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[P]
What religion for geeks?

By ghjm in Culture
Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 10:23:12 AM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

Most mainstream religions require more in the way of faith-based belief than is comfortable for a rationalist geek. Can religion and rationality coexist?


When you go see a movie, a key requirement for having a good time is the willing suspension of disbelief -- you must suppress your natural tendency to recognize obvious irrationality and simply enjoy the film for what it is. Sometimes Hollywood make this more difficult than it should be, but hey, it's only a movie, right?

For many people this is easy. But for a minority of the overall population -- perhaps a majority of Kuro5hin readers -- suspending rationality is extremely difficult. For this type of person, it is hard to engage in activities which don't seem rational. At the risk of sounding extreme, I will call these people hyper-rationals. The stereotypical "geek" falls squarely into this category.

Most religion requires a large exercise of faith, or in other words, holding beliefs despite having no rational reason to do so. Some religions also require a stronger form of faith: holding beliefs despite having a rational reason not to do so. For hyper-rational people, the former type of faith is difficult to achieve and the latter type is simply impossible.

This of course creates something of a problem: Hyper-rationals have the same spiritual needs as anyone else; they need, in their hearts, to know that they are cherished, precious, and unique. They need to know that what they do with their life matters. They need to hold a moral and ethical code and better themselves though striving to remain true to it. In other words, they need religion, just like everyone else.

Hyper-rationals cannot satisfy these needs through mainstream religions because mainstream religions are faith-inefficient. All belief systems -- religious or not -- eventually depend on faith; the property of faith-efficiency is the amount of useful result that can be obtained from a belief system per unit input of faith. For example, symbolic logic is extremely faith-efficient. You must accept, on faith, a few very clear axioms such as "a = ~a is false." If you agree to hold these beliefs despite having no rational reason to do so, then you receive a comprehensive system for testing whether any given set of declarative statements is self-consistent and for deriving additional true statements given an initial set of true statements. This is a big payoff indeed for a very small investment of faith.

The most accepted religion in the Western world is of course Christianity. Many flavors of Christianity exist, but the essential set of beliefs required to be a Christian is generally accepted to be the Nicene Creed. In essence, this makes the following claims:

  • Only one God exists;
  • He created the universe;
  • Jesus Christ is an aspect of this God who became human, was crucified, and rose from the dead;
  • Christ will come again and will at that time sit in judgement over everyone who ever lived;
  • When this judgement occurs, our sins will be forgiven through the crucifixion and resurrection;
  • Then there's this other aspect of God called the Holy Spirit, which we worship.

Yes, there are Christian sects which also require faith-based belief in many, many other things, such as the literal truth of the Bible and who knows what else. But you can find legitimately Christian sects which ask nothing more of you than to profess your belief in the Nicene creed. Now, this really isn't that much faith. As a set of axioms, this is not much larger than, say, Euclidean geometry. For this you gain a time-tested, complete, and very well documented system that provides for your every spiritual need.

So why is this so hard?

Perhaps it's because there are many hidden assumptions, which must also be taken on faith: that we are all sinners, that we cannot redeem ourselves through our own actions, that Christ is the only path to God, and so forth. These are not axioms, but as properly derived theorems they must be believed if the axioms are to be believed. The essence of the problem is: yes, it would be emotionally comforting to know that God loves me -- but not if that means God hates someone else!

I personally have been searching for this for quite some time. I grew up Christian, but I've looked into Wicca, Bahai Faith, Taoism, and even (briefly) Scientology -- but they all either fail to deliver the goods in terms of useful answers to spiritual questions, or require too high a price in terms of faith. So far I have not found anything I can really live with.

So, my question to the Kuro5hin community is this: What have you tried? What works? Has anyone out there found a faith-efficient religion that satisfies one's spiritual needs?

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What religion for geeks? | 649 comments (628 topical, 21 editorial, 0 hidden)
Personally... (3.83 / 12) (#1)
by Wormwood on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 02:03:46 AM EST

I'm an agnostic. If I need to feel cherished, precious or loved, I look at my mother.

I know that I'm unique; everyone's unique. You don't need religion for that.

Connotative meaning (4.50 / 2) (#3)
by ghjm on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 02:14:05 AM EST

Yes, by definition, everyone is unique in the sense that no two people are identical. But there's another, connotative meaning associated with the word 'unique' - the sense of being irreplacable. What place do you occupy in the universe? Do you simply believe that you don't matter in the slightest, as seems clear from the physical reality of the situation? What about the essential you - don't you have a sense that you must be eternal, if for no other reason than because nothing else makes sense?

Or perhaps, for some people, none of this is important or worth struggling with. If so, I salute you - wish I could do the same, but it just isn't working for me.

-Graham

[ Parent ]

No, I really don't care. (4.33 / 3) (#13)
by delmoi on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 03:08:56 AM EST

connotative meaning associated with the word 'unique'

To you I guess. But I don't think I've heard the word intended that way.

What place do you occupy in the universe? Do you simply believe that you don't matter in the slightest, as seems clear from the physical reality of the situation?

I matter to myself. I matter to my friends and family. What more could I need?

don't you have a sense that you must be eternal, if for no other reason than because nothing else makes sense?

Nothing lasts forever, why would I? Because death is scary? Bleh, I don't children's tales to hide me from the truth.

I have the capacity within myself to be happy and loved. I don't need to believe in some invisible force in the sky.
--
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
Yes you do, (2.40 / 5) (#71)
by Wah on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 10:57:03 AM EST

you just don't see it like that.

I have the capacity within myself to be happy and loved. I don't need to believe in some invisible force in the sky.

And where did that capacity come from? Why do you have it? Does anyone else? How could they, if it just came from inside you?

Sure you can just say these questions don't matter. But then I get to ask why they don't matter. Stopping before that question leaves you with some dangling logic, which, in my experience, is much like the downed power lines after a hurricane. Touchy, random, and dangerous.
--
Information wants to be free, wouldn't you? | Parent ]

Perhaps not. (none / 0) (#126)
by rasilon on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 12:54:47 PM EST

And where did that capacity come from? Why do you have it? Does anyone else? How could they, if it just came from inside you?
In order: My Experiences, because of my experiences, yes, other people have experiences too.

Why should that capacity require any other source? Why should one not have it? Why should other people not have it? Why should that capacity be unique?
When you want deep questions, it is best to avoid rhetoric. Questions like that are easy to turn around.



[ Parent ]
Yea, they're easy to turn around (1.00 / 1) (#158)
by Wah on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 03:04:28 PM EST

if you don't want to answer them.

Why should that capacity require any other source?

Because that capacity seems to be universal in humans. And similar despite a wide variety of different experiences. This would point to...something else.

Why should one not have it? Why should other people not have it?

Negative questions are silly. Ask them another way. See, turning them around doesn't work too well, unless you don't want answers.

The rhetorical questions were used to push this thought through, to combat someone standing there, closing their eyes, stamping their feet, and yelling no, no, no. Answering "Why?" with "Why not?" is a correct answer, just a pretty useless one.
--
Information wants to be free, wouldn't you? | Parent ]

A Few Things To Note (none / 0) (#333)
by rasilon on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 06:35:44 AM EST

First, I did answer them. Secondly, that capacity to be happy within one's self is far from universal - this discussion arose because of the suggestion that people needed a religion in order to feel comfortable with themselves.

Consider this, the nose is pretty universal in humans despite varying DNA describing the organ, but yet it still produces a nose. There is wide variety in noses, but most of them do the job just fine, just like there is a wide variety of experiances, but most of them do the job just fine.

Questions with unstated assumptions are silly. It would appear that you tried to ask rhetorical questions without considering that there are other answers if you look outside your world-view.
Negative questions, are not an avoidance of the subject, merely a different way of looking at things. For example, one of the Zen connundrums is that just because no mind can comprehend something, does not imply that a mind cannot comprehend it.



[ Parent ]
Noted (none / 0) (#347)
by Wah on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 09:31:57 AM EST

First off, I've been thinking all night about the stamping feet thing, and I shouldn't have typed it. And you did answer them, in a Zen way.

Secondly, that capacity to be happy within one's self is far from universal - this discussion arose because of the suggestion that people needed a religion in order to feel comfortable with themselves.

I would pretty heartily disagree with this. I can say that not everyone can reach this peace in the same way, but I think there is a way for everyone. I like your nose analogy, that's what I was trying to say. But you've also given that analogy depth, if the nose comes from DNA, where does the capacity for inner peace come from?

Zen is good for many things, but mostly for clearing your mind and using the the answer you find there. Using unthinking to think. I've found another way based on pretty hardcore logic and analysis, and in my excitement probably have been trying to push too hard. I also realize that pushing it on someone can only screw it up.

Questions with unstated assumptions are silly.

That's why I need to write a book. Know any publishers?
--
Information wants to be free, wouldn't you? | Parent ]

In my sorrow, I breed my afterthought (none / 0) (#344)
by kaatunut on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 09:11:49 AM EST

if for no other reason than because nothing else makes sense?

What?


--
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 ]

What! (none / 0) (#433)
by ghjm on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 05:24:48 PM EST

See my response to AzTex above (unless it's below).

[ Parent ]
Re: Connotative meaning (none / 0) (#373)
by AzTex on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 12:36:00 PM EST

ghjm stated:

...don't you have a sense that you must be eternal, if for no other reason than because nothing else makes sense?
That is absurd.  There is no sense involved in your statement about being eternal at all.  You are just uncomfortable with any alternative.


** AzTex **
--
Knowledge is Power.  -- Frances Bacon


[ Parent ]
Sense (5.00 / 1) (#429)
by ghjm on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 04:58:49 PM EST

What I mean is, if the universe has gone to the trouble of producing sentience, why would each instance of it only exist for a few decades and then disappear? Why this particular vehicle, at this particular time? One of the most common recurring thoughts across all relitions is the immortality - or, to borrow vocabulary from physics, let's say the conservation of the soul. How could it be that a self can be created by the act of procreation and destroyed by the death of the body?

Yeah, I know, the strong AI hypothesis...but how are humans able to perceive, through insight, the solutions to problems which are undecidable by any form of computer, so far as we know today? Which bin of ice cream did the extra scoop come from? If in fact human consciousness is able to do things that no device wrought by man can ever do (and I know, this is far from certain), then what is it that gives us these abilities and where does it come from? And how can it possibly be so tightly bound up to the lumps of jelly we happen to inhabit?

The "physical reality is the only reality, everything else is a fairy tale" argument fails for me because it lacks explicative power regarding these questions. That's the sense in which it doesn't make sense.

[ Parent ]

Another day, another way (none / 0) (#497)
by kaatunut on Thu Aug 23, 2001 at 11:59:31 AM EST

If you assume universe "went through the trouble", you imply that there's some consciousness involved, effectively turning this into a circle proof. On the other hand, if you agree with me that universe didn't "go through the trouble" but it simply happened, then there is no problem. And so we progress nowhere, of course.


--
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, no, a thousand times no ;-) (4.17 / 17) (#5)
by klamath on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 02:25:38 AM EST

It would be nice if you could define "rational" near the beginning of the article, so we know we're talking about the same things.
When you go see a movie, a key requirement for having a good time is the willing suspension of disbelief. You must suppress your natural tendency to recognize obvious irrationality and simply enjoy the film for what it is.
Yes -- but that is for the purposes of entertainment (presumably, a rational pursuit). There is an enormous difference between accepting the premise of a clearly fantastic story for the purposes of entertainment (and acknowledging the difference between the world projected by the story and reality) and accepting faith as a tool for gaining knowledge in "real life".
Hyper-rationals have the same spiritual needs as anyone else; they need, in their hearts, to know that they are cherished, precious and unique.
These are not spiritual needs (or at least, the stigma associated with the word 'spirit' clouds the discussion). The needs you cite are psychological, not spiritual. It is entirely conceivable (and quite common-place) for a rational, atheistic/agnostic person to feel "cherished, precious and unique" -- it's a question of self-esteem and the related psychological issues. Ask Nathaniel Brandon...
They need to know that what they do with their life matters. They need to hold a moral and ethical code and better themselves though striving to remain true to it. In other words, they need religion, just like everyone else.
WOAH! That is an enormous leap you just made. Either the concept you're referring to as "religion" is quite different from how I understand it or you're just plain wrong. The supposition that ethics or morals depend on religion is ludicrous. Ethics is a branch of philosophy, not theology. Although religion can provide a moral code and insight into how to live your life, there is absolutely no reason to suggest that without religion, one cannot have an ethical code (IIRC, some philosophers believe this -- but that's an interesting but non-trivial argument, not something that can be asserted without support). At the very least, you should elaborate on what you mean by the statement quoted above.
You must accept, on faith, a few very clear axioms such as "a = ~a is false."
No! The acceptance of fundamental axioms like the law of identity ("A is A") and so on does NOT involve an act of faith (IMHO). An axiom is self-evident: by grasping the meaning of the axiom, one must accept it as true (or it is not an axiom). Simply because an axiom cannot be "proved", as such, does not mean we must simply accept it "on faith" (also, the meaning of "faith" in this context is quite muddy -- taking an axiom "on faith" is completely different than taking the existence of Jebus "on faith").
What have you tried? What works?
Rather than seeking theology, I would strongly suggest you examine philosophy. As I said before, one does not need religion to give meaning to life. My personal system of philosophy is Objectivism, but there are (of course) a nearly infinite number of choices that you can explore. It seems quite naive for you to (claim to) search for meaning in life without considering any of the alternatives that don't have anything to do with religion.

Self evidence (4.50 / 2) (#11)
by delmoi on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 03:02:03 AM EST

Not everything taken as an Axiom is self-evident to everyone. But those that truly are, one could say, are belived beacuse the mind is simply hard-wired to belive them.

Anyway, Objectivism is pretty much a religion anyway, and as faith based as anything else
--
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
[ Parent ]
Religion got you down? Try Philosophy (4.00 / 2) (#19)
by jobi on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 03:39:08 AM EST

Can't find what you need in religion? I recommend a few years study of philosophy, especially ethics and existensialism (although you might want to study the classics too).
One problem I had during my 5 years as a philosophy student at a Swedish university was that until middle-19th century or so, whenever philosophers came up to a problem they couldn't solve, they said that god had arranged things thus. Quite unsatisfactory to my (atheist) mind.Things started to get better from then on, though.

Anyway, for us hyper-rational geeks, a well thought-out philosophical answer (or even question) is miles better than a theological one.

Take care.

---
"[Y]ou can lecture me on bad language when you learn to use a fucking apostrophe."
[ Parent ]
Until you have an existentialist crisis (4.50 / 2) (#149)
by dat Guy on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 02:21:38 PM EST

Philosophy is indeed good, but it is not risk free.

I've had to stop reading philosophy and thinking about it every couple years (of course I always pick it up again later) 'cos I sometime wind up in what I call an 'existentialist crisis', which is just a fancy way of saying 'whats the point, why bother with anything?'

I know that most of that sentiment is probably more a character flaw on my part than anything else, but it is still a highly unpleasent experience :)

And while I got you here, how do you deal with it? I usually just go out and do things I enjoy, but I still got to lay my head down at night to sleep, and thats when the demons come...

[ Parent ]

Dealing with it (none / 0) (#323)
by jobi on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 03:53:02 AM EST

The risk is not in philosophy, but in being human. We simply don't have the power to be focused 100% of the time, and when we're not, we can lose sight of the things that we value.

Accordingly, I don't think it's a character flaw on your part, seeing as most people I know (oh yeah, me too), religous or not, experience the "existential crises" you speak of from time to time.

Since I believe these crises stem from temporarily losing sigth of the things you believe makes your life meaningful, it's "only" a matter of refocusing on those things. Sometimes that can take a while and be quite a rough trip, but so far I managed to pull through, and I hope you do too.

So how _do_ I deal with it? By trying to roll with it, to accept that I'm not more than human, accept that I too can have my bad days, and by focusing on the good things in my life, like the fact that my friends like me, my family loves me, and that my work matters for at least some people.

That usually works, but it can take a while, and I feel like shit in the meantime. If I had a faster way of regaining focus, I'd definately use it. I just haven't found one yet.

Best of luck,
Jobi

---
"[Y]ou can lecture me on bad language when you learn to use a fucking apostrophe."
[ Parent ]
Interesting, thats what I do already (4.00 / 1) (#342)
by dat Guy on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 08:46:56 AM EST

I find it heartening to see that how you find your way through it is pretty much the same conclusions I've come to already.

Part of getting through it seems to me to be not feeling alone; as I guess that was part of the original problem. Feeling alone sucks, and it makes me wonder sometimes whether I'm mentally ill or not, since I have a number of people close to me, I live in a city of 2.5 million people, and I still feel alone sometimes. So it's nice to know that someone else thinks at least halfway the way I do about something.

The trick, I would think, is finding a technique that doesn't rely on rationality to rescue you, since you're in an irrational state in an 'existential crisis'. That's why I feel more and more that religion & philosophy can and do play a critical part in most peoples lives; moods and emotions are not necessarily subject to logic.

