the universe has a cause of its existence, then an uncaused, personal Creator of the universe exists, who sans creation is beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless, and enormously powerful and intelligent.
    1. Argument that the cause of the universe is a personal Creator:
      1. The universe was brought into being either by a mechanically operating set of necessary and sufficient conditions or by a personal, free agent.
      2. The universe could not have been brought into being by a mechanically operating set of necessary and sufficient conditions.
      3. Therefore, the universe was brought into being by a personal, free agent.
    2. Argument that the Creator sans creation is uncaused, beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless, and enormously powerful and intelligent:
      1. The Creator is uncaused.
        1. An infinite temporal regress of causes cannot exist. (2.13, 2.23)
      2. The Creator is beginningless.
        1. Whatever is uncaused does not begin to exist. (1)
      3. The Creator is changeless.
        1. An infinite temporal regress of changes cannot exist. (2.13, 2.23)
      4. The Creator is immaterial.
        1. Whatever is material involves change on the atomic and molecular levels, but the Creator is changeless. (4.23)
      5. The Creator is timeless.
        1. In the complete absence of change, time does not exist, and the Creator is changeless. (4.23)
      6. The Creator is spaceless.
        1. Whatever is immaterial and timeless cannot be spatial, and the Creator is immaterial and timeless (4.24, 4.25)
      7. The Creator is enormously powerful.
        1. He brought the universe into being out of nothing. (3)
      8. The Creator is enormously intelligent.
        1. The initial conditions of the universe involve incomprehensible fine-tuning that points to intelligent design.
  5. Therefore, an uncaused, personal Creator of the universe exists, who sans creation is "beginningless," changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless, and enormously powerful and intelligent.
The argument is really very simple and consists primarily of three steps. (1) Whatever begins to exist has a cause of its existence. (2) The universe began to exist. (3) Therefore, the universe has a cause of its existence. And then in premise (4) we conceptually unpack what some of the principal attributes would be of a cause of the universe's existence.

This is a fairly convincing argument that there is some form of a God, and athiesm must be false.

I hope this has been helpful to you in at least some small way.

--Joey

[ Parent ]

Logic? That's logic? (3.66 / 3) (#171)
by kaatunut on Sat Nov 03, 2001 at 07:08:51 AM EST

*** Begin core argument ***

Forgive me, I am young and not well educated in the ways of the wise men, yet my mind aches for the knowledge of all things in this world and beyond...

1.Whatever begins to exist has a cause of its existence.
5.Therefore, an uncaused, personal Creator of the universe exists,</blockqteuo>

I must admit I am a bit baffled here. Tell me how the above highlights don't form a contradiction.

*** End core argument, begin rant ***

Also, I'd be interested in hearing justification for several of your apparent assertations.

Concerning the point 4.2.8.1, I'd like to note that

(1) there are several, not completely implausible, theories which explain an impression of intelligent design without actually requiring such; you could start from talk.origins, genetic algorithms or even by looking at Tierra

(2) If you assume that world requires intelligence to create it because of its remarkable complexity, then surely you must also agree that a being who created this universe would be very complex also. Does this mean he is intelligently designed being? Such loop brings us to God created by God created by ..., and either leads into assumption of that which always was, which may as well be a simpler solution of universe without creator, or to an assumption of infinite regress of gods over each other, which also could be simplified into a simple regress of universes.

Furthermore, question of why we should assume infinite universes instead of infinite gods, I will answer with lack of assumptions; universe may take any form it will, but I see no foundation for assumptions of personal, intelligent and in this sense human-like being. This could very well lead us to deism with which I have no serious gripe; however, religions which lean on such 'logical proofs' do, without justification, conjure up some properties of such god which are unfounded, such as goodness, mercy, consciousness, effectiveness of prayers, meaning and sundays.

*** End rant ***

--
there's hole up in the sky from where the angels fall to sire children that grow up too tall, there's hole down in the ground where all the dead men go down purgatory's highways that gun their souls
[ Parent ]

Didn't read, and close-minded (5.00 / 1) (#197)
by joecool12321 on Sat Nov 03, 2001 at 02:08:39 PM EST

Dear me. I think I'm going to begin with a rant. I find myself frustrated at this point. I'm about to use a word I rarely use, and when I do use it, I use it in the weak, almost jocular sense. But not this time. This time, I use the word with the full history of its connotation, and in the strongest possible sense. I hope I don't offend others for using it. And I hope you take it as a challenge, not as an offensive comment. You are a fool. You asked for a syllogism, for an A, B, C that shows that atheism is wrong. And I have done so. Yet you do not read, you do not understand, you do not even think about what I said. I want to say almost every single thing to you that people said against religious. They called them close-minded, foolish, not accepting reality. And now you do the same thing, being close-minded and not accepting the reality of the implications. I am open to contradiction, but you have not provided any. Instead, you picked at one of the least important aspects of the entire argument. In fact, it is the only possibly unjustified think I think I've said (and you would agree, by your silence). Let me end my rant before I offend you or others even more. The step from 1 to 5 is completely laid out. The entire argument I put forth shows how it is not a contradiction. But let me explain, so that Logic may once again hold supreme.

First, the universe must have begun to exist. This is demonstrated in point 2. So following the syllogism: 1) Whatever begins to exist has a cause of its existence; 2) The universe began to exist; 3) Therefore, the universe has a cause of its existence. So I've here demonstrated that the universe began. However, I see no evidence to show me that a God must have begun. For 1 and 5 to be a contradiction, you have to show me that a God must have begun to exist. In 4 I attempt to show reasons for that God to be eternal, that is, I've already shown you evidence that a God did not begin to exists. So again, for 1 and 5 to contradict, you must first defeat every argument in section 4 and THEN demonstrate evidence to show that a God must have begun. There is simply no contradiction here, and that is why.

In fact, in your highlighting you show why in fact they don't contradict. I CONCLUDE in 5 that the God that created this universe is uncaused. Why? He never began to exist (4.2.1, 4.2.2, 4.2.3 (somewhat) and 4.2.5 all show how that is a safe conclusion).

In fact, to defeat point 3, you have to deny the premises (1 and 2). If you cannot defeat 1 and 2, then point 3 stands. If point 3 stands, so does point 4 (with the possible exception of 4.2.8 as per the syllogism - you can see how I didn't show that it followed from any of the earlier arguments. I thought I would try asserting for once, I will address your questions). Point 5 is simply a summary of the syllogism, and stands unless 1 and 2 are false.

Now, on to your rant. I think you are wrong even without reading the link. Why? You say, "there are several, not completely implausible, theories which explain an impression of intelligent design without actually requiring such; you could start from talk.origins, genetic algorithms or even by looking at Tierra." I, however, have shown that there must be an original cause. And here I am going to use less faith than you seem prepared to. It is nearly no step of faith at all to grant what is self-evident - that complex initial conditions are evidence for a complex (intelligent) mind. You, however, present an option that you call, "not completely implausible". That means they take more faith than the simply step I am proposing. So if you have great faith, then deny 4.2.8.1. I cannot. It simply takes too much faith.

Point 2. Again, the causer of the universe is uncaused. Your entire argument falls if that is true. I have demonstrated that it is. Therefore, your entire argument falls.

Your argument that the universe is infinite is unfounded based on point 2. The rest of your rant is rather rant-y, and I will only address it if you ask me to.

I hope I have been instructional and not condescending, but I think you must admit that your objection was answered within the argument already. Please read more carefully, and do not act like those religious people that are so often disdained.

--Joey


[ Parent ]
nonsensical (2.00 / 1) (#212)
by crayz on Sat Nov 03, 2001 at 10:35:56 PM EST



[ Parent ]
nonsensical2 (3.50 / 2) (#213)
by crayz on Sat Nov 03, 2001 at 10:40:11 PM EST

first one didn't get posted for some reason(even though it showed up perfectly in preview). I'll try again:

In fact, in your highlighting you show why in fact they don't contradict. I CONCLUDE in 5 that the God that created this universe is uncaused. Why? He never began to exist (4.2.1, 4.2.2, 4.2.3 (somewhat) and 4.2.5 all show how that is a safe conclusion).

What you basically say is:
1) since everything has a cause, the universe must have had a cause
2) that cause must have been a creator
3) therefore, that creator must not have had a cause

???

Do you not see the illogic in this?

[ Parent ]

Sensical (3.00 / 1) (#217)
by joecool12321 on Sat Nov 03, 2001 at 11:16:29 PM EST

Egads! I'm certainly beginning to become frustrated. You completely misquote me and are not listening to the words that are coming out of my mouth. I think it's infinitely clear that I am not arguing, as you say I am, that "since everything has a cause, the universe must have had a cause." What I clearly say in point 1 is this: Whatever begins to exist has a cause of its existence. Then I go on to prove that the universe was caused (all of point 2) and because of this reason, the universe has a cause of its existence. In point 4 I show what that cause must look like (namely, as I already said, an uncaused, personal Creator of the universe, who sans creation is "beginningless," changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless, and enormously powerful and intelligent.

Do you not see the logic in this?

--Joey


[ Parent ]
no, I don't (3.00 / 2) (#233)
by crayz on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 01:38:18 PM EST

First of all you are going to need to prove your assertion about an "actual infinite", for instance responding to arguments like this:
http://www.arts.uwa.edu.au/PhilosWWW/Hons-PGAbstracts/kabay2.html

Next, you are going to have to explain how this is evidence for any specific religion. Even if you do show this argument is true(which I absolutely do not think you can), all it would show is the need for *a* creator. Believing in any particular religion would still be an act of faith. It would be like finding a body and proving the person was murdered, and then just grabbing some guy off the street and saying "here, I proved this a murder, so here's who did it"

[ Parent ]
You don't what? (3.00 / 1) (#239)
by joecool12321 on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 05:51:51 PM EST

You've got me quite confused. No, you don't see the logic, or no, you don't see how an actuall infinite cannot exist? If the only argument you have against me is that an actual infinite can exist, then my point still stands. I used it in order to prove premise 2. I have 3 other proofs for premise 2, so my argument at this point still stands. Thankyou for not misquoting me this time, though.

The reason that the link you provide is not an issue is two-fold. First, it is a conceptual issue (not physical) and second, it assumes as a premise an infinite being. So that supports or is neutral on the fact of an actual infinite, not destructive to my argument. I'm going to qoute Hilbert really quickly, though (even though my argument stands 100% at this point (because this line of argumentation is not essential to my position. If you defeat this, my argument still stands)). He says, "The infinite is nowhere to be found in reality. It neither exists in nature, nor provides a legitimate basis for rational thought.... The role that remains for the infinite to play is solely that of an idea."

My only goal was to show that there is a creator, and Athiesm is true. Proving Christianity comes after that point.

--Joey

[ Parent ]
see the logic... (3.00 / 2) (#244)
by crayz on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 07:25:19 PM EST

I still don't see how you can say that nothing can exist without a cause, and then say God is uncaused...

in any case, don't you think Quantum Mechanics interferes with your argument just a bit?(that nothing can exist without a cause)

[ Parent ]
Listen! (4.50 / 2) (#249)
by joecool12321 on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 08:52:33 PM EST

Once again you've misconstrued my argument. I say, "Whatever begins to exist has a cause of its existence." I do NOT say "nothing can exist without a cause." These are two completely different things. Of course if I were to say, "nothing can exist without a cause," it would be a contradiction, so obviously that is not what I am saying.

How does QM interfere with my argument?

--Joey


[ Parent ]
QM (3.00 / 1) (#276)
by codepoet on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 11:21:34 AM EST

How does QM interfere with my argument?

Quantum particles can appear at random with no direct cause. In certain warps (gravity, for instance) the chances are higher for the creation, but there is no specific incident that creates the particle.

Likewise for the destruction of said particle.

"We're going to find out who did this and we're going after the bastards." --Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah
[ Parent ]

At this point (3.00 / 1) (#291)
by joecool12321 on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 01:33:28 PM EST

My entire argument stands.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but you're talking about virtual particles. They are, IIRC, useful mathematically to describe and correct for variances in observation, but not physically visible (they move backwards in time to anhialate themselves at the moment of creation)?

Even if they are actuall physical particles, the cause would be QM itself, I suppose. I don't know enough QM to tell you, but I'd need to see a citation or somehting regarding their creation/destruction cycle. Then perhaps I could address their cause.

--Joey

[ Parent ]
Stands? No. (4.00 / 2) (#297)
by codepoet on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 02:01:29 PM EST

Your argument does not stand as you have yourself stated you don't know enough QM to even appriciate what I said. The particles are long-standing. There's a chance one has appeared in your living room during your lifetime. The destruction is not immidiate nor required; these are not unstable particles and tend to spend their existance as any other particle.

The destruction I'm referring to is the destruction of protons, which is an ongoing experiment in decay being done in several contries with underground "lakes" of pure water and flash detectors waiting for the theoretical destruction of an aged proton (something like a one in ten trillion chance that it can be observed, but they're trying anyway).

Please, go read "Other Worlds" by Paul Davies to learn the basics of QM and then return. I'll wait, I promise. =)

"We're going to find out who did this and we're going after the bastards." --Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah
[ Parent ]

You're right, let me respond (sorry) (4.00 / 1) (#299)
by joecool12321 on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 02:15:38 PM EST

You're right, I failed to recognize that you were attacking premise 1. Let me say this in response. Is the premise self-evident (a priori)? It must be so metaphysically. Out of nothing, nothing comes. Something cannot come from nothing. If there is absolutely nothing: no space, time, energy, or matter, then something cannot just come out of it. In your QM example, there is energy, space, time, and matter already present. I hope this address your issue with the first proposition.

Sorry for not grasping what you were saying at first.

--Joey


[ Parent ]
ex nil? yep. (4.00 / 1) (#304)
by codepoet on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 04:52:03 PM EST

If there is absolutely nothing: no space, time, energy, or matter, then something cannot just come out of it.

You really need to read Other Worlds. No kidding, really.

"We're going to find out who did this and we're going after the bastards." --Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah
[ Parent ]

O.K. (4.00 / 1) (#309)
by joecool12321 on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 09:55:11 PM EST

I will.

But you have to read either Body and Soul by Dr. J.P. Moreland & Scott B. Rae, or Reason in the Balance by Dr. Phillip E. Johnson. Read the first one (I just started it) for an argument supporting Dualism. The second brings Naturalism into question (you may like that one better, I'm not sure).

--Joey

[ Parent ]

Uh oh, my pulse is rising [way too long] (4.00 / 3) (#226)
by kaatunut on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 06:47:37 AM EST

and arms suddenly feel very light and almost shake. I wonder what this could be.

First, I would ask you to refrain from accusations of close-mindedness and furious sputtering you engaged in. I refrained from such in my first post even though I did feel strong tempotation to do so; this was because, for once in my life, I would like to avoid turning this into another flamefest. So next time we communicate, really, refrain from any personal references whatsoever, unless requested, OK?

-->

First, the universe must have begun to exist. This is demonstrated in point 2.

You state in 2.1.1 that actual infinite can not exist. Why is this? In case actual infinite means something non-obvious, clarify.

However, I see no evidence to show me that a God must have begun.

In item 1 you assert that whatever begins to exist must have a cause for existence. Further down you state that God is uncaused. I see the confusion now; you're stating that God didn't begin [to exist]. My apologizes for this minor wordplay confusion, however, I am still at dark for this: why do you state that universe has begun, yet God hasn't, and thus universe had a cause and God didn't? You say you do not see evidence that God must have begun and claim to have proved that universe must have begun; yet I see no such evidence for universe.

Yes, certain thermal properties of our universe may or may not demonstrate an event some call 'Big Bang', others 'Creation', yet (1) this does not mean the Creation was initiated by an intelligent, thinking entity but may have been part of a larger, yet still non-conscious and thus simpler, entity I refer to when I talk about universe. References to multiverses, consecutive big crunch / big bang -theories, randomness und so wieder, and (2) I strongly suspect that even if current theories of cosmology would shift to make our universe infinite in age, you still would be theistic.

Summary: Explain to me why universe must have begun and God hasn't, and why you presume to attach human-like properties into whatever we choose to call the thing from whence big bang/creation came from.

that complex initial conditions are evidence for a complex (intelligent) mind. You, however, present an option that you call, "not completely implausible". That means they take more faith than the simply step I am proposing.

Mr. 'joecool12321', I am foreigner on hostile territory, and too familiar with results of emotional reactions touching on issues of Life, Universe and Everything. Recently, with such conditions prevailing, I will attempt to avoid discussion of such things as far as possible and when I do choose to engage, I will do it with caution. This means using very cautious expressions; instead of saying what translates into "this must so and if you do not agree with me you are one a fuckwit moron who deserves to be shot and his genitals cut and fed to the dogs", I will suggest that what I'm saying might be possible.

So let me clarify. Though the portion you quoted seems to make no sense, based on your above post and context I will presume you are saying: "because our universe is highly complex, whatever caused its existence must be even more complex, ergo God". If I'm wrong, correct me.

Now, since you so cheerfully refused to pay attention to my link and its surroundings: I am saying that complex can arise from very simple. The link I gave you is FAQ of sorts to talk.origins news group, and one of my favourite resources in all things concerning the ongoing evolution - creationism debate. Evolution is one such process which apparently creates complexity out of simplicity; and Tierra I mentioned is one practical demonstration of this effect.

I don't know if you're familiar with it, but Tierra was an early experiment in evolutionary programming. It involved a virtual machine running snippets of pseudo-assembly code. To make long story short, the creator wrote 80 bytes of code to create a self-replicating entity, then released into wild. Due to certain parameters of Tierra machine, self-replication had a chance to have errors, and we had mutation. Over time, this small entity fragmented; first a shorter, 40-byte version of self-replicator appeared; it had outsmarted, in a way, the programmer who thought 80 bytes the smallest possible size for self-replicator. Then appeared 20-byte one. It didn't actually self-replicate - it exploited the self-replication of other, larger beings - a virus. Further down, appeared something rather like sexual reproduction and even something approaching multicellular organisms.

My point? The experiment was started with a virtual machine capable of running code (universe) and initial being (first cell) - complexity followed. You may say that it started with some complexity, which is true - the whole infrastructure of Tierra, the PC running it and the works - yet the point is, the end result was more complex than its initial conditions.

At this point I'm starting to get tired with this stuff. I could ramble on about how genetic algorithms 'create' solutions for problems and possibly even ponder about initial randomness and how something stable and/or something capable of self-replicated arising through random chance, but I'm sick of this subject. If you must think I'm a fool, then by all means do so.

--
there's hole up in the sky from where the angels fall to sire children that grow up too tall, there's hole down in the ground where all the dead men go down purgatory's highways that gun their souls
[ Parent ]

Can't think of a title (4.00 / 1) (#238)
by joecool12321 on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 05:37:25 PM EST

An actual infinite cannot exist for a couple of reasons. First, let me quote David Hilbert. He says, "The infinite is nowhere to be found in reality. It neither exists in nature, nor provides a legitimate basis for rational thought.... The role that remains for the infinite to play is solely that of an idea." What this means is that the concept of infinity is useful (sometimes) in mathematics, but has no actual realization in nature.

When you say you "see no such evidence for [the need for the] universe [to begin]," you frustrate me. This is why I am frustrated. There are two powerful arguments for the need for the universe to begin. If the universe always existed, entropy would be so increased that there would only be heat. This is the case even in an oscillating model of the universe (which is unfounded at this point) because entropy is transcendent (entropy would continue to increase through multiple "bangs" - it can't be "reset). Plus, the Big Bang concept points to the universe as beginning (remember, there is not enough matter to suggest that the universe is oscillating). But those are both physical arguments for the creation of the universe. Quite simply put, we cannot have an infinite amount of anything in nature (either temporally or causally).

So let me summarize at this point (I think some of the confusion may come from not understanding the order of the argument). 1) Whatever begins to exist has a cause of its existence. 2) The universe began to exist. 3) Therefore, the universe has a cause of its existence. That is all of the argument at this point.

In point four I say to myself, "Self, if the universe is caused, but whatever caused it cannot either begin to exist or have a cause of its existence, what are some of the qualities that this first cause must have?" And then I answer myself in section 4. The reason for human-like properties is simple, if you accept Christianity (I don't know the answer for other religions) and it is this: we don't assign human attributes to God, He assigned God-like attributes to humans.

You then call my reactions emotional. My reaction was emotional, but simply because I was experiencing the same thing you have probably experienced many times yourself: talking to someone else and not having them listen to you, not read your words. I have not emotional problem with you proving my arguments as false (I am not epistemologically certain that Christianity is right, although I am pretty certain that there is a God. But I am open to contradiction.), my emotional reaction was one of being argued, not against, but AT, because of a lack of understanding. Your "fuckwit moron" phrase, I am assuming you used in the past, because I have tried very carefully to not communicate such a concept.

For an example of me not being read and understood, you say that I say, "because our universe is highly complex, whatever caused its existence must be even more complex, ergo God." That is not at all my claim. That is my argument as to why God must be intelligent. My argument that there is a God is simply this: (1) Whatever begins to exist has a cause of its existence. (2) The universe began to exist. (3) Therefore, the universe has a cause of its existence. Then, what are some of the attributes that cause must have? They are all in 4.

Next, you argue that complex can arise from the simple. But you present me with an argument that more supports my side than yours. Tierra (thank you for elucidating) is an example of intelligent creation. Could Tierra come to exist without an intelligent creator? Nope. You have given me an example of an intelligently created "being" (I use the term lightly) that could not have "evolved" from anything at all. It took a willful act to create it. My point? The only reason the experiment worked was because of INTELLIGENT DESIGN! There were no simple conditions if you look at the whole system. If however, you ignore the Creator, things look complex. Now look at the "code" running in our universe? Where's the "coder"? I think I have shown you that there must be a God (again, I'm simply trying to show Atheism is wrong, not that Christianity is right).

--Joey


[ Parent ]
Gott weiss ich will kein Engel sein (4.50 / 2) (#266)
by kaatunut on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 03:31:01 AM EST

Quite simply put, we cannot have an infinite amount of anything in nature (either temporally or causally).

But you just defined God as something infinite.

Therefore, the universe has a cause of its existence.

In a fashion I may agree with you -- the universe we live in, the thing we call universe, it may have begun existing. However, I still maintain it's a non sequitur that this cause for "space-time matrix" (like a book I just read puts it) must be 'God' in the sense that most think of it. My somewhat incoherent ramblings about randomness below were aiming at the idea that there is no reason to think that whatever caused this matrix's existence is a conscious entity. Relevance of Tierra and related was that all that really might be needed was something random. I can't be specific about it just like you can't be specific about your God, but it seems evident to me that whatever 'mechanistic' (as you would put it) process brought us, it certainly does not need human-like qualities.

The reason for human-like properties is simple, if you accept Christianity

This is my gripe. First, you presented us a logical proof with which you claimed to prove God's existence; in fact, you only proved that something which did not begin brought our universe about; in my eyes, you still are to demonstrate why this entity (though that may be misleading term; I do not mean to associate it with consciousness, individuality or other human-like concepts) cannot be mechanistic, 'automatic', possible to describe with laws.

However, at this point I see a potential point of "agreeing to disagree", which together with either side changing his mind, are the only acceptable ends to an argument. I think it may be best summarized by this question: do you accept the theory that we, our consciousness and all, is brought by interaction of matter alone; that there is no transcendental soul, that all we are is a cloud of matter energy ruled by certain laws? If your answer is no, if you believe in some mystic souls beyond this world of shadows, this conversation will lead to nowhere; because then, you may argue, that consciousness is the simplest explanation for whatever caused our universe to come about; however, if you agree with me and accept the theory that our consciousness is a very complex product of neurons and whatnot, then my argument holds and I say that to claim universe was brought by a consciousness is unnecessarily complex.

You have given me an example of an intelligently created "being" (I use the term lightly) that could not have "evolved" from anything at all.

And though I mentioned this issue in my original post, you did not see the point. Tierra was created by an intelligent being to its initial conditions, yes; however, its creator specifically did not encode the 'beings' that arose of it; complexity was added. The end result was everything the old was, and more; no consciousness wrote the virus, or the multicellular organisms that Tierra ran.

Now look at the "code" running in our universe? Where's the "coder"?

Where's the code running Tierra's organisms? See, once we have one level of machinery, it will expand itself, in a fashion. You choose to call this first level of machinery, first cause, the Uncreated, 'God'. I do not, because there is no reason to assume this first cause was intelligent, as far as I can see.

--
there's hole up in the sky from where the angels fall to sire children that grow up too tall, there's hole down in the ground where all the dead men go down purgatory's highways that gun their souls
[ Parent ]

No language quote yet (5.00 / 1) (#310)
by joecool12321 on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 10:15:12 PM EST

Couldn't translate your subject. I got, "God white I does not want to be an angel"

"But you just defined God as something infinite." But I did not define him as natural, that is, existing in nature, and so there is no contradiction.

Next, we cannot have a "mechanistic" process bring us about, simply because that would be an actual infinite. You then seem to take issue with having a "conscious" entity create the universe. I never said God was conscious. I said that the initial cause would be, "uncaused, beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless, and enormously powerful and intelligent." If it requires a conscious entity to have all those qualaties, then it is acceptable to assume God is conscious. (The argument would look a little like this: In order to be enormously powerful and intelligent, consciousness is required; The initial cause is enormously powerful and intelligent; Therefore the initial cause is conscious). I hope this is a better, non-christian example of why it is acceptable to think of the IC as God.

"you only proved that something which did not begin brought our universe about" Actually, I think I've proved the IC is uncaused, beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless, and enormously powerful and intelligent. The last contention (2.8) is justified, I think, although I'm beginning to see what you are saying. let me try to summarize.

"Joey," you say, "Why must I accept the inital cause as being intelligent? Why must I accept 2.8 as true? Couldn't a simple thing give rise to the complexity before us?" I should go back and review our discussion at this point, but let me take a stab, because I have to leave soon, and I've waited too long already. The reason Tierra was able to give rise to complexity (I may have a contention against this (namely, Tierra evolved to simplicity...not going to say it yet, though)) was becaue it was able to "feedback" upon itself and give rise OVER TIME! This over time aspect of your argument I think falls under a need for an initial cause (as per argument 2). Is that a better response?

Again, sorry for the length of time it took me to respond (I responded to some of the "easier" posts first, so take it as a compliment). I hope this addresses your issue better. I hope to come back and say more, but I have to leave soon and didn't want to make you wait any longer.

--Joey

[ Parent ]
alle warten auf das licht (4.50 / 2) (#320)
by kaatunut on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 06:00:38 AM EST

I think my previous posts's subect means "God knows I don't want be an angel" / "Goddamn I won't be an angel". I think it's a wordplay, but don't know enough german to be sure yet.

But I did not define him as natural, that is, existing in nature, and so there is no contradiction.

What is this 'nature' you speak of? As far as I'm concerned, everything that may influence the world we live in (Creation) and can be influenced by the world we live in (observing the world) is a part of this world. I mean, what's the distinction? If he has access to us and vice versa, he's just living in a different part of the world. What's so special about God that he's allowed to be infinite and rest of us not?

simply because that would be an actual infinite.

Like before, I must suppose I don't know the meaning of that term; for I see not why it should be logically impossible. It seems evident there has to be something that is infinite; whether this is God is irrelevant, because even he is something. Please expand on your definition of 'nature', what makes something part of it and something not, and why it's logically obvious that something not part of that is allowed to be infinite. Remember, all this started when you claimed to have logical proof.

I said that the initial cause would be, "uncaused, beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless, and enormously powerful and intelligent." If it requires a conscious entity to have all those qualaties, then it is acceptable to assume God is conscious.

The issues of uncaused/beginningless (which are essentially the same thing) is discussed above.

The changeless part seems a tad curious to me. You say God 'created' the universe; this implies that there is time of sorts involved even with him. More below. Ditto timeless.

Immaterial/spacelessless: this depends on what you mean with 'matter'/'space'. Firstly, I agree that if such God were to exist, there is no reason to deny he'd have to be made of protons, electrons & friends like us. I, self-confessed materialist, have never claimed that. However, it is one of my axioms that there are no souls in the sense that everything is made of some 'substance' (oh, how do I hate metaphysics; what is substance? We never can define everything to the bottom) and governed by some definite rules. I can never prove that, but it's just as consistent as some other peoples' theory of 'spirits' and much more precisely defined. Now, like I ventured above, whenever there is something that can affect our world in any way, I see no reason to exclude it from belonging to our world; just like you and me belong in the same world because I can have effect on you (for example, through this text) and vice versa, if God can have anything at all to do with he is part of our world, and thus material.

As for powerful/intelligent, this is covered by my randomness musings.

I hope this is a better, non-christian example of why it is acceptable to think of the IC as God.

Yes, though it's still a non sequitur to think he possesses the qualities of a Christian God (mercy, love et cetera). Oh, by the way, isn't consciousness a prequisite for intelligence?

was becaue it was able to "feedback" upon itself and give rise OVER TIME! This over time aspect of your argument I think falls under a need for an initial cause (as per argument 2).

Constructing from your emphasis, your issue would seem to come in two parts. Firstly, are you saying that complexity-from-simplicity requires time which might not have been available (time, as a concept, not amount)? Because if you are, well, this is another thing I've had with talk about God. People always say he's timeless, that he lives outside of time und so wieder. This seems just nonsensical to me. Like with the spaceless issue above, I do not claim that God would need to exist, like us, tied to our time and in synch to our time. If such omnipotent being were to exist, there's no reason to deny he could see past, present and future just whenever he pleases - though observations of Christian God as presented by Old Testament very strongly suggest he is just as bound to time as us, nee? (damn, that book is really starting to creep to my use of language) However, I think, he does need some time; time is the axis of chance, action happens in time, and he very act of creating us is an action, requiring some sort of time. This may be his personal time but it's time none the less - and thus, if your God can have time, so can my Omnipotent Tierra :)

Concerning your other point about initial cause, I'm not sure what you're saying, but it is the point that this does not have initial cause; what I'm sayinging is that if you can have a designer-God (an uncaused which brought about our universe), then I can have a random soup (an uncaused which brought about our universe) and as far as I can see, there's nothing about your God which gives him an upper edge in this Battle of Gods, if I may put it so poetically. Your God was an intelligent being who designed universe and created it; for this, he needed time, the time that my random God would spend going all random. My God was uncaused, and so was yours. The only difference is, my God is a mechanistic process in the sense I mean it - that it is ruled by laws and described by data. Belief in this random God, of course, is pretty atheistic; after all, it's just another cosmic machine itself. And nobody built this cosmic machine, just like nobody created that cosmic God.

---

By the way, I must apologize for my behaviour upthread; specifically the rating and tone. Your post seemed more foolish than it really was - I misunderstood you. However, that 'fuckwit' part wasn't an insult aimed at you; I picked up the term from somethingawful.com and my quotation was an attempt to say "please talk rationally instead of calling me an idiot". Didn't mean to insult you.

--
there's hole up in the sky from where the angels fall to sire children that grow up too tall, there's hole down in the ground where all the dead men go down purgatory's highways that gun their souls
[ Parent ]

Ummm... (3.66 / 3) (#207)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Sat Nov 03, 2001 at 04:05:58 PM EST

... premise 4.1.2 is unobvious to me and your argumentation provides no support for it.



[ Parent ]

Gladly (4.00 / 2) (#216)
by joecool12321 on Sat Nov 03, 2001 at 10:59:25 PM EST

I'd be glad to expand on point 4.2.1. In it I claim, "The universe could not have been brought into being by a mechanically operating set of necessary and sufficient conditions." The reason I didn't expand upon the point more is this: Argument 2 cross-applies to this point. If mechanically sufficient conditions were always in place, it would be an actual infinite (what brought that mechanically sufficient condition into place?). The existence of a timeless, uncreated, changeless God escapes this paradox for science.

--Joey


[ Parent ]
Sorry... (3.50 / 2) (#224)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 05:10:05 AM EST

... I don't really buy it. Your argument 2 deals with events and comes to a prohibition against infinite chains of them (and while I don't buy that prohibition personally, I'll stick with it for this post). However, you don't seem to be bothered about having other types of things that exist for infinite spans of time. So, seems permissable to think that the nature of the N&S conditions (which aren't events) could be unchanging and eternal (as much so as any hypothesised god). Thus there was no beginning to them, so no need for something to bring them into existance; and the worries about infinite chains never crop up in relation to them.



[ Parent ]

Where do we disagree? (4.00 / 1) (#237)
by joecool12321 on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 05:00:11 PM EST

I really don't see where we are in disagreement here. I completely agree that the N&S conditions MUST not be physical. If something was not physical (i.e. spiritual (or perhaps Plato's "Forms", different discussion)) it could exist for an infinite span of time. So yes, it is not "permissible" but in fact NECESSARY for the initial conditions to be non-pysical. And that is why 4.2.1 must be true, because something mechanical would also be temporal. An atemporal something must have created the universe. My argument (substantiated not in this post, but the original one) is that it must be a God. Like someone else pointed out, I'm not trying to show which God it was, but simply that Atheism must be false.

Let simply quote someone we can all respect with regards to the prohibition against an actual infinite. David Hilbert, who is perhaps the greatest mathematician of this century, states, "The infinite is nowhere to be found in reality. It neither exists in nature, nor provides a legitimate basis for rational thought.... The role that remains for the infinite to play is solely that of an idea."

--Joey


[ Parent ]
A, B, C, infffffffffffffffff (4.00 / 2) (#225)
by Muad'Duuuuude on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 06:19:03 AM EST

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause of its existence.

The basis for this conclusion rests upon this being a priori knowledge, although Craig believed that the Big Bang itself gave him the empirical vindication necessary for making this conclusion.
While it is certainly true that this universe has a measurable span in time, there are theories such as (simply as an example) The Oscillating Universe Theory that circumvent problems with the realization that before the initial singularity, time did not exist, and thus is it is not constant and not subject to issue here.
Craig's conclusion of a priori metaphysical understanding is perplexing. There's seemingly limitless quantities of discussion on the matter.
However let's simply assume that 1 and 2 are correct.

We then accept 3.
In Big Bang cosmology the initial singularity is the ontological consequence of thermodynamic expansion, which Craig sites in 2 as evidence of his propositions. However his denial of the ontological existence of the singularity does not remain consistent with thermodynamics.

4
Now that's quite the jump we've got there, eh?
4.1.1 and 4.1.3:
His conclusion that the universe must be created by a mechanical process or an intelligent supercreator is a tad short-sighted.
The singularity is neither a mechanical process nor an intelligent creator, but rather a indetermistic point.

4.2:
Let's first just toss 4.2.7 and 4.2.8 out because their basis is purely subjective.
4.2.2, 4.2.3, 4.2.4:
God willed the universe to exist.
God is timeless.
God does not change.
God does not begin.
God's will is thus eternal, and thus has willed the existence of the universe for eternity, and thus the universe has no beginning.

This horse was beaten to death long ago, with a variety of arguments (of which this isn't the strongest set), but you can easily find a wealth of 'debate' on this topic (given its age) on usenet archives or using your favorite search engine.
There's nothing specifically convincing about these arguments. There are numerous theories that explain the creation of the universe without the use of a diety.

[ Parent ]
Amusing but so what? (3.50 / 2) (#271)
by nichughes on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 07:44:51 AM EST

The problem with this proof is that it proves nothing, it is in essence just a wordy restatement of some unsubstantiated assumptions.

Whatever begins to exist has a cause of its existence
So far as we know this is a valid rule within the universe (although not in the simplistic way this appears to imply) but that says nothing about whether it should or does apply to the existance of the universe itself. The usual analogy is to the rules of chess, within a game of chess there is a set of consistent and knowable rules but none of them can be used to understand why the game itself exists.

An actual infinite cannot exist
Is something that would need to be proven rather than merely asserted.

The universe could not have been brought into being by a mechanically operating set of necessary and sufficient conditions.
This is known as begging the question, you have simply assumed that no alternative hypothesis can be true without giving any proof for the assumption.

I could go on but I think the point is clear, what we have here is faith dressed up to look like logic to the casual onlooker.

--
Nic

[ Parent ]

Generic Title (4.00 / 1) (#302)
by joecool12321 on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 02:32:55 PM EST

How can you metaphically defend the argument of something coming from nothing? From nothing, nothing comes.

In defence of 2.1.1: First, it is one part of a four part argument regarding whether or not the universe began. You need to defeat all four premisies AND demonstrate why it could have always existed in order to defeat the argument. But now, let me try to defend the claim. Why can an actual infinite not exist? Basically, the translation of an actuall infinite into reality leads to contradiction. For example, what is infinity minus infinity? Well, mathematically you get self-contradictory answers, unless you impose some wholly arbitrary rules to prevent this (set theory, Calculus). This shows that infinity is just an idea in your mind, not something that exists in reality. David Hilbert (again) says, "The infinite is nowhere to be found in reality. It neither exists in nature, nor provides a legitimate basis for rational thought.... The role that remains for the infinite to play is solely that of an idea."

You then accuse me of begging the question. I do not. In another post I already responded to this line of argumentation, but... The reason it could not be mechanical is because it would have a relation to itself causally. Thus, it cannot be physical according to argument 2.

You then accuse me of "faith dressed up to look like logic". I've never denied that I lack faith. But so do you. Scietism take faith, and rests upon its own presuppositions about the way things are. I'm trying to show that it doesn't take a "leap of faith" to believe in God. And I think the power of the syllogism is the only thing (at this point in the discussion) into which I've put faith.

Try proving Naturalism or Scietism or Athiesm, and you'll find yourself in a much more difficult position. (Hurm...that's an interesting idea. I've presented a proof for a God, but I'd be interested to see a proof for not-God.)

--Joey


[ Parent ]
Hoist by your own logical petard... (4.00 / 2) (#273)
by Obvious Pseudonym on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 08:07:37 AM EST

2.1.1 - An actual infinite cannot exist.

4.2.2 - The Creator is beginningless.

Conclusion -

If the hypothetical Creator is beginningless then it must be infinite, and therefore cannot exist.

Obvious Pseudonym

I am obviously right, and as you disagree with me, then logically you must be wrong.
[ Parent ]

Read what I say (4.00 / 1) (#300)
by joecool12321 on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 02:20:26 PM EST

Read what I say.

I also argue that it is timeless. It's not an actuall infinite. There's no causal relation to itself, and hence, no paradox. (BTW -- the lack of causal relation is true of whatever the inital cause was, regardless of if it's the Christian God or not.)

--Joey

[ Parent ]
Timeless vs Infinite (4.00 / 2) (#315)
by Obvious Pseudonym on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 03:45:14 AM EST

I also argue that it is timeless. It's not an actuall infinite. There's no causal relation to itself, and hence, no paradox. (BTW -- the lack of causal relation is true of whatever the inital cause was, regardless of if it's the Christian God or not.)

The only way you can claim the existance of your creator without getting into paradox is to let it disobey the rules of your own argument. You say that the universe *must* have a beginning because otherwise it would be infinite, but then that your creator can have no beginning because it is 'timeless' (a word with no meaning as far as I can tell, other than to justify the creator's existance).

A much simpler solution (which I think you understand based on your last sentence) it that the universe is as 'timeless' (to use your word) as your creator in that it possesses time but time is a property within the universe rather than a property of the universe. Consider the Earth. If I stand in the middle of America, I can walk north and south and measure my progress. Think of this north-south axis as time. I can also walk east and west. The world has a certain circumference at the latitude that I am at - and also if I walk east or west far enough (assuming I can swim) I will get back to where I started. Think if the east-west movement as my movement around the universe and the circumference as the size of the universe.

Now if I am slowly being pushed north (forward through time) and was born in a small town in Florida, I might now be a bit further north from that town, and can look back at it. I can see some way north and south as well as east and west. It is easy for me to say 'Look, the universe goes north and south - it cannot be infinite so eventually if I go far enough south I will fall off the end of the earth. Therefore there must be a timeless creator to the south of the earth holding it up.' Of course, I cannot see the curve of the earth from where I am standing as the earth is too big compared to myself.

Of course, no matter how far north or south I go I will never fall off the end of the earth - as it is a sphere and has no end. Similarly there is no need to place a creator 'south of the earth' (i.e. before the start of the universe) as 'south' is a property within the earth, not a property of the earth.

Obvious Pseudonym

I am obviously right, and as you disagree with me, then logically you must be wrong.
[ Parent ]

Timeless != Infinite (no time to measure infinity) (4.00 / 1) (#317)
by joecool12321 on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 04:14:18 AM EST

I'm not sure I completely grasp your illustration. Perhaps I will after I sleep. But I wanted to be perfectly clear on something. You say: "You say that the universe *must* have a beginning because otherwise it would be infinite, but then that your creator can have no beginning because it is 'timeless'" My argument IS that the universe must have a beginning, because otherwise it would be infinte. But why is that the case? The physical nature of the universe is such that the way we relate to it is through time. The only reason a ball "falls to the earth" is because a series of continuous events happen, namely, the ball being close to the earth now than it was a moment before. And there is a sequence of these moments. You cannot have an infinite number of these moments (PLEASE remember, this is ONE aspect of contention 2, I have three other arguments showing that the universe began) one after another.

So the IC must be timeless (that is, transcending time) non-physical (or immaterial), and changeless (otherwise the IC was different now than it was a moment ago).

The IC must be uncaused, because a temporal regress of causes cannot exist. Becaue the IC is uncaused, it must be beginnignless. Why? Whatever is uncaused does not begin to exist (1). The Creator must also be changless, because an infinite temporal regress of change cannot exist (2.1.3, 2.2.3). Therefore, the creator must be immaterial (whatever is materal is composed of change, but the creator is changeless). And in the absence of change, time does not exist, so the IC must be timeless (atemporal or transcending time). The creator is, as I already said, immaterial and timeless, and so must be spaceless. The IC must also be powerful, because it created the universe out of nothing (as per 3). And because of the sensitivity of the conditions of the universe, the IC must be intelligent.

What I just said may be complete crap. I'll read it again when I wake up (or wait for someone to point it out to me).

--Joey

[ Parent ]
Sex and Religion (3.57 / 7) (#83)
by SIGFPE on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 02:13:08 PM EST

Why do you think religions are so obsessed with sex? Well, that's a dumb question. People are obsessed with sex and religion is practised by people. But why are religions so obsessed with repressing and controlling sex? Christians would love to stamp out sex once and for all. According to Christians we're all tainted with original sin, which is basically sex. Christians hate sex so much that they had to make the mother of Jesus a virgin! Orthodox Christians don't even believe Mary gave birth - somehow Jesus passed through those oh, so horrible, female genitalia, without actually touching them.

And religions that tolerate sex are still obsessed with controlling who does it with who. Plenty of women are stoned to death for having sex with the wrong person. Even in Iran, say, where men on long pilgrimages are understood to need sex from time to time, prostitution is tolerated as long as it's wrapped in a veneer of temporary marriage (called sigheh) - in other words it's regulated by the clerics.

Anyone care to speculate as to why they think this is so? I can't help wondering if there is a Darwinian explanation - after all sex is crucial to succesful reproduction so the subjects aren't unrelated. Also, Christianity has had a certain democratic spirit from the very beginning and the enforcing of <= one partner per person may have helped to enforce a degree of equality that would be upset by harems.

I find the whole thing rather weird. But it's crucial to address this subject to understand religion. When people talk about religion they often mean morality, and more often than not when people talk of morality they mean sexual morality.
SIGFPE

Confusion, friend? (4.33 / 3) (#86)
by codepoet on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 02:26:12 PM EST

You, perhaps, disagree with the idea of not being able to plug any hole that's open. That's not so much sex as family, so you'd have to start asking about a religion's obsession with family. Simply put, the belief is that a man and a woman need to live together to raise a child (the ultimate goal of sex). That required marriage. Therefore no marriage means no sex. Simple.

This isn't particularly popular in a hedonsistic society and never has been. However, that doesn't mean it's an obsession, just a stance. I doubt there's a band of Jesuits following you around everywhere and pulling you away from any woman you drop your pants to or anything...

"We're going to find out who did this and we're going after the bastards." --Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah
[ Parent ]

You make a good point about family (4.00 / 3) (#92)
by SIGFPE on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 02:42:00 PM EST

And I'm sure that in the past preaching a degree of sexual control was a very good thing. But today, with the available of good contraceptives, it hardly seems relevant. Also sexual morality seems to restrict those forms of sex that have no chance of leading to pregnancy, including homosexuality and masturbation (or even just viewing pornography).

It's certainly true that I don't expect to be followed around by the morals police in the Western world. However I do in much of the rest of the world - for example in the Middle East.

I think 'obsession' is a fair assesment. Whenever I hear a religious viewpoint about anything it's frequently related to sex (sometimes indirectly via the subject of abortion). This may be a media bias of course.

Your choice of language, "plug any hole that's open", also seems to betray a degree of sexism and an unhealthy view of sex as a purely mechanical process.
SIGFPE
[ Parent ]

Responses (4.00 / 1) (#172)
by jtdubs on Sat Nov 03, 2001 at 07:14:28 AM EST

I have two follow-up questions to your post.

First: Why does living together to raise a child require marrige? I don't believe that it does. Marriage is a social convention and is in no way related to the raising of children other than tradition.

Second: Why is having children the ultimate goal of sex? That one is highly debatable. To many people the ultimate goal of sex is pleasure and children may be an unwanted side-effect. Yes, evolutionarily, children may be a desired result, but psychologically, I'm not so sure.

Anyway, just playing Devil's Advocate. Have fun,

Justin Dubs

[ Parent ]
Family and sex (5.00 / 1) (#215)
by codepoet on Sat Nov 03, 2001 at 10:53:52 PM EST

Why does living together to raise a child require marrige? I don't believe that it does.

Belief is irrelevent. The fact is that children out of stable families are happier, more stable, and more productive in life (in general). People from broken families or similar conditions are less likely to (though not restricted from) attain that level of success or happiness. The idea of having a family to raise a child is ancient for a reason: it's simple logic. A balance of a man's personality and a woman's personality teaching a child how life works. A child needs both role models and needs them to both be good role models for them to come out "okay."

Marriage is a social convention and is in no way related to the raising of children other than tradition.

That's an interesting statement. A child can be raised by one person; this is not in dispute. What is is the effectiveness of raising a child with one parent versus two. Two is traditionally better. Even better than two? Grandparents, uncles, aunts, siblings, cousins and such all living in the same general area with frequent interaction. Again, this assumes good role models.

As far as sex and children, that's not something I feel a discussion on K5 is going to cover much ground on, but what I say above covers a lot of it.

"We're going to find out who did this and we're going after the bastards." --Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah
[ Parent ]

Misunderstanding (4.50 / 2) (#218)
by jtdubs on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 12:10:18 AM EST

There has been a slight misunderstanding.

I agree completely that having two parents is far better for a child than having only one, whether male or female.

That is not what I was disputing.

I was disputing the necessity of marriage to raise a child. I was disputing that people that live together to raise children must be married. THAT is what I call a social convention.

Two people can happily live together, be in love, and raise wonderful children without ever taking part in the social ceremony of "marriage."

That's the only point I was attempting to make. That marriage is not necessary but is, in fact, nothing more than tradition.

Anyway, sorry for the confusion. Have fun,

Justin Dubs

[ Parent ]
Ahh, I see. (none / 0) (#260)
by codepoet on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 11:26:32 PM EST

Then I stand corrected on that point and shall answer the original one.

The two people must have a reasonable guarantee of being the same two people for the duration of the child's life for there to not be scarring. This also explains religion's general dislike of divorce.

"We're going to find out who did this and we're going after the bastards." --Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah
[ Parent ]

Yes (4.00 / 1) (#265)
by jtdubs on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 02:40:32 AM EST

I agree, thank you for the reply.

Justin Dubs

[ Parent ]
Woah - sorry, a nitpick. (3.00 / 2) (#274)
by AmberEyes on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 10:26:03 AM EST

Hold on a sec.

You're saying that marriage reasonably guarantees that two people will be "the same two people for the duration of the child's life"?

I hope you're not implying the negative there - that domestic partnership reasonably guarantees that two people won't be the same two people.

People don't get married to stay the same two people without a fundament need to get married in the first place. Whether it's love, desire, lust, or neediness, a marriage certificate in hand does not reasonably guarantee anything in so much as "the same two people". Otherwise, divorce rates wouldn't be so high.

Things change over time. But from your previous posts in this section of the main discussion, you make it out to sound like married people have some sort of magical ability after the wedding ceremony that allows them ro raise children better - that's as far from the truth as you can get.

Marriage isn't about a slip of paper, it's about committment, and more importantly, it's about the mindset of the people who enter it, experience it, and continue on. Take two people who hate each other genuinely and don't really care about each other's well-being, marry them, and then have them raise a kid. Take another two people who love each other genuinely and are committed to each other but aren't married, and have them raise a kid. I bet I know which kid is going to turn out better in the end.

Now, the part I will agree with you on (not only "will", but "do"), is that married people tend to have more committment (which is why they got married anyway) than people just living together. But to make a statement, such as in your previous postings, to the tune of "The fact is that children out of stable families are happier, more stable, and more productive in life (in general). People from broken families or similar conditions are less likely to (though not restricted from) attain that level of success or happiness." is a strawman decrying the unmarried couple. It's not the marriage certificate, it's not the family status, it's the people themselves who determine that child's care.

I'm probably going overboard on this a bit, but I feel this very strongly, and I urge you to rethink what you said earlier. In truth, your theory reminds me of my fiancee's sister, who wants my fiancee and I to get married quickly, lest we "live in sin" and so we "prove our love". It's grating to say the least - a slip of paper proves nothing except that we made our togetherness a public affair. Nothing more.

-AmberEyes


"But you [AmberEyes] have never admitted defeat your entire life, so why should you start now. It seems the only perfect human being since Jesus Christ himself is in our presence." -my Uncle Dean
[ Parent ]
Marriage and Commitment (5.00 / 1) (#280)
by codepoet on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 12:24:35 PM EST

I'm not decrying partnerships, really. I'm saying that without commitment there is a significant chance for a breakup within a span of ten years (the most important for a child). That's basically gambling with a child's future and should not be taken lightly. Marriage is about love: love between the couple and love for (possibly) as yet unborn children of theirs. You marry each other to demonstrate love, but also to have a stronger home for any children that arrive as well.

It's not about a partnership not being able to provide that, but it certainly is about trying harder to not let anything get in the way. I believe it was Utah that made an optional form of legal vows available wherein there could be no divorce unless there was abuse or adultery. That's my kind of marriage. Two people can get along if they try hard enough (and oh have we tried; it's slowly working ;) and marriages are not made overnight by any means (though children are ;). Two people have to be committed to making it work and it only goes to aid that cause when there is no easy exit.

In true love and commitment, either a partnership or marriage is viable for the raising of a child, really, but given the fickle nature of human hormones and relations it's best to lock the door enough that it takes some effort to get it open rather than just walking out.

"We're going to find out who did this and we're going after the bastards." --Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah
[ Parent ]

Still don't understand (3.00 / 2) (#285)
by AmberEyes on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 12:59:55 PM EST

Well, I do, but I kinda don't understand.

You marry each other to demonstrate love, but also to have a stronger home for any children that arrive as well.

You marry to demonstrate - to prove - love? Why? I mean, why do I have to prove love? How do you prove love? And what's that saying - you don't love me enough unless you marry me?

And again, what does marriage soley (this is important, that word) have to do with the children at all?

Again - marriage means nothing, ultimately. You even indirectly acknowledge this yourself:

In true love and commitment, either a partnership or marriage is viable for the raising of a child, really, but given the fickle nature of human hormones and relations it's best to lock the door enough that it takes some effort to get it open rather than just walking out.

Fickle hormones and human relations have everything to do with this - not marriage. Even more so if you have to "lock the door enough that it takes some effort to get it open". If someone is going to walk out of a marriage, that simply disproves the theory that marriage helps - rather, it proves mine, which is that it's all about the people who are engaging in it, rather than the act itself.

Marriage does not bestow a psychological change, or physiological tie to make us a happy family. Right now, the divorce rate in America is hovering at fifty percent. That's half of all married couples split up.

In fact, I'd wager that a lot of those marriages were split second decisions - decisions made to "prove our love", or "we can't have this child out of wedlock", or "you're awful pretty after 35 of these jello shooters".

My point is that the people themselves determine whether or not a relationship works - not the marriage itself. I agree with you that married couples tend to have better raised kids and stabler familes. However, where I think (correct me if I'm wrong) you fall short is you assume that the marriage causes a stable family and better raised kids. I see it that the people themselves, who come together cause the aforementioned things - and, because of their security and their love, they feel the need to get married for whatever reason.

And in the future, I promise not to abuse the italics and bold tags as much. I simply wanted to stress things that had subtle differences. =)

-AmberEyes


"But you [AmberEyes] have never admitted defeat your entire life, so why should you start now. It seems the only perfect human being since Jesus Christ himself is in our presence." -my Uncle Dean
[ Parent ]
Round and round I go... (5.00 / 1) (#288)
by codepoet on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 01:17:57 PM EST

Let's recap: You're saying that, married or not, it's the stability of the people involved that's important.

Yes, with reservations.

I feel nervous saying flat-out that partnerships and marriages are equal on this ground without giving some more points to marriage, and I'm trying to figure out why I have that reservation.

I think a lot of it revolves around that 50% statistic. That's high. Not for divorces, but for couples that worked out. I'd really love to see a survey of domestic life partners who broke up; anyone who said they were in it for life without getting married who subsequently were not in it for life. I think the number of successes would hit 20%-35%, personally.

My reasoning for that is that marriage is not a container or a locket; it's not something that holds a relationship together (though it can help) and it's not only a showing of affection (though it can be that as well). I think, now that I'm rolling this over, marriage is a step in a healthy relationship. It's "the next level" in a relationship that is declaring love for life in a solid way. I think this is relevent to the child issue in saying that people that are married (and stay there) are generally at a better point in a relationship than others and, thus, have a stronger love to raise kids in.

So I'm not saying that it's the marriage itself, but more that marriage is a sign of the level the relationship has hit, and it's a level that tends to produce healthier children.

[Hope I read you right this time. ;) ]

"We're going to find out who did this and we're going after the bastards." --Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah
[ Parent ]

I'll agree with that (3.00 / 2) (#295)
by AmberEyes on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 01:48:53 PM EST

So I'm not saying that it's the marriage itself, but more that marriage is a sign of the level the relationship has hit, and it's a level that tends to produce healthier children.

Very close to being dead on to what I think. Your original comments inferred that marriage was neccessary. While I had a feeling you weren't meaning it to sound like that neccessarily, I still wanted to clarify the issue. Granted, there are exceptions for every rule - many people who are married are unfit to raise kids, and many people who are not married are unfit to raise kids. At the same time, just because you aren't married, it doesn't mean your relationship is perfect. I agree totally.

My main point that I wanted to stress is that kids can be raised healthily in an environment without marriage. Now, as someone earlier posted (maybe you, I'm too lazy to go check, heh) the more the merrier - aunts, uncles, cousins, and the like are better. And, to wit, the more love the better. But two people can do it with enough love. Whether that love warrants marriage or not is up for grabs, and some cases favor your view, some favor mine, obviously.

I wasn't arguing with you really, I was just stressing that marriage is not a requirement - while marriage certainly would indicate the sincerity on some level of those partners, it by no means should be (or, could be, due to the divorce rate) a litmus test as to whether your relationship was truely a healthy one.

Thanks for the discussion. :)

-AmberEyes


"But you [AmberEyes] have never admitted defeat your entire life, so why should you start now. It seems the only perfect human being since Jesus Christ himself is in our presence." -my Uncle Dean
[ Parent ]
Um, No... (4.00 / 8) (#88)
by Vladinator on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 02:32:59 PM EST

"According to Christians we're all tainted with original sin, which is basically sex."

Um, no. Original Sin was disobeying God's will. We ate the fruit of the tree of knowledge, and became aware of our own nakedness, and knew shame. SEX had nothing to do with it - obedience did.
--
LRSE Hosting
[ Parent ]
Wacky claim! (3.33 / 9) (#101)
by SIGFPE on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 03:12:25 PM EST

"became aware of our own nakedness, and knew shame. SEX had nothing to do with it"

Making that claim you remind me of the mad revisionist who argued that the moon doesn't really exist. How can you claim that learning shame due to nakedness has nothing to do with sex? And it doesn't take much to make the connection between 'knowledge' and that fact that 'to know' is a classical Hebrew euphemism for 'to have sex with'. And it doesn't take much reading to find Christian documents all through history that connect sex with original sin. And it's trivially obvious that the virgin birth was a device to allow the birth of a man who was free of sin making it quite clear that sex is seen as a form of sin. In fact many Christians over the last two millenia have made the connection quite explicit. (It might not be true of all forms of Christianity of course.)

I recommend you read a little about the Christian religion, there are a great many resources on the web.
SIGFPE
[ Parent ]

You couldn't be more wrong. (3.50 / 10) (#111)
by Vladinator on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 03:54:54 PM EST

I suggest that you actually read what is written in the bible - I have. Have you? Yes, I have seen suggestions that what you say is true - that doesn't mean it is. IN fact, I'd like to see one document that outright says Adam and Eve were having sex. Lastly, I am willing to bet that I have read a great deal more about this than you have. From good resources, not just "the web".
--
LRSE Hosting
[ Parent ]
No sex? (3.66 / 6) (#115)
by codepoet on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 04:01:46 PM EST

Unless Adam was the person that Zeus was based on and his sons' births later became the story of Athena's, I tend to say the mere presence of children implies more than a little copulation. Indeed, the command to 'fill the earth' kind of implies that they should go at it like bunnies for the duration of their lives (not exactly an unkind order, but I'm sure it was a bit tiring).

Assuming you take the book literally, of course. =)

"We're going to find out who did this and we're going after the bastards." --Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah
[ Parent ]

You're not talking about the same thing (3.62 / 8) (#118)
by Vladinator on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 04:14:28 PM EST

We are SPECIFICALLY discussing original sin. Do you know the story? Specifically Genesis Ch 3:

1 Now the serpent was more subtle than any other wild creature that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God say, 'You shall not eat of any tree of the garden'?" 2 And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden; 3 but God said, 'You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.'" 4 But the serpent said to the woman, "You will not die. 5 For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate. 7 Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons. 8 And they heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the LORD God called to the man, and said to him, "Where are you?" 10 And he said, "I heard the sound of thee in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself." 11 He said, "Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?" 12 The man said, "The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate." 13 Then the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this that you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent beguiled me, and I ate." 14 The LORD God said to the serpent, "Because you have done this, cursed are you above all cattle, and above all wild animals; upon your belly you shall go, and dust you shall eat all the days of your life. 15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel." 16 To the woman he said, "I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you." 17 And to Adam he said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, 'You shall not eat of it,' cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; 18 thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. 19 In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return." 20 The man called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. 21 And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins, and clothed them. 22 Then the LORD God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever" -- 23 therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. 24 He drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.

So, please - point out to me WHERE it says they had SEX?
--
LRSE Hosting
[ Parent ]
In fact, I'll show you where (3.12 / 8) (#119)
by Vladinator on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 04:16:32 PM EST

Genesis Chapter 4 (not 3, where they are tossed for already having commited original sin, but AFTERWARDS) Verse 1: "1 Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, "I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD."
--
LRSE Hosting
[ Parent ]
Re: In fact, I'll show you where (5.00 / 4) (#154)
by dave114 on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 10:04:51 PM EST

Genesis Chapter 4 (not 3, where they are tossed for already having commited original sin, but AFTERWARDS) Verse 1: "1 Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, "I have gotten a man with the help of the LORD."

As you pointed out... this is afterwards. The claim that was first made was that sex == original sin, which you yourself have shown to not be the case.

[ Parent ]

Yep! (4.00 / 6) (#174)
by Vladinator on Sat Nov 03, 2001 at 07:22:24 AM EST

Amen, brother.

I think the biggest problem secular humanists have when discussing these issues is, they have no clear concept of what the underlying terms mean, and are usually unwilling to learn them. The confusion over original sin is but one good example.

The best part of this to me is watching them, unable to deal with making such foolish statements and having it pointed out with scripture that they are foolish, respond by telling me I'm not well read on the subject, and 1'ing and 2'ing all my posts. What hypocrits. :-) Fortunately for them, I don't auto retaliate with 0's (though I could).

I'm going to write an article discussing some of my favorite myths about Chriistianity, and some of the greatest misunderstandings. Hopefully, it doesn't get nuked out of the queue. And if it does, I'll just post it on Geekizoid. :-)


--
LRSE Hosting
[ Parent ]
You're 100% correct that sex gets no mention (4.60 / 5) (#156)
by SIGFPE on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 10:23:52 PM EST

Similarly original sin gets no mention but original sin is Christian doctrine. Jews share the same text yet they have no such belief. Analysing Genesis isn't going to tell you anything about the equation of sex and original sin and if that were the method of argument of choice you'd win hands down.

Original sin started with the so called Christian Fathers (actually it probably predates them) and you can find countless references to original sin and sex in their writings. Terms like "uncleanliness of the womb" and "parts of shame", or the confessions of Augustine where he reveals an intense struggle with his sexual desires which he presumed were evil. These ideas had a profound influence on the future direction of Christianity.
SIGFPE
[ Parent ]

This is just my personal opinion, (4.16 / 6) (#173)
by Vladinator on Sat Nov 03, 2001 at 07:15:53 AM EST

But I think you will find that "uncleanliness of the womb" relates to the Jews more than the Christians. A woman in menses is unclean by Jewish law (also in the bible, it's too early to go look it up - if you're interested, go search http://www.bibleontheweb.com/, it's in the first 5 books) and since blood flows from the womb... Put two and two together.
--
LRSE Hosting
[ Parent ]
Yup (3.66 / 3) (#185)
by SIGFPE on Sat Nov 03, 2001 at 12:04:56 PM EST

It's not just Christianity that's weird (IMHO) about sexual organs.
SIGFPE
[ Parent ]
What you say is completely irrelevant (3.00 / 8) (#121)
by SIGFPE on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 04:24:04 PM EST

I personally think Genesis is a fairy tale. This is completely irrelevant. I am talking about how Christianity has been interpreted by people calling themselves Christians over the last two millenia - not your particular beliefs or one particular belief shared by a small segment of society. For all I know my comments about sex and religion have absolutely nothing to do with you because you have religious beliefs that make no reference to sex at all. But your one individual case provides very litte material either for or against my much wider claim.