Plus, I've also given up coffee/caffeine a couple of weeks ago so perhaps there are some mental withdrawl aspects to go along with the physical ones :)

[ Parent ]

Rationality (4.83 / 6) (#24)
by sigwinch on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 04:12:48 AM EST

It would be nice if you could define "rational" near the beginning of the article, so we know we're talking about the same things.
How about 'The belief that the universe is governed by laws that are mathematical in form'?
These are not spiritual needs (or at least, the stigma associated with the word 'spirit' clouds the discussion). The needs you cite are psychological, not spiritual.
Ah, but if ghjm is a hyper-rational, those are the same thing. ;-)
The supposition that ethics or morals depend on religion is ludicrous.
It isn't that you cannot have a moral or ethical code without religion. Rather, if you do subscribe to a religion, your concept of proper moral/ethical codes is strongly dictated by that religion.
The acceptance of fundamental axioms like the law of identity ("A is A") and so on does NOT involve an act of faith (IMHO).
Sure it does. Your mind is not some abstract logic processor, but a clump of atoms, created by inscrutable causes, governed by inscrutable laws, and operating for inscrutable purposes (or maybe for no purpose at all). There is always the possibility that logic doesn't really work, and that the Creator is just fiddling with your mind to make you think it works. The only thing you can say is that you have memories of good outcomes from treating the "A is A" identity as true, which is a lot different that treating it as an absolute fact.

The Objectivism web page says "Reality, the external world, exists independent of man's consciousness, independent of any observer's knowledge, beliefs, feelings, desires or fears. This means that A is A, that facts are facts, that things are what they are - and that the task of man's consciousness is to perceive reality, not to create or invent it."

It sounds seductive: reality is absolute, and all you need to do is perceive it. Too bad it's wrong (or at least the extant evidence contradicts it). Look at physics: it is an ardent search for Physical Truth, and it hasn't found much, and what it has found has been frequently overturned, and has actually gotten less certain and more confusing over time. Maxwell thought he figured out how electromagnetism works, and (IIRC) Heaviside condensed his equations down into the elegant equations known today as "Maxwell's Equations". Then along came Einstein and said that, no, there's no such thing as magnetism, it's just dilated electrostatics. And then Planck said, no, there's no classical electromagnetic waves, they're quantized. And then Feynman said, no, it's actually all virtual particles travelling backwards and forwards in time. Feynman's quantum electrodynamics gets really good anwers to some questions (IIRC 12 significant figures for the electron gyromagnetic ratio). But Einstein also came up with a nifty theory of gravity, and when you mention it to the quantum people they just mumble and walk away -- it seems that quantum theory and general relativity don't describe the same universe. Putting them together is like trying to smooth out a wrinkle in a carpet. There's also quantum chromodynamics, which nobody really understands yet. And neutrinos -- how do you perceive something clearly enough to totally understand it when it can fly through a light year of lead without trouble? (At least we can ignore quantum indeterminism, since decoherence times are usually short enough to be irrelevant.)

And what about chaos theory? Or its big brother, cryptology? Even if you can perceive everything, the universe runs by clockwork, and you know all the rules, Truth is not necessarily accessible. Just try predicting the weather, or decrypting an encrypted message without the key. There are also infinite realms of mathematical truth, but no sure way to find the neat parts. Witness the search for a proof to Fermat's last theorem.

Of course it's sort of moot, because you cannot perceive everything, and there will usually be multiple equally-valid theories for a given set of perceptions. Just look at schizophrenics: they have logic, and perceive just fine, but their mapping of perceptions to cognitive symbols is deeply broken.

--
I don't want the world, I just want your half.
[ Parent ]

Free Will (3.75 / 4) (#142)
by idsfa on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 02:04:15 PM EST

How about 'The belief that the universe is governed by laws that are mathematical in form'?

This definition is ego-suicide.

If everything is deterministic, then nothing you do makes any difference. Even if you are incapable of predicting the results, the fact that they are immutably governed by physical law means that you have no free will, just the illusion of it. If you want to give up free will, who cares what your opinion is (and why are you arguing)? The first axiom is "I".

Existentialism may be a place to start. Adherants represent many faiths (including none at all). Quoting briefly:

  • Mankind has free will.
  • Life is a series of choices, creating stress.
  • Few decisions are without any negative consequences.
  • Some things are irrational or absurd, without explanation.
  • If one makes a decision, he or she must follow through.


[ Parent ]
Free Willie (3.66 / 3) (#248)
by Wah on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 07:43:29 PM EST

If everything is deterministic, then nothing you do makes any difference. Even if you are incapable of predicting the results, the fact that they are immutably governed by physical law means that you have no free will, just the illusion of it.

What do you mean by illusion of it (free will). That we just think we have it? How is that different than having it?

Seriously though, if I just think I have free will, and act upon that thought, what does it matter if someone who has all the exact measurements of every particle in the Universe would know what I was going to do next?

(of course this goes along with the idea that no person could have that knowledge, because of a finite brain and the problems of perception)
--
Information wants to be free, wouldn't you? | Parent ]

Free Live Free (none / 0) (#434)
by idsfa on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 05:25:00 PM EST

[I]f I just think I have free will, and act upon that thought, what does it matter if someone who has all the exact measurements of every particle in the Universe would know what I was going to do next?

It is unimportant if anyone does know, the fact that it is fixed means that you do not have free will. If you are comfortable with the illusion rather than the reality, I'd argue you're just as dead as a determinist.


--
"Think Locally, Act Globally. -- Cold? Burn more hydrocarbons!"

[ Parent ]
huh (none / 0) (#446)
by Wah on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 06:55:21 PM EST

It is unimportant if anyone does know, the fact that it is fixed means that you do not have free will.

What does it matter if it is fixed if I know it is unknowable?

If you are comfortable with the illusion rather than the reality, I'd argue you're just as dead as a determinist.

Comfortable with what, the illusion that I have free wil or the reality that I just think I do? Can you give me a concrete difference between the two?
--
Information wants to be free, wouldn't you? | Parent ]

Ego-Suicide (none / 0) (#509)
by idsfa on Thu Aug 23, 2001 at 01:51:18 PM EST

the illusion that I have free wil or the reality that I just think I do? Can you give me a concrete difference between the two?

Either you have free will or you don't. Your ability to realize this is immaterial. If you do not, but think that you do, "you" still have absolutely no effect upon the future. "Your" wants and desires are completely surplus, as what is going to happen is immutable. "You" are just along for the ride. That why I consider determinism to be ego-suicide.



[ Parent ]
No Zen for you (none / 0) (#517)
by Wah on Thu Aug 23, 2001 at 03:24:44 PM EST

Well, I'm only a determinist if they believe that it's impossible to determine it all. And I'll leave "concete differences" question still open. All you've said is that you have to know if you have it or don't, when I've given you two situations where it wouldn't matter. Ah well, I'll keep acting like I have it, and gaze in wonder at the world that seems to agree with me.
--
Information wants to be free, wouldn't you? | Parent ]
Determinism (5.00 / 1) (#309)
by sigwinch on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 12:22:32 AM EST

If everything is deterministic, then nothing you do makes any difference.
True, and a good point, but mathematicality does not imply determinism. Conventional quantum mechanics is mathematical but probabilistic. As far as we know currently, the universe could be nondeterministic.

--
I don't want the world, I just want your half.
[ Parent ]

Strange, Stochastic or Deterministic (5.00 / 1) (#406)
by idsfa on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 02:08:49 PM EST

True, and a good point, but mathematicality does not imply determinism. Conventional quantum mechanics is mathematical but probabilistic. As far as we know currently, the universe could be nondeterministic.


Until you can provide a macroscopic example, all this does is allow the possibility of free electrons (sorry, mandatory physics pun there). Seriously, though, this only applies if you can construct a quantum mechanical "will" that can affect the probabilities. Random activity is no better than determinism. I suppose that we are getting into Strange Attractors now. The idea of free will as a quantum mechanical N-body problem is appealing, but I am not convinced that it is sufficient to provide non-determinism.


--
"Think Locally, Act Globally -- Cold? Burn more hydrocarbons!"

[ Parent ]
Axiom Vs. Tautology (4.66 / 3) (#64)
by ellF on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 10:36:21 AM EST

The principle of non-contradiction is a tautology, not an axiom.

An axiom is a factual statement that is accepted without proof - similar to a postulate. "The whole is greater than the part." is an axiom, for example, because it is self-evident that it is true. A tautology is a statement that is logically true in light of its logical form, regardless of the truth or falsehood of the simpler statements which comprise it. "-(A && -A)" (it is not true that both A and Not-A are the case), the principle of contradiction, is true even if neither A nor -A are the case, because -(A && -A) is a tautology. Similarly, "((P && -P) || Q) == Q" is a tautology, because it is impossible for (P && -P) to be true, even if no truth can be assessed about the state of P.

i really need to get out more.

[ Parent ]
I'm not at all impressed with Objectivism. (5.00 / 1) (#458)
by hjones on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 09:48:43 PM EST

Here are some reasons why:


Essentials of Objectivism
The Benefits and Hazards of the Philosophy of Ayn Rand: A Personal Statement
Full Context Interview with Nathaniel Branden
Objectivism and Thomas Jefferson
Mr. T vs Ayn Rand

Oh, and by the way, "A is A" is a tautology, and thus trite and meaningless in terms of the actual world.

I'm sorry, but there's just something about half-baked philosphy joined with adolescent chest-thumping that just gets my knickers in a twist.


"Nietzsche is dead, but given the way of men, there may still be caves for thousands of years in which his shadow will be shown. And we -- we small-minded weaklings, we still have to vanquish his shadow too." - The Antinietzsche
[ Parent ]

What about Zen? (3.90 / 10) (#6)
by mmcc on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 02:27:40 AM EST

i think Zen Buddhism is a pretty good religion for hyper-rational types.There's plenty of books on it, such as Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintence.

It doesn't have any axioms :-)



Beware pop Zen (5.00 / 1) (#172)
by Irrumator on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 04:03:27 PM EST

i think Zen Buddhism is a pretty good religion for hyper-rational types.There's plenty of books on it, such as Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintence.

Although, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is a catchy title, the book has little to do with either as I recall. I think Pirsig admits as much in the introduction.

For an introductory reading list, I'd recommend the FAQ list for alt.zen instead.

[ Parent ]

Yes (4.00 / 1) (#253)
by bgalehouse on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 08:00:54 PM EST

I think that Zen Flesh Zen Bones does a decent job of illustrating the nature of Zen, without being an instruction manual. It allways seemed to me that thinking right was more important than sitting right.

But wisdom doesn't come from words themselves, though it might from thinking about them. And so I'm a big fan of silly koans. Though of course, words are only ever worth what you think of them - that's basic semionics. And in Zen thinking about things isn't exactly the point, though perhaps it depends if you say that the fast ping pong player is thinking about how the ball moves. And perhaps not.

[ Parent ]

Beware of discounting "pop zen" (4.00 / 2) (#441)
by BlackStar on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 06:14:32 PM EST

I'd have to say that I agree with you that it is not a "manual of Zen, or motorocycle maitenence", but I disagree that it is not about either.

I'm about 2/3 the way through the book, and I believe it is a good bridge to bring traditional western-thinking people into an better understanding of at least one person's conceptualization of the Zen aspects of thinking, and perception.

I'm no expert on Zen or Buddhism by any far-fetched fantasy, but I'm in much the position of a geek raised Catholic looking for a more adaptive, relevant outlook on existence, living, and morals. The politics of the church have soured me.

From that point of view, Pirsig does not "teach", he conducts a Chautauqua (sp?), as he puts it. A "vade mecum" where we walk with him through perception, experience, thought, and thinking about those, which he clothes in "quality". The level of introspection the book evokes, at least in my case, is worthy of serious time and study regardless of the applicability to the structures of formal zen practice or teaching. I would say it is a very worthy step in the path of understanding.



[ Parent ]

The Path of Understanding (none / 0) (#540)
by mbiggs on Thu Aug 23, 2001 at 06:04:50 PM EST

I have to whole-heartedly agree with you when you say, "it is a very worthy step in the path of understanding". ZMM is not a book about zen or motorcycle maintenance. It is all about Quality and how Pirsig tried to find it. I have read it many times, and with each read I pick up something new. Reading it just reaffirms my need to find meaning in all things, which is the main purpose of religion, in my opinion.

It seems like a large majority of the "geeks" I know do not really have the need to find meaning in the things that happen in their lives. I don't really understand how they can go about doing that, but I guess there is a sort of zen-like Quality to that I have to respect. Classic thought fills their lives, and they actually are proud of that. Classic thought, to a lot of "geeks" is their religion. But to me, I can't ignore the romantic Quality of things.

Pirsig picked up on the need to understand both sides of Quality, and that is part of the reason why I love that book. Classic and romantic thought are just two ways of thinking about things. They are nothing more. They both have their bad and good sides to them. They are both mindsets that people can fall into and get lost in. I think some people have the need to think on "higher" levels than just romantically or classically. So, they fulfill that need with religion. Whether it is Christianity, Buddhism, or just philosophical thought, people think about those things to put meaning behind everything in their lives.

"I embrace my desire to ... swing on the spiral of our own divinity and still be a human." - Lateralus, Tool

[ Parent ]

The unexamined life (none / 0) (#567)
by Mertamet on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 09:47:44 AM EST

I think that trying to find meaning in the things that happen in your life continues the Buddhist"cycle of suffering", or as I like to call it in more colloquial terms, chasing your tail. In fact, I have trouble with what the word "meaning" means in this sense. I've seen so many people just rip their lives apart analyzing it to death. Some people I know believe that you are not alive unless you do a whole lot of navel gazing.

They say that the unexamined life is not worth living. I think this is one of the most harmful statements made in Western society because it justifies a whole sh*tload of self-indulgence, and precludes acceptance of the universe.

[ Parent ]
Good Point (none / 0) (#574)
by mbiggs on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 02:14:03 PM EST

I think trying to find meaning in everything is a nice hobby to have, but that is about it. There is no way you are going to be able explain everything that happens in your life. And the people who dedicate their lives to that quest, usually end up becoming insane (Pirsig) or just ruining their lives. So, I just keep myself in check most of the time. Whenever I find myself getting pissed off or upset about not understanding things, I just let go.

But then you have the other extreme of nihilism. Nothing has any meaning in this world. The only thing you can be sure about is that there is nothing to be sure about. I can completely understand that reasoning but why bother feeling that way? It is funny that you mention that you know many people that have ruined their lives by trying to find meaning in everything. I am the other way around. I know many people who have engulfed themselves in nihilism, and it has basically ripped them apart.

So, I just keep both extremes in mind and try to fall somewhere in the middle. But you definitely made a good point, and I thank you for the reply. I was being a little too idealistic in my other post. :)

"Over thinking, over analyzing separates the body from the mind. Withering my intuition leaving all these opportunities behind." - Lateralus, Tool (again)

[ Parent ]

Meaning of the unexamined (none / 0) (#577)
by BlackStar on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 03:23:47 PM EST

It probably depends on what people consider as meaning. If one's life in unconnected with one's perceptions, I can see that being disconcerting to a number of people. If the meaning becomes a search for a place in some absolute truth, then I totally agree that you're likely to suffer in the search, and end unfulfilled.

But to examine one's life is not to place it in an absolute relation to the universe. Even examining aspects of these posts, and the simple fact that by deciding to continue a discussion, you have offered the opportunity to learn and teach in ways that would not have occurred without your action. I would say that has value. You accept that the discussion is here, and people think the same or differently, and those are not always in your control.

But to accept does not mean not to examine. Perhaps you examine your deed, and realize in retrospect that you did not convey all of what you would have liked, or perhaps too much. That may alter how you will react to a future situation, which may in itself change your life to your liking.

I'm not being trite, but after all:

"Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it." -- George Santayana

[ Parent ]

per unit faith??? (3.57 / 7) (#9)
by delmoi on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 02:50:45 AM EST

All belief systems - religious or not - eventually depend on faith; the property of faith-efficiency is the amount of useful result that can be obtained from a belief system per unit input of faith.

What? This has to be one of the most bogus sounding arguments I've ever heard. "per unit faith." Chaah, whatever

People believe in religion do so because they grow up believing in that religion.

As for people who shop for religions... why? What's the point, I mean, if only one can be right, why couldn't they all be wrong?

Why not just roll your own? You could make your religion as constant as you wanted, and you wouldn't ever have to be a slave to any historic delusional moron's thoughts.

Plus, if it spread, you could get laid like crazy.
--
"'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
You assume too much, delmoi. (5.00 / 1) (#69)
by codepoet on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 10:49:49 AM EST

People believe in religion do so because they grow up believing in that religion.

I personally take offense to that statement. While someone can say, "they're both Christianity" to their heart's content, it does not change the fact that there are more differences between the Baptist I was raised in and the Catholicism that I now believe than can be summarized in a single post here (effectively). I have, for all practical purposes, taken up a new faith. Then there are those raised with no faith that later take one on, or others who are raised in one and drop it (having no faith in God is a form of faith; faith that there is no God; fence-sitters are truely without faith ;).

I'll agree that the majority of people raised in a faith keep it, but that's only barely a majority these days; there are other outcomes that happen in large amounts.

<cargogod> the bad part about potheads is that they think that they're being really profound while they eat everything in your fridge
[ Parent ]

Really! (1.00 / 1) (#435)
by ghjm on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 05:28:52 PM EST

Plus, if it spread, you could get laid like crazy.

Dammit, why didn't I think of that! Where's my notebook, I feel divinely inspired today...

-Graham

[ Parent ]

What is it about k5 and one-liners? (none / 0) (#467)
by ghjm on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 11:54:23 PM EST

Is it soooo unacceptable that someone could occasionally feel moved to post a quick one-liner? Do I have to get a 1 rating *every* time I fail to bleat on and on for three paragraphs or more?