I make my claims based on the fact that I live in a society and I have a pretty fair conception of the values of the people around me. I don't need to read the Bible to know that a great many Christian groups are more interested in combatting AIDS, say, through sexual restraint rather than through promoting the use of condoms.

I think you'll find a large degree of correlation between nation states that are basically religious, and have a religious justice system, and those nations where public displays of sexual material are outlawed. Britain, France, Turkey, the US - all have secular justice systems and are highly permissive societies. Iran, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, 17th Century New England are (were) the opposite. The correlation is hard to deny. I have no idea what relevance it is whether I have read the Bible or Adam and Eve were screwing around. However the relevance of the conception of original sin in the minds of clerics over the last two millenia is completely obvious. You might be able to argue that it's not an 'obsession' as codepoet did. But you'd be crazy to deny a significant connection between religion and sex.
SIGFPE
[ Parent ]

we're not on the same page (4.25 / 8) (#126)
by Vladinator on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 04:39:53 PM EST

I'm addressing specific matters of Doctrine - I'm not in the philosophical debate on this one.
--
LRSE Hosting
[ Parent ]
Sex and People (4.25 / 4) (#100)
by jasonab on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 03:11:50 PM EST

Why do you think religions are so obsessed with sex? Well, that's a dumb question. People are obsessed with sex and religion is practised by people. But why are religions so obsessed with repressing and controlling sex? Christians would love to stamp out sex once and for all.
I think your views are tained by the practice of religion, not the teachings of it. Jesus spoke about sex as much as he spoke about money (and he acted about money more, as in the cleansing of the temple).

People are obsessed with sex for the reasons you mentioned: it's an extremely powerful emotional experience that's potentially very damaging. Most restrictions on sex in religion are legalistic reactions to trying to keep others from hurting themselves. In small doses, that's good. In large doses, it's harmful. As a Chrsitian, I think many other Christians have as harmful a view of sex as non-Christians do, only in the other direction.

[ Parent ]

What do you mean by that? (3.66 / 3) (#123)
by SIGFPE on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 04:27:39 PM EST

"potentially very damaging"

Are you talking about the psychological effects (which I think is just part of the Christian myth and part of the sexual repression that I think comes with many religions) or physically in terms of pregnancy and so on (which is entirely correct of course).
SIGFPE
[ Parent ]

Muliple types of harm (4.00 / 1) (#165)
by jasonab on Sat Nov 03, 2001 at 03:34:12 AM EST

"potentially very damaging"

Are you talking about the psychological effects (which I think is just part of the Christian myth and part of the sexual repression that I think comes with many religions) or physically in terms of pregnancy and so on (which is entirely correct of course).

The second is certainly true, but I think the first is equally so. I don't understand why you think it's so mythological. Sex is the most intimate, emotional act in which two people can engage. I have a ard time believing that there are no consequences to misusing it.

[ Parent ]
Differing view (4.00 / 2) (#186)
by SIGFPE on Sat Nov 03, 2001 at 12:08:56 PM EST

I have a ard time believing that there are no consequences to misusing it.
And I've never seen any evidence of (psychological) damage from using it - at least between consenting adults. I know there are people who claim pyschological damage - but by and large in those cases something like a conversion to Christianity has taken place after the fact so it's debatable, at least to me, where the damage was caused.

Impasse
SIGFPE
[ Parent ]

Religions predate contraception. (3.66 / 3) (#113)
by Apuleius on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 03:59:31 PM EST

Before we came to benefit of the "fruits of philosophy," we had to obey certain strictures regarding our sexuality to avoid economic catastrophe. Religion reflected that. Religion changes more slowly than technology, as you may have noticed.




There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
But (4.00 / 2) (#181)
by kaatunut on Sat Nov 03, 2001 at 10:23:19 AM EST

it was justified with divine commandment, not economic realities.

--
there's hole up in the sky from where the angels fall to sire children that grow up too tall, there's hole down in the ground where all the dead men go down purgatory's highways that gun their souls
[ Parent ]

So? (5.00 / 2) (#191)
by Apuleius on Sat Nov 03, 2001 at 01:23:34 PM EST

The same goes for all the rules religion had regarding agriculture. It makes sense not to raise pigs in an arid land (they need far more water than sheep), but that's not what a Jew or Muslim will tell you about the issue.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
Exactly my point (4.00 / 2) (#195)
by kaatunut on Sat Nov 03, 2001 at 01:46:34 PM EST

The rules that are designed to overcome very material issues are represented as divine commandments straight from the guy in the upper floor. This, in my eyes, gives plausibility to the idea that the whole thing was created for this reason, not because of divine inspiration.

--
there's hole up in the sky from where the angels fall to sire children that grow up too tall, there's hole down in the ground where all the dead men go down purgatory's highways that gun their souls
[ Parent ]

Er... (5.00 / 1) (#183)
by Pseudonym on Sat Nov 03, 2001 at 10:47:29 AM EST

You never read Song of Solomon, did you?



sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
[ Parent ]
certainty (2.33 / 6) (#84)
by losang on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 02:23:47 PM EST

There are obvious conventional differences between religion, science, philosophy, etc. These are all attempts to explain something though. In this sense what it means to know something comes into question. It is often assumed that science is objective while religion is subjective. This seems more of a prejudice than a fact. Examples easily show that the opposite can also be true. The primary mistake of the science vs. religion (or anything for that matter) is the assumption that one is more objective than the other. From this follows the belief that one system of thought is more in tune with reality. When we ask what is the 'purpose of religion' we need to ask why we are asking this question in the first place. What is the purpose of any system of thought which aims at describing reality? The purpose of religion, science, philosophy are no different from one another. Neither rest on any more an objective foundation than the others. The assumption that one system is more objective than the other is a mistake which needs to be addressed before any meaningful discussion can begin. The purpose of religion is to make kinder and more compassionate humans.

Objectivity (4.00 / 1) (#182)
by kaatunut on Sat Nov 03, 2001 at 10:31:16 AM EST

Science assumes that there are laws to govern our universe, that our senses give us sufficiently accurate information and that mathematics works.

Religions, generally, assume existence of some sort of supernatural entity.

I can dispute religion's assumption quite easily. Which of the assumptions of science according to me would you like to dispute?



The point isn't whether something makes you feel nice and warm inside. The point is which is true. And science is a tried and proven process for approaching true statements. I have hard time saying the same about the religions I am familiar with. Of course, you could say that the statement "God's love is infinite" is true but I would doubt you very much. On the other hand, I don't think you'd dispute the statement "gravity between two objects is approximately gravitational constant times mass of one object times mass of other objects divided by distance between them squared".

--
there's hole up in the sky from where the angels fall to sire children that grow up too tall, there's hole down in the ground where all the dead men go down purgatory's highways that gun their souls
[ Parent ]

more on objectivity (3.00 / 1) (#190)
by losang on Sat Nov 03, 2001 at 01:05:36 PM EST

1)

"Science assumes that there are laws to govern our universe, that our senses give us sufficiently accurate information and that mathematics works."

I agree with all of these but the problem is what objective base do these priciples rest on? Do physical laws describe the world 'as it is' or are they just tools to predict the outcome of physical events?

Your can refute the existense of a creator god but that is only one aspect of theistic religions. There are also other religions which do not accept a trancendental being or creator. The fact is we could find many differnt 'religions' and then find another which does not fit the definition and escape the refutation. The issue is not to debate details of what is science and what is religion but to debate if either one (or anything two systems) has a more objective foundation than the other.

2)

Of course, you could say that the statement "God's love is infinite" is true but I would doubt you very much.

What is your reason for doubting this statement?

3)

I agree that the point is not to feel all warm and fuzzy but what do we mean by 'true'? Science has often thought something was true only to find out, using its own methods, that it was in fact false. An example is the Bohr model of the atom. This worked and could predict some experimental results but was not an completely accurate description of reality.

4)

gravity between two objects is approximately gravitational constant times mass of one object times mass of other objects divided by distance between them squared"

Why is this statement more accurate than the one about God's love being infinite?

[ Parent ]

No quotes here (5.00 / 3) (#194)
by kaatunut on Sat Nov 03, 2001 at 01:40:48 PM EST

1) My point was that both science and religion rest on a set of assumption, but while science's assumptions are accepted basically by everyone in their simplest form, religion's assumptions are quite unrealistic and yet people keep claiming that religion is equal to science in this sense. Furthermore, science doesn't really conjure new assumptions out of thin air - much like mathematics, it starts with a set of assumptions and then makes guesses which may or may not be true, with only things that are unconditionally true are those aforementioned, very reasonable, assumptions.

2) I see no evidence for existence of such God on whom the term "love" is applicable and an alternative, simpler, theory which does not postulate such God is more plausible in my view. Statements such as "love" or "compassion" in connection to universal principles seem rather arbitrary to me. Would you doubt me if I said "God hates humanity, is an evil bastard who enjoys creating creatures with free will and then torturing them"? Why?

3) Point is that previous, rejected, theories of science did seem plausible at the time and they were constructed using a method which tends to get closer to truth. As far as I can see, religious method, if one should speak of one, can claim no such thing. It rests on assumptions which I find unacceptable and proceeds from these axioms in a way I'd call rather non-sequiturish.

4) I didn't say it was more accurate, I asked you to confirm my assumption that you would find my latter statement about gravity plausible, in an attempt to demonstrate that scientific truths, while easily inaccurate, usually through the virtue of the method which generated them are fairly accurate. I would guess you don't doubt that law of gravity is very reasonable approximation of reality, and I would agree with you. But I, like many others, find the God/love -statement implausible due to lack of evidence and other issues explained above.

This is what makes me call science objective. It produces better, more plausible truths. I might even dare to say, verifiable, and, Invisible Pink Unicorn willing, over time even correct.

<hr>

Alternatively, just give me a good answer to the Invisible Pink Unicorn question. In case you're not familiar with it, my variation goes like this:

Construct such an entity which you don't believe exists (I'm assuming that is possible; if you don't, let me know); a classic example is unicorn but we might as well talk about green hairy monster from andromeda who will magically teleport to you and eat you if you say 'blarf' five times. If you genuinely believed in such a creature you probably wouldn't say 'blarf' five times, as you likely want to live like pretty much everyone else in this world. Now that we have constructed a creature in whose existence you do not believe, I equate this with god and ask you: what evidence do you have for non-existence of such thing? If I, furthermore, would claim that you are acting irrationally and on faith when refusing to believe my claim of such a creature's existence, would you think my argument sound?

I know my version is terribly verbose and very arbitrary; this is intentional. I'm trying to understate the idea: in lack of evidence, it is often rational to assume it doesn't exist. That is the reason I don't believe in God.

--
there's hole up in the sky from where the angels fall to sire children that grow up too tall, there's hole down in the ground where all the dead men go down purgatory's highways that gun their souls
[ Parent ]

your opinion is not important (5.00 / 1) (#335)
by losang on Wed Nov 07, 2001 at 02:30:05 PM EST

We are talking about logic here, not what you think or learn towards because you can't prove something.

From 1)"aforementioned, very reasonable, assumptions"

From 2) "... seem rather arbitrary to me."

From 3) "As far as I can see, religious method..." and "It rests on assumptions which I find unacceptable..."

From 4) "... I asked you to confirm my assumption"

All of your answers involve some level of belief or assumption on you part. It seems you are just arguing to argue.

Regarding the pink elephant, first you define what is meant by something existing and proceed from there. It is fairly simply once you have defined you boundaries using definitions.



[ Parent ]

The purpose of religion (3.40 / 5) (#87)
by GreenCrackBaby on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 02:30:26 PM EST

Disclaimer: I'm a hardcore athiest who grew up in a very religious environment.

Obviously, each person is going to answer this differently, as religion serves a lot of roles in people's lives. In general though, most people seem to derive a sense of comfort from religion. Most religions provide their believers with the assurances of life after death. This eases people's griefs over losses of loved ones, and the eventuality of the loss of their own lives.

Me, I don't need the notion of heaven or god to deal with my, or other's, deaths.

why does anyone need anything? (4.20 / 5) (#89)
by losang on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 02:34:23 PM EST

How is a religion person's need for some meaning any different from a scientists need for meaning. What about people's need to have a strong leader or role model? It is all the same.

[ Parent ]
Zen Koans (4.33 / 6) (#91)
by caadams on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 02:36:09 PM EST

Stare at a common word like "stork" until it appears to be completely different, spelled wrong and alien in meaning. This is the purpose of the Zen koan, to comtemplate some absurd paradox until it actually appears to make sense.

I don't think the author has an adequate understanding of Zen koans. The page he linked to is a good explanation, but I think he misunderstood it. Resolving a koan is much different than "[appearing] to make sense". A better analogy is that koan replies are like improvisational jazz music. The koan is like a few starting notes--the improvised reply will make it clear whether the student deeply understands (Zen or jazz).

For more on koans, see a koan with commentary or a talk on working with koans.

Faith (4.00 / 5) (#99)
by tjh on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 03:06:55 PM EST

When people talk to me about their religious faith, I am often annoyed by their 'lapses in rationality'.

But the truth is, I too have faiths which I cannot account for or prove:

(1) Faith that sense experience gives me an accurate representation of the world.

(2) Faith in the objective truth of Logic.

(3) Faith that other people exist like me.

And probably more.

I find I have to have the faiths listed above because they are the only way I can make sense of anything. Thus I can see they are 'psychological' (contentious word, but I can't think of a better one) in their origin.

Likewise, some sorts people need the faith that God exists in order to make sense of anything. This is no worse or better than my faiths.

My problem with religious believers then, is not that they have faith, but that they're certain that their faiths are definitely true.

I, however don't feel the same way about my faiths. I do not expect others to hold them, and would not be hugely surprised if, for instance, I learned that other people are merely figments of my imagination.

Therefore, my problem with theism is not a problem with faith, but a problem with certainty and the bloody-mindedness of believers.

Christians are certain of the validity of there faiths, whereas I am not. Furthermore they do not admit that their faiths arise out of 'psychological' necessity. This is what annoys me about religious believers.

Another thing: religion has no role in ethics between believers and unbelievers. We must come to a common point of view, that we can both agree on.

Just my £0.02



Faiths (4.66 / 3) (#102)
by jasonab on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 03:16:57 PM EST

Christians are certain of the validity of there faiths, whereas I am not. Furthermore they do not admit that their faiths arise out of 'psychological' necessity. This is what annoys me about religious believers.
Isn't your belief that the faiths arise out of psychological necessity a faith in and of itself? You are certainly entitled to it, but why are you annoyed that others don't accept your faith? You live as if your faiths are true. Why should anyone else act differently about theirs?

[ Parent ]
Bang on (4.25 / 4) (#120)
by tjh on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 04:18:58 PM EST

'Isn't your belief that the faiths arise out of psychological necessity a faith in and of itself?'

Well, not really. that 'faiths arise out of psychological necessity' is a belief. By this I mean it follows logically from my faiths, which form the basis of my epistemology (I guess you could say I'm a foundationalist).

I agree that people should act as if their faiths are true, however, when people of conflicting, or differing faiths come together, they will get nowhere unless they find faiths common to them both, and use that as their basis.

When we talk about this sort of thing, we run into problems with our language and our thought. It sees to me this is because we are trying to think about the unthinkable, speak about the unspeakable, and know about the unknowable. This is what I was doing in my first post!

And what we cannot think, speak or know about, we really should pass over in silence.

[ Parent ]
Try dropping your faith (2.75 / 4) (#103)
by Golden Hawk on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 03:21:34 PM EST

Try taking all those things you blindly believe and eliminating them from your mind.

Rely on only one irrefutable truth. You exist, and you think.

Who knows, maybe you'll achieve Nervana :) You've passed the first step, realizeing the nature of existance. Now you just need to strip away the perception of the 'self'
-- Daniel Benoy
[ Parent ]
strip away the perception of the 'self'? (3.33 / 3) (#107)
by losang on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 03:37:22 PM EST

If you strip away the perception of the self then who is posting the messages here?

[ Parent ]
Now that's brilliant logic. (3.25 / 4) (#125)
by Golden Hawk on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 04:36:23 PM EST

If you look at it objectively the universe is both sending and recieving the message at once.. because both the sender and the reciever are part of it.

But that's not my ideology.. it's bhudist.
-- Daniel Benoy
[ Parent ]
Religion and faith (4.00 / 1) (#106)
by jasonab on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 03:35:19 PM EST

The purpose of religion is to codify and bring to a human level the belief in a higher power. It is a human construction, and has all the flaws of a human construction. Religion gives us a framework in which to relate to God (defined in the broadest possible way).

We have the usual suspects telling us how they don't need God. That's fine. I don't need my friends or family or any of you, either. That's not the point. I want those people in my life, and I want God in my life. It is not weakness to ask for help. It is weakness to pretend you don't need help. You can get through life without relying on anyone or anything else. If, however, you have the option of having the creator of the universe helping you, isn't that a better option?

A healthy man does not need a physician (3.75 / 4) (#143)
by annenk38 on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 07:22:23 PM EST

You choose to stand by your convictions -- and of course -- that's good for you. I applaude anyone who does that. But I'm troubled by something you said -- "It is weakness to pretend you don't need help". You are but a step away from imposing your religious convictions on everyone else. I can almost hear "Abandon your gods and come worship ours, or we will kill you and your gods." I am just as comfortable with my view of the world as you are comforable with yours. It is a mistake to offer medicine to the healthy.

And if my left hand causes me to stumble as well -- what do I cut it off with? -- Harry, Prince of Wales (The Blackadder)
[ Parent ]
The healthy get sick (3.50 / 2) (#166)
by jasonab on Sat Nov 03, 2001 at 03:39:39 AM EST

You choose to stand by your convictions -- and of course -- that's good for you. I applaude anyone who does that. But I'm troubled by something you said -- "It is weakness to pretend you don't need help". You are but a step away from imposing your religious convictions on everyone else. I can almost hear "Abandon your gods and come worship ours, or we will kill you and your gods." I am just as comfortable with my view of the world as you are comforable with yours. It is a mistake to offer medicine to the healthy.
Two points on this. First, please read the previous sentence along with the one you quoted, namely: "it is not weakness to ask for help." I was merely pointing out that some people think that seeking God is a weakness, when my point is that pretending you don't need help is weakness.

Second, I don't understand where you read "I'm going to get you if you disagree." It is important to me that I express my view to others, as I think it's important for others to hear it. That said, I have no desire to force it on anyone. We can discuss our views without anyone forcing anything on someone else.

[ Parent ]

What about the Gentiles? (3.33 / 3) (#110)
by t0rment on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 03:53:12 PM EST

First off, good article. Intresting perspective on the whole subject matter.

But I have one problem.

Christians need to remember that their ancient founders were themselves instructed to worship "no other gods." That does not invalidate the idea of other gods, or that it is inherently wrong for certain others to worship those gods. The original instruction was actually given to the Jews, and doesn't even apply to most Americans. But we're all adaptable here. We've adapted before, and I'm confident we could do it again.

Jesus was to reinforce what the old testament told the Jews. But he also was there to spread the Word to Gentiles. And that meant non-Jews.

On a side note. It's funny that the number 1 thing that Jesus spoke about was hell.


. - = [ t 0 r m e n t ] = - .

Anyone can become angry--that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way; this is not easy.

- Aristotle
Your fact is not a fact (5.00 / 2) (#196)
by I Robot on Sat Nov 03, 2001 at 02:02:24 PM EST

"On a side note. It's funny that the number 1 thing that Jesus spoke about was hell." It's not funny ... it's wrong. You didn't get that from a reading of the scriptures. It isn't possible to come to that conclusion from an honest reading of the scriptures. You got that from someone who knows them no better than you do. Jesus focused his preaching on preparing a people for the coming of Gods kingdom. The modern concept of hell is of a place of eternal torment, but little could be further from the truth. Go through the Bible and see what it has to say about hell, sheol and hades (use the glossary at the back of the book or grab a good concordance ... this actually is a realistic assignment and not some impossible task) and then focus on what Jesus had to say on the topic. I think you will find that the person who told you that Jesus focused on hell mislead you.

[ Parent ]
While I'm at it (5.00 / 3) (#200)
by I Robot on Sat Nov 03, 2001 at 02:24:29 PM EST

"Jesus was to reinforce what the old testament told the Jews. But he also was there to spread the Word to Gentiles. And that meant non-Jews." Actually, he fulfilled the existing law and thus ended it. His mission was to preach something entirely different. Had he simply been a teacher of "things Jewish", the Jews would have embraced him ... instead, he was there to end their way of doing things and for that he was murdered. Jesus did not preach to the Gentiles. That preaching did not begin until after his death with Philip, Paul and Peter. Paul embraced it ... Peter fought it until a vision compelled him to do it and Philip, a Jew, ran alongside the chariot of a black man from Ethiopia to do it. Even then, the others never made it the priority Paul did. The point being, Jesus' spent all 3 1/2 years of his ministry on the Jews. Under penalty of death, he did not even answer all of Pilates' questions. If you think I am wrong, cite scripture to show my mistake and I will apologize publicly in this thread. Again ... read the scriptures directly for yourself and you won't make these mistakes. They are common errors ... but just because an error is common to others is no call for us to make it, too.

[ Parent ]
Minor note (4.00 / 1) (#263)
by BloodmoonACK on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 12:45:29 AM EST

Just like to say that Mark embraced it as well. Mark was the one who brought Christianity to Ethiopia [Copticism].

"It's like declaring a 'war on crime' and then claiming every (accused) thief is an 'enemy combatant'." - Hizonner
[ Parent ]

I believe in God (1.82 / 17) (#129)
by SirRobin on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 04:59:10 PM EST

the purpose of religion is to find Who made us and worship Him. I believe in God and Jesus. religion is not something made up. God is there whether you want Him to be or not.
Where is God you say? ask Him. or ask me.
Where? (2.66 / 6) (#134)
by phliar on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 06:03:59 PM EST

Where is God you say? ask Him. or ask me.
I don't know who this "God" guy is (I assume God is male since you use the male pronoun) so I ask you. Where is God?

Other questions you might be able to help me with: Where are unicorns? Where's the Tooth Fairy? And Santa Claus?


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

You're the reason people change religions. (3.00 / 2) (#159)
by m0f73 on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 11:22:50 PM EST

It is this sort of intolerant bullheaded nonsense which caused the Inquisition, the burning times, and the Crusades. It was brought to America by the pilgrims and continues to fester and feed upon itself to this very day. Christianity (and Judaism as well as Islam) is notorious for its strict and sometimes bloody intolerance of other faiths.

It's the sort of intolerance that has made me detest modern Christianity in all its forms.

Let me ask the same questions that I asked myself as a child: If all the non-Christians go to hell, wouldn't it be full by now? Why do we have to hate them? Why does God hate them? If God is love, then why is he intolerant of so many things? Why did he make them if he was just going to consign them to the flames? How is that wise?

The answer: It isn't wise. So lighten up.

[ Parent ]
Sorry (3.00 / 2) (#164)
by joecool12321 on Sat Nov 03, 2001 at 02:50:58 AM EST

First, let me apologize for the post to which you responded. Some Christians have a more developed concept of their faith. Unfortunately they are few and far between. I constantly fear that in the end I will do no better than someone like SirRobin. But let me make an attempt.

Second, I'd like to point out that some atheists are equally non-versed in defense of their belief. Third, I'd like to point out that you are being as intolerant as the people you accuse of being intolerant. You say, " It's the sort of intolerance that has made me detest modern Christianity in all its forms. " Is that a very tolerant thing to say? But let me try to answer your questions.

If all the non-Christians go to hell, wouldn't it be full by now?

What makes you think that hell would be too small? A finite number of people have died, why could a hell not hold them all?

Why do we have to hate them? Why does God hate them?

These share a common thread. First, Christians should not hate people. People like Jerry Falwell are frustrating to me simply because their voice of hatred is foolishness. There is a difference between the person and the action. We should love the person but hate the action. Again, God does not hate them. He is, "Not willing that any should perish". It's a person/action dichotomy again.

If God is love, then why is he intolerant of so many things?

I don't understand why someone who is loving must be tolerant of actions. A parent loves their child, and so stops them from putting their hand on the stove. Should the parent "tolerate" their child's actions? What if the child wants to run into oncoming traffic to get a ball? Should that action be tolerated? By no means! Because the parent loves the child, the parent limits what action the child is free to take. And to say that God is intolerant is simply uninformed. In a universe of nearly inexhaustible activities, there are very few things that we are called to not do. God is pretty libertarian. Don't steal. Don't kill. Don't commit adultery. What are we called to do? Love! (thus follows my frustration aforementioned).

Why did he make them if he was just going to consign them to the flames? How is that wise?

To say that God consigns them to hell is not quite right. People are allowed to choose their end. Now how is that wise? Well, it seems to me that it would be pointless for God to make each one of us follow him, because what is the point? If AI emerged that did exactly what you wanted, we wouldn't call it intelligent, and any success it had would be empty.

I hope my responses have been less frustrating then the post that inspired them.

--Joey

[ Parent ]

The point (3.50 / 2) (#184)
by m0f73 on Sat Nov 03, 2001 at 11:40:39 AM EST

The point i was trying to make is this: Let's take India for example. Hinduism existed in India in one form or another for thousands of years before Christianity. Each and every one of these people who lived there over that time who died went to Hell.

Even the virtuous ones. The ones who didn't steal, kill, commit adultery, the ones who helped people. These people burn? These people will suffer for an eternity not because of any concious action of their own but simply of their way of belief?

That is simply rediculous, because religion is not an absolute in the universe. It is a human construct, like the stock market or the welfare system.

[ Parent ]
Tough Questions (2.50 / 2) (#201)
by joecool12321 on Sat Nov 03, 2001 at 02:40:49 PM EST

Before I get to my response, thank you for a reasoned argument. I just read something that wasn't so well reasoned. Nice break for me.

A few issues here. I'm going to start with a response I think is lame, but true. 1) Who are humans to question the mind of God? His ways our not our ways, His though are not our thoughts. A tough pill to swallow, I agree. That's why I don't like this argument, but I think it is a valid point.

A better response is this. 2) Paul says in Romans that "since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse." His answer, then, to your question, is that they could, through nature and other "invisible attributes" recognize the Truth. He goes on to say,

"For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever."

So he seems to be saying, first, that some of those who never heard the Christian message could be saved, for they could recognize his divine nature and see the Truth. But if someone represses the Truth, they deny Him and would not be "save-able".

Also, sometimes the actions of others have consequences on us. So, unfortunately, many Jews died not because of something they did, but the evil actions of others (Hitler). So to could this be sadly true in your India example. Pretend (I'm not a world religions major, and am only providing a thought experiment here - assuming that Christianity is true and showing how there is not logical problem with it) that someone who was willing to deny God and start their own religion. If they taught their religion to others, and the others followed it, and denied the Truth (not on purpose, but because of another's actions) there would still be consequences. They themselves weren't evil, but will still die because of the actions of the evil.

The third argument is a new argument for me, and it is called the "middle knowledge" argument. 3) God cannot create a universe in which every person will come to believe in Him. Let me try and use an illustration. Pretend we had the perfect Deep Blue (I've forgotten the name of the chess program that's better now) and it can look ahead for every move for an infinite number of turns - or rather, a finite number - to the end of the game. Now, would it still play a game of chess against someone? We can suppose that it would, simply because it is possible that there are some moves that no matter what lead to a win for black or a draw. Now, Perfect Blue would win against humans, because it could capitalize on the slightest error. But if we pitted it against itself, it may play the first 20 moves against itself, and then say, "O.K., at THIS point I know I'm going to (win or loose)," and then stop. But it would still have to play a few rounds, because there are moves black can make to guarantee a draw at least.

So the parallel is this: Some sequences of events will lead to one person's salvation, and another sequence of events will lead to someone else's. In creating the universe, it was done so that the most number of people would come to know him, but some would unfortunately die.

Was God right in doing this? Heh, I don't know. I suppose I could claim by 1 that He is, but that's a hard argument for me to make. I guess I would say that, recognizing how things are, the best action would be to see the Truth and to follow. "What is, is," as Goodkind says.

--Joey


[ Parent ]
on deep blue (3.66 / 3) (#229)
by kubalaa on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 10:27:34 AM EST

Deep Blue would never play any games against itself because it had already played every possible game. Similarly, if God knew the outcome of the universe, he would not need to create it, or put another way, the fastest possible way to calculate the outcome of the universe is to create the universe and watch.

Interestingly enough, you point out the central contradiction of modern Christianity, namely that you can't simultaneously have free will and be a part of God's Plan. I think the Calvinists (predestination) had the only logically-consistent view of grace and salvation.

(By the way, I think it's still unproven that all games of chess are win- or drawable by black.)

[ Parent ]

Ahh, I think I see the issue here (3.00 / 1) (#242)
by joecool12321 on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 06:10:21 PM EST

You say, "Deep Blue would never play any games against itself because it had already played every possible game." However, according to my illustration and the Middle Knowledge argument, that is simply false. Perfect Blue 1 would have to play Perfect Blue 2, because the responses of Perfect Blue 2 are potentially important. The only way that Perfect Blue 1 would not have to play is if every possible combination led to a win for white. We can at least entertain the assertion that this is not the cae, and so PB1 must play the game.

Why can't we have free will?

--Joey

[ Parent ]
clarification (5.00 / 1) (#282)
by kubalaa on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 12:46:45 PM EST

I think I was unclear in my response, so I'll elaborate on it a bit.

Our analogy (argh, I wish k5 allowed tables):

universe                chess
--------                -----
god                     perfect blue (PB1)
max people saved        win for PB1
natural laws            rules of chess
starting conditions     initial move
all possible universes  all games of chess

This may not be quite what you meant, which is why I make it explicit so you can correct me. Note, for example, that we're assuming God's fixing the rules for some reason and varying the conditions, because if he was allowed to mess with the rules then he'd just make the rule be "everybody's saved" if you see what I mean.

You point out that the outcome of the chess game is dependent on PB2's responses. That's true, but it's not necessary for the game to actually be played since 1 can assume 2 will always make the best possible move. Of course, 2 could make a less-than-optimal move but that will only expand the set of games which result in wins for 1. So this makes our analogy complete: both God and PB1 don't have to deal with any unknowns or external influences. Similarly, notice that I said PB1 is choosing an "initial move" rather than "path of moves." That's because after the first move, each subsequent choice is inevitable: PB1 must choose, like PB2, the "best possible move" each time. Of course, it may not know what those are yet, but that doesn't change the fact that the game proceeds deterministically based on the first move.

In order to definitively select the best possible move, PB1 will have to explore all possible paths, or at least all paths which could conceivably result in wins. To explore a path is to simulate a game along that path; the end result is that PB1 will end up having simulated all relevant games before playing even one. The key to my argument is that simulation is equivalent to playing; there is no reason for PB1 to actually play a game because no matter what its goal in playing is, it has already accomplished it in simulation.

Applying the analogy, in order to select the best possible universe, God must somehow "simulate" the results of each possible starting condition. I submit that the quickest possible way to simulate the universe is to actually run it; there is no "shortcut function" for mapping initial conditions to final conditions, just as there is no way to calculate a specific digit of pi without calculating those before it. (BTW, I know there's better terminology for this, somebody help me say what I mean if you know what that is.)