[ Parent ]
Religion ? What for ? (3.64 / 17) (#10)
by Betcour on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 03:01:13 AM EST

"A man without religion is like a fish without a bicycle"

Why would you want a religion ? Why do you need one ? Are you so scared of death that you need someone to tell you bedtime stories that you'll end up in an happy place when you die ? Be a grown up geek - if religions look to you all bogus and fundamentaly flawed, then be an agonistic and atheist and proud of it ! There's no shame to not having a religion - it is not necessary to a happy, healthy and meaningful life (and best of all, you can use the time you'd loose at the church to do interesting things like readings, hacking or having sex with you SO)

hmm... (1.20 / 10) (#17)
by Daemosthenes on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 03:34:23 AM EST

If you'd really like to troll, go over to slashdot, or at least improve you're method. Your post stank of trolldom from the very title. Try reading the documentation.

Please, either post real, insightful comments, or dont post at all. And even if you don't listen, at least try to grace us with an effective troll.

-
[ Parent ]
Trolling (3.20 / 5) (#34)
by ajduk on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 06:21:49 AM EST

A statement of beliefs different from your own is not in itself a troll.

The very fact that you call this person a troll, without being able to counter his arguments, suggests that you should look at your own beliefs.



[ Parent ]
Hum hum (3.00 / 4) (#35)
by Betcour on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 06:26:14 AM EST

You are just a religious person that cannot stand any criticism to religion. My post was not trolling - it wasn't intended to start flames all over, just to remind what the article author had carefully forgotten with an amazing display of short-sightedness - that religion is not necessary and you can be very fine without it. If you don't like that I call religious ideology "bedtime stories" it is your problem - for me the existence of God is as much about fairy tale as unicorns and goblins.

[ Parent ]
shame (4.00 / 2) (#41)
by Psychopath on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 07:56:28 AM EST

There's no shame to not having a religion
That's true, I 100% agree. But there's no shame in believing in a religion either.
- it is not necessary to a happy, healthy and meaningful life
True too, but for some people it certainly can help to be happy, healthy and so on.
For example if I think about some people who where in KZs in the second world war. Some of them needed their religion to survive. I am sure about this. Whether you say that these people are weak or not cause they needed their religion to survive is up to you - I don't think so.

So at all I have to admit that religions and Churches can do - at did - good things too though I don't believe in any religion (at the moment at least) e.g. the Caritas (uhm.. I have no clue if this is a worldwide org. Do you know it?) is an organisation founded by the Church.
Of course I must also notice Churches did and still do bad things. Or to be more specific people do bad things in the name of a religion. People get used by other people who tell them "you have to do this cause your religion says so" which isn't true quite often. (e.g. what the Taliban do in Afghanistan has nothing to do with Islam)
ok, this probably was a bad post. Unsorted, confused. :)
J.
--
The only antidote to mental suffering is physical pain. -- Karl Marx
[ Parent ]
Religion for geeks (4.00 / 6) (#14)
by TheophileEscargot on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 03:22:48 AM EST

Software X is ALWAYS BETTER than software Y.

It's faith-efficient.
It gives you a social club of like-minded geeks.
It allows you to participate in religious wars.
It allows you to feel part of an exclusive group.
It allows you to feel superior to outsiders.

What other religion do you need?


----
Support the nascent Mad Open Science movement... when we talk about "hundreds of eyeballs," we really mean it. Lagged2Death
No.. (5.00 / 6) (#32)
by ajduk on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 06:15:23 AM EST

Software Y is always better than software X. Honestly, you must be a newbie spreading FUD about Software Y.

[ Parent ]
Why for geeks? (3.66 / 6) (#15)
by Tezcatlipoca on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 03:31:51 AM EST

Geeks are special in the same sense that trained musicians are especial or carpenters are special: they have a set of skills that they use either to make a living and/or to spend in their favorite passtime.

Why, oh why, would that require a different approach to faith eludes me. -1 for that.

The conclusion that one needs religion no matter what is also a very bogus claim. You can claim that is one of several avenues to approach the big existencial questions, nevertheless there are plenty of people that can live happy, meaningful and productive lives knowing quite well that there is no god and there is no after life (or to put it more properly, there is no proof of either of them being real).

There are no gods, and I don't feel the need of one in the slightiest (in the contrary, the sooner we bring down this myth the better for the progress of mankind as a whole), so it is quite amusing to somebdoy like me (kind of geek and religionless) that you reach the conclussion that everybody needs religion ....

If you repost getting rid of the "geek" references (which are unecessary to be honest, geeks are not the only people capable of rational thinking, and you will find amongst them plenty of religious people as in any other part of the population) and stop making blanket assumptions about what is necessary or not to such heterogenous group, maybe I'll give +1 in an obscure section ;-)






------------------------------------
"They only think of me as a Mexican,
an Indian or a Mafia don"
Mexican born actor Anthony Quinn on
Hol
some points (4.50 / 2) (#20)
by rebelcool on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 03:44:04 AM EST

disclaimer: I'm not a practicioner of any religion. These are just some observations.

There are no gods, and I don't feel the need of one in the slightiest (in the contrary, the sooner we bring down this myth the better for the progress of mankind as a whole)

You said above theres no proof of this. That's the reason humanity continues (and will continue) to believe in something. And to be honest, theres nothing wrong with beliefs. They've probably done more good than harm. It's only when people started banding together and organizing, then declaring their religion 'the one true way' that problems started.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

I thought I was clear on this (none / 0) (#346)
by ghjm on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 09:28:21 AM EST

I defined a category called "hyper-rationals" specifically to avoid using the term "geeks" throughout the article. You'll find that the word "geek" only appears once, and when it is mentioned, it is only loosely coupled to the article. Most stereotypical geeks are hyper-rationals, and that's all I have to say about geeks. So I really don't think it's a fair criticism to say I should get rid of the "geek" references.

Also note that God and the afterlife are not a necessary definitional component of "religion" - you seem to agree that there are basic needs to be met, you just want to argue that God and the afterlife aren't the way to meet them. Nothing in the article contradicts this.

-Graham

[ Parent ]
If you're a rational person (2.83 / 6) (#16)
by Jin Wicked on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 03:32:48 AM EST

then why do you feel you need a religion to begin with? If you're aware that religion just exists to fill some spiritual void, then why don't you rationally fill that void on your own terms (in ways that don't require suspending disbelief or logic) instead of just trying to find some pre-made answer made for the masses?


This post was probably not written by the real Jin Wicked. Please see user "butter pie" for Jin's actual posts.


It's not all about that. (4.00 / 2) (#78)
by codepoet on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 11:16:30 AM EST

There's something to be said for rolling your own in a lot of cases, but then there's a time when someone wants to do or feel what others know. For instance, when I make a computer, I want to make it my own way because that just makes sense. When I, however, want to learn about history, I don't go to the original sources and hunt everything down by itself, I find someone who has done that and read what they have to say. If I like their interpretation, if it makes sense to me and there's nothing outrageous about it, I keep going.

The same is true of religion. With several billion people before us, why do everything yourself? Find something that someone else has done, see if you agree, make changes as neccessary to yourself, if needed, and move along.

<cargogod> the bad part about potheads is that they think that they're being really profound while they eat everything in your fridge
[ Parent ]

fill it with what? (none / 0) (#356)
by jjct on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 10:33:59 AM EST

Tell me what you rationally fill your "void" with? What makes you have complete purpose, complete happiness, etc?


[ Parent ]
silly. (3.33 / 9) (#18)
by rebelcool on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 03:37:25 AM EST

While its good to learn about all the religions..'trying out' a religion seems silly. Who shall I worship today..a goddess or allah?

Believe in whatever feels "right". Thats the point of beliefs. Its only when people started turning these beliefs into organized 'religions' that they believed could be 'right' or 'wrong' that the problems started.

What religion is right for geeks? Come on. Its sheep-like questions like that that make me shake my head in disgust.

Personally, I think jesus was a great guy. He preached some good stuff, common sense in dealing with your everyday man. I dont consider myself a christian though... I dont really consider myself a member of any religion.

rantrantrant.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site

look at it (4.00 / 4) (#39)
by Psychopath on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 07:40:09 AM EST

Perhaps "try out " isn't a good phrase for this. But I think it is quite possible to look into another religion, to inquire, e.g. to read about it and so on. And if you have found some religion which looks really interesting to you - i.e. better than the one you are exercising at the moment - then you can "try it really out". And if you were right in your belief that this is what you were searching for then you stay with it, that is don't just try it out any more.
J.
--
The only antidote to mental suffering is physical pain. -- Karl Marx
[ Parent ]
Well, so much for empiricism. (5.00 / 1) (#566)
by marlowe on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 09:27:47 AM EST

(And the scientific method would have to go with it, since it has empricism as a necessary component.)

Whether something "feels right" is a test for idiots. In the real world, you either verify by testing, or you get screwed. If I did my software evaluation on the basis of what "feels right" I'd be fired for incompetence in no time. Either that, or promoted to PHB or hired by Microsoft as a marketing rep.

I've tested religious approaches. I've tested a couple flavors of atheism, militant, hard, soft and downright squishy. I'm narrowing down what works. And by the way, it's not any variety of atheism.

-- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
[ Parent ]
You're probably looking for Deism (4.50 / 10) (#22)
by cp on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 03:54:17 AM EST

Deism (which I don't practice) is pretty faith-efficient by your standards. Its postulates are (more or less):
  1. A Divine Creator exists.
  2. The universe proceeds according to laws He laid down.
From those, you're supposed to derive:
  1. Hey, the universe is pretty neat in its intricacies.
  2. Science and similar intellectual endeavors are a good way of finding spiritual enlightenment.
  3. Let's be grateful for being here and having what we've got.
It's not too far removed from atheism in that natural explanations are used to explain why stuff happens (avoiding dogma with a vengeance), but it preserves the spiritual notion that there is some divine purpose to existence and has a strong emphasis on moral behavior (which atheism is technically agnostic towards).

You forgot one (4.28 / 7) (#55)
by Wah on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 09:21:52 AM EST

4. Don't take it personally when those neat intricacies screw up your life.
--
Information wants to be free, wouldn't you? | Parent ]
Moral and Ethical Codes (4.40 / 5) (#25)
by CheSera on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 04:13:18 AM EST

  • Statement 1: Everybody needs a moral & ethical code.

  • Response 1: Read Nieche. Thus spoke Zarathustra (sp?) in particular. Moral and ethical codes can be replaced by a focus on expediency. I'm not 100% behind this, but it does offer an alternative.

  • Statement 2 (Implied): A moral and/or ethical code derives from a religious foundation of some sort.

  • Response 2: Rationally we can come to the assumption that ethical anarchy (a lack of M&E codes) can be bad for the individual. For evidence I submit many of Kant's writings, including the Categorical Imperative. I can develop an ethical code without any belief in a higher power or suspension of belief. In fact, given that I came to my own ethical code without the boogie-man of a deity over my shoulder makes it considerably more valuable in my opinion.

  • Statement 3: Definition of Christianity.

  • Response 3: A number of posters have already argued with your definition, so I won't repeat this. One minor argument however. You state that Jesus was an aspect of god, in comparison to the Holy Spirit. This is indicative of a Holy Trilogy paradigm. Not all branches of Christianity accept that belief. Some would state that Jesus is in truth human, and just divinely blessed.

  • Final Analysis: An interesting question, but you leave off just as you get to the good parts. I would have voted +1FP if you attempted to offer a answer to your own question. As it is you just point out a few things, and back away from stating any belief. Good discussion though, and it fits well with K5 in general. Plus I'm a big fan of religious rhetoric anyway. +1.


    ============
    **TATDOMAW**
    ============

  • Morality and religion are seperate (3.00 / 2) (#33)
    by tjh on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 06:20:12 AM EST

    You can have a non expedient morality without religion, arising from respect (not love) for the part of yourself you recognise in others. Nietzsche says something similar in Beyond good and evil, but then, Nietzsche says alot of things.

    [ Parent ]
    Too close for missiles, switching to guns. (4.20 / 10) (#26)
    by kitten on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 04:36:17 AM EST

    Most religion requires a large exercise of faith, or in other words, holding beliefs despite having no rational reason to do so. Some religions also require a stronger form of faith: holding beliefs despite having a rational reason not to do so. For hyper-rational people, the former type of faith is difficult to achieve and the latter type is simply impossible.

    Sounds good so far. "A logical person has difficulty with religion, because there is no logical reason for religion, and often, there are logical reasons against it."

    This of course creates something of a problem: Hyper-rationals have the same spiritual needs as anyone else; they need, in their hearts, to know that they are cherished, precious, and unique.

    Woah.
    Who says religion is the only path for these needs? Who says religion is a path for these needs at all? I feel rather cherished by my girlfriend, for example; she considers me precious to her, and unique among the rest of the population.
    I find a similar bond between myself and my friends.
    Quite honestly, it's much more fulfilling and practical to feel special to actual human beings than some mystical Eye In The Sky that you really have no knowledge about.
    Maybe it's just me, but when I'm feeling down, I'd rather talk to her, or to a friend, and gain emotional support from them, instead of "talking to God". I realize that for some reason, some people find prayer to be a worthwhile endeavour; I myself find it to be about as useful as talking to the wall.

    They need to hold a moral and ethical code and better themselves though striving to remain true to it. In other words, they need religion, just like everyone else.

    I'll be honest here: I'm slightly offended by this.
    I am an atheist, as many K5ers have discovered. I also consider myself to be an ethical person with good morals. I can determine whether an action or behavior is right or wrong, all by myself. I do not need to be threatened (with a Hell, for example) or bribed (with a Heaven, again for example).
    I say, the only people who need religion to tell them right from wrong are those people that have no morals and ethics of their own. If you need a God to tell you not to steal or kill people or cheat on your wife, because you can't tell if these things are Right or Wrong, you've got serious problems.

    You must accept, on faith, a few very clear axioms such as "a = ~a is false."

    Faith has absolutely nothing to do with this. Are you implying that I believe that a will always equal itself, but really that's just my own personal opinion on the matter?

    If you agree to hold these beliefs despite having no rational reason to do so, then you receive a comprehensive system for testing whether any given set of declarative statements is self-consistent and for deriving additional true statements given an initial set of true statements. This is a big payoff indeed for a very small investment of faith.

    No rational reason to believe that "a = a"?
    Thus far - to the best of anyone's knowledge - the statement "a = a" has stood up to every single test that has ever been put to it, which is to say, over the lifetime of the universe, A has always been A.
    I'd say that's a pretty rational reason to believe that A will continue to be A.

    The most accepted religion in the Western world is of course Christianity.

    I really fail to see what one religion - not even the majority religion of the world today - has to do with the question of religion in general. You started off speaking of religion in general terms and now, all of a sudden, you're focusing on one aspect of one religion.

    I personally have been searching for this for quite some time. I grew up Christian, but I've looked into Wicca, Bahai Faith, Taoism, and even (briefly) Scientology -- but they all either fail to deliver the goods in terms of useful answers to spiritual questions, or require too high a price in terms of faith. So far I have not found anything I can really live with.

    Then scrap it all and do one of two things:

    1. Declare that you don't know, and that it is your belief that humans cannot know - at least, not in this corporeal life - and you will be agnostic.
    2. Declare that logic dicates to you that there is not a god, and that supernatural explanations are not required to explain anything. You will then be an atheist.

    After that, you will - gasp! - have to figure out Right And Wrong for yourself. You'll have to find comfort in people. People you can talk to and touch and that you know are there, instead of hoping that some Old Man In Flowing Robes is listening to you or even cares about you - neither of which you can demonstrate to be even remotely plausible.

    Perhaps you need to consider the possibility that it isn't necessary to go running to a god in one form or another to lead a fulfilling and ethical life.

    mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
    You gotta have faith! Oh! (3.33 / 3) (#28)
    by isaac_akira on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 05:48:13 AM EST

    A has always been A. I'd say that's a pretty rational reason to believe that A will continue to be A.
    But how can you PROVE that "a = a" in the first place, without using any of the axioms that are built on that first one? You can't. You have to accept it on faith (eek! that horrible word is related to science and math in some way!).

    Personally I have total faith in science, and that everything we can observe is real (and that everything REAL we can observe), and I'm also willing to buy into the basic assumptions (like "a = a"). Do I have any way to prove any of that? Nope. I just believe it. That makes ME happy, and I can use these beliefs to explain what happens in the world around me.

    I also think religion is a load of rubbish, and I can't understand how people buy into it. It just seems silly, like believing in the tooth fairy. But I also know some very intelligent people who are religious, and find in religion the answers to make their lives happy, and let's THEM make sense of what happens in the world around them. I think it's a little wierd, but more power to them.

    [ Parent ]

    Not faith (3.50 / 2) (#46)
    by Rand Race on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 08:33:49 AM EST

    ...and I can use these beliefs to explain what happens in the world around me.

    If the axioms produce predicatable results you have a rational reason to believe in them. This is not faith, belief without evidence, because we accept the evidence of the results. And, unlike faith based belief, if a result ever crops up that does not fit the predictions science will drop those beliefs like a bad habit.


    "Question with boldness even the existence of God; because if there be one, He must approve the homage of Reason rather than that of blindfolded Fear." - Thomas Jefferson
    [ Parent ]

    Sorry Ayn (4.50 / 2) (#52)
    by Wah on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 09:09:47 AM EST

    God Bows To Math

    Math is an approximation of God.

    The .sig hunt continues....
    --
    Information wants to be free, wouldn't you? | Parent ]

    Please (none / 0) (#108)
    by Rand Race on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 12:19:49 PM EST

    Do not confuse your ignorance with my beliefs.

    My screen name has nothing to do with Ayn Rand or her infantile philosophy.

    And I do not think your reply makes a better song title than the original. The pantheistic implications are amusing though.


    "Question with boldness even the existence of God; because if there be one, He must approve the homage of Reason rather than that of blindfolded Fear." - Thomas Jefferson
    [ Parent ]

    Thank you (none / 0) (#115)
    by Wah on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 12:31:15 PM EST

    If you had linked to the song (which I can't seem to download) then my ignorance would have been mitigated by the additional information. The .sig quote does seem to follow with her philosophy, however, which came to mind because of your nick.
    --
    Information wants to be free, wouldn't you? | Parent ]
    Sorry... (none / 0) (#568)
    by Rand Race on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 12:26:10 PM EST

    ... I snapped at you. It was a trying day. I get that misunderstanding of my nick all the time, I should be used to it.

    That was just the first decent link I came across for the song, not where I got it. I'd recomend buying the album (Double Nickels on the Dime) as it is a true masterpiece IMHO.

    As for the Randian .sig, I don't know. Wouldn't Ayn not refer to God at all? The phrase does imply that God exists, although I take it to mean God in the sense of Freud's famous quote; "Man is not God's finest creation, God is man's finest creation" (paraphrased).

    It is certainly a rationalist statement, but not all rationalists are objectivists (thank the Gods).


    "Question with boldness even the existence of God; because if there be one, He must approve the homage of Reason rather than that of blindfolded Fear." - Thomas Jefferson
    [ Parent ]

    No prob... (none / 0) (#595)
    by Wah on Sun Aug 26, 2001 at 04:27:10 PM EST

    Wouldn't Ayn not refer to God at all? The phrase does imply that God exists, although I take it to mean God in the sense of Freud's famous quote; "Man is not God's finest creation, God is man's finest creation" (paraphrased).

    Yea, that's what I took it as too. And I'm pretty sure Freud was a nutjob when it came to stuff like that. I've snapped at folks a bunch here too, it's very easy, and without a way to take back anything after that fateful sumbit moment, it leads to a lot on unnecessary comments (which could be simple edits). ;-)

    Rand did take the "God" out of it all, that's why, IMHO, her philosophy is, shall we say, dangerous. I'll see if I can find a sample of the album, then maybe pick it up, I'm sorely lacking for both bandwidth and money in my current environment. Enjoy the day.
    --
    Information wants to be free, wouldn't you? | Parent ]

    This 'a' thing... (none / 0) (#134)
    by ODiV on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 01:35:01 PM EST

    I don't get what's going on with this "a = ~a will never be true" stuff...

    "a = a" isn't something to believe in. It isn't something that's true or false. It's written expression that exists purely to discuss logic.

    So the question that's being asked is if we have faith in logic? Why not come right out and say it?

    I just wanted to make sure this is what everyone's talking about before I answer. If not, ignore me.


    --
    [ odiv.net ]
    [ Parent ]
    What's up with them axioms? (none / 0) (#177)
    by Ubiq on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 04:38:17 PM EST

    Axioms are not something you believe in, they are something you ASSUME. Essentially it goes something like, "this seems very likely, if we take it to be true for the moment, we can derive this interesting property, and this, etc."

    If some bright mind comes along and shows that in fact A != A, well, we shall have to abandon the notion and everything that is derived from it.

    You don't have to believe in God to start a sentence with "IF God exists, ...".

    [ Parent ]

    If it works, you use it. (5.00 / 1) (#254)
    by kitten on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 08:03:26 PM EST

    But how can you PROVE that "a = a" in the first place, without using any of the axioms that are built on that first one? You can't. You have to accept it on faith (eek! that horrible word is related to science and math in some way!).

    The simple fact that operating under the basic premises of "a = a" and working from there have allowed us to predict events without fail is proof enough that it works.
    As long as it works I don't care if you can "prove" it or not.

    I also think religion is a load of rubbish, and I can't understand how people buy into it. It just seems silly, like believing in the tooth fairy. But I also know some very intelligent people who are religious, and find in religion the answers to make their lives happy, and let's THEM make sense of what happens in the world around them. I think it's a little wierd, but more power to them.

    The difference of course is that an atheist doesn't give a damn one way or the other if anyone agrees with him, whereas a religious person is somehow compelled to Spread The Word at every bloody opportunity, by endlessly harrassing passerby, by preaching any chance he gets, by casting snide looks at those godless heathens who don't believe the same way he does, and occasionally, through acts of senseless violence and destruction.

    If religious types would shut up and leave everyone alone, I wouldn't have (as big a) problem with them. But apparently some people just can't mind their own business.
    mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
    [ Parent ]
    Assumptions. (none / 0) (#263)
    by bgalehouse on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 08:51:17 PM EST

    Science exists because we tend to assume a strengthened version of Occams Razor - "The simplest explanation which would have predicted past observations is best". There isn't justification for the scientific method otherwise. We assume this because we do. I'd like to say that we assume this because it has worked in the past, and is simple, but that would be self-referential.

    Toddlers understand that "if it worked, before, it is likely to work again". And if you give one a simple explanation and a long drawn out explanation for the same phenomenon, I like to think that the toddler would believe and remember the simpler explanation better.

    Mathematics, on the other hand exists because we assume the rules of propositional logic, and then typically assume a set of 'set' axioms (Zermelo-Fraenkl) that seems to match the world we live in, or at least our intuition about it, pretty well.

    No matter how you dice it though, people are driven find and maintain assumptions and understandings about the world that work. And the more honest you are with yourself about whether they work, (people also have a tendancy to be emotionally attached to their beleifs) the faster you can evolve your assumptions and understandings into something more powerfull.

    [ Parent ]

    Right and Wrong. (2.33 / 3) (#131)
    by spiff on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 01:21:52 PM EST

    I am an atheist, as many K5ers have discovered. I also consider myself to be an ethical person with good morals. I can determine whether an action or behavior is right or wrong, all by myself.

    [...]

    After that, you will - gasp! - have to figure out Right And Wrong for yourself.

    That's right, if there is no God (nothing higher than us) there is no Higher Law and we would have to figure out what's Right and what's Wrong all by ourselves. And since nobody likes being a *bad* person, the things you are naturally inclined to do will have a tendency, if you can get away with it, of becoming The Right Thing.

    This is a very comfortable way of living, if you can't be good just redefine good to fit your current set of circumstances. After all humans have an incredible ability to rationalize away any behavior they would really like to engage in. And then you can brag about how you don't need God to be good while you fail to see that Right and Wrong only make sense if something external to ourselves defines them.

    I say, the only people who need religion to tell them right from wrong are those people that have no morals and ethics of their own. If you need a God to tell you not to steal or kill people or cheat on your wife, because you can't tell if these things are Right or Wrong, you've got serious problems.

    Shall I assume that you created your set of morals and ethics ex nihilo (out of nothing) or will you in the end appeal to some Higher Law to support your moral code?

    I do not need to be threatened (with a Hell, for example) or bribed (with a Heaven, again for example).

    It's not a threat, it's a fact. Kinda like saying "Don't jump of that building or you will kill yourself". Anyway, no one would get to heaven if it depended on being good. Being good is not Salvation but a symptom of being saved.

    [ Parent ]

    So? (4.50 / 2) (#173)
    by Logan on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 04:14:25 PM EST

    That's right, if there is no God (nothing higher than us) there is no Higher Law and we would have to figure out what's Right and what's Wrong all by ourselves. And since nobody likes being a *bad* person, the things you are naturally inclined to do will have a tendency, if you can get away with it, of becoming The Right Thing.
    What's so wrong with that? What is the purpose of morality, if not to give us some basis on which to make decisions that maximizes one's happiness and enables one to live peacefully with one's fellow moral beings. Thus I've worked to define a moral code for myself that does just that.

    I see no reason why morality must be externally defined. In fact, I can see good reasons why it shouldn't. How do you know if someone else's moral code is good for you? On what basis do you decide if one moral code is more appropriate than another?

    Logan

    [ Parent ]

    Well... (none / 0) (#236)
    by nads on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 07:09:53 PM EST

    If I'm the biggest guy on the block, why do I care about other moral beings? You are creating 'your morals' out of the (at least) past 2500 years of ethical and moral thought. If you remove those assumptions and feelings (that you take for granted that we all have), why would I end up with the utilitarian outlook you are proposing? Many scientific philosophers (popular these days) have given up on trying to justify a moral or ethical system. Without a god, it can not be justified. It just is for the hell of it, or because it makes us feel good or some crap. That is it. It's just there. Considereing for the past 2400 years it was held up by god, that is a pretty significant change.

    [ Parent ]
    Yes (none / 0) (#300)
    by Logan on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 11:37:27 PM EST

    And seeing how there is no God (at least, as you'd probably define it), where does that put you ethically? You're just as arbitrary as the rest of us. The only difference is that I'm basing my moral values on what is fit for me, based on my perception of reality, rather than on some tradition or some other authority. I've never seen any religion do a very good job of dealing with moral issues.

    Logan

    [ Parent ]

    What you say !! (none / 0) (#251)
    by kitten on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 07:55:13 PM EST

    Shall I assume that you created your set of morals and ethics ex nihilo (out of nothing) or will you in the end appeal to some Higher Law to support your moral code?

    Don't be naive.
    I myself fear death. I wish to live, and I do not wish to die. Because the people around me behave in a roughly analogous manner to the way I behave, I can conclude that they have similar feelings on death, and therefore it would be wrong of me to kill them.
    That's why I don't kill people.
    I value my possessions. I enjoy having them, and I would not like it if they were taken from me. Because the people around me behave in a roughly analogous manner, I can conclude that they have similar feelings about their possessions, and therefore it would be wrong of me to steal.
    That's why I don't steal.
    And so on. I do not need a god figure to tell me these things.

    And then you can brag about how you don't need God to be good while you fail to see that Right and Wrong only make sense if something external to ourselves defines them.

    I think I just disproved you.

    You could probably make the assertion that a suicidal man could leverage his state of mind to justify murder, but then again, most people are not suicidal, and therefore, the suicidal man would be wrong, because he is acting from a demonstrably faulty premise.

    I do not need to be threatened (with a Hell, for example) or bribed (with a Heaven, again for example).
    It's not a threat, it's a fact.



    Woah there. Hell and Heaven are facts? When did this happen?

    Being good is not Salvation but a symptom of being saved.

    Don't preach to me. How about you go read the part in your Bible that commands you to go burn witches, and work from there.
    mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
    [ Parent ]
    Analysing your example... (5.00 / 1) (#322)
    by thescarletmanuka on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 03:32:41 AM EST

    I myself fear death. I wish to live, and I do not wish to die. Because the people around me behave in a roughly analogous manner to the way I behave, I can conclude that they have similar feelings on death, and therefore it would be wrong of me to kill them.
    That's why I don't kill people.

    You say "therefore" quite casually, after more carefully building up to your conclusion about similar feelings. This suggests that you take as self-evident a direct correlation between a (near-)universal preference and a moral value.

    I do not even see this as valid, let alone self-evident. From my perspective, your observations imply only that to kill is to contravene the victim's wishes. They say nothing (definitive) about right and wrong.

    Do you think that it is possible (or valuable) to adjudicate between our points of view?

    • If so, I would suggest that in fact you do not take the above-mentioned correlation as self-evident but derive it from other principles. In this case, the text I quoted is misleadingly simplistic.
    • If not, then on what basis do you use terms like right and wrong if the system by which you assign them cannot be right or wrong? Should you not simply say that an action is efficient, or socially acceptable, or satisfies whichever other criterion has been applied? This actually is an area where I (who think that objective standards of right and wrong exist and are partially knowable) struggle to understand relativism and would love to hear people's comments.
    bob.

    [ Parent ]
    Re: What you say !! (none / 0) (#504)
    by spiff on Thu Aug 23, 2001 at 01:07:58 PM EST

    Don't be naive. I myself fear death. I wish to live, and I do not wish to die. Because the people around me behave in a roughly analogous manner to the way I behave, I can conclude that they have similar feelings on death, and therefore it would be wrong of me to kill them. That's why I don't kill people. I value my possessions. I enjoy having them, and I would not like it if they were taken from me. Because the people around me behave in a roughly analogous manner, I can conclude that they have similar feelings about their possessions, and therefore it would be wrong of me to steal. That's why I don't steal. And so on. I do not need a god figure to tell me these things.

    So your moral code boils down to: "It feels right to me so it must be good".

    And then you can brag about how you don't need God to be good while you fail to see that Right and Wrong only make sense if something external to ourselves defines them.

    I think I just disproved you.

    On the contrary, your moral code is equivalent to saying that there is no universal system of measuring weight but you weight 100lb. Which would be meaningless.

    You could probably make the assertion that a suicidal man could leverage his state of mind to justify murder, but then again, most people are not suicidal, and therefore, the suicidal man would be wrong, because he is acting from a demonstrably faulty premise.

    How do you demonstrate that he is wrong if there is no Law higher than the individual?

    Don't preach to me. How about you go read the part in your Bible that commands you to go burn witches, and work from there.

    You make it sound like the great commission said "Go ye therefore and burn all the witches...". I suppose that you refer to Leviticus 20:27 and changed stoning to burning. Do you disagree with the crime or the punishment? These where the laws of the nation of Israel that had sworn a covenant with God Exodus 24:7. So every Israelite was under the authority of the Lord, and had sworn allegiance to Him. Do you find it wrong to punish a hypocrite who being a servant of God practiced witchcraft?

    [ Parent ]

    I Believe... (3.33 / 3) (#27)
    by kyrbe on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 05:32:19 AM EST

    ...in myself!

    Cliched and simple it may sounds, it works. When I talk to people about religion I appear to be either agnostic or atheist, depending on the other persons perspective.

    Either way, I have faith in myself, my abilities, and my moral and ethical standing. None of it needs rationalising or a blind leap of faith.

    One "religious movement" that some friends of mine is a member of that might fulfil what you are asking for is The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers). Emphasis, I believe, is on what you can contribute to each other, furthering and betting yourself and your fellows, and leading a productive moral and ethical life.

    Just a thought... probably random and useless :o)

    --
    Equal Rights, Representation, Education and Welfare
    Quakers (none / 0) (#95)
    by Gully Foyle on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 11:56:59 AM EST

    One axiom:

    "There is that of God in everyone"

    Everything else follows, so this one seems pretty good if a belief efficient system is what you're looking for.

    If you weren't picked on in school you were doing something wrong - kableh
    [ Parent ]

    Answer: NONE. (repost as topical.. oops) (3.00 / 7) (#30)
    by ajduk on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 05:55:04 AM EST

    Religous belief is nothing but an abdication of the brain.

    To believe that there is some being 'out there', without a shred of evidence, is an abdication of logic.

    To get your morality from a book is to abdiacte your responsability for your own actions, and to imply that even the most hideous action is permissable if 'God Told Me To Do It'.

    To assume that everything that happens is 'The will of God' as opposed to a combination of your own actions, random events and the actions of others, is to abdicate responsability for improving your own life (you can't just hang around thinking 'God will help me out.').

    Religeous people will tell you that faith can move mountains, at least metaphorically. Scientists and engineers will just move a mountain.

    Scientific Axioms have a purpose (try building a bridge with a different set of geometrical axioms). There is no need for ANY 'faith' axioms - there being nothing to explain, we can simply eliminate them all and have a zero axiom based faith system (a.k.a. Athiesm).






    Answer: Question (none / 0) (#59)
    by Wah on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 09:51:03 AM EST

    To assume that everything that happens is 'The will of God' as opposed to a combination of your own actions, random events and the actions of others, is to abdicate responsability for improving your own life (you can't just hang around thinking 'God will help me out.').

    Why not think of "The Will of God" as a combination of your own actions, random events, and the actions of others?

    Religeous people will tell you that faith can move mountains, at least metaphorically. Scientists and engineers will just move a mountain.

    By using their "faith" in the tenets of their "religion", i.e. there are laws to the physical world and they can be used to move mountains. Explosives and big trucks seem to work.

    There is no need for ANY 'faith' axioms - there being nothing to explain, we can simply eliminate them all and have a zero axiom based faith system (a.k.a. Athiesm).

    Nothing to explain? How about consciousness? Why do you have will? How can you "believe" stuff? Hardly nothing, IMHO.
    --
    Information wants to be free, wouldn't you? | Parent ]

    Reply (none / 0) (#79)
    by ajduk on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 11:18:37 AM EST

    Why not think of "The Will of God" as a combination of your own actions, random events, and the actions of others?

    But why do you need to? If the concept of 'God' did not exist, would we have any reason whatsoever to adopt it?

    By using their "faith" in the tenets of their "religion", i.e. there are laws to the physical world and they can be used to move mountains. Explosives and big trucks seem to work.

    No, they *DO* work, as long as we assume that our observations of the world are real. If we drop that assumption, then there is no basis for any discussion or ideas anyway - we can just shout assertions at one another. Try praying for a mountain to be moved.