Once God knows the optimal universe, he doesn't need it any more because the universe has already been run and he's already achieved whatever his goal was.

Actually that holds even if the universe is reducible to a simpler function, because the "meaning" of the universe cannot be more than what it reduces to, and so again God has achieved his ends simply by performing the simulation.

Make sense?

[ Parent ]

Well said (5.00 / 1) (#298)
by joecool12321 on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 02:04:43 PM EST

Yes, what you said makes sense. It's causing me to refine my analogy, and do more research on the Middle-Knowledge argument. Let me re-iterate the argument, so that it is not lost behind the illustration. I here quote Dr. William Lane Craig.
To this challenge the Molinist may respond that it is possible that there is no world feasible for God in which all persons freely respond to His gracious initiatives and so are saved. Given the truth of certain counterfactuals of creaturely freedom, it is possible that God did not have it within His power to realize a world in which all persons freely respond affirmatively to His offer of salvation. But in His omnibenevolence, He has actualised a world containing an optimal balance between saved and unsaved. If it be further objected that God would not actualise a world in which some persons are damned as a concomitant of others' being saved, though the former, if placed under other circumstances, would themselves have freely accepted salvation, then the Molinist may respond that God in His omnibenevolence has chosen not to create any such persons; He has instead elected to create only persons who would freely reject Him in any world which is feasible for Him to actualise, persons who, accordingly, freely possess the property of transworld damnation. God in His providence has so arranged the world that as the Christian gospel went out from first century Palestine, all who would respond freely to it if they heard it did hear it, and all who do not hear it are persons who would not have accepted it if they had heard it. In this way, Christian exclusivism may be seen to be compatible with the existence of an omnipotent and omnibenevolent God.
I apologize for doing that, I abhor not being able to present the argument perfectly myself. But I am admitting my ignorance (imagine a Christian doing that!) while pointing out that some smart people do understand it, and are Christian.

The issue seems to be, "Why would a God (at this point, my main argument stands) create a universe if it's outcome is already known?" This requires a distinction between propositional knowledge, and experiential knowledge. For example, God may know propositionally what the end state is, but not experientially. But you've already offered a counter argument to this suggestion, namely: the quickest possible way to simulate the universe is to actually run it; there is no "shortcut function" for mapping initial conditions to final conditions. There are two issues here. 1) This is where the analogy breaks down: For the computer there is no difference, because it already has "won". But perhaps not for an emotional being, because to "think through the outcome" is different that experiencing it. 2) I've already demonstrated that the Initial Cause must be "enormously intelligent" - in fact Christianity claims omniscient. If he is so, he could know the outcome from initial conditions without ever "running" the simulation. Just like he knows, all at the same time, every digit of pi.

You say the "meaning" of the universe is whatever it reduces to. But I would not accept that, because the experience is different than the proposition.

Very stimulating discussion.

--Joey

[ Parent ]

okay (5.00 / 2) (#323)
by kubalaa on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 09:32:38 AM EST

I have a theory of philosophy that inevitably any philosophical discussion will have to devolve to "well, I just think such-and-such because and there's no way to ever know anything." The talent is to delay that point as long as possible, but this is getting abstract enough that I fear said point is approaching. :)

To answer your points:

  1. I think you're anthropomorphizing: humans are used to predicting things by "thinking through" them. Intuition says my claim that you can't predict anything except by observing it is absurd: we do it every day. But this kind of prediction has two problems: it's very superficial, and it's very short-term. God can't settle for "thinking through", He should KNOW. To know means to model, with 100% certainty.

    I'll make an analogy with human relationships. You have a friend. You know him because you can predict, with reasonable certainty, what he will do. You can do this because inside your brain you have a model of your friend's behaviour. It is not perfect, but it is good enough to work most of the time. Consider, if you will, that this model is like a little copy of your friend's brain, with fewer neurons, and hence not an exact model. If we gradually improve this model, it will approach the point where it is 100% accurate: namely, it is an exact copy of your friend's brain inside your head. Now realize that you ARE your friend. And notice also, that your predictive ability has been eliminated, because it takes exactly as long for your "model brain" to predict what it will do as it does for it to do it.

    What I'm getting at is there is no such thing as an abstract; every model must exist in concrete form, even if that concrete form is a collection of neurons in our brain. Or, directly, that the proposition is the experience because there is no other way to state a proposition. (It only seems otherwise because we are used to resorting to grossly inaccurate approximations.) I would say that God is similarly restricted; we might consider ourselves, in fact, to be just a model in God's brain. :)

  2. This leads into your point that God can simply know things without any models; in fact that he is the essence and definition of abstractness. This would actually be the only characterization of God I could agree with, but it puts him so far beyond the realm of analysis that it renders all discussion on his methods or motivations moot. It is impossible with our vocabulary to describe anything he might do, including creating the universe, and to apply cause and effect as in a statement like "God does such and such so that such and such" is ludicrous. And at this point the argument seems to reach the "just because" stage. No doubt someone more intelligent than myself could apply some information theory to investigate this non-modelling God, but I think the conclusion would be the same.
That said, this Molinist thing sounds very interesting and you've inspired me to research it some myself.

[ Parent ]
Ultimate Goal (none / 0) (#332)
by joecool12321 on Wed Nov 07, 2001 at 05:39:31 AM EST

I agree to continue on in life at this point. My main goal is to be an example of a Christain who can think well and write well, without being pig-headed. I hope everyone feels comfortable saying at this point, "I've met a thinking (maybe even smart) Christain."

--Joey

[ Parent ]
Also (none / 0) (#333)
by joecool12321 on Wed Nov 07, 2001 at 05:41:02 AM EST

I also wanted to say that I've been stimulated, as well. I've enjoyed the conversation.

--Joey

[ Parent ]
likewise (none / 0) (#343)
by kubalaa on Mon Nov 12, 2001 at 09:43:57 AM EST

Doubt you'll read this, but I thought of a better way to explain my theory on modelling:

I assume that the only requirement of models is that they execute faster
than their real counterparts. That's actually not necessary at all. To
predict something using the model, all you really have to do is set the
model to some known state, and then be able to assume that the real
counterpart, when in the corresponding state, will behave the same way.
That's determinism. To be able to "set" the model implies that there
exists a system outside the model. So my theory can be stated more
directly so:

It is impossible to create a mapping between states of a subset of
a system and states of a system. That is, the cardinality of states
of the subset must be less than that of states of the set. Therefore,
it is impossible to completely model a system with a subset of that
system.

It is impossible to model a system faster than the system
itself. Because the speed of state transitions is determined by the
context of the model, which must be the same as the context of the
original. (That is, both the model and the original exist in the same
bigger system.)

Furthermore, a system modeling itself is indistinguishable from itself.

[ Parent ]
Did read it (none / 0) (#345)
by joecool12321 on Tue Nov 13, 2001 at 02:15:22 AM EST

I just stubled across it because I lost my "My Documents" folder and am trying to reconstruct as much as I can. (I guess it's time to start backing up to disk...)

I never responded to your earlier post, let me do that first.

1. You claim I'm anthropomorphizing God. Why can't I? If God is the Initial Cause, He must be rather intelligent. It seems implausible that one is both intilligent and unemotional. Plus, we can see elements of emotion in the universe. Beautiful things (visually) like supernovae and sunsets. Now, admittedly I'm using the "human" term emotion -- but the referrant exists whether God would say He's emotional or not (that is, there's the same *type of thing* underlying both of us). (BTW, that fits in with a Christian world-view -- If we are made in his image, mentally, one would expect we enjoy many of the same things. Fallen nature corrupts, blah blah blah blah...) So I think my distinction between experiential and propositional knowledge, with this regards, stands (namely, God wouldn't 'not create the universe' simply because he already knows somehting propositionally).

With regards to 2: God is beyond being talked about. Ehh...to a certian extent I agree. The phrase I heard from Dr. J.P. Moreland is, "The Hiddeness of God". And the Bible would admit that "His ways are not our ways, His thoughts are not our thoughts" and that His wisdom appears foolishness to the wise of the world. But I think much of God /can/ be "got at" -- not only through thinking, but through the Bible and what He reveals. There are two types of revelation with which I'm familiar: divine revelation and (the real term has left my head) experiential?revelation. Basically, divine revelation would be the Bible. But we can also look at experiential revelation -- that is, the "Invisible qualities" -- like Kalam. So I think to some extent: don't write off human understanding of God (but don't let it go "too far").

With regards to your new post:
If I understand correctly, you are saying that there is no subset of a system that has enough information to reliably predict that system. For example, models of the NYSE ultimately fail, because they don't have the "right information": namely, the NYSE itself. Or, as you argue, no model of the universe can reliably predict the universe. I'm willing to grant that, because God would be "outside" the system.

But I have an interesting question for you: can any model of any system work exactly the same as that system. That is: is the universe utterly deterministic? My intuition seems to say yes, but there may be problems. Even the (apparently) most simplistic systems, systems that man has watched for ages, are the most complex. Three bodies of gravity? AARGH!!! A waterfall? Beyond measure. Sometimes, the smaller we look at things, the more complex they turn out to be.

Next, let's pretend determinism is true, that if we knew EVERY state of EVERY sub-atomic and virtual particle in the universe, would physicalism be true? Apparently not. Because the statement "matter is all there is" requires a meta-physic to be true. So it appears materialism, physicallism, etc. all fall short.

Just some new thoughts I've been having. Interesting idea about modeling, and it is accurate, but I think it ultimately falls short.

--Joey

[ Parent ]
re: god (none / 0) (#346)
by kubalaa on Tue Nov 13, 2001 at 10:00:24 AM EST

anthropomorphising God
We must approach all new things by way of analogy to things we know. Naturally the closest model for God is ourselves. However, using an analogy should only serve as a step to understanding; applying it to closely will cause us to miss the important differences. In this case, I see ``emotions'' and ``abstract knowledge'' (i.e. propositional knowledge as a seperate entity from experiential) as limitiations of the human mind that set us apart from God.

Emotions stem from our ability to be completely introspective; that is, their are processes in our mind which we cannot directly observe or control, and we label them emotions. Likewise, abstract knowledge comes from having brains to model things. I think if God has these limitations then he has by extension many others as well, such as having a first cause, not being omnipotent, and really not being anything more than a really high-tech alien. (Some religious people maybe even agree with this characterization. Have you seen <u>Contact</u>?)

understanding God
I will concede that, provided God wants to be understood, he can be. Whatever ``understanding'' in this context means, which I'm not sure of.
free will
You seem to believe that humans behave deterministically -- that is, God can predict exactly what we will do -- but that he cannot control what we will do. Assuming he created the universe, I think these claims are contradictory. Perhaps you believe that he can neither predict nor control us; from my description of modelling and general intuition, I'd say that this places us at the same plane of existence as Him, which raises all kinds of hairy issues.
determinism
First, I want to point out that your question of ``what if we knew every state of every particle'' is meaningless. To ``know'' something is to model it, and where would we model the entire universe within the universe? Which was kind of the point of my message.

Complexity is, I think, a non-issue when it comes to determinism. It is not an actual concept, but an artifact of our limited resources. It is concievable that the universe is not deterministic; quantum mechanics seems to point this way, although I know very little about it or I'd've brought it up sooner.

Two interesting thoughts: if you are allowed to think of a thing itself as its own model, and define determinism as ``modellable'' then everything is by definition deterministic. This just shows that one of these definitions is useless. What we want to say is ``modellable displaced in time'', but that requires a concept of time external to the system. To talk of a system without anything outside of it becomes impossible. (Kind of like the problem they have with the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics; we can't really prove it because there's no such thing as a closed system.)

Second thought leads from that; I think perhaps it's impossible for us to prove that the universe is deterministic. Or at least meaningless, because we'd have no way of making use of that knowledge (no way of modelling the universe). Maybe God could, though, being part of the system outside the universe. But (pay attention here), the determinism of our universe is bound to the determinism of God's; i.e. if his is, so is ours and if his isn't, ours isn't. So to prove our universe is deterministic, he must first prove his own is, which we've seen is impossible. And this is true of a nested hierarchy of Gods as well. Which is just another way of saying that it's impossible to model anything, because if the model exists in the same system as the original, then they will affect each other!

I think I may have just reformulated quantum mechanics from a philosophical approach.



[ Parent ]
We really need to talk on the phone... (none / 0) (#347)
by joecool12321 on Wed Nov 14, 2001 at 03:05:18 AM EST

...becaue this is getting fantastically tedious :)

"``emotions'' and ``abstract knowledge'' (i.e. propositional knowledge as a seperate entity from experiential)" Emotions are not propositional knowledge, I'm sorry that was unclear. An example of propositional knowledge is, "Cold, cloudy, rainy days are dreary." An example of experiential knowledge would be actually experienceing a cold, cloudy, rainy day. Do you see how their not made of the same "stuff", and how they differ from emotions and abstract knowledge? Another example: "A square is any equilateral, equiangular shape with four sides" is propositional; seeing a square is experiential.

Now is God "emotional"? Well, I think it may be accpetable to say that he is (your reasoning of emotions seems crummy to me). What doesn't have emotions? A frog doesn't appear to experience emotions, nor does a tree. The frog can only act on "instinct". But a gorilla sometimes appears to have emotions (IIRC) by crying, for example. More intelligence = more emotion.

So at this point it seems that we can agree that God would create the universe.

With regards to free will: A couple of issues here. First, what if we don't have free will? What follows from it? Nothing -- because it still feels like we have free will, and people besides me have put foreward arguments for why we still need to be virtuous if we have no free will (I'm not familiar with the arguments, I've never tried to arguen !(free will) before). But since it seems that we have free will, how can we rectify that with an all-knowing but non-coercive God? Well, I'm not sure rectification is necessary! *How exactly are the two self-exclusive?*

You then say, "to know something is to model it". I think your on epistemologically uncertain grounds here. Knowlege, every single place I've come across it, is 'justified true belief'. Modeling is only usefull in predicting. So complexity is a 'real thing' because it comes up in mathematics (unless the a priori is not attainable...).

Granting that the universe is non-deterministic does not seems like it's an issue for me. This is where you run-afoul of using human terms to understand God. Gods world could be deterministic regardless of the universe itself. For example, say I was writing a story. I write, 'Sarah set down her cup. When her cup touched the table, it disappeared. No cup before that time or since that time has done the same thing.' Does Sarah live in a deterministic world? No. This is difficult, I know. I'm just trying to give something, not the same, but a little bit like it. Our world is, with this regards, independent of 'God Land'.

At this point, what objections do you have to a God existing?

--Joey

[ Parent ]
this thread now in email (none / 0) (#348)
by kubalaa on Thu Nov 15, 2001 at 03:42:19 AM EST

... since nobody else seems to be following it.

[ Parent ]
hmm ... (4.00 / 1) (#316)
by Kalani on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 03:57:06 AM EST

(BTW, I know there's better terminology for this, somebody help me say what I mean if you know what that is.)
Interpolation?

-----
"I [think] that ultimately physics will not require a mathematical statement; in the end the machinery will be revealed and the laws will turn out to be simple, like the checker board."
--Richard Feynman
[ Parent ]
not quite (none / 0) (#318)
by kubalaa on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 04:50:25 AM EST

I mean something along the lines of algebraic versus computational methods.

[ Parent ]
well ... (4.00 / 1) (#319)
by Kalani on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 05:09:33 AM EST

I think that "interpolation" holds if you're talking about calculating the nth digit of pi at least (with f(x) giving the x digit of pi, f(n) interpolates between f(1) and f(n - 1)). As far as requiring all of the instructions of a program to execute to determine a result, maybe you just mean "non-linear?"

-----
"I [think] that ultimately physics will not require a mathematical statement; in the end the machinery will be revealed and the laws will turn out to be simple, like the checker board."
--Richard Feynman
[ Parent ]
free will (4.00 / 1) (#286)
by kubalaa on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 01:02:30 PM EST

Here are some possible situations:
  1. God is allowed to influence us both directly and indirectly. This is what you imply; that God minimizes messing with our brains directly but that he's okay messing with the brains of people around us and using them as tools to teach us. Well, obviously it's statistically necessary that we're a tool just as often as we're learning a lesson from a tool, so what gives? Why not just reach into our brains and make us believe in Him?
  2. God is allowed to influence us indirectly to save us, but not directly (because then he'd just make us believe in him and that's too easy). I'm tempted to ask, "what's the difference between direct and indirect", but it turns out that's not a valid question: indirect manipulation only has predictable effects in a deterministic universe, and if God is affecting anything then it's clearly not a deterministic universe. But wait, if it's not a deterministic universe, then God can't be sure what effects His manipulations will have on us. So why would He even bother? And isn't He omnipotent?
  3. But wait, one might object, what if God interefered just in little bits, so the universe is mostly deterministic. Well, you can't have it both ways: either God has a measurable effect on the universe or he doesn't. Even if he only works in small ways, the chaotic nature of the universe is bound to amplify that. (Indeed, God is counting on having large effects, or else why bother?)
More to come.

[ Parent ]
free will (none / 0) (#293)
by joecool12321 on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 01:43:48 PM EST

You misconstrue, or I was unclear. I am not saying what you say I am, namely: "that God minimizes messing with our brains directly but that he's okay messing with the brains of people around us and using them as tools to teach us." I am saying that other people's actions are such that, because they have free will, will influence the outcome of the "final state" of a single person's salvation. For example, it is possible for someone to actualize salvation (whatever form it may be) because of difficult times in their life, and they have a Religious friend who came along side them and helped them, and so were saved. It's also plausible that, in a different actualized reality, the person was so offended by a Religious person as to completely distance his or herself from it. But it may not be possible to create a world in which every person is saved, because of people's free will. I'm not arguing divine intervention.

At this point I assume you accept my argument that there is a God, and we are only addressing whether or not we can have free will within that universe.

There are a few other problems with your post, but I want to give you a chance to respond to what I said, first.

--Joey

[ Parent ]
ah, got ya (none / 0) (#322)
by kubalaa on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 08:59:23 AM EST

If I understand you then, God doesn't influence anything directly except in the way he set up the universe. (I meant to get to that as number 4 but was interrupted.) You're implying that, despite free will, everything's deterministic in at least some sense, or else God's control of the initial conditions would not influence the number of people saved. If you take this the whole way, then from the moment of creation it's already decided who is saved and who is not: that's predestination. You might shoot for a middle ground, where either: the number of people saved is deterministic, but which people are saved is not, or perhaps that there exists a way to maximize the number of people saved without knowing either the number OR identity of those saved, or perhaps God can make an "educated guess" and the chaos of the universe doesn't get in the way. If indeed you do believe one of these, then I'd appreciate specifics of how this pseudo-determinism works.

[ Parent ]
It's sortof like this... (none / 0) (#334)
by joecool12321 on Wed Nov 07, 2001 at 06:21:26 AM EST

In setting up the universe, God knew a priori who would choose what. He did not choose for them, that is, he did not say, "X will deny me because I want him to, and Y will accept me." Rather, he recognized, "If I actualize U1 universe, N1 number of salvations will occur, namely, the population of S1, the set of all saved people. If I actuallize U2 universe, N2 salvations will occur in set S2. Well, since N2 is greater, I will actualize that universe." (Remember, all this was known at the exact same time, He didn't need to "think it through".)

So we have free will within all U, but the only universe that exists is E, in which we maintain our free will. But God foreknows (not predestines) what will happen within E. My argument is that E is chosen to maximize (I'm not sure totally or ratially, but I lean towards the ratio version, otherwize the population would be infinite...) N within the universe.

And S can never be identical to the set of all people in the universe (A) simply because each member of A can excercise free-will. And in so doing, A[3] in one U may influence A[5] to salvation, in another U, A[3] may deter A[5] from reaching salvation.

I'm not sure if you're arguing using the Bible or not, too. If you want an argument textually regarding the necessity of free will, I shall provide one.

I think that's my best explanation of Middle-Knowledge so far.

--Joey

[ Parent ]

God's Plan (4.00 / 1) (#284)
by codepoet on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 12:59:11 PM EST

you point out the central contradiction of modern Christianity, namely that you can't simultaneously have free will and be a part of God's Plan.

Sure you can. God's Plan is a general direction for mankind. Any person's actions that are a part of it exist only because God knew that person would act that way, not that He's making them. Judas, for instance, is fully responsible for his actions. God only placed him there becase He knew that Judas would behave that way at that moment. There is a fine line of application between predestination and foreknowledge, but it's an important distinction.

"We're going to find out who did this and we're going after the bastards." --Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah
[ Parent ]

according to something I read (4.33 / 3) (#230)
by kubalaa on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 10:30:54 AM EST

The book The Case for Faith is interesting because it gives most of the major arguments moderately-intelligent Christians use to keep themselves convinced. In response to your points, it says that faith in Christ is more important than "good behaviour" in the grand scheme of things. As for Hell, it says that Hell is simply the absence of God, and is chosen actively by those who turn away from Him.

[ Parent ]
Small quibble. (5.00 / 1) (#283)
by codepoet on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 12:52:45 PM EST

Each and every one of these people who lived there over that time who died went to Hell.

Not according to Catholicism. Everyone open to God's will, however expressed, that lived a life of love for the sake of love and tried their best at it has as good a shot at heaven as a Christian in the same place. The rule of heaven is not just be Christian but follow God, in whatever form you find Him.

Not to mistake the obvious: Catholicism claims to be the only one to know God without error (not without lapse, mind you) and, being Catholic, I tend to agree. Thus a lot of haughty statements about the Church militant are made that many would disagree with, but I'll make it easy: anyone following love for love's sake is an honorary member of God's Church and should see Him someday. That's the nice way.

The confrontational way the Church says it is along the lines of saying that Catholicism is the the only true faith and all outside of her are destined to hell. Yet, there are those that are a part of her without conscious knowledge nor desire who in their thoughts and actions proclaim God and His love without closing themselves to Truth and as such are loved by Him and will see God along with the saints, whatever the person's worldly affiliation with religion is (Ghandi comes to mind; I'm sure he and St. Peter are talking up a storm about now).

The one surefire way to lose the chance to see God has been and remains: to know Him truely and wholy and still deny His truths and live according to your own will. This is across all religions and societies. If you know good and follow it, you're probably in. If you tend to know good and not follow it, your soul could be in for a cold winter.

To summarize the summary: all good people go to heaven; all corporate lawyers and insurance claims workers go to hell. ;)

"We're going to find out who did this and we're going after the bastards." --Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah
[ Parent ]

Appalling (3.00 / 1) (#162)
by joecool12321 on Sat Nov 03, 2001 at 02:31:44 AM EST

I really hope this is a troll. I don't think I've ever been more unimpressed with someone's statement of religion. I will attempt to respond to some other's questions on your behalf. But when people like you attempt to defend Christianity I want to...be non-Christian. Your superior stance - equating yourself with God - is not only offensive, but blasphemous.

[ Parent ]
Doo-bee-doo (4.50 / 2) (#188)
by CaptainZornchugger on Sat Nov 03, 2001 at 12:22:24 PM EST

I really hope this is a troll. I don't think I've ever been more unimpressed with someone's statement of religion.

You don't talk to Religious people outside of K5 or college much, do you?


Look at that chord structure. There's sadness in that chord structure.
[ Parent ]
Well put (4.00 / 1) (#198)
by joecool12321 on Sat Nov 03, 2001 at 02:14:57 PM EST

Hah, good point. Unfortunately the religious people I talk to write books and articles defending their faith. I hope that I can do their arguments justice. Thankyou for reminding me that so many people are uninformed about their faith system (even the atheists). Unfortunately, they do damage to those of us with reasons for what we believe (not everyone religious is stupid). --Joey

[ Parent ]
tis i again (2.00 / 3) (#252)
by SirRobin on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 09:16:47 PM EST

Sir Robin here. No that was not a troll.

Sorry to all the people who I made mad. I was stating my point of view (I guess i should have stated it better?). Sorry to all the Christians i offended. But why did I offend? If you are a Christian and don't believe in God and Jesus and don't believe religion is not something made up, then what do you believe? Do you believe God is there whether you want Him to be or not? I hope so.

I'd like to answer a few things from some posts.

Once again, many of you will get mad and hate me and write responses that will yell at me. But here goes...

First, God is love. people go to hell because they do not choose Him. Just like if you don't follow the law you go to jail (well most of the time. You get the idea.) It's just how it is. If you don't believe in Him, why should He save you? If you curse His name and truly believe He doesn't exist why should He save you? and I know I said God is LOVE so maybe it looks like I contradict myself.

Second, someone said why would God make a universe He knew the beginning and end to? I ask you this. Ever watched a movie twice? Played a video game you've already beaten? Just because you know the end doesn't make it boring. For me anyway.

Third, someone talked about GOOD Hindus in India and how can they go to hell? Well I ask you this. What is GOOD? How do you define who has been GOOD? The Taliban (for a current example) killing US citizens thinks that is good. The US thinks that is bad. The US sending troops to kill them thinks that is good and the Taliban thinks that is bad. What side is GOOD? PLUS, how GOOD do you have to be? do you have to just not hit your younger sister or do you have to be a Mother Theresa?

side note on being good: I believe to get into heaven you can do the WORST things possible but still get in. When Jesus was on the cross about to die a thief who had all his life stolen and been BAD. He saw Jesus and knew who He was and asked Jesus to remember him when Jesus was in heaven. Jesus said that the thief would be in heaven with Him. because of his belief.

Well there is my thoughts. rip away. And I again apologize to everyone for sounding like another ignorant Christian. and I might have just done it again. It is sometimes hard for me to express myself non-stupidly using text.

[ Parent ]
Pssst. (none / 0) (#301)
by CaptainZornchugger on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 02:25:30 PM EST

First, God is love. people go to hell because they do not choose Him

Free advice. Anytime you make those two statements, put something between them. Preferably two or three somethings.

HTH.


Look at that chord structure. There's sadness in that chord structure.
[ Parent ]
my religion (3.50 / 6) (#130)
by Ender Ryan on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 05:02:41 PM EST

My religion...

I believe in facts. I believe nothing until it is proven to me in a convincing manner, and even then I never cease to question it. I have become intolerant of many religious groups because they treat questioning things as being "sinful" and such...

So, I guess my religion could be called the search for truth. I am not an atheist because that requires one to believe in the absence of a God or anything supernatural. I do not currently have an opinion about such things, but if they exist then they exist. I simply don't know if they do.

If God were to come down from heaven and tell me he was real... well, I'd probably believe him, unless I was drunk or something.


-
Exposing vast conspiracies! Experts at everything even outside our expertise! Liberators of the world from the oppression of the evil USian Empire!

We are Kuro5hin!


The meaning of "atheist" (4.16 / 6) (#133)
by phliar on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 06:00:35 PM EST

I am not an atheist because that requires one to believe in the absence of a God
A common misconception. An atheist is one who denies the existence of God. Note the difference between "deny the existence of" and "affirm the non-existence of". That is a key difference.

I don't think there's any kind of supernatural entity who will intercede in the world of my behalf based on my supplications to it. Therefore I'm an atheist.

I also don't think unicorns exist. I deny the existence of unicorns.

I also deny the existence of gnomes, leprechauns, poltergeists, satyrs, sylphs, the tooth fairy, the great pumpkin,...

I will be happy to allow someone to demonstrate the existence of any of these, in which case I will remove that supernatural entity from the "deny" list. (However, extraordinary things require extraordinary proofs.)


Faster, faster, until the thrill of...
[ Parent ]

Same difference. You're thinking of agnosticism. (4.33 / 3) (#152)
by Kasreyn on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 09:06:55 PM EST

"An atheist is one who denies the existence of God. Note the difference between "deny the existence of" and "affirm the non-existence of". That is a key difference."

There is no such difference. Denial and affirmation are properly pure inverses, thus denying existence is identical to affirming nonexistence (since existence and nonexistence are likewise pure inverses). God is equally unprovable as he is unDISprovable. You can NEVER disprove the existence of god. Religious people will always just say he is invisible/unknowable - or maybe he is. Some will say such undisprovability is merely a facet of religion and not of so-called gods, but that is likewise undisprovable. God cannot be proved to not exist. Therefore, thinking he does not exist requires BELIEVING he does not exist - taking on faith something you cannot prove (nonexistence of god).

Thus, atheism. Polytheism - the belief in many gods. Monotheism - the belief in one god. Atheism - the belief in no god(s).

The term you're searching for is Agnostic (which I am as well). An Agnostic merely does what a totally rational, totally unbelieving person must do: he says "I do not know", and leaves it at that. Agnostics are rational, atheists are reactionary, usually people who have had bad religious experiences and turn to atheism out of a desire to feel free or changed or powerful. I suppose belief must be comforting, even to them. And this is why so few atheists will accept this understanding - they don't want to see their belief as irrational, since they spend so much time and energy knocking others' beliefs. =P


-Kasreyn


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
Aathiesm? (none / 0) (#160)
by avatarxy on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 11:30:59 PM EST

Hmm... maybe I could subscribe to Aathiesm [sic] then? =)

[ Parent ]
Atheism (4.25 / 4) (#209)
by robwicks on Sat Nov 03, 2001 at 07:25:55 PM EST

My understanding is that there are two types of athiests, weak and strong. The weak athiest believes in the falsity of specific dieties, so they might say, I don't believe in the Christian God, or I don't believe in the Islamic God. He makes no statement regarding gods he is not familiar with, and as such is agnostic towards them. A strong athiest denies the supernatural altogether and says that no gods exist of any sort.


"Logic . . . merely enables one to be wrong with authority" Doctor Who
[ Parent ]

I've done it before, I'll do it again. (4.00 / 2) (#208)
by kitten on Sat Nov 03, 2001 at 04:29:44 PM EST

A common misconception. An atheist is one who denies the existence of God. Note the difference between "deny the existence of" and "affirm the non-existence of". That is a key difference.

Let me clarify this for people, because even I - and I've argued this many times - had trouble working around the sentence.

An atheist is anybody who does not have a positive theistic belief. Anybody who lacks a belief in God - for whatever reason - is an atheist.

"Theism" is defined as, "a belief in a god or gods". Fairly simple.
The prefix "a-" means "without". Therefore, "atheism" literally means, "without a belief in a god or gods."

Let me say it again. The only requirement for the label "atheist" is that one does not have a theistic belief of any sort. Atheism is not necessarily an "active" denial of god, but theism is necessarily an "active" affirmation of god. (Technically speaking, agnostics are atheists, since they do not have an active theistic belief.)
mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
[ Parent ]
Wow (3.80 / 5) (#145)
by localroger on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 07:42:45 PM EST

Well, I cleverly posted this at a point when it would be impossible for me to check its progress for 20 hours or so. Imagine my surprise to find it sitting here all fat and happy on the FP after watching my last few efforts struggle on to section with votes of 379 to 299 :-)

Most of the things I would have felt an urge to respond to have been adequately addressed by other readers. I honestly expected this article to be more controversial and have a harder time than it seems to have -- I knew it would challenge the usual, um, sacred cows.

To the largish fraction of folks who have taken issue with my definition of religion, I'd like to mention that redefining the word "religion" was the purpose of the article. (My theory of the mechanism of epiphany is also pure speculation, though I believe well-informed speculation.)

I did not intend to demean any particular religion, including science (and including science by comparing it to religion). This idea is not about the relative worth of the idea, but about how and why people adopt the idea.