    Nothing to explain? How about consciousness? Why do you have will? How can you "believe" stuff? Hardly nothing, IMHO.

    This is a standard argument - look past the current 'edge' of scientific knowledge and say 'You don't know that, therefore it must be god!'.



    [ Parent ]
    Conceptual differences (none / 0) (#111)
    by Wah on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 12:24:10 PM EST

    If the concept of 'God' did not exist, would we have any reason whatsoever to adopt it?

    I think we have a misunderstanding about the word 'God'. I think it can be two things, but not at the same time. One is that God is everything, everywhere, everywhen, i.e. God is Reality. The other is the shiny, perfect being stuff. I think that can only be rational if you think that 'God' is a being outside of our universe, which is itself irrational based on our perception. I was using the first one. So in essence, what you are saying to me, is why would it matter if nothing existed. Which it wouldn't. But I don't think that's what you mean, or are you arguing for nihilism?

    No, they *DO* work, as long as we assume that our observations of the world are real.

    Again, I think we were talking around each other. I agree with you. It does take an assumption (faith) though, regardless. The only thing you need to pray for is that your truck will start and that the explosives will work the way you intended.

    This is a standard argument - look past the current 'edge' of scientific knowledge and say 'You don't know that, therefore it must be god!'.

    If you look *at* the edge of scientific knowledge, you see that stuff gets weird in ways we're still working on. I'm talking about theoretical physics here. Allowing for a full reality, i.e. God, makes it a little easier to swallow. You might also want to check my definition of religion, somewhere else in this thread.
    --
    Information wants to be free, wouldn't you? | Parent ]

    'Spiritual' Questions (1.83 / 6) (#31)
    by tjh on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 06:12:30 AM EST

    Can't you try and work out answers yourself?

    s/he did.. (3.25 / 4) (#37)
    by Psychopath on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 07:34:09 AM EST

    If you read the article - s/he tried.
    And obviously s/he is interested in other's opinions about this issue, independently whether s/he has found what s/he was searching for. (Please excuse the incorrect use of tenses and so in this sentence. Thanks:)
    J.
    --
    The only antidote to mental suffering is physical pain. -- Karl Marx
    [ Parent ]
    Interesting question... (4.25 / 4) (#36)
    by Aphexian on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 07:14:46 AM EST

    Until recently, I would have sided with those who said "Reeleejon? We don need no steenking reeleejon..."

    But then I wanted to get married. Or more correctly, my SO wanted to get married..

    I realized I was going to have to make some comprimises, and search for something I could tolerate and live with. (Even a justice of the peace [from my understanding] says 'god' in their little ceremony).

    To make a long, boring story short, I found Unitarian Universalism.

    In a nutshell, you do not need to ascribe to a creed to belong, nor does one need to hold to specific (or even christian) beliefs to attend.

    There have been many famous UU's, including Tim Berners-Lee, Thomas Jefferson, e. e. cummings, Kurt Vonnegut... To name a few.

    I highly doubt this means you'll find me in attendance every Sunday, but I did actually find what I was looking for... As I explain it to my friends, "Less of a religion, and more of a group of people who gather together to do good things - just for the sake of doing good things."

    Just something to rationally examine.
    [I]f there were NO religions, there would be actual, true peace... Bunny Vomit
    'raised' UU (none / 0) (#70)
    by nutate on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 10:50:31 AM EST

    I went to UU church in my teens and found it to be the only religion that didn't offend not only my sense of rationality, but also my sense of responsibility. I didn't keep up with it after I entered college, but the wisdom of tolerance and acceptance that it taught me has stayed with me. Enough that I can even stand to read trhurler call me a loser for not making x number of dollars in nyc.

    heh.

    [ Parent ]

    Marriage and God (none / 0) (#312)
    by jtdubs on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 12:33:15 AM EST

    Just as a side note, it really isn't that hard to get married without any mention of God. Most preachers are more than willing, if you just bother to ask them, to give you a marriage ceremony devoid of God. I guarantee a Justice of the Peace would do the same. Just so you know,

    Justin Dubs

    [ Parent ]
    These G**ks fulfil all the requirements... (3.11 / 9) (#38)
    by bc on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 07:34:43 AM EST

    ...needed for a belief in a mainstream religion. Let us consider their qualities:
    • Total belief in their own correctness, (Narrow minded fanaticalism). G**k's believe in the supremacy of simple logic. Despite that science is based on logically shaky ground (inductive reasoning, yuk) they treat it as though it were a deductive and definitive answer to everything. Despite that science only addresses relatively simple and uninteresting questions, such as "What does a sugar molecule look like?" or "How was the Earth created?" the g**ks think it holds the answer to all things. Unfortunately it doesn't address the most interesting questions, the 'Why?' questions. As these questions are immune to solvation by logically shaky inductive reasoning, g**ks believe them to irrelevant. This would make them admirable bedfellows for some of the more extreme protestant leaders in USia.
    • G**ks believe sex is sinful (what else could possibly explain their abstinence?). So do many people in the Christian religions.
    • G**ks are not humanists, preferring remote ideals, much like Catholics worship the ideal of Christ and the Virgin Mary g**ks worship similarly obscure icons, things like Godels theorem and whatnot, I don't know. The point is they aren't humanocentric.
    • G**ks love to imprison and torture those who disagree with them. They disparage and attack all other World views with fanaticism. For them, there is only One Truth, and postmodernism and radical thinking about multiple truths for multiple people can go hang itself. Considering science from a social perspective, we can see that its adherants see themselve as on some sort of Holy War. Look at Richard Dawkins, who attacks perfectly valid alternative world views with a Messianic zeal that the crusaders couldn't even match - in the name of the One Truth, the One Way of thinking. This is similar to the exhortation of God that in the Christian faith that no others be worshipped before him. Pathetic.

    My point is that g**ks and religious maniacs are pretty much impossible to tell apart. I suppose we are getting somewhere these days, now that those who would have supported the Spanish Inquisition in days gone by now accept some semblance of logic and open thinking at least, but in the end g**ks are still as dangerously fanatical as they have always been, eschewing all thought and criticism about any subject in which they believe and attacking those who think differently (in the name of the One Truth).

    I would even go further and say that g**kdom is a religion. After all, it fulfills all the requirements.

    ♥, bc.

    "Logically shaky inductive reasoning" an (none / 0) (#45)
    by claudius on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 08:29:18 AM EST

    You seem to have a rather peculiar opinion of science. I agree that from the perspective of strict logical formalism vantage the scientific method appears flawed. Observations and experiments can only invalidate a given hypothesis; they can never, except in a few contrived circumstances, validate a hypothesis unequivocally. You, I gather, would take this to mean that science and scientific thought should be abandoned as being, in the words of our sitting U.S. President, "fatally flawed." However, having worked as a professional scientist for many years now, I am of the opinion that science seems to work awfully well in the appropriate contexts, and the scientific method has utility in solving a great many problems. Rather than dismiss the whole enterprise as fallacious hokem, I'd be inclined to ask instead "Why is this so?"

    A candidate resolution that is I find compelling is to appreciate the scientific method as part of a larger rational framework, such as, e.g., probability theory, which can be shown to be a superset of pure logic. (The reference is to an online book by the late E. T. Jaynes on the subject. While it requires a fair amount of discipline to work through the many-hundreds-of-pages text, an executive summary of his thesis can be found in the first chapter (PDF format) entitled "Plausible Reasoning"). Jaynes presents a formalism which quantifies the "intuitive" process of induction that you find so unpalatable. Scientific reasoning itself is seen, in this context, to be on firm logical footing, albeit with results being no longer the "100% certainty of pure logic" that you attack so gleefully. This isn't the only way to resolve the matter, as over a century of thinking in natural philosophy can attest, but it seems a viewpoint sufficiently consistent and useful for me to adopt.

    Incidentally, why spell geek with "**"? My screen font makes your "g**k" look like "gook," which I find an offensive racial slur. Out of curiosity, was this sophomoric jab at readers of Asian heritage, who according to stereotype have a disproportionate representation in the "geek" community, deliberate on your part?

    [ Parent ]
    My problem isn't with the scientific method... (2.50 / 2) (#50)
    by bc on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 09:07:50 AM EST

    ...as such, it is more that people seem to treat it as revealing fundamental and unimpeachable truths, when it does no such thing. It does have utility, for sure, but the attitude that the Scientific Method is the only method that can reveal truths, and that all other methods are invalid, is what I find irritating and is one which is increasingly displayed.

    Inductive reasoning is flawed if you don't realise what it is - it is flawed when it is treated as deductive and universal. If you are aware of its subtleties and reach, though, then that's fine.

    As for the word 'g**k', well I use it for for much the same reason as f*ck and c**t, because said words are utterly offensive, g**k even more so because it demonises a certain subculture - it is little better than 'ni**er'.

    ♥, bc.
    [ Parent ]

    Ok then, (none / 0) (#87)
    by ajduk on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 11:41:18 AM EST

    How else would we get at 'Truths'?

    What is a truth?




    [ Parent ]
    There are many paths to personal truths (2.50 / 2) (#100)
    by bc on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 12:04:35 PM EST

    Inductive reasoning in science is but one of them, and isn't necessarily any more or less valid than any other path. To suggest that , in this day and age, one creed is objectively 'right' and superior to others is hugely backward - I'd have thought that the lessons of such arrogance we were taught in the 20th century would have made us realise this, but apparantly not.

    Religion provides a perfectly valid path to truth as well. Let us look at the bible, which has thousands of years of human wisdom within its pages, and is believed by millions. Is this to be attacked because it doesn't meet the standards of some other creed (science) ? Just as Christianity itself used to attack Islam and paganism? I should hope not - we should know that one isn't any more objectively valid that another.

    Truth is a complex thing, to be sure, and if it is objective truth you are after, you won't find it anywhere, as it is impossible to obtain. Subjective truths can have different levels of certainty however, and religion and science are but two sides of the same coin.

    I take my path to truth through personal thought, meditation and analysis. But it annoys me when scientists and so on attempt to convince me of their own arbitrary and subjective truths (ie: The World is a sphere - this is only true from the vantage point of outer space. For the purposes of day to day life, it is flat and most people treat it as such, In this sense the bible was perfectly correct, and it is indeed reasonable, therefore, to state and think that the world is flat and still be correct).

    ♥, bc.
    [ Parent ]

    No, science is right because it is provable (5.00 / 1) (#139)
    by dat Guy on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 02:01:15 PM EST

    Science, unlike religion, is based on things you can actually prove. Things that really, actually exist, that you can test and observe, and many times actually touch.

    Science, unlike religion, is self correcting. If new evidence contradicts something in Science, then Science is rewritten to accomodate it. Science is self correcting; the core of a religion is static and unmoving..

    Unlike most things in this world, science is based on logic and logic exists, and is provable, outside of any moral, social, religious, or otherwise subjective frame of reference.

    Sure, some people hijack science sometimes, and sometimes stupid stuff makes it into the books and gets treated like it was real. But, when it is discovered and found out, it gets changed and corrected.

    If God was to be discovered and proven to exist, than science would be happy to accomodate God. However, religion is not so happy to accomodate Science when Science proves religion to be incomplete or false.

    Science does not have all the answers. In fact, it has very few. It certainly doesn't answer the big question.... 'Why?' But the answers it does have are real and objective. Real! Not some mythical god or subjective spiritual framework.

    I prefer to believe in things that are real. And someday, science may very well answer 'Why?', and when it does, then I will believe. Because it will be real, and not just a guess, which is all that religion is. Sorry, if you can't prove it, then your going on faith. And faith is just a guess YOU think is right.

    [ Parent ]

    Science is NOT provable, WRONG WRONG WRONG (2.33 / 3) (#152)
    by bc on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 02:35:25 PM EST

    Science, unlike religion, is based on things you can actually prove. Things that really, actually exist, that you can test and observe, and many times actually touch.

    'Prove'? Prove how? What do you mean by things that really actually exist? This sounds more ontological, what is the nature of things that are 'real'? What do you mean by this?

    Can I touch Evolutionary Theory then? or Quarks? Or big bang theory? Oh wait, these are all products of the mind.

    You seem to be using a lot of vagueries here.

    Science, unlike religion, is self correcting. If new evidence contradicts something in Science, then Science is rewritten to accomodate it. Science is self correcting; the core of a religion is static and unmoving.

    Science is only self correcting by certain types of evidence, and evidence suggested in a particular way. I know that scientists like to think that a poor, obscure, insignificant German clerk or some such could change science radically, but in fact it is all social - only those scientists with the perfect credentials can challenge the fundamentals, just like, in religion, only those people with certain knowledge can challenge Scripture - high priests and such. Science is self perpetuating.

    Unlike most things in this world, science is based on logic and logic exists, and is provable, outside of any moral, social, religious, or otherwise subjective frame of reference.

    It, like any other set of theories, is based on a set of axioms (a large set) which need faith. Furthermore it used inductive reasoning, not deductive. From the standpoint of strict logic, science is utterly riddled with holes.

    Religion and other belief systems have their own axioms that depend on faith, and own methods of enquiry. Science is just another system.

    And someday, science may very well answer 'Why?', and when it does, then I will believe

    Then you don't understand science. Science isn't about 'belief' at all. Science uses probability. If you accept inductive reasoning and a host of axioms, even then you can only speak in probabilities. So we may posit that gravity on Earth is 9.8metres per second per second, but nomatter how many times we test, we cannot be sure that the next time we test, the result will be the same. Therefore, even if you accept the axioms and methods of reasoning that science employs, then you still have to speak in terms of probabilities.

    Science really isn't any more valid a system than anything else.

    ♥, bc.
    [ Parent ]

    You forget one thing.. (4.00 / 1) (#326)
    by ajduk on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 04:40:59 AM EST

    Science works.

    The assumptions behind science - i.e. things like 'Effect follows Cause', and 'What we see, or what our instruments see, is objective and repeatable' - are things that people use every day.

    When you put a cup of coffee on a table, you are demonstrating a belief that a) The table exists, b) The coffee cup will not go through it, c) The coffee will not suddenly fly into the air. You have to make these assumptions in order to exist. That's all the assumptions that science demands of you. Any reliegon demands the same assumptions - otherwise the adherants would not live very long (see: 'Living on Light') - plus another set of assumptions that are not required.

    Although it is a tenable philosophical position to say that all 'reality' is subjective and therefore any viewpoint on any subjct is equally valid, it's not a practical position to hold, and using it effectively means that you can have no faith in any statement.

    [ Parent ]
    Objective truth. (5.00 / 1) (#176)
    by claudius on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 04:30:18 PM EST

    Truth is a complex thing, to be sure, and if it is objective truth you are after, you won't find it anywhere, as it is impossible to obtain.

    If, by this comment, you mean "There is no objective truth," then I'm afraid we will just have to agree to disagree since we haven't enough common ground on which to even start a debate on the nature of science. (If I may, I'd add that I would find your worldview to be rather self-contradictory--the statement "there is no objective truth," if unequivocally true, would need to itself be an objective truth).

    If you mean instead that "Objective truth exists but we can never obtain a perfect understanding of objective truth," then I agree. Some things are unknowable. Or at least practically unknowable--what is the speed of light, e.g., to 1000 decimal places? Let us focus instead on whether or not a system such as science brings us closer to an understanding of objective truth. The probabilistic nature of experimental science does not imply complete arbitrariness or, as you seem to think, committee rule. I don't have to have my results vetted by the National Acadamy of Science before I publish in the scientific literature. Rather, as I've pointed out elsewhere, it provides a framework for refining our understanding of objective truth.

    Before I elaborate further, however, I wish to hear your clarification on the statement I quoted. Arguing objective truth with a flat-Earther is a complete waste of time for all parties concerned.

    [ Parent ]
    Speed of light (3.50 / 2) (#241)
    by chungyc on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 07:25:31 PM EST

    I'm going off on a tangent here, but the speed of light in a vacuum is actually known with absolute precision: it's defined as 299792458m/s (or rather, the meter is defined so as it to be that way).

    (Pendants: you've gotta love them or hate them ...)

    [ Parent ]

    speed of light (none / 0) (#265)
    by Delirium on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 09:06:18 PM EST

    Of course it was recently in the news that there is evidence that the speed of light slowly changes over time (which in turn somehow provides some evidence for superstring theory; not my field, but it sounds plausible anyway).

    [ Parent ]
    But that is a wrong-headed view of science (none / 0) (#116)
    by JetJaguar on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 12:32:30 PM EST

    Ok, I'll more or less agree with you here. Yes, there are other ways that truths can be revealed, but none of them are really as efficient or as self-supporting as science, otherwise scientists would be using those methods rather than science. What you are describing though, isn't really a problem of science or even of rationality, it's a problem with the so-called "g**ks" for not understanding the limits of science. And believe me, I've met a lot of "computer science" graduates that really don't know the first thing about science, what it really is, how it really works, and what it can really do. I mean a lot of them seem to get most of their science education from Star Trek of all things! I see that as a really big problem. No scientists that I know, displays the kind of nihilism that you get amoung CS dropouts and graduates, that, alone, should be telling us something.

    [ Parent ]
    'geek' is as bad as 'fuck'? (none / 0) (#456)
    by omegadave on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 08:58:12 PM EST

    I fail to even comprehend how you could think the word 'geek' "demonises a certain subculture". And to compare it to the n-word is a disrespect to people who have been called the n-word. And to say that 'geek' is as "utterly offensive" as fuck or cunt is ludicrous. Grow up, please.

    [ Parent ]
    probability theory and logic (none / 0) (#93)
    by Estanislao Martínez on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 11:55:21 AM EST

    Observations and experiments can only invalidate a given hypothesis; they can never, except in a few contrived circumstances, validate a hypothesis unequivocally.

    No. Observation and experiments can neither validate nor invalidate any non-trivial theory. All observation involves error. Error is dealt with by using statistical methods. You can't invalidate or validate statistical claims-- you can only give a degree of support.

    Jaynes presents a formalism [probability theory] which quantifies the "intuitive" process of induction that you find so unpalatable. Scientific reasoning itself is seen, in this context, to be on firm logical footing, albeit with results being no longer the "100% certainty of pure logic" that you attack so gleefully.

    Probability theory does not have the same status as logic, contrary to your insinuation here. It is not an alternative to logic; it presupposes quite an amount of logic and mathematics. How can you dare propose it as an alternative to logic, when its "firm logical footing" includes logic itself?

    BTW, your pointing out that probability theory doesn't have the "100% certainty of pure logic" already disqualifies it as a logic.

    --em
    [ Parent ]

    To clarify. (none / 0) (#114)
    by claudius on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 12:30:03 PM EST

    I think you missed the point. The issue I brought up is not "probability theory v. logic" but rather "the strict application of formal logic to scientific reasoning," where naysayers like our original poster are wont to pronounce everything based on scientific reasoning as tripe due to "post hoc ergo proptor hoc--correlation is not causation--logical fallacies". Technically they are correct; no measurements can ever "absolutely, without a shred of doubt, with the same measure of certainty as mathematical proof" prove or disprove anything in science, and so, from the standpoint of strict logical formalism, all of science is based on a string of logical fallacies.

    In formal logic or mathematics, one discards systems based on fallacies, and our original poster would have us do just that. However, science seems to work, so we might instead ask ourselves why it works--to do this without abandoning formal logic altogether (a sure path to chaos) means that one must extend formal logic somehow to make sense of how science works. This was my (and Jaynes's) reason for invoking probability theory--it does not replace formal logic, but rather extends it in an internally consistent manner in which the scientific method is found to be a "logically consistent" tool for discovery. Because it includes, as a subset, formal logic, all formal logic arguments--including those in support of such an extended system of reasoning to begin with--are still valid. There is no fallacy here. Merely an extended system of reasoning that incorporates induction. (As a side note, many other useful systems can be proven to be a superset of formal logic--fuzzy logic, for example--without internal inconsistency).

    [ Parent ]
    Answer to Why? (none / 0) (#81)
    by mech9t8 on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 11:27:30 AM EST

    Despite that science only addresses relatively simple and uninteresting questions, such as "What does a sugar molecule look like?" or "How was the Earth created?" the g**ks think it holds the answer to all things. Unfortunately it doesn't address the most interesting questions, the 'Why?' questions.

    Sure it does... why do we fall in love? (evolutionary necessity for procreation) why should we behave in a moral fashion? (necessary for society exist) what happens when we die? (brain shuts down... we stop existing)

    Are these answers as "nice" as the religious answers? Nope.

    Does science provide the "know everything now" comfort that religion provides? Again, nope. Some things will take hundreds or thousands or millions of years to figure out.

    There's really only one answer that science may not come up with a answer for, eventually. And that is, "why does the universe exist?" To which, science may only be able to come up with, "because it does."

    Whereas, with religion: "why does the universe exist?" "Because god created it." "Why does god exist?" "Because he does."

    Hmm. Seems like a wash to me.

    So does science provide the comfort of a nice religous belief? Nope. But that's about all its missing.

    G**ks believe sex is sinful (what else could possibly explain their abstinence?).

    And that's when your assertion falls into the realm of trollness. ;)

    --
    IMHO
    [ Parent ]

    Your science overreaches itself. (1.00 / 1) (#90)
    by bc on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 11:47:13 AM EST

    Sure it does... why do we fall in love? (evolutionary necessity for procreation) why should we behave in a moral fashion? (necessary for society exist) what happens when we die? (brain shuts down... we stop existing)

    These answers are cop outs - they don't explain anything. If you think human beings are automotons, driven by simple physical rules and therefore with no responsibilities, then perhaps these answers are for you. However, they lack any insight or depth.

    Why do people murder? Oh, genetically programmed to do so for competitive advantage when conditions are tough. Therefore anyone who murders is not at fault. Therefore people should be thrown in gaol for the protection of society at large, and not for reform...and so forth. I find this all rather repugnant.

    Some things will take hundreds or thousands or millions of years to figure out.

    Nope. Some things are beyond the domain of science altogether, and always shall be. There is no reason to suppose science can ever answer 'Why do we exist?' - this question does not even make sense in a scientific context. By all means we can listen to scientists for physical explanations regarding the hows and whens, but when it comes to Ethics, Ontology, Metaphysics and so on Science is outside its field of competence. To rest on science for the answers to everything is to accept a purblind and narrow worldview.



    ♥, bc.
    [ Parent ]

    Arrogance? (1.00 / 1) (#242)
    by John Miles on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 07:31:03 PM EST

    These answers are cop outs - they don't explain anything.

    What makes you think you're entitled to an explanation?

    For so long as men do as they are told, there will be war.
    [ Parent ]

    We don't know how far science can reach (none / 0) (#268)
    by mech9t8 on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 09:14:19 PM EST

    These answers are cop outs - they don't explain anything. If you think human beings are automotons, driven by simple physical rules and therefore with no responsibilities, then perhaps these answers are for you. However, they lack any insight or depth.

    They only lack insight or depth if you only look at the surface layer. Yes, "necessary for evolution" is a way too simplistic view of argument. But the whole of the argument is far too big for us to fully grasp right now... millions of factors - from the conditions which led to the evolution of our intelligence, to the conditions which led to our society, to the conditions of each individual as they grow up, to the millions of decisions made by each individual. And the single largest contributor to the raw human make-up is, as far as current estimations go, the evolutionary factors necessary to survive and prosper.

    In any case, they provide an explanation which seems infinitely more plausable than some mysterious higher power that people make up to explain what they don't understand.

    Why do people murder? Oh, genetically programmed to do so for competitive advantage when conditions are tough. Therefore anyone who murders is not at fault. Therefore people should be thrown in gaol for the protection of society at large, and not for reform...and so forth.

    Those are false conclusions. A scientific view of the world does not preclude free will. It may explain *why* we have free will, it may explain the various urges and instincts we have which influence our free will, but it certainly doesn't take away the individual's choice to make a decision.

    Heck, one can even see the evolution of free will in nature: from plants (which follow a set path) to ants (which generally follow pre-programmed instructions as part of their collective) to dogs (which can form bonds with each other or with people and can choose to behave in certain ways) to humans (who have largely free will).

    Why do people murder? Millions of factors contribute to an individual's decision to take another's life - from greed to moral beliefs to societal conditions to raw emotion, etc.

    And just because one can attribute multiple causes to a crime someone commited doesn't mean they shouldn't be punished as society sees fit. It just puts the responsibility for those punishments into hands of those which decided on and implemented them (society) instead of attributing them to some mysterious higher power.

    Nope. Some things are beyond the domain of science altogether, and always shall be. There is no reason to suppose science can ever answer 'Why do we exist?' - this question does not even make sense in a scientific context. By all means we can listen to scientists for physical explanations regarding the hows and whens, but when it comes to Ethics, Ontology, Metaphysics and so on Science is outside its field of competence. To rest on science for the answers to everything is to accept a purblind and narrow worldview.

    Just because we don't understand something now doesn't mean it'll always be that way. We know understand how weather works - which used to be attributed to evil spirits. We now know that bacteria and virii cause cause disease - which used to be attributed to evil spirits. We now know that chemical inbalances can cause strange or psychotic behaviour - which used to be attributed to evil spirits. Perhaps there are limits to what science will understand - but saying that anything is beyond the reach of science is narrow-minded as well.

    --
    IMHO
    [ Parent ]

    god, you're arrogant, ignorant and illogical (3.00 / 3) (#101)
    by Estanislao Martínez on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 12:07:56 PM EST

    why do we fall in love? (evolutionary necessity for procreation)

    Then, do all animals fall in love? Bah, forget animals. Do plants fall in love? Bacteria?

    why should we behave in a moral fashion? (necessary for society exist [sic])

    Do you attribute morality to bees and ants?

    what happens when we die? (brain shuts down... we stop existing)

    What does "existing" mean?

    There's really only one answer that science may not come up with a answer for, eventually. And that is, "why does the universe exist?" To which, science may only be able to come up with, "because it does." Whereas, with religion: "why does the universe exist?" "Because god created it." "Why does god exist?" "Because he does."

    So, according to you, science is doing no better, eh? Both arguments are circular. (Not to mention that your "religious argument" is a caricature.)

    BTW, you're still using the undefined term "exist" (not to mention "universe"). And good luck finding empirical support for the claim that "the universe exists".

    --em
    [ Parent ]

    Sounds like most religions (none / 0) (#267)
    by mech9t8 on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 09:11:43 PM EST

    "arrogant, ignorant and illogical?" Sounds like most religions.

    Then, do all animals fall in love? Bah, forget animals. Do plants fall in love? Bacteria?

    Do animals fall in love? Sure, in a more simple way, appropriate to their intelligence: eagles stay together for life; dogs bond with their pack mates.

    As lifeforms become more complicated, more complicated ways of getting them to procreate are neccessary. Bacteria, being very simple, can procreate on their own; the simplest sexual creatures just need a bit of chemical encouragement; more complicated creates need mating rituals or bright plumage. Humans, having developed the ability to think about what they're thinking about, just have more awareness of what's happening.

    (And if you really want, you can explore the reasons *why*, in general, "As lifeforms become more complicated, more complicated ways of getting them to procreate are neccessary" - it's not an arbitrary statement, but one supported both by the observable universe and logical deductions.)

    Do you attribute morality to bees and ants?

    They haven't really developed intelligence or a free will, and thus it doesn't occur to them to "misbehave." It a bee mind could think of killing other bees and stealing their pollen to buy a bee yacht, there would have to be bee rules to prevent that from happening, or else all the bees would leave and their society would collapse.

    What does "existing" mean?

    Well, for this example, the ability for the personality to keep perceiving itself (consciously or unconsciously) - the enormously complicated chemical reactions in our brain which say "I am who I am, I remember things, etc." Heck, we've even started identifying which parts of the brain think what and remember what - and can alter people's personality (the entity that "exists") by chopping out part of the brain or feeding it certain chemicals. When those chemical reactions in the brain stop, the personality stops... and as much as people would like to believe otherwise, IMHO, there's no reason, other than wishful thinking, to believe otherwise.

    And yes, one could argue for hours about what exactly "exists" mean, and whether one "exists" when one's asleep or whatever... but that's more semantics or philosophy than most organized religions.

    In any case, I oversimplified by "it's due to evolution". But my point is there are explanations - a million factors which, if one day we can understand them all, will be able to explain the observable universe. No need for a higher power to intervene.

    BTW, you're still using the undefined term "exist" (not to mention "universe"). And good luck finding empirical support for the claim that "the universe exists".

    Of course, in a debate in which terms like "exists" and "universe" are going to be argued, "religion" and "science" should probably be defined as well. For purposes of this discussion, I'm going to define
    - science as a set of beliefs which are derived from observations and postulates derived from those observations
    - religion as a set of beliefs which require intervention of a higher intelligence in order to be true

    The lack of understanding of truths in the universe doesn't give an excuse for people to make stuff up - and, to my mind, that's what most religions do: make stuff up to explain what we don't understand - and build upon that made up stuff with even more made up stuff.

    And they use this made up stuff about things that science can't explain yet to impose things like societal structure or moral beliefs. "Science can't explain why the universe exists, so I'm going to make up a God which created everything. Oh, and God wants you to stop killing each other or you'll go to hell." Or, perhaps, to the more cynical: "We need a reason for people to stop killing each other. So we'll tell them a God exists and he'll send them to hell if they kill each other."

    In terms of exploring what "exists" means, or the "universe exists" means, or whatever, it's fine to spend time to try and work those out... but its a real stretch, IMHO, to take those musings and trying to use them to define things like morality or society - never mind the physical universe.

    --
    IMHO
    [ Parent ]

    Illogical? (none / 0) (#360)
    by chulbert on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 11:20:09 AM EST

    why do we fall in love? (evolutionary necessity for procreation)

    Then, do all animals fall in love? Bah, forget animals. Do plants fall in love? Bacteria?

    The author claimed we fall in love due to the evolutionary necessity to procreate. The author did not claim all organisms love to facilitate procreation, they need to love to procreate, or that love is the only means of ensuring procreation.
    why should we behave in a moral fashion? (necessary for society exist [sic])

    Do you attribute morality to bees and ants?

    Again, the author claimed we behave in a moral fashion for a particular reason. The author did not claim that all organisms achieve that goal the same way or that the goal can be achieved only through the means by which we do.

    Please be more careful when you attack the logic of others.
    "I weep for the species."
    [ Parent ]

    Religion is a crutch for most (3.40 / 5) (#42)
    by Builder on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 08:16:20 AM EST

    Coming from a christian background and falling into a void not knowing what to believe, I've made some observations over the years.

    The ideas behind Christianity are quite good. Be nice to other people, don't boink your neighbors wife and God really loves you. The implementation in most cases is crap (See crusades, Waco, etc.)

    What people want is meaning. It is real hard to get up every morning and do something you hate. Its even harder to do it when you know that tomorrow you'll have to do the same thing and that this will persist forever, until you die. People want and in many cases need to believe that there is more to life than that. To be honest, I don't believe that there is. Live fast, die hard. Seems more sensible to me. But for these people western religions give them a sense of worth and belonging. In many cases it gives them this at the expense of others. They may ridicule and exclude much of the world's population because they don't have the same imaginary friend. Good for them.

    For myself, I live in a small, sad world where I believe in the people who stand by me, the people who help me achieve my dreams. I am cherished and loved by my wife and my better friends. I am responsible to myself and at the end of each day I have to be pleased with what I've done and what I had to do, to do it. I sit in constant judgement over my own actions and have a moral code that I am comfortable with. I believe that when I die I will have made no change to the world (I hope - most change tends to the worst) and that I will be remembered fondly by those who I helped. I can't ask for more than this.


    --
    Be nice to your daemons
    Faith-Efficiency and Utility (4.50 / 4) (#43)
    by acestus on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 08:23:21 AM EST

    All belief systems -- religious or not -- eventually depend on faith; the property of faith-efficiency is the amount of useful result that can be obtained from a belief system per unit input of faith.

    I think you might want to call this faith-expediency, as you're referring to immediate and relatively tangible benefits. One of this chiefest debates you'll find between a Christian and a non-Christian is that of "why to believe." A Christian will say that belief is the door to eternal life -- that's quite a return on one's investment! The 'problem' here is that this useful result is, until some point in the future, also a matter of faith.

    The essence of the problem is: yes, it would be emotionally comforting to know that God loves me -- but not if that means God hates someone else!
    I think that the idea of "God hates $GROUP" is propagated more by angry, misunderstanding people than by any reasonable interpretation of traditional scripture and theology. The idea, really that "God $VERB $NOUN" is pretty bizarre, when considered with good old fashioned ancient, orthodox theology in mind. The good rule of thumb is that "God cannot be predicated upon." If you start a sentence with God as the subject, you're not going to have an object.

    Acestus
    This is not an exit.
    Maybe I -should- believe... but I don't. (none / 0) (#58)
    by losthalo on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 09:50:41 AM EST

    Actually, the problem I've had for some time now with the "Belief is the door to eternal life" argument is that I cannot -make- myself believe something. I can agree rationally to the possibility that there is a divine presence operating in the world, but without something to make me believe it, I just don't. It's not a matter of conscious choice. My own mother has expressed concern that at the Judgement she doesn't want me to be "found wanting" as it were. I might consider believing just for the sake of "Hell Insurance", as it were, if I could. But that isn't an option. Or, to put it another way: Wanting doesn't make it so. Bruce

    [ Parent ]
    On the other hand (none / 0) (#62)
    by dennis on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 10:25:49 AM EST

    Wanting doesn't make it untrue, either. Some people prefer religion, others prefer atheism. Various times in my life I haven't found religion credible, for emotional reasons - but that had no effect on whether it was true.

    A lot of people think faith is believing in things contrary to rationality. I never could manage that. But I did find that Christianity, if examined in depth, really does have a rational, consistent way of looking at the world. Nihilism is also a rational, consistent look at the world. So it came down to a choice - not to believe in something irrational, but whether to pick the rational belief system that implies that life has meaning. That is a leap of faith, but it's one that I feel I can make with intellectual integrity.

    [ Parent ]

    misguided (3.66 / 3) (#44)
    by Defect on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 08:26:54 AM EST

    Religion and rationality are mutually exclusive; you're looking for a philosophy, not a religion. Take a look into taoism or somesuch, or a martial art.

    I don't see what the fuss is with believing in a higher power when, chances are, people are fucked up enough to need a lot more attention than some omnipotent bastard. A religion is just a set of beliefs, and i find it extremely hard to believe that so many people are unable to figure out what they want to believe in on their own.