As I wrote in another reply, people do not actually act on faith, on ideas, on knowledge, or on ethical theories; they act on feelings. They act on these other things because their feelings about those things lead them to act. And religion both exploits and exalts a particular feeling which is both powerful and rare. Most people will not have more than a few epiphanies during their entire lives.

This, for example, answers one obvious question asked by a reader -- why do religions discount sex? Sex is a common feeling. Anybody can get an orgasm with his right hand, and the result is familiar. Epiphany is just as impressive and much more unusual. There are religions that focus on these other feelings instead of epiphany, but they are not widespread.

As for science being different from religion, I well remember why I rejected the teaching of my parents, church, school, and most of society at large when I was 15. I had an epiphany. Just like the one I had when I was "saved" at the age of 10. Just like the one that would later involve me with a new-age neopagan community when I was 24. Just like the one I would have still later when I was introduced to the writings of Robert Anton Wilson. You get the idea.

The belief system Science isn't like most religious belief systems, but then most religious belief systems aren't much like each other in important ways. The common thread is how people choose their belief system, especially when they must reject the one they were taught in childhood to do it. No matter what the result might be, the process isn't rational. It's all about how the ideas make you feel.

I can haz blog!

Other Input (2.50 / 2) (#148)
by r0cket on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 08:41:35 PM EST

This is probably the best site about religion I have ever visited: A General Theory of Religion. A very in-depth examination of one man's religious experience.

Don't be so closed minded (1.50 / 6) (#151)
by Ashcrow on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 08:55:29 PM EST

Instead of attacking someone elses ideals why not try tp prove your own first. I'm not sure what or who you belive in but don't attack others when yours can't be proven. A Religious Scinetist says we came as from some accident or some idea of religious evolution (most people belive in Darwins idea on it and don't know of the others before and after him) which hasn't been proven nor is it even close to being proven though they would say 'Just look around!' A Christian will say God created the universe ... 'Just look around!' The Christian God is neither male nor female but was depecited as male because of his power, (etc...) in a society that didn't have many soccer moms (sorry, little joke :-)) so calling God a female would be calling the creator of the universe someone who wasn't as powerfull or strong as a counterpart. There was noanti-political correctness agendas in there, just a societies diffrence.


----------
"Are you slow? The alleged lie that you might have heard me saying, allegedly moments ago? That's a parasite that lives in my neck."
universality and it's implications (3.00 / 3) (#157)
by rehan on Fri Nov 02, 2001 at 10:38:06 PM EST

Faith in things that you can't prove ("religion") is universal in human civilizations. This strongly indicates that it's not a cultural artifact.

More likely is one of the following:

  • That it is true that these things exist
  • That it's built in to us to believe in these things, whether they're "true" or not. This means (if you accept natural selection) that it has been (at least in the past) a survival characteristic to believe in them.

  • Stay Frosty and Alert


    Universality? (none / 0) (#170)
    by Flyn Orange on Sat Nov 03, 2001 at 06:04:25 AM EST

    I consider faith in things one cannot prove (or sometimes disprove) simply an artifact of the human condition. Here's why:

    Humans are -- or at least can be -- very creative, and imaginitive. We are also very curious creatures and we like to know why things happen the way that they do. (More correctly, we like to be told why things happen the way that they do. Initiative of self-discovery is not as common a human trait as some of our other ones. Yes, I am being cynical.)

    Now, throughout the majority of human history, we have not had the benefit of what we now call the Scientific Method. When you have to worry mostly about the crops next year, and hunting for your next meal, you don't generally have time to do such things. But yet things would still happen or exist -- mysterious deaths, bright streaks of light in the night sky, the sun disappearing for a few minutes into darkness every so often, the sun, the color of the sky -- which, while very common, no one could adequately explain.

    So what do humans do to keep their curiosity from driving them mad given these circumstances? They invent stories as to why these things are. They invent gods with mighty invisible hands who can cure your impossible ailments or blight your family name forever with misfortune. Or they attune themselves with the patterns of nature and consider the elements as gods of a sort, and teach themselves to believe that things just happen in nature, and hopefully it's for a reason.

    Whether or not what our ancestors believed was true is, to a degree, immaterial. The fact of the matter is that humans can and will invent reasons for the things they cannot explain. You can see this in action even today, despite scientific methods and what-have-you. If one wanted to get utterly philisophical, it could even be argued that science is yet another way humans invent stories to explain why things happen.

    Most scientists will insist, though -- and I agree -- that because they are gleaning their answers from what they can observe of the universe directly, that what they have to say is probably a slightly more true than books with an old story saying a man magically transmuted H2O into a mixture H2O, C2H6O, and C12H22O11 with a few fuzzy bits off of the cork because someone forgot to store the bottle properly. Of course, those same scientists can't really prove that they're not being filled full of a cosmic prank by Loki either, so there's always that.

    Humans simply do not always believe things for rational reasons, and not very often for logical ones. They believe things sometimes for irrational reasons, and often based on incorrect assumptions even if they are being rational. Hey, the sky is blue. Why can't it just be because a god made it that way? It's good enough for the majority, so it must be right. Right?

    In short, the only thing universal here is human nature.

    As for all of this being a survival characteristic, you can probably consider it a by-product of a very successful creature which is successful because it can invent not only irrational or incorrect stories as to why things are the way that they are, but can also invent very useful tools to accomplish such tasks as starting fires, killing animals, and constructing strip-malls. Since we, as a species, are not very old, it remains to be seen whether humans will truly be successful in the long run...

    [ Parent ]

    Option 3 (4.00 / 1) (#223)
    by Betcour on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 05:04:16 AM EST

    My take is a different one : consciousness is a natural accident and an oddity of evolution. Humans were not "designed" for consciousness (of themselves and the world). Once you give a monkey consciousness, the poor animal start to look at the scary world and is filled with questions and fears. The easiest and fastest answer to these is religion. "Don't worry about death, you'll go heaven later" or "the world exists because God made it so" etc... religion provides a quick and easy answer to our fears and questions.

    As science progress further, more "real" answers come along and religion loose it's usefulness at explaining the universe. But everyone is still a little scared monkey inside, no matter how many PhD you have, and for many of these people the fear of death and the unknown is so strong that they need religion to make it bearable. The biggest challenge in being an atheist is staring in the eyes of death without without the comfort of afterlife, knowing it is the end of you (although I know a lot of people who find it comforting to know that it is really the end and they won't have to go thru something else)

    [ Parent ]
    Nothing Follows From Assertions (4.50 / 4) (#161)
    by joecool12321 on Sat Nov 03, 2001 at 02:25:04 AM EST

    I'm going to attempt to do my best to respond to this posting. One response to my writing is a criticism of its lengthiness. My goal is to prove what it is that I am saying. I do not want merely to assert. Thus, I apologize beforehand for the length of this posting.

    First, I agree. The questions that localroger is attempting to discuss, and explain, are longstanding. They are questions that people have been attempting to answer for as long as we have been able to look at the sky, since the time we could begin to wonder. Since the time that we could ask, "Why?" And they are important questions, and I am glad to see the community response to this article.

    localroger begins by asserting that, "trying to understand religion by starting with Christianity is like trying to understand art by starting with Andy Warhol or Jackson Pollock. Although not central to his thesis, I question this assertion. Christianity is a fantastic place to begin an investigation into religion. Why? The main reason is that it sets itself up to be falsifiable. Yes, that's right!  Christianity says, in I Corinthians chapter 15 verses 13 and 14, "But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain." Paul goes on to say in verses 17-19, "and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep [died] in Christ have perished.   If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied." So Christianity is a great place to start, because in the end it is falsifiable, and so can be checked off the list, so to speak. But let us move to the heart of the issue.

    Again and again you will see me complain that localroger has provided no evidence for his assertions.  He begins the body of his argument in that way. He claims with absolute lack of evidence that the purpose of art is: to arouse powerful feelings in the viewer. What makes you think that? What evidence do you have for that claim? The problem with that definition of art is that it would allow murder to be considered as art.  It would allow Hitler's extermination of the Jews to be considered art. There is a serious flaw with your definition of art. Let us look for some alternatives. Walker Percy has a specific theory of art that he justifies.  His argument is:

    The purpose of art is to transmit universal truths of a sort, but of a particular sort, that in art, whether it's poetry, fiction or painting, you are telling the reader or the listener or the viewer something he already knows but which he doesn't quite know that he knows, so that in the action of communication he experiences a recognition, a feeling that he has been there before, a shock of recognition. And so what the artist does, or tries to do, is simply to validate the human experience and to tell people the deep human truths which they already unconsciously know.
    Why do I use his definition?  He is an expert in the field of art and it's purpose. Let us look at another definition of what art is. Aristotle argues that art is the realization in external form of a true idea.  I mostly agree with Aristotle.  But I would say, "Art is something created by a human which reflects beauty." Why do I like that definition? Let me explain. First, a problem with both your definition and Aristotle's is that it allows for natural occurrences to be considered art. However, it seems that art needs human action, so I agree more with Percy in that area. For example, a sunset can be beautiful, but it alone is not art.  Now if someone were to take a picture of it or paint it, that would be art. Human intervention.  I said I agree with Percy on the need for human intervention. But I disagree that art only communicates truth. Art does more than that. Hence I use the term beauty, which tends to have a more emotional connotation.  Why do I take issue with your definition of art? If you definition of art fails, then so too do your arguments regarding the parallel between art and religion.

    But your argument that there are strong parallels between art and religion is also unjustified.  What are the parallels?  I can think of none.

    You argue that, "religion exists to produce a powerful feeling." Again, you make a fantastic assertion with no evidence for that claim whatsoever.  And this is not a redefinition at this point; it is an argument about a fact. The fact: What is the purpose of religion.   Either your statement is true or it is not.   I have nothing really to refute here, because you have said nothing refutable (that is, you've said nothing of substance that I can refute, because you've simply asserted.   Nothing follows from an assertion, or else the sky would actually be the color of Wednesday). Let me allow a separate attempt at a definition of the purpose, or goal of religion. Religion exists to answer questions about the nature of reality beyond the ability of science.  It attempts to explain the nature of the way things are, and suggest ways to act once re recognize those truths.   Why do I make that claim?  Let me first point out that this is a question I've never thought about in this way, and so my attempt here will be elementary to say the best. But let me try. There are certain facts beyond the scope of knowledge. Human beings are curious, and they like to know everything. So in an attempt to know something beyond scientific enquiry, religion enters into the marketplace of ideas.

    So I do not deny that epiphany occurs, or that it is powerful. But it is simply NOT the purpose of religion to attain epiphany.   In Zen, the purpose would be to remove the duality of the self, and so there would be no one to have the epiphany.   In Christianity, the purpose is to become a person of a certain character. Those are the only to religious purposes with which I can comment with any degree of confidence, but certainly other religions have purpose beyond epiphany.

    I think at this point I will desist from going on. I think the premises of the argument have been shown to be significantly unstable (in fact, on the whole there is no argument, because there is no evidence).   When these challenges are addressed, perhaps then I will comment on more of the writing.

    Thank you for writing and participating in this public forum, and I hope I have read and understood you as best as I am capable.

    --Joey

    *sigh* (5.00 / 3) (#204)
    by Zeram on Sat Nov 03, 2001 at 02:55:18 PM EST

    The comment from the article: "trying to understand religion by starting with Christianity is like trying to understand art by starting with Andy Warhol or Jackson Pollock." is dead on correct. The point being made is that Christianity is so complex, recursive, and at times hypocritical, that to try to understand religon with it, is essentially trying to get into the deeper realms of a subject before you cover the basics. The idea that Christianity expresses the concern that it could be wrong, seems to me to point to an inherent complexity.

    As to your criticisim of localroger for not providing proof for his explaination of the purpose of art, well can you prove beyond a doubt what the purpose of art is? I don't mean that in any sort of abstract relativist kind of way. I mean can you lay down serious proof that arts purpose is other wise? It seems that it would be hard to even so much as prove that art exists because of a creative urge that exists as nothing more than a chemical reation in the brain. Why, well becuase art does have a way of stiring emotions in people, and many of the greatest artists of the world have as much as stated that they create to move other people. It seems to me to be normal and obvious that the vast majority of art is created with the sole intent of having it connect with its audience. No matter how you want to define art, almost any human activity could be defined as art. Your own definiton of art does more to expand the horizon of what art is, as "beauty" is an ambigious term.

    Also your assertaion that localroger needs to support his statement about the purpose of religon seems bizzare to me. Religon's main goal as I see it is to connect humans with something greater than themselves. That connection is expressed in people as a very, very powerful feeling. There can be no proof for this, as it is based solely on how people feel. But none the less, it seems an acurate enough description to me.

    I think in the end you miss the point that localroger is getting at. Removing the duality of self, is to reach enlightenment, a higher state of being, and how do you get there? Through epiphany. Through becoming one with something greater than yourself. Same thing with christinaity, by coming closer to God (as in being a better person), you expericence epiphany.
    <----^---->
    Like Anime? In the Philly metro area? Welcome to the machine...
    [ Parent ]
    ~*sighing* (4.66 / 3) (#214)
    by joecool12321 on Sat Nov 03, 2001 at 10:50:42 PM EST

    The argument that Christianity is complex is unfounded. In Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis, he explains what it is that Christianity is "all about". The purpose of a Christian is simply to live a life directed towards a type of living. That is, a person living life not for the self, but for the good of others. And a point here: the good of others would be if they lived life not for the self, but for the good of others (read, perhaps, Alex Voorhoeve's concept of contractualism). The only difficulty in Christianity is this: It is extremely simple (give up selfishness) but infinitely difficult (try living unselfishly). So that is another aspect of why I think localroger's claim regarding the difficulty of Christianity is simply wrong.

    Next, you call into question the issue of the definition of art. I do not have the burden of proof here. localroger has claimed a definition without justification. I don't have to accept that definition, he has to tell me why I should. Now, to strengthen my argument I provided an alternate definition. I think I did lay down a serious proof regarding the definition of art. I showed what was wrong with localroger's definition (murder is art, Holocaust is art) and provided a better definition (Art is something created by a human which reflects beauty.) Why does it connect with the audience? It is because beauty is "connective" in nature. That is, people connect with beauty apart from art. Art's goal, then, is to increase the amount of beauty through human actions. Regarding the ambiguity of "beauty" I say: this is the issue. We can agree on what art is, even if we disagree on what is beautiful (although I doubt on the whole that people disagree all that much as to what is beautiful). So to summarize: he has the burden of proof, not me. And he has not met that burden, so we should not accept it. I have provided an alternate definition and defended it, even though it is not necessary to do so.

    You then take issue with my claim that localroger needs to support his definition of religion. First, I did not merely assert, I showed why he must defend that assertion (roughly, nothing follows from his assertion, so he should show why that is true, and that is the evidence for my assertion, making it a claim or argument). Second, you say it seems bizarre. However, it is not. Nor is it an assertion. It is the way discussion works. If someone wants to say something of significance, they must demonstrate why we should accept that. He has not supported his claim as to the purpose of religion. If he could merely say what he wanted, then I could simply say (without justification) that the purpose of religion is to thrust your worldview on others. Although it seems like that is what often happens, it is not the purpose simply because I say it is so. He simply says that something is so, without evidence. I beg for evidence of the assertion. I provided, again unnecessarily, evidence for an alternate definition of the goal of religion, namely: religion exists to answer questions about the nature of reality beyond the ability of science. (I actually just noticed something. In your final paragraph you defeat localroger's assertion regarding the purpose of religion, you say its purpose is to reach enlightenment. Is its purpose to reach enlightenment or to reach epiphany?)

    Your final claim is that removing the duality of the self leads to epiphany and then enlightenment. You also say that Christianity tries to remove reach enlightenment by being a better person. So we have one of two options: removal of duality -> epiphany -> enlightenment; being a better person -> epiphany -> enlightenment. Well, this is an entirely new argument. First, it sets up as the goal of religion enlightenment, not epiphany. I will not address everything here unless you ask me to, but let me say this: The purpose of religion is not the Zen state of enlightenment; it is the enlightenment of Truth. It is not necessary to either "remove duality" or to "be a better person" in order to reach Truth.

    And for my final note, let me mention a few things. You've done nothing to destroy my definitions of art and religion. Why is this important? Well, I think I've shown why localroger's definitions don't work. And mine do work. So again, a premises issue here: the rest of his argument falls. And in Zen, once the duality of the self is removed, there is no one to have the epiphany. The self would no longer exist.

    Thank you for thoughtfully reading my comments, and again, I hope I have read and understood you.

    --Joey


    [ Parent ]
    A few replies (4.50 / 4) (#231)
    by localroger on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 10:54:24 AM EST

    The argument that Christianity is complex is unfounded.

    We have a problem with words here. I didn't say Christianity was complex, I said it was advanced. That is not a value judgement. It's like the statement that birds are more advanced than reptiles. The "advanced" duck can still get eaten by the "primitive" alligator.

    If you bothered to follow the art links, you might notice that modern art is actually simpler and more abstract than classical art. This is what advances it -- the superfluous components are stripped out, leaving bare patches of color or simple repetetive forms. What is interesting about modern art is that it "works" -- it can affect you in the manner of classical art. This would be surprising to a classical artist who had never seen modern art and only read a description, since he would think modern art lacks a lot of necessary elements.

    Now, as to the definition of art, I have to ask: Have you ever actually gone to an art museum and looked at any? Have you ever seen a van Gogh or a Picasso in person? There is a reason "great" artists are considered different from the illustrators who paint the labels of soup cans (a fact out of which Andy Warhol made a great recursive joke). What the artist tries to do, and what the great artist succeeds in doing, is to stun you with the quality of his vision. Not to "reveal" beauty, but to knock you across the room with it.

    The artist wants to engage you, to take your breath away. The great artist who is on your page accomplishes this. The great modern artist does it with a great economy of form, which is what makes his art modern instead of classical.

    roughly, nothing follows from his assertion, so he should show why that is true, and that is the evidence for my assertion, making it a claim or argument

    It would be more accurate to say that nothing you like follows from my assertion, since what follows from it is that all religions are equally valid and you have an obvious fealty to one in particular.

    The traditional definitions would, if boiled down, say that art is about "beauty" while religion is about "truth." Both of these are only approximations, though. The Church of the Subgenius is a bona fide religion which achieves its epiphany by mocking the very idea of religion. And some art is meant to be downright ugly or shocking. The traditionalist is merely bewildered by these pheomena, and says they "aren't art" or "aren't religion."

    Art and religion are both about feelings. They are in fact closely related, which is why there is so much religous art. Art is meant to create feelings, while religion uses different techniques to create feelings and then directs those feelings to create specific changes in the participant or (if the religion includes magic) in the outside world.

    Nobody can "prove" a definition of art or religion since those phenomena live ultimately inside peoples' heads, but we can attempt to write better definitions which are more inclusive and descriptive of what people actually do. Artists and religious people do things which do not fit well in the usual definitions of religion and art. I think my explanation works better. That is all the proof you can ever hope for.

    My definitions obviously don't work for you because they don't validate your own world view. That's fine; use yours. You still won't understand the next time people line up to see a Robert Mapplethorpe exhibit, you won't be able to make heads or tails out of phenomena like Scientology or Heaven's Gate, and you will continue to be able to pat yourself on the back and congratulate yourself on your superiority. Most importantly you will preserve your own epiphany. Feels good, doesn't it?

    I can haz blog!
    [ Parent ]

    ...but not to the right post (none / 0) (#243)
    by joecool12321 on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 06:23:47 PM EST

    First, I wish you had responded to my original post, but thanks for taking the time to respond at all.

    My talk about the complexity of Christianity was in response to Zeram, not to you.

    The reason they take my breath away is because they portray beauty. But art can be beautiful without taking my breath away. In fact, subtlle beauty in art can be appreciated, because it whispers in your ear, and lingers there. It infects you with thoughts and ideas, simply becuase it is beautiful. But sometimes the powerful beauty is more impressive. Like you say, it knocks your socks off. You seem to agree with me, there. The reason I deny your definition (and something you ignore) is that you definition allows murder (and other things) to be considered art.

    You then say, "It would be more accurate to say that nothing you like follows from my assertion." I'm glad to know what I would or would not like. The reason nothing follows from your assertions is beacause nothing EVER follows from assertions. You think I am close-minded, but I think you can see through my other posts that I've done better than some Athiests at listening to what people are saying. I am incredibly open minded, just not to unfounded arguments. I suppose that is my bigotry, and if so, I embrace it. Woe to the one who follows unfounded arguments!

    "Art and religion are both about feelings," you say, again without any evidence. Because of art or religion, feelings may be affected. But that doesn't mean that's what they are about. That's like saying: "Art and religion are both about food" beacuse they can change what you eat. It makes no sense.

    The reason your definition don't work is because you're attempting to change the status quo, as you admit, without upholding the burdens of proof necessary to do so. My personal beliefs have nothing to do with this, yet. (In other postings, I admit when my personal belief comes into play. It's done so only in response to part of 1 or 2 questions, I think.)

    Why do you think I take a superior attitude? Because I think I have answers to questions? Do do you. Do you have a superior attitude? Or do I have this supposed attitue because I point out the flaws in your logic?

    I'd enjoy hearing your responses to my first post, if you have time.

    Thank you again.

    --Joey

    [ Parent ]
    Reply to this post (3.00 / 2) (#248)
    by localroger on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 08:31:41 PM EST

    First, I wish you had responded to my original post, but thanks for taking the time to respond at all.

    Your first post and many subsequent replies appeared during the 20 hr blackout after I submitted the story, when I was sleeping and then at work. I thought others had adequately replied to you, but I'll go back after I write this and add my 2 cents.

    The reason they take my breath away is because they portray beauty.

    This is one way art can take your breath away, but it is not the only way. Much modern art works by manipulating the way you perceive combinations of forms. And some classical art clearly isn't meant to be "beautiful" but instructive or even as a warning. To wit...

    The reason I deny your definition (and something you ignore) is that you definition allows murder (and other things) to be considered art.

    Would you consider a rendering of the Crucifixion to be art? That was a particularly horrible act of murder. As for the rest, both artists and observers seem to agree that certain performance pieces, including controversial ones, are "art" whether they are liked or not. As I wrote somewhere in this mess, art and religion live in our heads; it is for neither you nor for me to tell someone that being crucified on a VW beetle or walking across broken glass barefoot is or is not "art." If the artist creates it on that principle, and the audience (however limited) agrees, then it is art to those people. To say otherwise is the ultimate in closed-mindedness, since you are denying the validity of other peoples' experience.

    You then say, "It would be more accurate to say that nothing you like follows from my assertion." I'm glad to know what I would or would not like.

    You have made what you don't like about my thesis abundantly clear.

    The reason nothing follows from your assertions is beacause nothing EVER follows from assertions.

    This is a bit of wordplay worthy of any jr. high school debate squad tight spot. I could counter you by saying that I've not really made assertions; I've made observations. You interpreted them as assertions. But that's another jr. high school debate squad tactic. The truth is I have made assertions, and things do follow from them -- things you must not like, else you'd not be arguing with the idea.

    You think I am close-minded, but I think you can see through my other posts that I've done better than some Athiests at listening to what people are saying.

    This is certainly true, and I commend you for it. OTOH I wonder how much of what you listen to you really hear. You seem to have a counterargument ready before the pitch has even been made.

    "Art and religion are both about feelings," you say, again without any evidence. Because of art or religion, feelings may be affected. But that doesn't mean that's what they are about.

    You have not really offered an alternative, particularly in the case of art. My explanation is no better than yours, but it wins on the Occam's Razor extra inning.

    That's like saying: "Art and religion are both about food" beacuse they can change what you eat. It makes no sense.

    You are defining it as making no sense; it's a cheap jr. high debate squad tactic. If I had made such a statement it would of course make perfect sense -- it might not be right, but you could find supporting examples, like the relationship to cows and Hinduism. The thing is that there is art that clearly doesn't mean to be beautiful, and there are religions that clearly aren't about "truth." Your definitions fail there. Mine doesn't. Your hypothetical "food" definition fails much quicker than even your own real attempt at a definition.

    Why do you think I take a superior attitude? Because I think I have answers to questions? Do do you. Do you have a superior attitude? Or do I have this supposed attitue because I point out the flaws in your logic?

    I think you have a superior attitude because you are throwing up a veneer of open-mindedness around a core belief whose fallibility you obviously are not willing to entertain. I was in the same place myself, 25 years ago, which is one reason I can recognize the symptoms. You are being pig-headed, but in such a way that you don't realize yourself how pig-headed you are being.

    You have constructed a reality tunnel in which you, by definition, are the most logical and rational person around, and by definition anyone who disagrees with you must be acting illogically and irrationally. Arguments which support your conclusion are made of purest gold, no matter what hidden assumptions or circularities they might hold, and any argument which doesn't support your conclusion "isn't logical" or "doesn't make sense."

    I'd enjoy hearing your responses to my first post, if you have time.

    It's a slow night, and I'm not out of beer yet, so why not? I'll get to it.

    I can haz blog!
    [ Parent ]

    Computer generated text .. (5.00 / 1) (#227)
    by Highlander on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 07:58:40 AM EST

    It is obvious that you have used an argument generator program to write this piece of rhethorics. Is it online somewhere ?

    Moderation in moderation is a good thing.
    [ Parent ]
    Not yet (no global consciousness) (none / 0) (#241)
    by joecool12321 on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 06:09:15 PM EST

    Actually, it is a piece of code I'm working on. Not only does it attempt to provide well-founded arguments, but it also tries to do so in a logical format, with correct spelling (this response was not so-generated). It combines a top-down contextual recognition engine with a bottom-up sophic engine, which in combination either agrees completely, or writes a dissenting opinion (I'm still working on the assenting code: when completed it will agree, but for different reasons).

    Unfortunately, the code is closed-source (unless dualism is false).

    In order to produce a better program, what gave it away?

    --Joey

    [ Parent ]
    What gave it away .. (none / 0) (#328)
    by Highlander on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 04:14:56 PM EST

    The first thing that gave it away is that there is an insult generator around which uses similar figures of speech.

    The next thing is the use of figures of speech which Cato the Elder might have used, but no normal person, and the use of similar figures of speech:

    "..localroger begins by asserting that.."

    "Again and again you will see me complain that localroger .."

    Another point is that all paragraphs and arguments are repetitive and long in themselves. One of them would be okay, but in abundance, they give away that the author doesn't care to win his audience to his side.

    Real authors very often assert their point only once, give examples and historic parallels, then go on to assert their position.

    The Unabomber manifesto is a good example for this; the way of arguing is typically of a mathematician; examples, detailed arguments, then getting sloppy in the end and saying that the proof is complete.

    Maybe some part of the failure of the generator is actually that another purpose of the generator is to make fun of rhethorics and wrong arguments. It would be interesting to have two generators, one full of *fnords* and one that is better disguised.

    Moderation in moderation is a good thing.
    [ Parent ]

    By Request (4.50 / 2) (#251)
    by localroger on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 09:10:49 PM EST

    localroger begins by asserting that, "trying to understand religion by starting with Christianity is like trying to understand art by starting with Andy Warhol or Jackson Pollock. Although not central to his thesis, I question this assertion. Christianity is a fantastic place to begin an investigation into religion. Why? The main reason is that it sets itself up to be falsifiable.

    You have obviously mistaken me for a rabid scientific materialist, which is amusing considering that several rabid scientific materialists have taken me to task for comparing their beliefs to religion.

    Falsifiability has nothing to do with my arguments because I'm not assuming the scientific method, or even that human beings are rational at all (which, if you take a big step backward and a deep breath, you'll realize they really aren't -- including ourselves).

    You really don't have a clue what I'm talking about because it depends intimately on an understanding of how religions other than Christianity work, a datum you have obviously carefully avoided. Ancient religions have certain features (more complex than "not worshipping YHWH") which were once nearly universal, and which have been stripped down in different ways by different modern religions. Christianity is only one solution to the question of how to reduce religion to its essential core; others, like Taoism and Buddhism, have done a similar thing by whacking out radically different parts of the original structure.

    Christianity is a poor example to begin an exploration of religion for the same reason that a Visual Basic program that opens up a DOS console and uses it exclusively for user interface would be a poor vehicle for understanding Visual Basic. Christianity is exceptional, and you don't study general principles by starting with exceptions.

    Christianity says, in I Corinthians chapter 15 verses 13 and 14,

    If it's not obvious by now that I'm not going to accept Biblical references as being anything better than the uninformed blatherings of ancient sheepherders, we have no business arguing.

    Re: Walker Percy's definition of Art

    Percy actually says in the quote almost exactly the same thing I have said. He just doesn't use the word "epiphany." But...

    telling the reader or the listener or the viewer something he already knows but which he doesn't quite know that he knows, so that in the action of communication he experiences a recognition, a feeling that he has been there before, a shock of recognition

    ...this is the kind of statement you'd start from if you were going to end up with my story. Next you get this feedback going, and this intense rush... where did I read that before?

    But your argument that there are strong parallels between art and religion is also unjustified. What are the parallels? I can think of none.

    You misspelled "will admit to." Or do you really think it is a total coincidence that so much classical art is religious in theme?

    You argue that, "religion exists to produce a powerful feeling." Again, you make a fantastic assertion with no evidence for that claim whatsoever. And this is not a redefinition at this point; it is an argument about a fact. The fact: What is the purpose of religion.

    Um, "what is the purpose of religion" is not a fact.

    Oh, all right.

    1. It is not a "fantastic assertion" except in the mind of someone offended by the idea.

    2. There is no fact for it to be an argument about, since religion and art both exist wholly within the unplumbable depths of the human mind and nobody can really know what someone else is experiencing.

    3. Your definition of religion fails in the instances of numerous real religions which don't give a rat's ass about the origins of the world or their relatioship to Science. You have fallen into the deep, narrow pit of thinking all other thought systems are like your own. You're familiar enought with Zen to use it as a counterexample, but not with enough other alternatives to understand how limited your understanding really is. This invalidates nearly everything you say thereafter.

    Thank you for writing and participating in this public forum, and I hope I have read and understood you as best as I am capable.

    Thank you for not acting like a jackass, as so many others with similar ideas do. But your ideas are still hopelessly short-sighted and insufficient by some of our standards.

    I can haz blog!
    [ Parent ]

    Unique to Homo Sapiens (3.00 / 1) (#168)
    by ragnarok on Sat Nov 03, 2001 at 04:43:35 AM EST

    You can start studying religion from any perspective, it seems, and it seems that anybody will either concur or not ... <;) But the angle I find most useful is the one where you view it from an anthropoligical perspective. What does it mean that Homo Sapiens is the only animal in the genus homo or related genera that appears to have a religious character?<br>
    Religion has to be an aspect of the complexity of our neurological setup, yes; it is also an aspect of the complexity of our linguistic ability, which is also an aspect of our neurological setup; and both our neurological complexity and linguistic ability are directly related to the fact that we have the most complex social structure of any of the Great Apes.

    And that brings us back to the question: what is the biological purpose of such "social glue"? Lemme see: social bonding beyond what a mere sexual bonding can give, and that means a greater shot at surviving, which means a greater number of people surviving - anybody met any Homines Erectos lately? Homines Neandertalenses? Homines Heidelbergenses?

    None of these previous species had any artifact that can be viewed as sufficiently abstract enough to allow us to say they had any abstract language or societal responses to their environment, certainly nothing to allow them to break free from 100 000 yrs or so of knapping Mousterian or so.

    And when the society experiences the pressures beyond any that any previous Great Ape has experienced, you have the "epiphany" as a form of escape, that bleeds off some of that automatic response to such pressure, or in other words, the pressures that correspond to "urbanization" lead to people developing psychological counterparts to the natural psychotropics they'd already encountered.

    So you have the Great Religions, the post-urbanization religions. Or at least, that's my take on the whole phenomenon - take it or leave it.

    Maybe I am actually making sense ...


    "And it came to healed until all the gift and pow, I, the Lord, to divide; wherefore behold, all yea, I was left alone....", Joseph Smith's evil twin sister's prophecies
    It's interesting to note... (none / 0) (#232)
    by Shovas on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 01:38:02 PM EST

    Greetings,

    You seem to be indicating that this "social glue", religion, provides a better chance of survival. Probably very true. If you can convince a group of people to be fanatical in a given cause, history shows us this has a somewhat better chance of overpowering a, relatively, more subdued enemy

    At the same time, why should only humans in their current form have religion. Why _wouldn't_ other animals embrace this concept if it's a superior way of surviving? Certainly, if popular theory should be true, animals would respect the sun for its power to give them light, and fear the darkness because they can not see. Following this strain of thought, one would think they would quickly form the concept of worship or religion around their environment. Yet, in recorded history nor archaeological finds, none but humans do this.

    I would suggest this indicates that simple survival and adaptation is not the answer. Rather, something more powerful initiates the desire to worship something greater and, perhaps, religion isn't simply there to increase our success...

    Farewell,
    ---
    Join the petition: Rusty! Make dumped stories & discussion public!
    ---
    Disagree? Post. Don't mod.
    [ Parent ]
    Yes and no (none / 0) (#326)
    by stewartj76 on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 03:44:44 PM EST

    While I don't disagree with your assertion that religion is unique to homo sapiens, I would like to present a different interpretation of the origins. Religion at it's most basic, aboriginal level is used to to answer the unanswerable questions of life, whether they be "Where does the sun go when it sets?" to "Why are we here?" These lead to creation myths and other common threads in all religions. The higher, organized level of religion that we are probably all more familiar with tries to give reasons and direction along with basic answers. "Why did grandma die?" and "So what that I don't do what you want me to?" It is a system of rewards and punishments to attempt to create a civilized society. Our role is not to understand it but to live by it.

    The problem with religions at any level arise when they start being used as a the definative answer to all questions. Meeting and interacting with other people with similar beliefs is a good thing, not doing what you enjoy because someone told you that you shouldn't is not. We have advanced as a society because people took the effort to question for themselves what they were told as facts. Where would we be if Copernicus accepted that the Earth is the center of everything? Science and religion will always be in opposition from that fact alone, as was previously stated: religion believes and science questions. Hopefully we will be able to advance as a civilization to a point where we do not need religion as a guiding force but we are able to reach correct decisions on our own.

    [ Parent ]
    A Matter of Faith. (3.55 / 9) (#175)
    by thomas on Sat Nov 03, 2001 at 08:00:40 AM EST

    The big problem I have with religion (specifically, Christianity - since my experience with other religions is next to nil) is that, too often, it's not true faith.

    It seems to me that, looking at all my Christian friends, most of them (especially the more outspoken) don't actually have a true faith in God - rather, they have faith in their belief in God. Oversimplified somewhat: "I believe in God so I'm gonna be fine." To me this seems to be a little dishonest to themselves.

    I do have a couple of Christian friends who seem to have a _true_ faith in God. Funny thing, _all_ of them came to christianity of their own accord, having been brought up "non-religiously". And those who have been brought up as Christians, by Christian parents, invariably seem to be the those whose faith is the least "true".

    I believe that people do need faith, to make it through hard times, etc etc etc. Personally, I consider myself agnostic... but I do have faith - faith in truth, honesty, freedom, and Open Source ;-) True faith requires no religion.

    I feel that faith should be a personal thing... you should come to it yourself, of your own accord, and shouldn't try to force it onto others (If it's a true, solid faith, chances are you won't be able to explain it properly - and if they have a true, solid faith in something, you won't be able to convert them anyhow)

    One of the few things I _really_ hate is children being brought up in a particular religion; "brainwashed" if you like; everyone should come to their faith (or religion) of their own accord - otherwise, chances are it won't work for you, and you probably won't even realise it.

    War never determines who is right; only who is left.

    Free Range Children (4.00 / 3) (#189)
    by robwicks on Sat Nov 03, 2001 at 12:59:27 PM EST

    One of the few things I _really_ hate is children being brought up in a particular religion; "brainwashed" if you like; everyone should come to their faith (or religion) of their own accord - otherwise, chances are it won't work for you, and you probably won't even realise it.
    Children are not chickens. They cannot be brought up "free-range". The only way this position you present makes sense is if the parents don't really believe in their religion. Why teach your kids how to read, or speak any particular language, or math, etc? We do these things because those are the tools they will find useful to be successful. If one believes that ones religion is essential to success, be it in this life or the next, not teaching your children that religion would be ridiculous. What if the faith you hold specifically says you should teach it to your children?


    "Logic . . . merely enables one to be wrong with authority" Doctor Who
    [ Parent ]

    A question (5.00 / 1) (#202)
    by joecool12321 on Sat Nov 03, 2001 at 02:45:55 PM EST

    Will you bring up your children as Athiests? Isn't that a religious statement of fact? If not, will you bring your children up as relativists? Is that not a religious stament of fact? If not, how will you bring up your children? Whatever it is, won't you be inculcating them with your worldview?

    --Joey

    [ Parent ]
    Not exactly (none / 0) (#221)
    by Betcour on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 04:22:04 AM EST

    Atheism being "lack of religion" (although the meaning has changed a bit toward "the refusal of religion" lately), bringing up your kids as atheists wouldn't be any kind of religious statement. To the opposite, it as unreligious as it can get.

    "A man without a religion is like a fish without a bicycle"

    [ Parent ]
    It is about religion (none / 0) (#240)
    by joecool12321 on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 05:59:08 PM EST

    It is a religious statement, namely, the denial of a particular religion. "A is ture" and "A is not true" are both statements about A. To say, "X religion is true" or "X religion is false" is a statement about X religion. To say "Religion is true" or "Religion is false" (athieism" is a statment about religion. It is completely religious, and needs to be understood. --Joey

    [ Parent ]
    atheism (none / 0) (#267)
    by fusion on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 05:25:20 AM EST

    theism - "Belief in the existence of a god or gods, especially belief in a personal God as creator and ruler of the world." (dictionary.com)

    atheism - "Disbelief in or denial of the existence of God or gods." (dictionary.com - Definition 1.a)

    You can define "religion" however you wish, but a belief in the non-existence of god is no different from a belief in a god. Both are beliefs that influence your perspectives on life and the decisions that you make as a result of these views.



    [ Parent ]
    I beg to differ (none / 0) (#272)
    by Betcour on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 08:06:37 AM EST

    Atheism is A-theism. The "A" is not for "negation" but "abscense of". The original meaning of the word is the lack of theism, not the negation of theism. As I said in my previous post the modern meaning of atheism has shifted a big toward the negation. Even agnostic has shifted a bit toward the meaning of negation of religion (people just can't get the hang of morderation and shades of gray).

    [ Parent ]
    a-theism, a little more detail (none / 0) (#331)
    by plasticquart on Wed Nov 07, 2001 at 02:26:24 AM EST

    side-note:

    a little dicussion of this very thing (the definition of "atheism") is on-going @ www.wikipedia.com.

    [ Parent ]

    Difference Between Faith and Religion (4.71 / 7) (#205)
    by eliwap on Sat Nov 03, 2001 at 03:20:21 PM EST

    I have been skimming most of these articles and it seems to me that a common error is strung throughout most of these posting. There is a fundamental difference between faith and religion. Faith is a basic trust. The basic purpose of religion is to bring structure to a community of people who have a common faith. It isn't anything more than that and it isn't anything less.

    And under this perspective, participation in a religion community is not required for faith and faith is not is not required to participate in a religious community.

    localroger speaks of religion as the cause of the epiphany. However, I would argue something quite different that religions form around an explanation of an epiphany that has already occurred. The central human character that presents the revelation as teaching presents his epiphany that followers later have faith in.

    The problem with religion is that religion revolves around some form of human authority and human organized hierarchy. And this itself opens up religion to politilization and the meglomanical rantings of the charismatic madman who believes that he is on a mission to subdue the whole world for the sake of divinity while promising salvation to those that follow him. This difference describes a difference between religion built from common faith and faith built on a common religion. This difference is the difference between faith in the message or faith in the messenger.

    This is not to say that religion cannot unite community into common purpose. But it can only be effective if it is not politicized. Once religion becomes politicized then the politicians cannot help but try to play G-d. And you know what they say about absolute power corrupting absolutely.

    "Understanding is the basis of communications. Enlarge your mind to multiple points of view. The world is infinitely larger than your huge ego. -- Hey I said that :)"

    Correction to Paragraph 4 (none / 0) (#206)
    by eliwap on Sat Nov 03, 2001 at 03:36:38 PM EST

    Correction to the previous posting highlighted in bold in paragraph 4.

    I have been skimming most of these articles and it seems to me that a common error is strung throughout most of these posting. There is a fundamental difference between faith and religion. Faith is a basic trust. The basic purpose of religion is to bring structure to a community of people who have a common faith. It isn't anything more than that and it isn't anything less.

    And under this perspective, participation in a religion community is not required for faith and faith is not is not required to participate in a religious community.

    localroger speaks of religion as the cause of the epiphany. However, I would argue something quite different that religions form around an explanation of an epiphany that has already occurred. The central human character that presents the revelation as teaching presents his epiphany that followers later have faith in.

    The problem with religion is that religion revolves around some form of human authority and human organized hierarchy. And this itself opens up religion to politilization and the meglomanical rantings of the charismatic madman who believes that he is on a mission to subdue the whole world for the sake of divinity while promising salvation to those that follow him. This difference describes a difference between religion built from common faith and faith built on a common religion. This difference is the difference between faith in the source of message or faith in the messenger (argueably the same thing, but keep this in context).

    This is not to say that religion cannot unite community into common purpose. But it can only be effective if it is not politicized. Once religion becomes politicized then the politicians cannot help but try to play G-d. And you know what they say about absolute power corrupting absolutely.

    "Understanding is the basis of communications. Enlarge your mind to multiple points of view. The world is infinitely larger than your huge ego. -- Hey I said that :)"
    [ Parent ]

    Doesn't anyone want to be saved? (4.00 / 6) (#210)
    by On Lawn on Sat Nov 03, 2001 at 08:52:46 PM EST

    There have been a number of points that sound a good resonant chord in me. Allow me to sum them up...

    a) Faith and Religion are like a juicy raw steak and a fire. Better when used together but the steak can't be spoiled and the fire can't be to high or to low.
    b) Science is an exploration of the universe and its laws in quanitfiable, demonstratable and reproducable terms.

    c) Religion is a vehicle for exploration of the universe, only as a whole we argue about who is driving.

    d) No one really knows what is going on, except the people that do.

    But as for the purpose of religion, I'd just like to stick my neck out here with some good old fashioned doctrine of a personal nature. Get out your cups for a quart of gospel, but don't be loud and don't be abnoxious and don't bring your Visa or Mastercard.

    Whether Buddist, Zoastrisism, Scientologist, Scientist, Muslim, Christian, Agnostic, Atheist or Jew we are all out to be saved from being like someone we don't like or agree with. Saved from a "too dumb to know better" order and law that provides for very uncomfortable living conditions for us and those around us.

    We all pretty much know what these base individual tendencies are that we need to be saved from. Atheists point them out in Christians, Crusaders point them out in Muslims, and Islamists point them out in America. Look at the following incomplete set of negative labels we heap on others, grouped by mental, emotional shortcomings...

    (Mental)
    Unenlightened, Uneducated, Ignorant, Voluntarily Blind (to quote Noam Chomsky), etc...

    (Emotional)
    Uncivilized, Self Serving, Stubborn, Hurtful, Lazy, Slothful, Overbearing, Forceful, etc...

    These are associated mostly with a human in a natural order or "jungle law". From the savages to the uncivilized western travelers in 10th century China, to the barbarians, infidels, gentiles, red-necks, eastern liberals, and many more.

    Now as apposed to the modern Zoramites on their Rameumptums who mearly want to stand above the rest of the world in a thinly veiled attempt at salvation, I honestly don't want to be a jerk, imbicile, hot head or rude. Its not that I want to be better than anyone else, I just don't want to do the same stupid things.

    Although I can easily see myself justifying to myself the need for Dr. Laura style tyrades, running around and calling people stupid all day. But I would just regret it after wards and feel bad about all the people I kicked when they were down. I'm glad there is religion out there to tell me ahead of time that is a dumb thing to do. Its a strait and narrow road to do whats right, I want someone there to tell me how to navigate it.

    With drugs, idolatry, and other sins of an obvious nature it is easy enough to avoid on my own, but avoiding thinking myself better than them takes true religion.

    I cling to the religion whose warnings and guidelines are correct, well measured and bring me happiness. In fact I continue in my religion of choice becuase I've found personaly that when it says something leads to happiness, when I try it, I actually do find happiness. When they say something leads to unhappyness, again to an overwhelming degree it turns out to be right.

    I don't think I am alone. I think we all in our own way to be saved from a baser nature that causes us to do stupid things (like those other peole.) And when we realize we personaly have the capability to be the bad guy and do something stupid, we long for guidelines that save us from our sins. I want (and have found as far as I'm concerned) a religion that provides a way to be saved from and repair the stupid things I have already done.

    However I'd like to say that is what religion is used for (I would say it is the best use of religion) mostly people want to just be saved in their sins. That means they simply want to avoid the consequences of their actions. So in a way both being saved in our sins, and being saved from our sins can fall under an umbrella purpose of being saved from hell. The hell of being undeducated, or the hell of being a jerk and not liked by anyone, or the hell of drug addiction, or the hell of being unenlightened, or the hell of not understanding true scientific laws, or the hell of upside down sinners (re: Big Trouble in Little China).

    As I consider Erma Bombeck the ultimate brass ring of Internet Debate quoting I will leave with this...

    "When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and could say, 'I used everything you gave me.'"



    My own, personal, epyphany (2.25 / 4) (#222)
    by Lol 4882 on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 04:45:46 AM EST

    ...was seeing the priest gobble up that small piece of tasteless bread like it was something really important. Hilarious ! (never looked back)

    Library of Alexandria (4.62 / 8) (#228)
    by herbietmac on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 10:21:37 AM EST

    This is only tangentially related but... The library of Alexandria was NOT destroyed by Muslims.

    That legend was originally formed by Coptic christians desiring to shown their Muslim rulers in a bad light. The Caliph Omar took control of Egypt in 640AD, it is true, however the latest textual evidence of the library existing were from approx. 50BC.

    More likely is that Ceasar burnt the libraries scrolls when he torched the harbor in 48BC. This is mentioned in Livy's History of Rome. We do not know this directly, instead there is indirect reference in Florus' Epitome. Here it is stated that Ceasar started the fire to clear an area around his position so that the enemy would not have cover from which to fire his arrows. Although the library itself is not mentioned, Ceasar was defending from the palace which was located in the same district as the library.

    Additionally, the greek scholar Strabo was in Alexandria in 20 BC and mentions that the body of knowledge that was available to him was much less than that of previous scholars. This implies that much of the library's scrolls had been destroyed far before either Christians or Muslims ever existed.

    _____
    Don't forget to enjoy the *sauce*!

    religion faith, otherwise (none / 0) (#234)
    by lobster donk on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 03:09:18 PM EST

    Yes. Faith, religion, devotion, massacre, helping, they are grouped together. I tend to sway to a different standpoint. I have no gods, I have no masters. I am put on this earth to be a selfish brat as every other american tends to be, it is your choice whether you help others. I choose to help others who are being oppressed by the selfish, if this is religion then you're quite fscked in the head. I want no ties to any organization, if you put me in your same social grouping, whether it be christian, muslim, jew, etc, it will be a blatant lie. If you put generalizations on me, like "faithful," or "activist," you are instilling ideas in others heads who do not know me, making them think falsely of me. It seems to be a tradition to create stereotypes, slanderous ideas on others, and to then oppose the ones you are taught to. I know when my mother dragged me to presbyterian church as a child she told me there was a gay man working on the chair. She was fine with this, as she was a sensible girl growing up, treating others equally. Others were not, and he was forced to leave. I approached the church leaders and distinctly told them where they could shove a fucking cross, and promptly left never to return. I do no believe all presbyterian churches to be homophobic, and blantantly racist as some I have met were, but the growing religious experiences are leading me to create stereotypes I don't and won't believe. I believe we are inherently good, we all have our purpose, but if you mess with us with your religions that entrap and create wars, you're no better than your enemies. Religion is bad, no matter how good you or your religion act. No gods, no masters. Peace and solidarity.

    No ties to any organization (none / 0) (#236)
    by On Lawn on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 03:51:32 PM EST



    to quote a Jewish Joke,

    A man is stranded on an island for thirty years until he is rescued by a passing by military vessle. The Captian entertains an offer to see the advancements and living conditions of the stranded soul.

    They see gardens, a sturdy home, and generally industrious provisions and living circumstances. He has obviously done well over the period of isolation.

    Then the proud Jewish man who was stranded so many years points to two buildings. "They are synagogues for worshiping the true God."

    The Captian is a little confused, "Why do you have two synagogues if you are the only one on the island?"

    The Jewish man points to one of them and says "To that one, I never go!"

    I suppose we all need something we define ourselves in negation by what we don't do or beliefs we don't ascribe to. Negation, contradiction, and working the contra-positive are common proof techniques becuase they do communicate clearly what is truth, by focusing on what they are not.

    But do you really take that to mean that you have ties to absolutely zero organizations? Wouldn't that then make you an Anarchist?


    [ Parent ]
    new nerve processes and synapses (none / 0) (#235)
    by paulis7734 on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 03:49:50 PM EST

    >Epiphany is a powerful, specific, and for most >people rare experience. Just as humans have >feedback systems (called "feelings") to let us >know we are hungry or tired or cold and >satisfied or alert or comfortable, we appear to >have a specific feeling which rewards the act >of learning. It is probably tied to the >biochemical procedures by which new nerve >processes and synapses are grown. actually it's nerve processes and synapses which die. a similar thing happens when you drink alcohol. you don't grow new nerve process and synapses.. you improve your thinking by killing the inefficient ones.

    This has been proven wrong (none / 0) (#245)
    by localroger on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 07:46:44 PM EST

    Studies have shown that brains increase in mass (both mice and birds) when exposed to stimulus. The going theory nowadays is that long-term memory is encoded by the growing of new synapses. The increase in weight in stimulated brains is reckoned to represent new white matter (processes) necessary to reach the cells being synapsed.

    I can haz blog!
    [ Parent ]

    AA and christ's body (none / 0) (#246)
    by paulis7734 on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 08:10:05 PM EST

    is reckoned to represent new white matter........ yes reckoned is the key word here. However, I subscribe to a more religious philosphy which relates God's thinking to the creation of bodies. Do you think the "wrinkles" in your brain are created by the addition or subtraction of cells? Is this stimulus you mention more likened to the chemical stimulus by the intake of food, or by religious fasting? Is an epiphany the result of the bodies ability to reason, or is it a spiritual process? You are probably certainly aware of the importance of Christ's death in Christian philosophy, but are you aware of the magnitude of importance this implies on spiritual transitions? When Christ died, his body died, and his soul was freed. Christ's death is the key symbol of religious enlightenment or the primary epiphany of Christianity. When the cells in your body undergoe a spritual epiphany like transition, the bodies of your brain cells die, just as Christ died in his ultimate symbolic bodily expression of his love for God. I also related this in my previous post to the effect of alcohol on the brain. Are you aware of the basis of the AA twelve step program? Alcoholics drink as a substitute for actual religious fulfillment. This simple awareness has helped an uncountable number of alcoholics understand their disease. What's the connection?

    [ Parent ]
    Freedom from the Body (none / 0) (#296)
    by On Lawn on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 01:50:13 PM EST


    This seperates the Gnostics from the rest of the Christians. However it is important to note that both believe that on Easter morning the tomb was empty, and the body returned to the spirit. Therefore, literarily the theme is the need for a living body for freedom.

    I don't think I follow the AA point enough to comment, could you explain more?

    [ Parent ]
    oh it's localroger! (none / 0) (#247)
    by paulis7734 on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 08:18:20 PM EST

    I didn't realize you were the author of the article!... I believe your comment here is also related to the effect of specifically an epiphany on brain cells. " evolution usually involves removal of information to reduce images or scenes to their essential, pure elements. The reason for this is that it can produce a more vivid, startling impression than a true representation." In a religious sense, your brain is God's work of art. With regard to brain cells however, I would say the primal religious understanding is less a "true representation," but rather a "unnessecarily complex," representation. God is beauty, beauty is simplicity.

    [ Parent ]
    Um, is there like a point here? (none / 0) (#253)
    by localroger on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 09:21:51 PM EST

    ...because all I can think of is "paulis7734 needs to really cut down on those acid tabs, or at least lick them only once."

    I can haz blog!
    [ Parent ]

    ouch (none / 0) (#259)
    by paulis7734 on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 11:26:17 PM EST

    Are you kidding me?
    I'm simply emphasizing that "reckoned" means conjecture. There is no way to know what is the effect of learning on the brain. The main reason is because there are a limited number of measurements that are even possible.
    You say that stimulus causes an increase in brain mass. On that basis you conjecture that long-term memory is encoded by the creation of new synapses. This an intuitive guess. It's about as factual as religion itself.
    From my own repeated experiences, an epiphany is the result of cumulative stimulation and reasoning. The result is an increase in simplistic understanding. What appeared chaotic and complex before the epiphany, is now easily grasped in a single stroke of thought.
    Based solely on my intuition, an epiphany would be a reduction in synapses, not an increase. If you think that an epiphany is nothing more than the kind of stimulus given to lab rats, then you're going to miss my point.

    [ Parent ]
    Ah, I get it (none / 0) (#307)
    by localroger on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 08:23:12 PM EST

    I'm simply emphasizing that "reckoned" means conjecture. There is no way to know what is the effect of learning on the brain. The main reason is because there are a limited number of measurements that are even possible.

    Well, that's true; it's still one of the standing great mysteries. However the account I'm using is pretty much the accepted Latest Best Idea in the trade.

    . If you think that an epiphany is nothing more than the kind of stimulus given to lab rats, then you're going to miss my point.

    Well, it's kind of not much like anything else. I admit that my account of the process is purely speculative, but I think it's based on the latest and best ideas about how the brain works. Of course, the latest and best ideas of 20 years ago have already been proven wrong, and nobody has clearly demonstrated the correctness of the new ones yet... but Leonardo drew helicopters before IC engines existed too. I don't think it's too early to speculate.

    If this article were up to some of the standards of proof being demanded of it, it would have been more appropriate to submit it to the Journal of Neurobiology than K5.

    I can haz blog!
    [ Parent ]

    'tis I again (3.20 / 5) (#250)
    by SirRobin on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 09:03:48 PM EST

    Sir Robin here. No that was not a troll.

    Sorry to all the people who I made mad. I was stating my point of view (I guess i should have stated it better?). Sorry to all the Christians i offended. But why did I offend? If you are a Christian and don't believe in God and Jesus and don't believe religion is not something made up, then what do you believe? Do you believe God is there whether you want Him to be or not? I hope so.

    I'd like to answer a few things from some posts.

    Once again, many of you will get mad and hate me and write responses that will yell at me. But here goes...

    First, God is love. people go to hell because they do not choose Him. Just like if you don't follow the law you go to jail (well most of the time. You get the idea.) It's just how it is. If you don't believe in Him, why should He save you? If you curse His name and truly believe He doesn't exist why should He save you? and I know I said God is LOVE so maybe it looks like I contradict myself.

    Second, someone said why would God make a universe He knew the beginning and end to? I ask you this. Ever watched a movie twice? Played a video game you've already beaten? Just because you know the end doesn't make it boring. For me anyway.

    Third, someone talked about GOOD Hindus in India and how can they go to hell? Well I ask you this. What is GOOD? How do you define who has been GOOD? The Taliban (for a current example) killing US citizens thinks that is good. The US thinks that is bad. The US sending troops to kill them thinks that is good and the Taliban thinks that is bad. What side is GOOD? PLUS, how GOOD do you have to be? do you have to just not hit your younger sister or do you have to be a Mother Theresa?

    side note on being good: I believe to get into heaven you can do the WORST things possible but still get in. When Jesus was on the cross about to die a thief who had all his life stolen and been BAD. He saw Jesus and knew who He was and asked Jesus to remember him when Jesus was in heaven. Jesus said that the thief would be in heaven with Him. because of his belief.

    Well there is my thoughts. rip away. And I again apologize to everyone for sounding like another ignorant Christian. and I might have just done it again. It is sometimes hard for me to express myself non-stupidly using text.

    What the hemmoraghing fuck? (5.00 / 3) (#264)
    by kitten on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 01:01:32 AM EST

    If you are a Christian and don't believe in God and Jesus and don't believe religion is not something made up, then what do you believe?

    Well, first of all, if you don't believe in God and Jesus, you're not a Christian.

    But perhaps that's not what you're asking. Your question is worded very poorly.

    First, God is love.

    Would this be the same God that wiped out seventy thousand of his chosen people because the king took a census?
    Is that the same God that killed every living thing on the planet because he wasn't happy with humans?
    This is the same God that burned some of his chosen people do death because they were complaining? (They were griping that they'd been marching around in the desert for weeks without food or water.. what a bunch of whiners.)

    people go to hell because they do not choose Him.

    Why would a God who is omnibenevolent even create a place of eternal torment in the first place?
    Do you have any evidence whatsoever that people actually go to Hell, or are you just preaching your dogmatic nonsense? Put up or shut up.

    If you don't believe in Him, why should He save you?

    Because God is all about LOVE, or so you say. If he's so bloody intent on having us believe in him, he could certainly do a better job of letting us know he's around.

    Second, someone said why would God make a universe He knew the beginning and end to?

    So what you're saying here is that God knows everything that ever happened and everything that will ever happen. This is entirely in keeping with your idea of an omniscient God..
    ..so I ask you, how can he condemn me to Hell for not believing in him? Didn't he already know what I'd choose? Did he put some people on this Earth for the sole purpose of going to Hell?
    Free will? If God already knows what we're going to do, how are our actions 'free'? If he already knows the precise outcome of everything, then I cannot be held accountable for anything I do - up to and including disbelief - because God already knew I'd do it. It's predetermined.

    Third, someone talked about GOOD Hindus in India and how can they go to hell? Well I ask you this. What is GOOD? How do you define who has been GOOD?

    Interesting question. If humans can't tell Good from Evil, then how do we know God is Good? Why should we listen to anything he says? For all we know, he could be evil - since we can't tell the difference.
    But if we CAN tell the difference - if humans are able to tell Good from Evil - then we don't even need him to tell us, do we. We can figure it out for ourselves. God as an ethical guide is useless.

    : I believe to get into heaven you can do the WORST things possible but still get in.

    haha. That's great. That's an absolute riot. I could be a serial killer who rapes and tortures people for fun, but as long as I believe in Jesus, nothing bad will happen to me. It'd make a great dialogue at the Heavenly Gates:

    HEAVEN BOUNCER: "Please state your name."
    TOM: "Tom Watts."
    HEAVEN BOUNCER: "Well, Tom Watts - do you think you lead a good life?"
    TOM: "Yes sir, I do."
    HEAVEN BOUNCER: "Tell me about it. Why should we let you into Heaven?"
    TOM: "Well, I was always an ethical person. I didn't lie or cheat. I never stole from anyone."
    BOUNCER: "How about your family? Treat them well, did you?"
    TOM: "I think so, sir. I loved my wife and kids, and worked hard to make sure they were always cared for and had food on the table. It wasn't easy, but it was worth it to see them happy. I set up an insurance fund for them so that when I died, they would continue to be taken care of."
    BOUNCER: "Anything else you care to tell me?"
    TOM: "I gave as much money as I could to charity, volunteered my time for soup kitchens and such, and when my wife or I found a stray dog or cat, I would take it into my home and take care of it."
    BOUNCER: "Did you go to Church?"
    TOM: "Well, I, uh, you see -"
    BOUNCER: "Yes or no?"
    TOM: "No, sir, I did not. I never really knew what to believe."
    BOUNCER: "Away with him to Hell! Next!"
    JIM: "Hello."
    BOUNCER: "Name."
    JIM: "Jim Torres."
    BOUNCER: "Do you think you lived a good life?"
    JIM: "Well, I.. where I come from, a man may not incriminate himself."
    BOUNCER: "The law is different here. Answer the question."
    JIM: "I guess I didn't always do the right thing, no."
    BOUNCER: "Explain."
    JIM: "Well, I wasn't always real nice to my wife.."
    BOUNCER: "Go on."
    JIM: "Okay, I admit it. I beat her about once a month. And I had a few affairs behind her back."
    BOUNCER: "I see. How about work? How'd you do there?"
    JIM: "I worked as an analyst for a retailer."
    BOUNCER: "Ever steal from work?"
    JIM: "Actually, I made off with over a hundred thousand in cash and merchandise during my time there."
    BOUNCER: "Do you believe in Jesus?"
    JIM: "Oh yes! I believe that Jesus was the messiah and savior come to cleanse the world of sin!"
    BOUNCER: "Give him a harp!"


    If that's the kind of God you want to believe in, you are at liberty to do so - but you cannot, in all intellectual honesty, insist that this is justice in any sense of the word.
    mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
    [ Parent ]
    Atavism in Middle Eastern religions (none / 0) (#329)
    by Topher Tune on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 10:07:51 PM EST

    Islam is not as "advanced" and abstract a system as Christianity.
    There is something about this line that had me thinking all day. Is Islam really a throwback to tribal times, and somehow modern Protestant Christianity has surpassed this stage?

    Consider Judaism, Christianity or Islam.

  • Which religion is most strict?
  • Which is most primitive?
  • Which is most mystical?

    Do these questions make any sense?

    [ Parent ]

  • how is science a religion? (4.33 / 3) (#257)
    by Sleepy In Seattle on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 10:56:09 PM EST

    I hear this kind of thing a lot:

    scientific/materialistic self-proclaimed nonbelievers who don't realize that they are practicing a religion

    The assertion is that science is simply another religion, another belief system, with the priests in white robes and all. But I don't see the validity of that comparison at all -- fundamentally because, unlike religion, science is not a belief system. Science is a system of experimentation, of falsifiable hypotheses. I'm not going to tell you to believe my assertion that g = 9.81 ms^-2; go do some experiments and determine it for yourself. Of course, in practice there's some amount of belief involved because nobody tries to falsify every scientific experiment ever conducted -- I don't have a particle accelerator in my basement -- but in principle science requires no belief.