    Just believe what you will, and that's your religion. The benefit to having your own set of beliefs, instead of subscribing to another's, is that you won't have any questions or, more importantly, any doubts.
    defect - jso - joseth || a link
    Surely you'll have more questions (5.00 / 1) (#68)
    by ambrosen on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 10:48:53 AM EST

    Just believe what you will, and that's your religion. The benefit to having your own set of beliefs, instead of subscribing to another's, is that you won't have any questions or, more importantly, any doubts.
    The benefit to subscribing to a belief system that has, say, 2000 years of tradition, will be the fact that you have a huge amount of understanding of all the ramifications of the beliefs that you hold. With these, you can have a more consistent outlook on the world, benefitting from the thousands of lifetimes that have been devoted exclusively to behaving in manners that are optimal to the belief system. It also enables you to act consistently and have a continuous benchmark against which to compare your behaviour. And also, you spend the time which you would have spent inventing beliefs understanding ones which have deeper foundations.

    --
    Procrastination does not make you cool. Being cool makes you procrastinate. DesiredUsername.
    [ Parent ]
    wow. (2.00 / 1) (#83)
    by codepoet on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 11:33:01 AM EST

    Well, you have some strong opinions there. =)

    I have strong opinions too. ;)

    Religion and rationality are mutually exclusive; you're looking for a philosophy, not a religion. Take a look into taoism or somesuch, or a martial art.

    I whole-heartedly disagree. I believe that if religion has a chance of being real it must be rational and explainable, and not through an unseen God, but by the implementation of the world we attribute to Him. For if we believe in a God of infinite order, then that must be evidenced in His world.

    I don't see what the fuss is with believing in a higher power when, chances are, people are fucked up enough to need a lot more attention than some omnipotent bastard.

    The emotion was conveyed, at the expense of logic. =) How can a finite entity require more than an infinite one can afford to give?

    A religion is just a set of beliefs, and i find it extremely hard to believe that so many people are unable to figure out what they want to believe in on their own.

    When you don't like donuts, it's hard to understand why people stand so long choosing their dozen, too. ;)

    Just believe what you will, and that's your religion. The benefit to having your own set of beliefs, instead of subscribing to another's, is that you won't have any questions or, more importantly, any doubts.

    Sounds good on paper (or LCD or CRT, etc.) but it doesn't work quite that way. It's not just believing something, it's wanting to know if it's true. If I create something to believe then it's only true to me, and only so long as I believe it. If I, however, subscribe to another's belief, then there's the added benefit of there being as much forethought as that person gave it. Now put a billion or so people behind that. If you have faith in man, then you should have implicit trust in that faith.

    I'll see your card of "fallible human nature" and raise you "infallible divine inspiration." =) The point being that if you believe (circular argument warning) in the existance and influence of God, then you should have implicit trust in the creation of millions of His followers, given that a percentage will be completely off their rockers, but that a large number will be correct.

    To believe, you have to believe. Once you jump in the ring, there's nothing that's impossible. =) Or, as others have put it:

    For him that believes, no explaination is neccessary; for him that does not, no explaination will suffice.


    <cargogod> the bad part about potheads is that they think that they're being really profound while they eat everything in your fridge
    [ Parent ]
    okay mr jaded... (2.50 / 2) (#162)
    by ragabr on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 03:21:51 PM EST

    it's always nice to make great sweeping, generalized statements with absolutely no support behind them... like "religion and rationality are mutually exclusive..." we'll have to assume you're speaking primarily of Semitic religions, since they are your favorite target. so attack them, rationally not with emotional arguments like "there is no god" or at least prove it when you make them.

    interesting how you suggest another religion to replace religion. that's right, taoism is a religion containing all the dimensions of consistent across religions (ritual, mythological, doctrinal, ethical, social and experiential) source. and while we're there, how exactly can a martial art be considered either a philosophy or replacement for religion? it's a form of exercise.

    the ultimate goal of religion is to believe the truth. you can't really have a lot of people believing different things and they all be right. it's much more rational to set your belief in century old structure and development (like we do with science, hmm..) than to trust yourself to cover all bases. maybe religion is like good crypto, it's better to trust proven systems.

    -------
    And my tongue would be made of chocolate. Mmmmm. Chocolate.
    -rusty
    [ Parent ]
    Rationality and Religion (4.00 / 3) (#48)
    by Merk00 on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 08:54:44 AM EST

    Rationality (or hyper-rationality or whatever you want to call it) and religion are not mutually exclusive. Rationality is the idea of basing your actions on logical premises. However, even rationally based philosophies require some sort of faith at some point. To take one of the most common modern day philosophies, science, it is important to realize that science is based on several premises, just as Christianity is. To believe in science, one must believe in the scientific method. Unsaid in that is that the rules behind the physical world around us does not change. While that may seem to easily be a postulate, it is as easily accepted as by a believer in science as the idea that there is a God is believable by a Christian. There's nothing illogical about religion. To be rational, you cannot exclude a possiblity simply because there is no proof for it; that would be illogical. And that is where religion is: without proof.

    ------
    "At FIRST we see a world where science and technology are celebrated, where kids think science is cool and dream of becoming science and technology heroes."
    - FIRST Mission

    Maybe the first thing you should have done (3.00 / 1) (#49)
    by Wah on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 09:00:27 AM EST

    is define "religion". You'll find that a lot of people here have a severe distrust of that concept, based on their experiences with those that abuse it. When they hear that word, a light goes off and rational discussion becomes an impossibility.

    Let me give it a shot. Religion is a series of beliefs that help decide right and wrong. Once you have accepted a religion, this right and wrong becomes self evident. Beliefs are thoughts that have been repeated enough to not require conscious thought to follow to their conclusion. Thoughts are processes of the brain, physically consisting of connecting neurons. Repeated, accepted thoughts become belief. Series of interconnected beliefs form a religion. Religion is a construct of the mind that determines the worth of actions in the real world.

    How's that? And I'm taking questions about a construct I've been working on over here.
    --
    Information wants to be free, wouldn't you? |

    I should have added (none / 0) (#77)
    by Wah on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 11:09:22 AM EST

    that "faith" is those jumps of logic that have no rational basis. They are the duct tape joining beliefs, and competely necessary to build a cohesive "religion". One could also follow that the strengh of the religion relies on making the duct tape as small a portion of the whole as possible. And I probably should have left out that diary link, but they scroll so quickly and I'd rather not have to keep posting it.
    --
    Information wants to be free, wouldn't you? | Parent ]
    Oversimplification (none / 0) (#153)
    by aphrael on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 02:36:32 PM EST

    Religion is a series of beliefs that help decide right and wrong.

    For some people, perhaps. But I don't think that's a universal truism. My ethjcs have little to nothing to do with my religion.

    Religious tendencies in humans, it seems to me, can be characterized in two ways: rule-based religion, in which the point is to help people decide right and wrong, and mystic religion, in which the point is to explain what we are, and how we got here, and where we are going, and how our consciousness interacts with the world around us.

    Most religions combine elements of both, but lean more towards one than the other.

    [ Parent ]

    Overcomplication (none / 0) (#161)
    by Wah on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 03:15:00 PM EST

    My ethics have little to nothing to do with my religion.

    Pardon my curiousity, but what kind of religion or ethics are these? Do you deny one with the other?

    I dunno, you seem to be making it much harder than it needs to be. You seem to want a religion, a code of ethics, and some mysticism, all with varied sources and rules. That's too much internal conflict for me. It seems to be a breeding ground for internal conflict, IMHO. I've always thought that these things were supposed to lesson that, in fact that was what caused the desire for them.
    --
    Information wants to be free, wouldn't you? | Parent ]

    I have tried... (4.00 / 4) (#51)
    by Spatula on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 09:08:43 AM EST

    Christianity (in the shape of Catholicism), Wicca, LaVeyan Satanism, Agnosticism, Buddhism, Taoism and Islam. After all this fishing for religion, I realized that it's all crap.

    Yes, humans, as a whole, need beliefs, but why must they be attached to an organized religion? Why do we (as a whole) have to choose from this limited set of proscribed religions? Why, also, does anyone *have* to make a decision? As Rush said in "Free Will", 'If you choose not to decide / you have still have made a choice', and that is Good AdviceTM, in my book and, I suspect, the books of many others.

    Thus, I choose not to choose. I reject your entire collection of pre-fabricated sets of beliefs and make my own. My personal selection, by the way, is my business only. I will not profess it to others, I will not 'witness' my beliefs, and I will only give this one opinion regarding beliefs: They are your own. I don't care what the hell they are. Furthermore, I don't want to hear them, nor do I want to see them pressed on others. Leave the others alone. If they are going to burn in your amalgam of 'Hell', then so be it. I'm sure they don't give a shit about your beliefs.

    Maybe the effort people give towards proslytizing(sp?) could be more effectively put towards feeding, clothing and sheltering the homeless, or maybe towards placing orphan infants and children in good homes, or maybe even towards research for a cure to HIV/AIDS. *sigh*

    Untrusted User, here I come, but this is the true tragedy of religious zealotry. All this energy being put towards conversion, rather than into things that might make the world a better place for all of us, regardless of religious prediliction.

    --
    someday I'll find something to put here.

    Religion of one? (4.00 / 2) (#63)
    by Herring on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 10:35:17 AM EST

    If a load of people believe, it's a religion.

    If a few people believe, it's a cult.

    If it's just you, well then you're nuts.(Yes, inspired by Robert M Pirsig.)

    Conversely, a load of people being nuts together is a religion.

    Say lol what again motherfucker, say lol what again, I dare you, no I double dare you
    [ Parent ]
    sharing is good (5.00 / 2) (#103)
    by botono9 on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 12:12:03 PM EST

    Thus, I choose not to choose. I reject your entire collection of pre-fabricated sets of beliefs and make my own. My personal selection, by the way, is my business only. I will not profess it to others, I will not 'witness' my beliefs, and I will only give this one opinion regarding beliefs: They are your own. I don't care what the hell they are. Furthermore, I don't want to hear them, nor do I want to see them pressed on others. Leave the others alone.
    The only problem I have with this is that by sheltering our beliefs from others we deprive ourselves and others of an opportunity to learn. By having a set of beliefs you are attempting to reconcile undescribable, unknowable things; things which "actually" exist but that are impossible to describe with words (territory vs. map). So if you share what you have found with others and listen to what they have found, maybe both parties can come that much closer to "knowing" the unknowable. The only way our models will improve is by sharing information. But I agree with you that conversion is annoying. I always respond poorly to it because I want to make change in my own life and not follow someone else's script. If I decide to absorb parts of your believe system I will, but if not, please don't push me.

    "Guns are real. Blue uniforms are real. Cops are social fiction."
    --Robert Anton Wilson
    [ Parent ]

    I have tried... (5.00 / 1) (#276)
    by Rev Sebastian KSC on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 09:58:18 PM EST

    Christianity (in the shape of Catholicism), Wicca, LaVeyan Satanism, Agnosticism, Buddhism, Taoism and Islam. After all this fishing for religion, I realized that it's all crap.

    I think "it's all crap" is, perhaps, a slightly too broad a brush. I believe that all the pre-fab systems you've mentioned have at least some useful elements which could be extracted and forged into a religious system that is specific to you and you alone.

    I agree with you that no single system you mentioned, in and of itself, will satisfy every person's needs. Perhaps there is no single system that can .

    "...I will only give this one opinion regarding beliefs: They are your own."

    I fully agree with this, and in an attempt to answer the question of the article:
    I have looked at, in no particular order: (weslean methodist)Christianity; Taoism; Buddhism; Confucianism; Wicca; Witchcraft; Asatru; Rune Magic; Hermetic/Goetic Magic; Chaos Magic; Satanism (LaVey and Temple of Set); Agnosticism; Islam (Sunni and Shi'ite); Unitarian Universalist; Humanism; European and Siberian Shamanism (not Native American, though.); Animism ; Discordianism; Nihilism; the Universal Life Church; Anarchism; Communism and probably another dozen of so belief systems that I've forgotten to mention.

    I suppose the main base of my religious beliefs is Discordianism (The Religion disguised as a Joke, or the Joke disguised as a Religion, possibly both.), with a large dose of Asatru, a splash each of Shamanism, Animism and Taoist philosophy. A couple of chunks of Chaos and Rune Magic. Add a good sprinkle of Humanism and Satanism (a word I don't use often, as it puts people off immediately.), a light dusting of Nihilism, a spoonfull or two of Buddhism and Witchcraft, a hint of Jesus and of Muhammad (peace be upon him). Then bake and let cool. I served it with a small helping of Anarcho-Communism and decorated it with an ordination by the Universal Life Church.

    (And if you follow that recipe, you'll end up with something completely different to what I ended up with.)

    I'm not saying it's perfect, nor is it complete, nor is it easy. I'm responsible for answering my questions on my own first, I can't expect the system to just provide answers to everything. I can, however, expect some guidance towards finding an answer.

    To paraphrase Tom Lehrer: "Religion is like a sewer: You get out of it what you put into it."

    Also, when building a belief system, I found it good to remember some words to the effect of "Steal what works. Fix what's broke. Fake the rest.".

    So there you have it: That's what I've tried, and what works for me. Does it answer 'spiritual' questions? Depends on the question, really.

    Rev. Sebastian, KSC.

    [ Parent ]

    Faith vs. Reason is a false dichotomy (4.57 / 14) (#54)
    by Anonymous 242 on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 09:18:32 AM EST

    Faith, simply defined, is trust.

    A child trusts in his or her parents because that child has learned that parents are good. Parents provide warmth, food, love. A child with parents that do not provide good things, but bad things, will not trust his or her parents.

    Religious faith functions equivalently. Those that have learned that they can trust their congregation, sect, mosque, temple, startsi, priest, advisor, etc. will have faith. Those that have learned that they can not trust their congregation, sect, mosque, temple, startsi, priest, advisor, etc. will not.

    Reason seems to me to have a very large (but not exclusive) part in helping determine whether an institution or belief system is trust-worthy. All belief systems (religous or not) require faith in axioms. Hume proved that Empiricism itself is a matter of faith. Scientist trust the scientific method out of practicality, not out of rationality. We have no reason to assume that Natural Laws are immutable, but we assume that they are because that is what we have experienced.

    As for religion, I'm Orthodox Christian. Well, really, I'm in the process of becoming Orthodox. My catechuminate ends this month and, Lord willing, I'll be received into the Orthodox Church on September 9th. My conversion to Orthodoxy was in large part seeing how all the most common critiques against Christianity (the argument from evil, the argument from hell, the argument from unbelief) failed against the theology of the Orthodox Church. Reading Church history helped as well. I'm astounded by the wealth of historical documents that exist on the early Church. Coming out of a movement that turns a blind eye to almost everything that happened between 90 AD and the medievel era, I was surprised to find that there are no gaps between the New Testament Church and the Orthodox Church of today.

    Regards,

    Lee Malatesta

    That piqued my interest... (5.00 / 1) (#57)
    by Perianwyr on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 09:33:07 AM EST

    My conversion to Orthodoxy was in large part seeing how all the most common critiques against Christianity (the argument from evil, the argument from hell, the argument from unbelief) failed against the theology of the Orthodox Church.

    Any links you'd recommend off-hand to see more about this? Otherwise, I'm going googlehunting. It's interesting to see people going about their search for religion logically...

    [ Parent ]

    SSP (none / 0) (#92)
    by Anonymous 242 on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 11:54:28 AM EST

    You can always look through the back logs of the The Invisible Pink Kitten discussion list.

    Although my stance is more a result of having studied Orthodox theology, understanding it, and seeing that different criticisms fail.

    [ Parent ]

    More links (4.50 / 2) (#122)
    by Anonymous 242 on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 12:48:02 PM EST

    There are more links about Orthodoxy in a comment I made back in May in another discussion.

    [ Parent ]
    Well... (none / 0) (#82)
    by BloodmoonACK on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 11:30:16 AM EST

    Faith and reason are, actually, not THAT complementary. Having "faith" that God exists is saying that you just believe it, regardless of whatever facts are out there. Reason would say, "Well, what are the facts and what do they show?" Going for PURE reason, you would not be able to have faith because to prove something you have to first assume non-existence then PROVE existence. Pure faith is the opposite (except it doesn't necessarily even care about being proven wrong!)

    "It's like declaring a 'war on crime' and then claiming every (accused) thief is an 'enemy combatant'." - Hizonner
    [ Parent ]

    Not the case (none / 0) (#98)
    by Anonymous 242 on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 12:01:52 PM EST

    Having "faith" that God exists is saying that you just believe it, regardless of whatever facts are out there.
    Evidently, BloodmoonACK, you didn't understand my explanation of what faith actually entails. I highly recommend you read through the chapter of faith in Christos' Yanarros "Elements of Faith".

    Faith being contrary to Reason is a relatively recent philosophical phenomenon and is mostly a reaction to epistemological Rationalism that states that Reason is the final arbiter of truth (even over experience).

    Going for PURE reason, you would not be able to have faith because to prove something you have to first assume non-existence then PROVE existence.
    There is no such thing as pure reason. Reason is a tool that tells us what the implications are of our axiomatic suppositions. Reason can not prove itself. Logic does not prove itself, but we see that it appears that it works, so we have faith that it does. This is not pure reason, it is faith.