    And despite the author's claim, there is no scientific priesthood. Certainly some scientists are revered and respected, but they still have to perform. If their results are not reproducible, their exalted status will not grant them any long-lasting dispensation.

    localroger says that morality is not central to religion, so I won't belabor the obvious fact that science makes no claims about ethics (aside, perhaps, from "thou shalt not falsify thy experimental results").

    localroger seems to think that science would resonate more with the population at large if combined with drugs and "visualization". I'd venture that the reason many people are turned off by science has and a lot to do with the way science is (or isn't) introduced to most people in their youth. First, it's often taught as a set of more-or-less arbitrary facts rather than as a process of observation, experimentation, and discovery. Second, it often is perceived to rely on quantitative reasoning and math, which a lot of people actively dislike. And third, it may not seem to have a lot of relevance to the "real world": I always hear people saying things like "I'll never use this knowledge after I get out of school, so why should I care?" Additionally, science seems to require people to think critically rather than simply accept what they are told, and while I believe virtually all people are born with that capacity, it seems to be beaten out of them at a relatively early age. (Kids always seem to be asking "Why?", yet adults often seem to accept pronouncements from supposed authorities.)

    Royal Science of God Realization (5.00 / 2) (#262)
    by paulis7734 on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 11:47:13 PM EST

    The assertion is that science is simply another religion, another belief system, with the priests in white robes and all. But I don't see the validity of that comparison at all -- fundamentally because, unlike religion, science is not a belief system. Science is a system of experimentation, of falsifiable hypotheses. I'm not going to tell you to believe my assertion that g = 9.81 ms^-2; go do some experiments and determine it for yourself.

    The key difference between science and religion is here. While a religious person would say gravity is caused by God. What does g = 9.81 ms^-2 say causes gravity? The answer isn't in the equation and still almost every scientist has their own theories about the "cause" of gravity; they do not limit themselves to simply measuring it's effect. God is simply a theoretical guess at the cause of gravity and everything. In this way, science is a religion, because they are in search of the ultimate cause.

    And despite the author's claim, there is no scientific priesthood. Certainly some scientists are revered and respected, but they still have to perform. If their results are not reproducible, their exalted status will not grant them any long-lasting dispensation.

    Actually, there are quite a few religions that use this type of behavior as well. Hindus actually have their "Royal Science of God Realization." Is that a science or a religion? Are you going to ask again how science and religion can possibly be related?

    [ Parent ]
    Ever Been to a Graduation? (3.50 / 2) (#275)
    by On Lawn on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 11:09:06 AM EST

    The assertion is that science is simply another religion, another belief system, with the priests in white robes and all.

    Well, really only lab technicians wear white robes. However, science does have its robes and priesthood in part of a larger order. I was just at such a ritual gathering of priests a few years ago. The newly admitted priests were wearing long blue robes, with mortar-caps (taken from the an ancient eastern tradition of priests and kings and represents the place to put an eternal crown) and tassles hanging from the mortar caps denoting if they are priest to be or already priests.

    It required already concecrated priests to pronounce the honor on the new priests. The head priests were denoted with stripes on their sleaves, and a hood on their shoulders. The new priests ritualy moved their tassles to the other side. (You should do some research on these ritual robes, it is very fascinating.)

    The head priests had lead the new priests through a four year learning process where if the new priests didn't like what they said, they were kicked out. If the studying priests refused to perform becuase they didn't believe, they were kicked out. The head priests rated performance, according to how much they believed and could practice the doctrines preached to them for over twelve hours a week. (You might want to look up the word doctrine at this point and see to make sure that my use is correct. At dictionary.com look at definition #2.)

    Now to debunk your other assertion, religion is not a blind belief system as you have described either. Having been a missionary, preaching the word, I have never asked someone to unconditionaly believe me. Nor do I put any unconditional trust in any doctrine preached to me without experimenting on it.

    To assert otherwise is a straw man argument about religion as far as I'm concerned. Why, even in the "worship me or die" old testament even we have stories of people looking at a snake to see if they will be healed, crossing a sea by foot *after* they see it dry up, having manna delivered every morning (and even quails when they get sick of manna) when they struck off into the wilderness. The stories don't stop there, evil priests were debunked by sacrifces consumed with fire from the sky, foreign generals healed when they washed themselves as the prophet told them, nervous priests were shown litteral hosts of angels ready to fight for them in times of fear and doubt.

    No where is the commandment "Thou shalt believe becuase I said so." The New Testament is simular, where definite signs followed the believers for the purpose of showing unbelievers. Signs that often required participation, just like scientific experiments. One man even walked on water when he saw someone else doing it.

    Now in my life I could recount simular tales. Having been a missionary I have seen people try the same things I did and advocated and achieve simular results. As another already quoted "Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen." Faith is not hope, but a real evidence. It is a real observable assurance from external sources. This does not match the definition of imagination, hope, or blindness. Such an assertion comes from the a religious notion to find infidels of any order. Such an assertion requires a law system to mark the unwashed barbarians who would not follow. Such an assertion requires a belief system of personal exaultation for living the law better than the gentiles of that order. Such an assertion denotes a hope and faith that they are better off in their order than those who do not follow it.

    Never the less, there are many branches of theory in science where a systematic model of the universe is drawn from interpolated and extrapolated points of data. We use Occam's Razor to apply statistic probabilities in a very non mathmatical manor to produce these belief systems that we in turn use to base more research on. This happens in a vast majority of research, where the quantifiable and mathematical are rare precipitates of this process. Even when we find these equations, there is a very high probability that a new equations will be found that are more accurate.

    However, I do not want anyone to think I have anything against science. Its methods are solid, its conclusions are in high measure logical, and science itself isn't as presumtious as our High School and Sunday School teachers would like us to believe. I study science in pursuit of truth and I believe I've found it theirin.

    However, to draw the distinction between science and religion on lines of "lack of priesthood" is a contravance of the modern dogma of both sides. To draw the line by "blind belief" is simularly a misunderstanding of both sides. To this I add that to draw a line at all denotes a personal religious use and order (see my post below).

    [ Parent ]

    People, nit Principles (none / 0) (#330)
    by bugmaster on Wed Nov 07, 2001 at 12:23:20 AM EST

    The head priests had lead the new priests through a four year learning process where if the new priests didn't like what they said, they were kicked out. If the studying priests refused to perform becuase they didn't believe, they were kicked out. The head priests rated performance, according to how much they believed and could practice the doctrines preached to them for over twelve hours a week.
    It is possible to treat anything like a religion. Science, faith, or even Star Trek. However, the ideal concept of science is fundamentally different from the situation you describe above. In science, there is no dogma. Period. Every scientific "law" is falsifiable - meaning that it is hypothetically possible to conduct an expermient that shows the law to be false. If a student conducts such an experiment, and others manage to duplicate his results independently, the law is gone. A whole army of professors in black hats would be powerless to save it.

    Contrast this with matters of faith, f.ex. "Jesus died for our sins". There can be no experiment that would support or deny this notion - the faith in Jesus is something that a person believes in based on an epiphany, divine inspiration, a heartfelt emotion, etc. It cannot be disproved in principle.

    That is why all missionaries are, ultimately, doomed to failure. This includes the Internet missionaries who proclaim "God does not exist because of X, Y and therefore Z", or "Jesus loves you all heathens". Faith cannot be swayed by argument.

    Now, that being said, the above parapgraphs deal with an ideal situation. In practice, there are people who treat universities like churches, and professors as priests. Some teachers do indeed teach their classes solely based on memorization; these teachers are worse than worthless. There are also people who treat religion as a social club. However, the existence of these people does not make religion empty, and neither does it make science dogmatic.
    >|<*:=
    [ Parent ]

    Usefull Truth vs Absolute Truth (none / 0) (#337)
    by On Lawn on Thu Nov 08, 2001 at 10:51:44 AM EST

    I agree with you on all the points I got out of your post. Some I used the liberty of some qualifiers I think would be mutually agreed on, for instance...

    Contrast this with matters of faith, f.ex. "Jesus died for our sins". There can be no experiment [readily available to us] that would support or deny this notion - the faith in Jesus is something that a person [most often] believes in based on an epiphany, divine inspiration, a heartfelt emotion, etc. It cannot be disproved in principle.

    The reason I added those is somewhat SirRobin inspired. After all, God coming down , demonstrating reproducable proof of the laws that allowed it to happen like a chemistry professor with flasks and test tubes, and prove it did happen, would work. However, except for the often disputed and ridiculed few, this isn't readily available to all. A vast majority of us are left to intuitions and beliefs.

    Some more thoughts on the matter, my father [speaking of heros] points out that Science is different than Religion in that it limits itself to usefull truth rather than absolute truth.

    Like with Aristotalian Physics it was possible to calculate to the precision of the day the orbits of the planets. The origional Atom theory proposed by another greek was adequate and even useful in describing material properties to the degree they needed it in their day.

    But after all, Aristotle's model of the Universe was a little earth centric and overthrown by Capernicus and Galileo. Did they find truth in their center of the solar system? Well no, they simply found a more useful way of calculating planet paths. For things like launching space ships to mars, we still use the Aristotolian "earth centric" view becuase it is more useful.

    Simularly, when teachers teach chemistry and physics they often continue to start with antiquated theories and techniques becuase they are more useful to the student, and easier grasped. Really, are there any weightless non-deforming beams like my statics class taught me?

    Now my point is not a thinly veiled attack on science. More where I draw the line between them, and that line isn't a partition between them. I've attacked people who draw the line on doubt systems vs faith system, and even on empirical vs non-empirical evidence. So I should say what I subscribe to that I think explains the difference.

    Becuase I say that science teaches knowingly incorrect doctrines isn't an attack. It is just showing that science *is* about what is useful. As one pointed out, that if a new scientific theory showed that D shell orbitals of electrons were caused by leprichauns riverdancing, he would follow it. That is true, but I submit that the convincing factor is more its usefullness than correctness.

    Say leprechauns do guide electron orbitals, we would still need mathematical equations to explain and predict molecule organizations, and a leprechaun riverdancing is not the easiest thing to express mathematicaly. Even though for some reason it might be true, it isn't useful in calculation.

    Not to say Religion is void of useful truth, becuase I don't see religion and science as competing for ground either. Religion has its share of "try this and see" doctrines which establish a trust and usefull truth. Science just draws a very good and neccisary line that ensures usefulness is not tainted by personal agendas, beliefs or misguidings. It is a good line, I do not argue against it. However it shouldn't be confused with the pursuit of absolute truths, which are often individual in nature, which religion seeks for.

    [ Parent ]

    Re: Usefull Truth vs Absolute Truth (none / 0) (#338)
    by bugmaster on Fri Nov 09, 2001 at 07:18:54 AM EST

    Becuase I say that science teaches knowingly incorrect doctrines isn't an attack. It is just showing that science *is* about what is useful.
    This is sort of what I said earlier - except I believe there are actually 3 divisions, not 2.

    Science aims to discover how our world works. Since in order to be 100% certain of how the world works, one would have to be omniscient, science doesn't set this as a goal. Instead, science offers a model of the world based on an educated guess. The only thing science cares about is repeatability - that is, if the model predicts what will actually happen most of the time, the model is probably close to reality (d-shell). Otherwise, the model may be interesting, but unlikely to correspond to reality in any significant way (leprechauns).

    Technology takes the results of science, and turns them into something useful. Pure science doesn't care what radio waves could be used for - it only cares about describing their behavior. It takes technology to take radio waves and build, well, a radio based on them. An important corollary to all this is that technology is (mostly) incapable of discovering something truly new - it can only apply something already known. This is why research grants, which have no immediate ROI, are still very useful.

    Religion is orthogonal to science. While science aims to discover how the world works, religion aims to discover why. For example, the question "what is the meaning of life ?" is the classic question of the sort that religion can try to answer, but science cannot. Science can describe many of the biochemical processes that occur in living beings, but the "meaning" of it all cannot be empirically tested, and thus falls outside of the realm of science. On the other hand, questions such as "why are plats green" cannot be adequately answered by religion - it simply does not posses the right tools.

    I dislike the term "absolute truths", because it somehow implies that there is only one correct answer to "what is the meaning of life" and similar questions. The jury is still out on that one, however - religion appears to be no closer to answering this question once and for all than science is to the discovery of the Grand Unified Theory.
    >|<*:=
    [ Parent ]

    Application, Description, and Faith (none / 0) (#339)
    by On Lawn on Fri Nov 09, 2001 at 01:40:25 PM EST

    Maybe using the term useful is to broad. Your post made me think about what is it useful for, and I thank you for that. You might be interested with some of the things I came up with. It turned out to be long, but I think the logic follows cleanly enough to be easy reading.

    If we use a kind of binary logic there should be four terms of usefulness, where we have a switches on meta and physical usefulness.

    Physical usefulness is application, being able to apply it. I think technology would belong to the 01 category becuase it seeks to find application for those who don't care how it works. Like TV's cars, etc. So its on for the physical and off for the meta.

    A Scientific usefulness applies to the 11, where we care how it works, and that we can apply it directly in a deterministic way.

    Zen is probably 00, specificaly looking for clearnness in things that are not useful for description or application at all.

    Religion encompases more in to the 10, it tries to discover the universe in application.

    However, I'd suspect that the differences are drawn in the masking (XOR) rather than what they include.

    For me Religion includes the

    10,11,01

    Science includes (for anyone but cosmologists) the

    11

    Techology includes (from everyone but the engineers)

    10

    and then Zen holds a sheer monopoly of people tired of civilization and desiring the

    00

    Religion is Physical OR Meta
    Science is Meta AND Physical
    Application is pure Physical
    Zen is explicitely neither.

    Unfortunately although this can describe the differences, a Meta and Physical are not seperate independant entities except when applied to the realm of usefulness.

    In other words, it gets confusing becuase the Meta and Physical are two different states of sometimes the same information. Like it is physicaly useful to know if there is a God, life after death etc... Even though the knowledge is purely meta in that immediate application is not contained in the information.

    Its only when we electrolize it into more basic elements of usefulness can we make a distinction. It is useful in helping us design behaviours along laws that accept that information, like in the example above.

    And if you accept this we could go on and show how Science as it is used can be classified as Science the Religion and Science the lack of Religion.

    Theories move dangerously into the Meta realities and attempt to work our behavioral or application realities. For instance a theory I've since learned is not Darwinism, but Neo-Darwinism suggests that things evolved through chance rather than created by God.

    Evolving through chance is pretty orthoganal to the Gene theory and Archeological evidence categorizing that we've found useful from embracing Evolution as a theory.

    However it is used as an application of behaviour determination, just like religion. People actualy use such theory to explain their existence as much as Religious people use Creation. This is where they conflict, in the Meta regions that are wholly outside the realm of science. This is the form we see mostly of Science the Religion.

    Another realm of Science the Religion could be the dogma of the educational system. See anywhere you see such a system of training, behaviours and grading you are observing the transfer of information by authority in the hopes of transfering it.

    What does it mean to get a diploma? Well it means exactly that the university verifies that you've learned and accepted certain truthes needed by employers and other institutions. They've in essence let you borrow some of their authority, after grading and making sure a student fairly represents those ideals.

    As you've mentioned this is outside the realm of the 11 science. A person should be able to when experimented on (tested) show their own authority, knowledge, and training in the 11 realm.

    However we still have a need to be lazy and let someone else do that work for us, just like for us joes that don't want to re-invent the wheel every time someone makes an experimental result before we believe it.

    This is not wrong, it isn't even evil. But it is a priest (lead ox) system of leadership and authority transfer. It is orthogonal to what science, as you have described it, stands for.

    And all to often its dogma's and mental scaffolding is left in tact (like those deformationless and weightless beams in statics) becuase it is more usefull than the true structure. However the glue of that scaffolding is often Meta arguments. Like "Atoms want their outer shells to be filled with electrons." This describes chemistry very well, but the scaffolidng is ascribing personality to atoms. The personality is demonstratable, but not very likely and in fact not needed after a third year college chemistry class.

    So I support the distinction between the 11 Science and other ways of thought. In fact it is very useful for me to deciminate from real science and science the religion.

    [ Parent ]
    Slightly Different Categories (none / 0) (#340)
    by bugmaster on Fri Nov 09, 2001 at 02:44:17 PM EST

    I must admit, I found your bitwise logic somewhat difficult to follow. Nevertheless, I think I can make a few comments:
    A Scientific usefulness applies to the 11, where we care how it works, and that we can apply it directly in a deterministic way.
    Actually, I do not believe this is true. Unlike technology, pure science does not look for any applicatins whatsoever. Indeed, it cannot look for application, since scientific discoveries mostly unearth some completely new concept ("light is a wave"). Technology, on the other hand, takes an existing concept and applies it to solve a problem ("to communicate without wires, use radio waves"). I believe that this distinction is important, since many people think only in terms of immediate application. After all, why should we waste all that money on pointless research, when we could be using it to cure cancer ? The answer is that the research, while not immediately useful, may produce several hitherto unknown concepts which will expand technology in ways we cannot even estimate.

    Religion encompases more in to the 10, it tries to discover the universe in application.
    I am not sure what this means... I must point out, however, that religion lacks the tools (scientific method) for effective discovery of the "mechanism" of our world; therefore, it cannot reliably discover how the world works. That is not to say that religion is somehow inferior to science - it is merely orthogonal.

    This is where they [evolution and creation] conflict, in the Meta regions that are wholly outside the realm of science. This is the form we see mostly of Science the Religion.

    Actually, the evolution/creation debate is a perfect example of the kind of confusion that occurs when people try to mix the domains of science and religion. Science tells us that, in all probability, the earth is about 4.5e9 years old, and, during that time, humans have evolved from primordial soup. Science does not tell us anything about the purpose of such evolution, or whether or not there was any guiding force behind it - science merely tells us that evolution occured. Now, religion may aim to piece together the other side of the puzzle - why are the humans so important ? Who, if anyone, guided their evolution ? What is the meaning of this life that we now possess ? Religion cannot, however, tell us how the evolution occurred - it's not equipped to do so.

    Unfortunately, most people somehow perceive that a single discipline (science/religion) must have the key to the entire puzzle. Hence the prolonged and painful creationism debate. The debate can never be won by either side, because the two sides are only equipped to argue about totally different things !

    What does it mean to get a diploma? Well it means exactly that the university verifies that you've learned and accepted certain truthes needed by employers and other institutions.
    Actually, I disagree with this, somewhat. I contend that a diploma from a good university signifies that you have learned how to think critically, and absorbed enough knowledge of other people's work in order to communicate with them in a language they understand (physics, math, or law). Now, it is true that some universities have long since devolved into mere trade schools, where the goal is only to produce perfect employees. However, the student can usually choose not to attend such a university.

    This is not wrong, it isn't even evil. But it is a priest (lead ox) system of leadership and authority transfer.

    As I said before, authority in science stems not from faith, but from trust - I trust Einstein when he tells me that gravity bends space, since I can observe the results of this statement firsthand (gravity lenses in space). Even if I did not personally observe these gravity lenses (I looked at photographs), I am reasonably certain that, given the proper equipment, I could perform the experiment myself. An interesting outcome of this trust-based authority is that authority is very limited. For example, if Enistein said that pickles are bad for my health, I would certainly consider it, but I wouldn't trust his statement. Instead, I would ask a doctor (preferably one that specializes in nutrition), since he probably knows much more about the consequences of ingesting pickles than Einstein ever did.

    And all to often its dogma's and mental scaffolding is left in tact (like those deformationless and weightless beams in statics) becuase it is more usefull than the true structure.
    I don't think anyone, even high school students, really believes that there are such things as weightless deformationless beams in this world. Instead, people simply assume such beams for the purposes of learning some principle (force addition or whatnot). Thus, it is possible to learn about a complex system gradually, instead of attempting to comprehend it all at once. Actually, this is another area that religion is not very good at - religious truths can rarely be separated into components.
    >|<*:=
    [ Parent ]
    I think I see the difficulty (none / 0) (#341)
    by On Lawn on Fri Nov 09, 2001 at 04:42:38 PM EST

    Our differences seem to lie on a line of reasoning starting from a simple point.

    Does Religion provide experimental evidence? Can someone learn a trust system on religions?

    I think that was the point of the post long ago where I started this. I showed that even literarily speaking the Bible and other religious works include the theme of experimentation and trust. People didn't cross the Red Sea until it was parted. People asked for Quails after God promised to send and then people found manna. Essentially they trusted God would provide, even to the degree of requesting a change in the menu. Then quails did come.

    Plagues in Egypt were fortold, fire from the sky came to consume sacrifices when asked for, etc... Even if one throws out the truth of these stories, the principle of experimentation and trust remains there in religious works.

    Can these things be explained away? Well that serves no more purpose in this discussion than saying they didn't happen. The prediction, experimentation and result pattern is still there and justified, and expected of them.

    Now, do we continue this experimentation in modern religion? Yes at least I know I do. I've learned to trust that praying leads to actions. From experimenting on commandments I find that in general they do produce the expected results.

    Now its true that the mechanics of it are sometimes lost in sunday school just as much as the weight and deformation are lost in beams in statics, or personality is ascribed to atoms in chemistry. We may have an entirely too simplified set of theories to explain the results. Never the less, the results happen and I have learned to trust them.

    That is why I include the 1-1 into the Religion camp and think there needs to be a more diverse explanation to science vs religion. Otherwise religion is being represented unfairly by a straw-man who is believing by shear emotional force and will. That is simply not so.

    Religion has its trust and experimentation system, and it includes more where experimentation may not fully apply. After all God of the Old Testament (Again I use it becuase it is most often considered the "worship me or die" scripture) says "Prove me now heirwith that I will not open the windows of heaven [a pagan visual allegory of the time, btw] and pour you out a blessing that you shall not have room enough to recieve it." The experiment is simply donating 10% of the increase in your cattle, etc to God.

    Now the experimental results are not explicitely spelled out (as is often the case), the request for an experiment is. But this is not all, occasions where the results are spelled out are plentiful also! For instance, Elijah and the Priests of Ba'al, the plagues of Egypt, etc... In fact God chastises Pharoh's misguided faith in light of the evidence put before him. These are not just evidences in the past that we should believe, but a principle being taught that we should expect results when something is promised today. "By their fruits ye shall know them" is a challenge that a God (Christ) offers to know if a prophet is true or not. Their prophecies come true.

    Allow me to search my personal scriptural references for the word "experiment." Ah... heres one of my favorites. To be fair I should let you know that I'm CoJCoLDS. You'd be interested in the experiments listed in the Book of Mormon although the BoM does not have or claim a monopoly on religious experimentation. The Book of Alma chapter 32.

    Here is outlined an experiment in a loosely scientific form with predictable and identifiable results. It is also a good discourse on the difference between faith and knowledge, and usefull trust and how they are all needed.

    I hope that you'll allow me to let a 2500+ year old prophet do some of the arguing for me at this point without being percieved as ramming religion down your throught. It is applicable, and interesting as it touches solely on basis of our discussion. I hope its okay at least. At least it uses a more understandable seed analogy instead of binary operations.

    Like always there is more that I've been contemplating but I'll save that for now. I'm more interested in your thoughts on religion including and relying on a experimentation trust system.

    [ Parent ]

    Science is not Religion (4.71 / 7) (#261)
    by bugmaster on Sun Nov 04, 2001 at 11:44:05 PM EST

    There is a fundamental difference between religion and science.

    At the core of religion lies faith. A religious (or "religious religious", according to the terminology in the article) person believes in some core set of principles unconditionally, and with all his (her, for you PC types) heart. Nothing short of an epiphany of epic proportions may sway him from this belief; however, some of the conclusions he derives from the belief may be re-evaluated.

    At the core of science lies doubt. Science flat-out refuses to deal with concepts that cannot be verified through empirical means; that is why it is not possible to "prove" the existance of ghosts or magic through scientific method. Nothing in science, not even the scientific method itself, is 100% certain; the "laws" of science are merely theories that people are reasonably sure of. Science acknowledges the possibility that the moon is really made of green cheese; however, the probability of it being so is so remote that the concept is not worth considering on the day-to-day basis. While religion progresses through epiphanies, science progresses through rigorous experimentation. Thus, while religion is rooted primarily in a person's subconscious, science is rooted primarily in the real world.

    That is why technology, the byproduct of science, has been able to change our world in more ways than religion could - technology is inherently more practical.

    Of course, there are people out there who treat science as religion; those people may even be the majority. If Discover magazine says X is true, X must be true, right ? Einstein is never wrong, is he ? However, the "religious nonreligious" are usually not scientists themselves - they just don't have the right mindset.

    Note that science is not necessarily better or worse than religion; it just deals with a different set of questions. Science aims to discover how our world works, not why.
    >|<*:=

    An interesting and thought provoking piece (none / 0) (#277)
    by On Lawn on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 11:25:30 AM EST

    But I think it is missing one point. Science does not have a monopoly on doubt, and religion does not have a monopoly on faith.

    So how many people have actually taken out a telescope and seen the strange red colour of the horsehead nebulae?

    How many people have taken their own measurements to calculate the gravitational constant of the Universe?

    How many people have seen the funky d shell orbital of the electron path around an atom?

    Now the purpose of these questions is not to expose Science as a blind belief system. To me science isn't that way. For anyone who wishes to, the above (except the color of the nebulae which is added by NASA) and more examples of science are readily reproducable to the point that we don't bother re-inventing the wheel.

    But to point out there is no more doubt and scepticism required in Science as Religion. Many religious break throughs have come from protestant sceptics, and Hinduism is practicaly a how-to manual of doubting what they sence in the real world.

    On the other hand, a hypothesis, however believable or obsurd requires a hope of results to even bother performing the experiment. This is true whether the experimentor desires to debunk or know for themselves the intended results. When the evidence corroborates an experiment, that is when they have recieved faith in that hypothesis or theory. Remember, Faith is not blind belief, nor is it synonomous with hope and imagination. It is an assurance of things hoped for, evidence of things unseen.

    To label religion as a whole as blind belief is to me much of a straw man arguement, and readily discounts many intelligent people with plenty of reassurance in personal exerimentation on the word. To label science as purely skeptical is simularly a over simplification as nothing would get done in science if everyone went around doubting everything.

    [ Parent ]
    Re: An interesting and thought provoking piece (none / 0) (#321)
    by bugmaster on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 06:10:46 AM EST

    Heh, thanks for the subject line :-)

    Anyway, I guess I lumped too many concepts together. As I see it, faith is the "blind" belief in something; a belief that one holds to be true because he "knows it in his heart", "has a gut feeling", etc. For example, "god exists and he loves us" is one example of such a belief. Religion is a set of rituals, practices, holy writings, common mythology, etc., all built around a particular faith. It is possible to subscribe only to the rituals, without really believing in anything (thus having religion without faith); it is also possible to have faith in something without socializing with others, thus having faith without religion.

    It seems to me that the "faith" that you ascribe to science is more correctly expressed by the word trust. I have never seen a d-shell orbital (seeing as it's impossible), and I have never duplicated the experiments that were used to discover its existance. However, I trust my teachers and my textbooks, primarily because what they describe makes sense in light of my other knowledge. Trust, however, has to be earned; in case of science, the manner in which one earns trust is through repeatedly having to demonstrate that one's theory closely predicts the outcome of experiments. If someone proposes a theory of invisible green leprechauns that maintain electron "orbits" by riverdancing, and if that theory turns out to have more predictive power than the d-shell orbital -- then Niels Bohr & Co. will lose a lot of credibility in the minds of many scientists, and the d-shell orbital will be dismissed.

    Such a situation is not possible in matters of faith. There can by definition exist no evidence that can be used to alter a person's faith -- that's why they call it faith. Faith is internal to a person's psyche, while trust usually stems from some external source.

    I should mention, though, that scientific theories are rarely overthrown; instead, they are improved. For example, it's quite safe to use Newtonian mechanics for most situations; however, at very high speeds, Newtonian mechanics predicts something radically different from what actually happens, and relativity steps in to pick up the slack. At very low speeds, all the extra terms in relativity formulas fall away into obscure decimal places, and you get F=ma.

    In any case, just as you said, religion does not have a monopoly on faith , and science does not have a monopoly on doubt. Worshppers and scientists are human beings, and humans are rarely so black-and-white. However, the (idealized) disciplines of science and religion are radically different, in ways I have described above. Asking "which one is better" makes no sense - it's like comparing apples and oranges.
    >|<*:=
    [ Parent ]

    You know what, your right... (none / 0) (#327)
    by On Lawn on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 03:49:51 PM EST

    Which is something I wouldn't have said yesterday.

    Although my personal experience in religion has grown a simular trust in its teachings as science has, it is different from faith.

    An example of faith might be Einstein when a mathmatician pointed out a large flaw in one of his derivations. Now I forget the mathmaticians name (its documented in the old Cal Tech physics videos) but I do remember that he was on very solid ground. Heck that mathmatician invented the particular mathmatics in question.

    What was Einstien's response? Well, gut intuition of some sort convinced him that the universe really did operate in the way he described even though there was a flaw in the mathmatics. He stuck by his finding. Later, Einstein was proven right.

    Simularly, it was pointed out to me by my friends wife that faith is transmited on a non-physical plane and thus I reason is not empirical in nature. Again, I would have had a disagreement with this yesterday, but after considering it I'm in agreement.

    Its a kind of knowing something is true in a vacuum of any empirical evidence. And by the feelings associated with it, one can develop a sense for knowing when a faith is being understood rather than an imagionation or hope. This allows for a trust to develop over time from experimenting on its influences and then seeing substantiative empirical evidence.

    A really good post on this subject is above titled, "The purpose of Religion?" All in all a good treatment of this topic of doubt and acceptance of evidence.



    [ Parent ]
    Star Trek (4.00 / 1) (#269)
    by ardeel on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 05:54:36 AM EST

    I've said to a few people before that Star Trek strikes me as a sort of religious ceremony: there's a little moral tale, a few magic words ("make it so", "beam me up"), and we all come away feeling better about ourselves (cos "the Federation", which represents us, always does the right thing).
    I've often wondered what the function of religion is (in a sort of biological sense: you don't see all the local wildlife meeting up at the same time every week, do you?). My theory is that it is a sort of human interpretation of, or reaction to, a "grouping" or "flocking" instinct, a sense of "belonging", a need to be led. It seeks to either take ownership of certain instincts or nullify them (epithany vs. emptiness?)
    "Smart" religions (the smartest one I know is Christianity, and, more specifically, Catholicism) take ownership of all instincts: "You want family? We got that. You can have it but it's really God's idea.", "You want music? We got that. You can do it but, you know, its function is to give praise to God.", "You want food? We got that. You can eat but it's thanks to God that you caught that rabbit and you should praise and thank him when you and the family God was good enough to give you are eating it". Catholicism is the "Swiss Army Knife" of all religions, I think: you want one deity? they got one deity. You want loads? Well, that one is actually three, plus there's a female one if you're into worshipping a woman (as many of the cultures that were assimilated did), and a plethora of saints to soothe what ails ya.
    I'm sure I'm coming across as very cynical but it's very hard not to be when you see all the things that are done in the name of something that is special only because people took the trouble to write it down (how do we justify these things in the absence of "the book", whichever one it is?). Why are we supposed to take these particular things completely "on faith" and not others? It's a preposterous idea (that is made even more so when we observe that cultures that lack writing skills have developed almost identical value systems) that probably has its origins in the fact that "scholarship" is held in such high esteem in so many cultures. I see religion as the ultimate confidence trick: selling us what we already have. It's not that I don't think there's some kind of "reason why we're here", or anything, just that we don't understand it and maybe never will. But "the book" is written inside us in our genes.
    Kudos to localroger for pointing out the malleability of morality and the pointlessness of religious strife. Finally, for another angle on this (and other things cultural and biological), look here.

    The purpose of religion (4.50 / 2) (#270)
    by ruylopez on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 06:00:54 AM EST

    It's probably easier to look at a religion like Hinduism than Christianity to discern the purpose of religion, since I assume most people here are more familiar with Christianity, so Hinduism and other religions can be looked at with "fresh eyes". Let's postulate for the moment there is no "next world" - no heaven or hell, no reincarnation. Having people believe in a life after life is obviously designed to modify their behavior. If they behave in the way the religion proscribes, they will have a good "next life". If they don't, they will have a bad "next life". In India, reincarnation is the next life in Hinduism. What most people don't realize is it's a form of social control. India has a caste system with the brahmins, the priest caste, at the top, and at the bottom are the casteless, the untouchables who do all the grunt work. Reincarnation teaches the good get elevated in caste, and the bad get lowered in caste. So an untouchable, who may be tired of cleaning bathrooms while the Brahmin sit around enjoying the leisure life, is taught that he can go even lower than casteless, he can become a cow or other animal. The Brahmin are where they are because they were "good" in former lives, why they are in their position is obvious, within the logic of Hinduism. You can apply the logic to Christianity. Heaven was called "Sugarcandy Mountain" in George Orwell's Animal Farm. Work hard your whole life in your lowly position so that you will get rewarded in the next life. Karl Marx said "religion is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness." People don't try to make their lives in this world better because they are concerned about the next world. This is not just in the large Christian religions, but in the large Hindu religions and I'm sure in other religions as well. The peaceable, communal religions that indigenous people outside of Eurasia had were wiped out and replaced by authoritarian religions. Of course, this isn't the last word on the subject. It's no surprise that the major heresies involving the Catholic church over the past 2000 years have involved sin (Martin Luther, as well as earlier heretics), and the Catholic churches control of over what is sin and who can forgive sin. Revolving around that is the sexual element - the Catholic church said sin was created when Adam and Eve ate the apple, and it's no accident that the first thing they realize is that they are naked. Wilhelm Reich wrote some excellent stuff about the connections between politics and religion, in terms of the psychology of the ordinary man. And of course, the elite classes whom religion protects are usually the least religous.

    *AHEM* Campbell *AHEM* (3.50 / 2) (#278)
    by jabber on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 12:09:43 PM EST

    Has anyone read anything by Joseph Campbell?

    Religion is just an extension of Myth, and Myth serves a very interesting purpose in Culture.

    [TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"

    Why I reject organized religion (5.00 / 1) (#279)
    by vikrum on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 12:12:48 PM EST

    I wrote this the other day; mainly to try to make sense of it for myself.. --

    "Religion is he sigh of the oppressed creature, the feeling of a heartless world and the soul of soulless circumstances. It is the opium of the people." - Karl Marx; Critique of the Hegelian Philosophy of Right 1843

    Marx contended that religion is the 'opiate of the masses.' To fully understand this one must first look into the meaning of the statement itself. What is religion? what 'type' of people are addicted to opiates? Is religion bad? Is religion good? My own loose definition of religion; a way of life and/or set of beliefs being handed down through generations. this way of life also generally dictates what a person is to think of The Truth, aka The Supreme Being aka God Religion, by definition, is good. I don't know of any religion that explicitly expresses aggression -- so this leads to a universal and basic set of rules regarding life: be good to others, yourself, and be happy. An intersection of other 'universal truths' is also observed which basically elaborates further on this list. But, as good measure, let's see what society thinks religion is: re·li·gion (r-ljn) n. 1. a. Belief in and reverence for a supernatural power or powers regarded as creator and governor of the universe. b. A personal or institutionalized system grounded in such belief and worship. 2. The life or condition of a person in a religious order. 3. A set of beliefs, values, and practices based on the teachings of a spiritual leader. 4. A cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion. [Middle English religioun, from Old French religion, from Latin religi, religin-, perhaps from religre, to tie fast. See rely.] Source: http://www.dictionary.com/cgi-bin/dict.pl?term=religion: The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition Copyright © 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

    It is worth while to note the reference to the word 'rely' in the origins of the word 'religion' itself.

    Let's try to define what religion should not be. Are ceremonies religion? The motions which have been passed down through the generations. Generation upon generation propetuating some tradition -- just because; without understanding why or what is going on. Ceremonies are not religion, because this would imply that one simply follows some systematic set of motions which is being handed down. One can get pleasure in doing these ceremonies in attempt to get the validation of your family or those who you surround yourself with. In performing a ceremony you are simply repeating something you know nothing about. Someone else does it, so therefore you do. If you don't -- you are reprimanded; so this rut is driven into over and over out of the fear of the awaiting wrath of reprecussion. You follow the motions because you are afraid not to. This is not religion.

    What is a church? A temple? A cross? An idol? A symbol or any other representation is not the entity itself. The truth can not be found in a symbol or word. God can not be found in a symbol or word. The years and years of distillation of religion has made the symbol into a religion. The surrounding traditions and ceremonies further clouding and confusing; further means in which others are able to give guidance to the weaker mind which craves some type of leadership -- control. But what they are promised or in search of can not be found in the places they search. Symbols and idols are not religion.

    What about belief? Or faith? The different sets of beliefs and faiths immediately erect barriers between people and faiths -- which are supposedely searching for the same thing. Simply accepting a belief which is passed down is merely an attempt to control and keep the masses happy. Faith is used as a catch all which can be used as a crutch in future justifications or techniques of control. ".. Faith: that is to say, to shut one's eyes once and for all, in order not to suffer at the sight of incurable falsity." (Nietzsche; The Antichrist #9) The weak mind becomes addicted and begins to depend on this type of control. They become utterly confused when this inflow of direction is severed. People literally are unable to think for themselves and are forced to turn to religious guidance for how to live their lives. Such a dependence is created by opiates which are physically addictive -- religion has similar effects on people of similar character. Do not feed in to the pressure tactics which are used to coerce people into social conformity. A variety of tactics have been employed by religions -- which have been refined over many years. Nietzsche communicates the manner in which some are instinctvely against nature:

    Christianity is called the religion of pity.-- Pity stands in opposition to all the tonic passions that augment the energy of the feeling of aliveness: it is a depressant. A man loses power when he pities. Through pity that drain upon strength which suffering works is multiplied a thousandfold. Suffering is made contagious by pity; under certain circumstances it may lead to a total sacrifice of life and living energy--a loss out of all proportion to the magnitude of the cause (--the case of the death of the Nazarene). This is the first view of it; there is, however, a still more important one. If one measures the effects of pity by the gravity of the reactions it sets up, its character as a menace to life appears in a much clearer light. Pity thwarts the whole law of evolution, which is the law of natural selection. It preserves whatever is ripe for destruction; it fights on the side of those disinherited and condemned by life; by maintaining life in so many of the botched of all kinds, it gives life itself a gloomy and dubious aspect. Mankind has ventured to call pity a virtue (--in every superior moral system it appears as a weakness--); going still further, it has been called the virtue, the source and foundation of all other virtues--but let us always bear in mind that this was from the standpoint of a philosophy that was nihilistic, and upon whose shield the denial of life was inscribed. Schopenhauer was right in this: that by means of pity life is denied, and made worthy of denial--pity is the technic of nihilism. Let me repeat: this depressing and contagious instinct stands against all those instincts which work for the preservation and enhancement of life: in the role of protector of the miserable, it is a prime agent in the promotion of decadence--pity persuades to extinction....Of course, one doesn't say "extinction": one says "the other world," or "God," or "the true life," or Nirvana, salvation, blessedness.... This innocent rhetoric, from the realm of religious-ethical balderdash, appears a good deal less innocent when one reflects upon the tendency that it conceals beneath sublime words: the tendency to destroy life. Schopenhauer was hostile to life: that is why pity appeared to him as a virtue. . . . Aristotle, as every one knows, saw in pity a sickly and dangerous state of mind, the remedy for which was an occasional purgative: he regarded tragedy as that purgative. The instinct of life should prompt us to seek some means of puncturing any such pathological and dangerous accumulation of pity as that appearing in Schopenhauer's case (and also, alack, in that of our whole literary decadence, from St. Petersburg to Paris, from Tolstoi to Wagner), that it may burst and be discharged. . . Nothing is more unhealthy, amid all our unhealthy modernism, than Christian pity.
    - The Antichrist, Nietzsche #7

    A set of permanent checks and measures has been merged with the tradition itself to ensure a heirearchy which will always remain in power. After years and years of refinement through trial by error this catch all has been interwoven with the core of the philosophy itself.

    They reduced every great event to the idiotic formula: "obedient or disobedient to God."--They went a step further: the "will of God" (in other words some means necessary for preserving the power of the priests) had to be determined--and to this end they had to have a "revelation." In plain English, a gigantic literary fraud had to be perpetrated, and "holy scriptures" had to be concocted--and so, with the utmost hierarchical pomp, and days of penance and much lamentation over the long days of "sin" now ended, they were duly published. The "will of God," it appears, had long stood like a rock; the trouble was that mankind had neglected the "holy scriptures". . . But the ''will of God'' had already been revealed to Moses. . . . What happened? Simply this: the priest had formulated, once and for all time and with the strictest meticulousness, what tithes were to be paid to him, from the largest to the smallest (--not forgetting the most appetizing cuts of meat, for the priest is a great consumer of beefsteaks); in brief, he let it be known just what he wanted, what "the will of God" was.... From this time forward things were so arranged that the priest became indispensable everywhere; at all the great natural events of life, at birth, at marriage, in sickness, at death, not to say at the "sacrifice" (that is, at meal-times), the holy parasite put in his appearance, and proceeded to denaturize it--in his own phrase, to "sanctify" it. . . . For this should be noted: that every natural habit, every natural institution (the state, the administration of justice, marriage, the care of the sick and of the poor), everything demanded by the life-instinct, in short, everything that has any value in itself, is reduced to absolute worthlessness and even made the reverse of valuable by the parasitism of priests (or, if you chose, by the "moral order of the world"). The fact requires a sanction--a power to grant values becomes necessary, and the only way it can create such values is by denying nature. . . . The priest depreciates and desecrates nature: it is only at this price that he can exist at all.--Disobedience to God, which actually means to the priest, to "the law," now gets the name of "sin"; the means prescribed for "reconciliation with God" are, of course, precisely the means which bring one most effectively under the thumb of the priest; he alone can "save". Psychologically considered, "sins" are indispensable to every society organized on an ecclesiastical basis; they are the only reliable weapons of power; the priest lives upon sins; it is necessary to him that there be "sinning". . . . Prime axiom: "God forgiveth him that repenteth"--in plain English, him that submitteth to the priest.
    - The Antichrist, Nietzsche #26

    Open your mind. Think for yourself. Do not fall for traps in which society becomes positioned to think for you. "The most fundamental laws of preservation and growth, demand ... that each should discover his own virtue.." (Nietzsche; The Antichrist #11). There are other sections from "The Antichrist" which detail other mechanisms which have been built into the religion which are used to control the masses. See #51 & #52. As always, don't listen to me -- read it for yourself.

    When one has completely cleared themselves of the drabble of ceremonies, symbols, and traditional faiths can we begin to search for what religion is. It is only when the slate has been wiped clean and you are able to search for truths about life that are at all meaningful. It is only when the mind is in revolt against all so-called religion that it finds the real. Krishnamurti echos my sentiments quite articulately in "Think on These Things" (p. 142)

    Religion is the feeling of goodness, that love which is like the river, living, moving everlasting. In that state you will find there comes a moment when there is no longer any search at all; and this ending of search is the beginning of something totally different. The search for God, for truth, the feeling of being completely good -- not the cultivation of goodness, of humility, but the seeking out of something beyond the inventions and tricks of the mind, which means having a feeling for that something, living in it, being it -- that is true religion. But you can do that only when you leave the pool you have dug [reference to a kind of safety net one finds in conformity and imitation] for yourself and go out into the river of life. The life has an astonishing way of taking care of you, because then there is no taking care on your part. Life carries you where it will because you are part of itself; then there is no problem of security, of what people say or don't say, and that is the beauty of life.


    Christ, Mohommed, and Budha were Umbermeinch(en?) (5.00 / 1) (#292)
    by On Lawn on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 01:41:16 PM EST


    However, you would argue that people that follow Christ are not, becuase (I appologize in advance for the overstatement) they are followers, decievable and readily decieved. Umbermeinch are not followers, the act on their own. I agree with your (and Nietche's) plea for individuality. To argue that religion is powerfully wrong in the wrong hands is as easy to show, and simularly used to show that technology is wrong in the wrong hands. They both are probably more neutral, and are not evil until used for such.

    However Marx was off his rocker.

    To the first point, Christ, Mohammed and Budha were a followers (yes really) and considered by Neitche himself to be an Umbermeinch (super-person who defined morality rather than be defined by it.) Remember the quote, "I do nothing save that which I have seen my Father in Heaven do." Mohommed and Budha simularly ascribed their beliefs to a connection with divinity.

    They simply claimed and held their own accountability to a higher authority than was recognized by the day. We should all for the highest standard of authority whether we are atheist, agnostic, (and every religion already believes that anyway.)

    The kernel of a follower or believer is encasulated in such a statement as Christ made, and is indivudual (like I think you and Neitche and I are advocating it should be.) A mass of these indivuduals may act simular and seem like a unit even though in many ways but are still suseptible to organization. In fact the word priest has roots in the phrase "lead ox" who is just someone walking to green pasteurs or home that others follow. It is an establishment of an economy of God and an order, but should not break the doctrine of our own individuality.

    When one becomes a priest, they are not assigned, granted or elected. They are ordained, and an ordination is a setting apart or "putting in its coordinates" in a lead ox position. It just means people need to look to them for leadership.

    This is heiarchial, like a mobile of ordinations that help lead a mass to a particular destination. However, to consider the whole of such organizations to be simply mass control is only true if you would assume there is no correct way or destination. To assume that these people in mass are a unit without dissention or individuality is a downright rhetorical oversimplification. To say that the lead ox is always leading people over a cliff is probably going to far.

    This happens throught nature in herd sociomatics, and with the occasional exception of lemmings works pretty well. It is refined and used by any organization to provide an economy to trasmit leadership and authority when people need to get someplace. In corporations, governments, and Religions. The mechanism in itself is so universal that there has never been a successful case in history of organization without it.

    Now for Marx, I would suggest that he has been traditionaly debunked by history (however played a particular part in it.) For a better look at the mechanics of politics and a better prediction of how the world actualy turned out, check out another German named (if I remember correctly) Karl Wolf. He said that instead of the prolitariates or bouguise taking control, organization by beurocracy was going to take control. And these beurocracies envoke more of the same tactics that are ascribed to religion, by the nature of the heirchial order of power. Its the misuse of "organization" that is the problem, not the problem of any entity because it uses that organization. Individuality is the best defence against it, the public defence of individuality is why I am Libertarian.

    Socially, for something to be an opiate, it should make people more complacent and accepting of direction and leadership. It should not allow for focus of dissention, etc. Religion does not follow that. However I think I found something that does.

    Today looking around I would submit that the true opiate of the american masses today is professional sports. Much like gladiators were in Roman times, and that religion often causes unrest and contention (re: prop 22 in California.) Professional sports relagates people into such a state of trivial combat as to render meaningful arguements useless. Religion encourages real conflict, and has been the case of conflicts in the past. (Although Soccer in England can be said to do the same thing, but it is never focused on a particular politics.)

    Professional sports, although fun and all are truely "feel good" without allowing a focusing of effort into true matters of personal consequence. In fact examples like Stalinist Russia could be used to show that Religion needs to be eradicated for a truely dominant government control. Religion is often the last bastion of individuality that a evil government would try to take away.

    Anyway, I appologize for the horribly unorganized treatment. I hope I have shown that I agree with what you said, just not all of the conclusions. I'm free to add clerification on any point, or even entertain where you might disagree with it.

    [ Parent ]
    On individuality and Religion (5.00 / 1) (#342)
    by vikrum on Sun Nov 11, 2001 at 07:58:50 AM EST

    Let me preface my response with an aside; I have only recently (literally less than a month has passed) begun reading about the different political systems, types of economy, the subsequent governments which result, and religion; to elaborate: really reading the subject matter in all sincerity & seriousness. Through history these tend to intermingle and in trying to learn more about them, my current understanding is far far from complete. The pieces which I have managed to find weigh heavily on my puzzle board... I am open to and crave opposite views to get more pieces filled in. So, please also forgive my lag in replying, disorganization (read: fragmented thought), and do point out unsound logic. Likewise in regards to any clarification and/or in entertaining disagreements.

    I've been stuck in thought since I read the response: specifically in dealing with individuality and my own uncomplete views on religion.

    I asked my self: why is it that one defends their individuality with such fervor? The immediate rash answer of course being: Because I don't want to be like everyone else. This is merely just repeating the question. Does the word individuality even encompass the entire scope relating to all of the associated attributes of the person?

    Everyone has their scene in which they are involved; and not just the one which you are just starting out with, but have been going at it for the past 5 years; past 10 years; or past 25 years. You were also once a student but continue to learn and grow in whatever the subject matter might be. You immediately recoil in humility when you meet someone with similar interests who in your eyes has skills which exceed your own by orders of magnitude. The steps which a person takes in entering onto a scene are interesting when analyzed with a hightened awareness in regards to the concept of individuality.

    We first are ignorant of the subject. Through some manner we are introduced to it. We might choose to leave it be for the moment, but at some point return back to it. You learn as much as is possible through self-teachings. You find others which also practice it. You begin to inundate them with questions all-the while remaining keenly aware of how they themselves interact with it. You remain a "novice" or "intermediate" in your eyes for quite some time. As you begin to notice progress, this is when you can clearly see yourself as no longer being the person which was ignorant of it. This subsequently sparks an elitist attitude toward those who many not have an interest in your subject or are themselves just starting out -- just as you once did. (This can take on another tangent of ego and other psychological traits as to the cause of this, but that is for another time.) After this, a self-realization is formed about this attitude which you harbor. You begin to question its motives. Why is it that you harbor an elitist attitude? Why does it matter? Is it really worth the wasted energy? This will probably die off in a short while, only to resurface. This is likely to repeat a couple of times. At some point in when the cycle has reached the time for it to die, no notion of it ever resurfaces. I feel that individuality is a trait which is only exhibited during the "elitist attitude" period. Once you become aware of it, its presence has started the path on degrading to zero. The next stage of "individuality" being totally unconcerned and complacent or what I believe is true individuality.

    This can be clearly seen when relating to the type of music a person listens to; especially during adolescence and/or when the music is generally of the very small minority e.g. underground hip-hop, esoteric rock, and fringe punk -- the list doesn't stop. You've probably seen it or have something which can relate.

    On to my shifting views on religion.

    I agree that Christ, Mohammad, and Buddha were ubermensch. I believe that the prophets of all religions fit this category. It would seem nature is playing a nasty trick on us all to believe that such people existed -- without direct interaction with one another -- simply out of pure coincidence. A basic and universal Truth must exist -- that which these prophets attained. It is only due to the limitations (inability of words?) of articulating this and cultural differences that boundaries around religion exist at all. Given enough time and the right conditions every one is capable of finding this Truth. It is just that our interpretations and ability to communicate it will differ. (Which is completely fine; there is nothing wrong with that. Its hard to know if when talking to someone else about it, they really are talking about the same feeling you are experiencing. This, I suppose, is the timeless fight to try to give a label or word to a human feeling.)

    In my original post, I brought up the fashion in which checks and counter-measures are placed in religions to "keep the people under control" -- to paraphrase -- implying that the people who subscribe to these religions are merely followers. Nietzsche has an undertone in Antichrist which seems to hint that there were some people who sat down and consciously decided on this whole "master plan" -- I am now of the believing that is is not the case at all and firmly disagree. These traits merely seem to exist as a result of time. The concept of the religion is passed through the generations untouched, but the "infrastructure" which surrounds it is constantly loosing integrity with time.

    I had never realized the role of a priest in that light. Nor did I know the process in which a priest is ordained -- or even what the word 'ordained' meant! Like I said in the my disclaimer, I still have a lot to learn about all of the different religions. My parents are Sikh -- which is basically what I know the most about. Thanks for the insight..

    I would tend to agree that Marx was a tad "eccentric" but am beginning to think that Nietzsche was just loony.

    He just seemed really paranoid for some reason.

    The suggestion on Wolf has been noted & added to the queue of reading material. I've got two Bill Bryson books lined up after I wrap up Necessary Illusions -- I need a break from all of the varying forms of politics & digest this stuff. Give me a couple weeks or so, and I'll try to gather up my thoughts on it into some communicable form.

    In regarding the misuse of organization; I would label it as a misuse of the leadership role and/or power. When "normal" people are put into these roles, a minority of them succumb to exploiting it which then leads to "the problem" of society; people who make a consecrated effort to go out looking for it and find it add even more muck to the problem. This is one of the reasons I'm reading more and more into these topics; what causes this? Capitalism? Communism? Democracies? Socialists? Evil Andre The Giant particles from outer space? What's the solution? Or even, do I have a grip on the real problem? If not, which I'm sure is the case, what IS the problem? Well, I have to answer all of those with a resounding "I have no idea, but I'll be sure to get back to you as soon as I do."

    If I were to attempt and quantify my set of beliefs, the phrase 'veritas vos liberabit' would show up high on the list. Further building my vocabulary I see that I would seem to parallel and believe in the same ideals that a person who considers themselves to be Libertarian. Again, much obliged for the insight.

    I would agree in your reasoning that for something to be an opiate in society that it would need to increase the complacency of the masses, but I think a byproduct of the opiate would be susceptibility of direction and leadership which would then, of course, lead to its acceptance -- or illusion of. I do agree that it should also not only not allow, but prevent, the focus of dissension. Through the pressures of family and society religion does also meet this criterion, albeit not completely encompassing every human but unfortunately a majority of the people. I know that in the Sikh religion, fighting against the asphyxiation of tradition is an exceedingly daunting task. I only know what I see in my little window of a world but it runs rampant, and to a degree is applicable more generally to other Asian cultures as well. I would concede that religion rarely is able to produce completely complacent people who accept leadership and a fair amount of dissent does exist -- but this in itself is minuscule in comparison to the mass which keeps them pulled close enough that they don't break orbit escape its gravity. A catalyst is able to turn the tides a majority of the time. (I acknowledge that this seems to say that the "turning of the tides" is against religion. I don't literally mean /against/ religion. Forgive me as my thoughts regarding this still haven't really reached any tangible level of coherence. Say 1 = God, A = Religion and B = Person. Through A you can get to 1. So people go to A. They stay there and never leave, quite obviously due to the communicative property of algebra. The purpose of religion is to "show you the way." After B goes to A, they are supposed to detach themselves and go to 1. That's about all I can articulate on that matter for now -- like I said, I still need to think about it.)

    I also see a flaw in the "openness" of religions which say they encourage it. Sikhism basically says "here are Our teachings, but if you don't like them you are encouraged to continue on you quest." An important thing to note is that when someone says a statement like that they must also be ready and able to deal with rejection. The teacher who says this should not then take offense and be bent on "correcting" the error of the student. These is a subtle difference between just giving up and ensuring that you have done your best to explain the aspects and ideals which one might want to convey.

    From the original post:

    "Today looking around I would submit that the true opiate of the american masses today is professional sports. Much like gladiators were in Roman times, and that religion often causes unrest and contention (re: prop 22 in California.) Professional sports relagates people into such a state of trivial combat as to render meaningful arguements useless. Religion encourages real conflict, and has been the case of conflicts in the past. (Although Soccer in England can be said to do the same thing, but it is never focused on a particular politics.)

    Professional sports, although fun and all are truely "feel good" without allowing a focusing of effort into true matters of personal consequence. In fact examples like Stalinist Russia could be used to show that Religion needs to be eradicated for a truely dominant government control. Religion is often the last bastion of individuality that a evil government would try to take away."

    Granted; I need to think about it some more to find others. I do like the argument which leads you to this conclusion and find it to be also have various unstated side effects: it keeps people "occupied" via competition between teams, which goes back to your definition of a social opiate. I am uneasy at stopping there because I think that there are others "opiates" at the same level of potency (e.g. Religion) or something even more common. The reason being that there are still hordes of people who do not watch or follow any sport at all. I'll continue with this thought experiment until I satisfy this lacking...

    [ Parent ]

    Priestcraft (none / 0) (#344)
    by On Lawn on Tue Nov 13, 2001 at 01:47:37 AM EST


    A very honest and well thought out post. I appreciate it a lot in the midst of the pack of pirhana's that is K5.

    I know you have a large list of books, but let me add one more. It is a light 100+ page reading. I read it in 9th grade and did 3 book reports on it afterward. Its called Sidhartha, and it is about a person on a very simular journey as ourselves. He starts in the very dogmatic and disciplined religious scene, only to succumb to an earthly wealth. Then in the end he finds balance. All the while there is built a framework in which to fit most of religion. Anyway its some light reading to mix in there.

    Christ, Budha and Mohammed came in the days of the institutionalized, even state religions. My brother in one of his rare feats of insight points out that a state religion depends on a "dead" religion. A dead religion is one whithout continuing revelations from God.

    They share a belief in a "complete" and finished set of laws given by God. This shifts the power away from a divine to scolarly authority. Actually that is for modern day religions. Ancient religions had King-demigods but they achieved the same purpose --supplant the personal and individual line to ultimate authority.

    Some call this concept a "priestcraft" or false priesthood. These are people that would assume authority in religious direction by scholarship and then sell it for money or personal gain. So what was once an ordination became a "degree of learning" in a predefined set of laws and religious works.

    For instance where does this ordination come from? In the Old Testament we learned that Abraham payed tithing to Melchisedek the Great High Priest. Was not Abraham the father of many nations? Today for all we talk about Abraham, there was one greater to whom he payed a tenth of all he increased.

    Yet Abraham was a great man who personaly walked with God. So I ask, where did this ordination of Melchesidek come from that made him the administration of the church at the time?

    Well directly from God it turns out. But for his ordination to be "above" Abraham, it does not decrease Abraham's personal status with God one whit.

    So we see from this that scholarship has nothing to do with a true authority or ordination. Neither did it have anything to do with individual links to authority.

    Also, in a debate about the completeness of the Bible (I being Christian, and so was the other in the debate) went round and round about scriptures declaring the completeness of the word, and I would counter with reasoning that showed that his scriptures did not preclude God from giving us more.

    In the end, I brought out another point about Abraham. Abraham was saved, in fact in Judeo-Christian-Muslim traditions to be saved is to be in the bosom of Abraham. He knew everything needed for salvation, and saw the world from beginning to end. So I asked my friend "why do we have more scripture continuing after him."

    Well he countered that there was more experience for the greater human order to know. I accepted that, because after all I think that revelation continues today for just such a need.

    But I asked him, "So when was the point that Abraham recieved all he needed to know. When did God say 'You have it all now, go and be happy'? Essentialy I'm asking, when did Abraham reach the point that he learned everything in the Bible and revelation stopped coming to him?"

    He couldn't come up with a time, and neither could I. We lost contact, but that was a definate turning point in our discussions. But what about after Abraham? Are we any different?

    Well (paraphrased) He later identified that as keeping the commandments of God, but as Abraham is set up as an example for salvation we have to conclude that personal revelation is required in keeping the commandments.

    Later, Christ, Budha and Mohammed each came into their societies of dead religions with a message very dangerous to the established order. People could reach God directly, and should. This proved to be a real threat to the established orders, and soon they all had prices on their heads.

    Christ made an interesting point to the religious scolars of his day. They declared themselves essentialy saved because they were the seed of Abraham. Christ, out of all the counters avalailable to him attacked them on this point, "If ye were the seed of Abraham, ye would do as he did."

    So my point is that a religion needs to be living with continuous revelation from God, and its priests ordained (set into place) by God but not inbetween us and God. Anything less allows for the foibles of men to enter and gives religion a bad name.

    [ Parent ]
    You've got it all wrong. (4.00 / 1) (#294)
    by skeezix on Mon Nov 05, 2001 at 01:46:15 PM EST

    Much like science and history combined the purpose of religion is to discover the Truth about the Universe in terms of the Spiritual and based on events in spacetime. If the events or premises upon which your worldview is based did not occur or are false, than your worldview is false--at that point your worldview/religion is only good for its pragmatic value: what does it do for you? How does it make you feel? Does it help you somehow? If, on the other hand, the events in spacetime and the premises upon which your worldview is based do stand up to the tests of historical review, scientific evidence, and logic, or are in any other way true to the nature of the universe, than the pragmatic effects of the worldview are quite secondary, if you follow me...

    The purpose of religion? (5.00 / 1) (#324)
    by IHCOYC on Tue Nov 06, 2001 at 11:49:53 AM EST

    From where I sit, the purpose of religion is to make us sceptical of ourselves. Especially, to make us sceptical of that sense of innate goodness we all tend to feel from time to time, the notion that our own attitudes and actions are certainly right and justified; it's always the other person's that are the problem.

    What may be the same thing, the purpose of religion is to make us sceptical of Life's agenda. The idea is to show us that the pursuit of material possessions, earthly happiness, and similar trifles is beneath us, and ultimately brings no lasting satisfaction. All these things tie one to the world, or to the Buddhist wheel that grinds out endless misery.

    Religion succeeds to the extent that it succeeds in fostering these attitudes. When it fails, it usually fails by not fostering them.

    The crusaders would not have done anyone violence had they truly believed that they were sinners whose moral code was fallible and whose judgment was questionable. The venal and corrupt church as it stood before the Reformation would not have been so had it truly had the sense that earthly power and wealth was vain.

    But the fostering of this kind of scepticism is to me more important and more central to its purpose than the cultivation of spiritual epiphanies.
    --
    "Complecti antecessores tuos in spelæis stygiis Tartari appara," eructavit miles primus.
    "Vix dum basiavisti vicarium velocem Mortis," rediit Grignr.
    --- Livy
    um.... (none / 0) (#350)
    by ohyeah on Mon May 20, 2002 at 08:39:12 PM EST

    The purpose of religion is God. Any questions?

    Just one (none / 0) (#351)
    by localroger on Fri May 31, 2002 at 10:32:52 PM EST

    What about Taoists, Shintoists, and certain "New Agers" who practice all the trappings of religion, but believe that the ultimate creator of the universe ("God") is unknowable, distant, and irrelevant?

    I can haz blog!
    [ Parent ]

    The Purpose of Religion | 351 comments (315 topical, 36 editorial, 1 hidden)
    Display: Sort:

    kuro5hin.org

    [XML]
    All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. The Rest © 2000 - Present Kuro5hin.org Inc.
    See our legalese page for copyright policies. Please also read our Privacy Policy.
    Kuro5hin.org is powered by Free Software, including Apache, Perl, and Linux, The Scoop Engine that runs this site is freely available, under the terms of the GPL.
    Need some help? Email help@kuro5hin.org.
    My heart's the long stairs.

    Powered by Scoop create account | help/FAQ | mission | links | search | IRC | YOU choose the stories!