    Regards,

    Lee Malatesta

    [ Parent ]

    Really? (5.00 / 1) (#140)
    by BloodmoonACK on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 02:01:27 PM EST

    Evidently, lee_malatesta, I need to start using a new dictionary. I mean, I've been laboring under a false definition all along. I've been using this definition (from m-w.com):

    1 a : allegiance to duty or a person : LOYALTY b (1) : fidelity to one's promises (2) : sincerity of intentions 2 a (1) : belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2) : belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion b (1) : firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2) : complete trust 3 : something that is believed especially with strong conviction; especially : a system of religious beliefs

    So, I've always thought faith meant that, instead of love and trust. While I'm not saying that reason and faith are mutually exclusive, I'm saying that for the majority of cases, they are seperate.

    I errored when I said PURE reason, apparently implying something which I did not mean. Sorry for this! So we have faith in pure reason? Maybe that's because we reason (there's that word again!) that it works. If you prick yourself and you get hurt, you reason that it will hurt again and have faith in your reason that it will. If you hear from your Church that you're going to hell, then you simply have faith that you're going to hell. Now I concede that you said you went to the Orthodox Church to get away from the Hell argument, but it still stands for a broad range of issues in Christianity.

    "It's like declaring a 'war on crime' and then claiming every (accused) thief is an 'enemy combatant'." - Hizonner
    [ Parent ]

    Err...let me correct myself (4.00 / 1) (#150)
    by BloodmoonACK on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 02:23:06 PM EST

    I made a mistake while typing up the above (oops!):

    I've been using this definition (from m-w.com): 1 a : allegiance to duty or a person : LOYALTY b (1) : fidelity to one's promises (2) : sincerity of intentions 2 a (1) : belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2) : belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion b (1) : firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2) : complete trust 3 : something that is believed especially with strong conviction; especially : a system of religious beliefs So, I've always thought faith meant that, instead of love and trust. While I'm not saying that reason and faith are mutually exclusive, I'm saying that for the majority of cases, they are seperate.

    I _MEANT_ to say something more along the lines that I've been thinking of faith in the religious lines. I've been to Church and I trusted my Congregation and Pastor whole heartedly. However, it was the religious arguments that I had problems with and did not have faith in. I think I was either arguing the wrong point before or were you implying that if you have faith in your congregation you'll have faith in God? I'm not sure, but it was the second of the two that I was arguing about. Sorry for the confusion!

    "It's like declaring a 'war on crime' and then claiming every (accused) thief is an 'enemy combatant'." - Hizonner
    [ Parent ]

    faith == trust (4.00 / 1) (#156)
    by Anonymous 242 on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 02:58:09 PM EST

    I think I was either arguing the wrong point before or were you implying that if you have faith in your congregation you'll have faith in God? I'm not sure, but it was the second of the two that I was arguing about. Sorry for the confusion!
    Or both. ;)

    Consider the definition you cut and pasted from Miriam-Webster. Out of all definitions of the usage of the word faith, only one is contrary to reason, "firm belief in something for which there is no proof" while many of them deal with the issue of trust.

    Many people like to set up faith and reason as a dichotomy. It just isn't so, especially not if we look at the fields of epistemology and etymology. The opposition of faith and reason is a recent phenomenon and somewhat unique to the history of philosophy in Western Europe which went through the Roman Catholic Church dogmatically attempting to shut down free inquiry. In parts of the world where the Holy Roman Emporer did not have the power of the Pope behind him, this dichotomy didn't exist or existed to a much smaller extent.

    I've been to Church and I trusted my Congregation and Pastor whole heartedly. However, it was the religious arguments that I had problems with and did not have faith in.
    In other words you don't feel that you can trust your pastor in the area of religious doctrine. You have reason to not trust him in matters of faith. This proves my point entirely, faith is trust.

    Regards,

    Lee Malatesta

    [ Parent ]

    Faith is a subset of Trust (none / 0) (#623)
    by Ixohoxi on Wed Aug 29, 2001 at 09:36:22 AM EST

    Concerning those two concepts:

    Trust is an estimate of expectation. Trust is not restricted to good or bad outcomes. As our expectations are met or not met, we modify our estimates. If you trust someone and they continually meet your expectations, your trust will increase. If someone fails to meet your expectations, you will trust them less. Trust is dynamic, and dependent upon reinforcement.

    Faith is a special kind of trust. Faith cannot be reinforced. Faith is an implicit belief that expectation will be met. However, unlike trust, faith is static. It rarely changes, and when it does usually the change is dramatic. If you have faith in God, for example, that will likely never change. If you do not have this faith, a life-altering event may change your belief. Then again, it might not.

    Science is dependent upon trust, whereas religion is dependent upon faith. Scientists don't have implicit belief in scientific findings, they have a reinforced estimate of expectation based on those findings. Theologists don't have reinforced expectations concerning spirituality, they have an implicit belief in it.

    Contrary to what some may think, activities like going to church, rites of passage, etc. do not affect faith explicitly, but do reinforce ones' implicit trust in their own faith. The reinforcement is entirely mental and has no factual basis. Do we know, for example, that people who never took Jesus Christ as their Savior have indeed gone to hell? Or that people who have, have indeed gone to heaven? The only change in our trust of faith is when we choose to believe that a particular fulfillment has occured. But one never truly knows if that fulfillment has occured.

    [ Parent ]

    reason is unreasonable (4.33 / 3) (#160)
    by Anonymous 242 on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 03:13:04 PM EST

    I errored when I said PURE reason, apparently implying something which I did not mean. Sorry for this! So we have faith in pure reason? Maybe that's because we reason (there's that word again!) that it works.
    Okay, change my mind. Demonstrate the truth of logic (or any other system of reason) using only reason without an axioms.
    If you prick yourself and you get hurt, you reason that it will hurt again and have faith in your reason that it will.
    This is what is known (IIRC) as the principle of universal conformity. It is an axiom of most philosophical systems and there is no reasonable argument for it. It is, rather, a presupposition that is necessary to get useful philosophical work done.

    We have no rational reason for thinking that because something has worked in the same fashion the last time (or last 99 times) that it will work in the same fashion the next time we try it.

    If you hear from your Church that you're going to hell, then you simply have faith that you're going to hell.
    I don't understand what you attempting to say, here. Is this what you mean:
    1. I have faith in my Church.
    2. Having faith in an individual or institution entails trusting the judgement of that individual or institution.
    3. (from 1 and 2) I believe what my Church teaches.
    4. My Church states that I am going to hell.
    5. (from 3 and 4) I believe that I am going to hell.
    If this is, indeed, the argument you are putting forth, it is lacking for the simple reason that the most important premis (1) can be true due to rational or irrational reasons. I can have faith in my Church because of a lengthy investigation into my Church's history. I can have faith in my Church because my parents had faith in my Church. I can have faith in my Church because while zoned out on psychoactive substances I had a vision of an angel telling me to put my faith in my Church. I can have faith in my Church due to any number of possible reasons, some of which may be rational and some of which may be irrational. Some of the reasons I put my faith in my Church may be contradictory. Some of them may be the result of a detailed and prolonged bout of reasoning.
    Now I concede that you said you went to the Orthodox Church to get away from the Hell argument, but it still stands for a broad range of issues in Christianity.
    I understand that. If I understood what you said correctly, one could replace (4) in my attempt to construct your argument with pretty much anything that a Church teaches.

    Regards,

    Lee Malatesta

    [ Parent ]

    Reason and faith (none / 0) (#304)
    by Pseudonym on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 11:58:50 PM EST

    Faith being contrary to Reason is a relatively recent philosophical phenomenon and is mostly a reaction to epistemological Rationalism that states that Reason is the final arbiter of truth (even over experience).
    I should point out that evangelical protestant theology (especially in the Wesleyan tradition) goes even a bit further than this. The theory goes that there are four places from which we get our faith: Scripture, Reason, Tradition and Experience, and that they're all important.

    Of course, different streams of Christianity emphasise different parts. Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians tend to emphasise tradition, Protestants tend to emphasise scripture, Pentecostals tend to emphasise experience and Liberals tend to emphasise reason. Apart from that, we're all one big happy family.



    sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
    [ Parent ]
    Meaning of faith (5.00 / 1) (#305)
    by Pseudonym on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 12:03:39 AM EST

    Having "faith" that God exists is saying that you just believe it [...]
    Christian theologians (as opposed to those Christians who don't understand their own religion) would never say that they have "faith that God exists".

    Faith in God, as Lee and your dictionary both pointed out, means loyalty and trust when used in this sense. This indeed includes "love", but not in the sense of St Valentine's Day. I'm using the same word when I describe myself as "faithful" to my wife, or my cat as a "faithful" friend.



    sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
    [ Parent ]
    neato synchro (3.00 / 1) (#99)
    by botono9 on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 12:04:13 PM EST

    My catechuminate ends this month and, Lord willing, I'll be received into the Orthodox Church on September 9th.
    Very interesting. September 9th happens to be my birthday (my 23rd birthday for all you Discordians out there). The synchronicity was too much to pass up, especially since our discussions on religion which started so recently. I hope we continue to communicate, as I feel it will be beneficial to both of us.

    "Guns are real. Blue uniforms are real. Cops are social fiction."
    --Robert Anton Wilson
    [ Parent ]

    I love watching this stuff... (3.25 / 4) (#56)
    by Canthros on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 09:22:12 AM EST

    I've always enjoyed watching people argue over something that neither party fully understands.

    ghjm says:

    yes, it would be emotionally comforting to know that God loves me -- but not if that means God hates someone else!
    Actually, pretty much the point of the entire Bible was that God loves you, regardless. He may be less than thrilled with your actions, but He doesn't hate you. Check out John 3:16: "For God so loved the world..." (emphasis mine).

    Defect says:

    Religion and rationality are mutually exclusive;
    I suspect that there are plenty of people who will disagree with that. I will simply point out that if you don't believe that religious faith and rational thinking are compatible, then you are not making full use of either one.



    --
    It's now obvious you are either A) Gay or B) Female, or possibly both.
    RyoCokey
    Have you actually READ the Old Testament? (4.00 / 1) (#113)
    by snowlion on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 12:29:26 PM EST

    True, I don't know that "Hate" is one of the words ascribed to God.

    But how about Jelous?

    It continues to amaze me that Christians continue to perceive the God of the Old Testament to be the same as the God of the New Testament. What, did God change his mind all of the sudden?

    What about "God's Wrath"..? (Wrath: "Violent Anger")

    Is this a dispassioned wrath?

    Mark Twain's "Letters From Earth" are classic.


    --
    Map Your Thoughts
    [ Parent ]
    Yep, I've read it... (2.00 / 2) (#155)
    by spiff on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 02:52:51 PM EST

    But how about Jelous?

    Yup, but look at the usage. God applies "Jealous" to Himself when asking people not to worship other gods. Probably the way you would feel if your kids started calling a rock "Daddy" and completely ignored you.

    It continues to amaze me that Christians continue to perceive the God of the Old Testament to be the same as the God of the New Testament. What, did God change his mind all of the sudden?

    Change His mind on what?

    What about "God's Wrath"..?

    It's also called discipline. And as of late has fallen out of favor with the more liberal crowd. Who for some strange reason believe that if you never discipline your children they will become well adjusted and model citizens.

    [ Parent ]

    Have you read the New Testament? (none / 0) (#168)
    by kostya on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 03:38:29 PM EST

    Ananias and Saphira, anyone? God smote them dead on the spot. Some of Christ's own parables--very harsh. Christ's denouncing of the pharisees. You have to take it all if you want some of it.

    It's important to read the Old Testament--really read it. I know you have read it, but have you read it in the context of when it was written, in the context of the ancient Jewish culture, etc.? Much of the meaning and understanding of the Old Testament requires some careful reading without jumping to conclusions. The OT is hard to study well due to its completely foreign culture. Getting a good commentary/commentaries is a good idea.

    That being said, God destroyed the people of Canaan. But the Old Testament describes God as giving the people time to let their sin come to full--i.e. he was giving them a chance to repent, to change, before he put an end to it. A case on the other side is God relented with Nineveh. In most of these cases, God describes his motives as righting the greater wrong (i.e. the oppression or depravity of these cultures required God to act, forced Him to intervene in the name of justice).

    Additionally, God is described as full of wrath with Israel (his chosen people) over their sin, but time and time again he rescues them from destruction and captivity. Point? God does not spare his own discipline or the consequences of their actions (so their are no favorites when it comes to sin). But God remains faithful and loving, even in the midst of his wrath, promising them restoration and fulfilling those promises time and time again. If anything, the OT is a record of incredible patience and love with people who refuse to follow God whole-heartedly.

    The God of the OT is the same God of the NT. The OT is full of God's grace to a people that refuse to obey them despite constant proof and miracles. If anything, the OT should give many of us hope--if God didn't give up on them, he won't give up me despite how stupid and untrusting I am :-)

    I see no conflict between the God of the OT and the NT. A careful study that involves context and scholarly sources will probably eliminate most of your major objections. Try some of the early church fathers for insight--they have some great perspectives and eliminate the "too far removed" objection many have with modern scholars.



    ----
    Veritas otium parit. --Terence
    [ Parent ]
    Why, yes... (none / 0) (#181)
    by Canthros on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 04:43:56 PM EST

    True, I don't know that "Hate" is one of the words ascribed to God.
    Then what's the argument?
    But how about Jelous?
    Suppose you lend your lawnmower to the guy next door. He just wants to mow his postage-stamp-sized lawn and assures that he will return the mower as soon as he can. Two days later, he asks if he can keep it a little longer — he's missed some of the trim in the yard, but doesn't have time to take care of it just now... Three weeks later, your lawn is overgrown, your mower is still next door, and you can't convince your neighbor to return it. Are you jealous of your neighbor? Probably, though you may not see it that way. The simple fact, though, is that you want something of which he currently has possession. That the lawnmower is yours only makes you more jealous: why should you be denied something that belongs to you?

    There's a similarity in the feelings of jealousy which are ascribed to God: He wants what is His own.

    It continues to amaze me that Christians continue to perceive the God of the Old Testament to be the same as the God of the New Testament. What, did God change his mind all of the sudden?
    *laugh* Not at all. For one thing, He doesn't really do that sort of thing (change His mind), not as you mean it. All that happened was the central event of the Christian faith: the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. It's the same reason Christians don't make the same sacrifices and offerings that the Jews of the Old Testament made to God:
    What about "God's Wrath"..? (Wrath: "Violent Anger")
    If your child did something you had repeatedly told him or her not to do, don't you suppose you might become angry? Suppose, after you caught them doing it and reprimanded them for doing it, they did it again? Suppose it was something that you knew was monumentally stupid and dangerous (perhaps they've been running in and out of traffic at a busy intersection)? What would you do? Or, what do you think you should do?

    I'd say that I'd get pretty angry and punish the kid pretty hard (the how is immaterial, I think, for this discussion). Anger isn't wrong. We are just more inclined to act or think wrongly when we are angry than when we are not. God (I assume) does not have that particular problem.

    Is this a dispassioned wrath?
    Not at all. Jesus is acting as a mediator when we act wrongly. I recall (foggily) a story from the Old Testament in which Moses was pleading for the Israelites (this probably places it in Exodus). Moses went so far as to tell God to blot his (Moses's) name from the Book of Life if He (God) wasn't going to save the Israelites. Moses attempted to cash in a favor from God, Jesus never needs to do that.

    --
    It's now obvious you are either A) Gay or B) Female, or possibly both.
    RyoCokey
    [ Parent ]
    Hate in the Bible (none / 0) (#195)
    by broken77 on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 05:18:59 PM EST

    Actually, you don't have to look all that hard to find "hate" (not "wrath" or "anger" or "punishment"). Here you go:

    Psalm 5:5, "[God] hates all workers of iniquity."

    Romans 9:13, "Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated."

    Yah, there's more... It's easy to find.

    I'm starting to doubt all this happy propaganda about Islam being a religion of peace. Heck, it's just as bad as Christianity. -- Dphitz
    [ Parent ]

    Congrabulations! (none / 0) (#273)
    by Canthros on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 09:56:04 PM EST

    You have made the first mistake in Biblical interpretation: taking everything exactly literally! This is a mistake made by its opponents (looking for a strawman) and proponents alike! It is quickly followed by the second mistake: assuming the entire Bible is allegorical. You've also made another common mistake: evaluating things out of context.
    Psalm 5:5, "[God] hates all workers of iniquity."
    Given that this is part of the Psalms (and given something of the surrounding text) I am inclined to believe that there's some poetic license here.
    Romans 9:13, "Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated."
    Again, this doesn't appear (judging from context — the verse references Malachi 1:2b-3a[0]) to be entirely literal. The contrast is likely meant to demonstrate the difference in purpose of the two brothers (that is, Jacob and Esau). Jacob (the younger of the two) was chosen to accomplish certain of God's purposes, while Esau was not. Jacob was, accordingly, more blessed. The full skinny on these two is in Genesis 25:19 to 36 or so. Genesis 37 begins talking more fully about Jacob's sons. [0] The usefulness of the NIV footnotes. Incidentally, you should probably consider checking many of the problems that your Skeptic's Bible points with a more recent and accurate translation, since it seems to rely heavily on the King James — not most accurate translation to be found.

    --
    It's now obvious you are either A) Gay or B) Female, or possibly both.
    RyoCokey
    [ Parent ]
    Sure, but... (none / 0) (#455)
    by broken77 on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 08:51:17 PM EST

    You have made the first mistake in Biblical interpretation: taking everything exactly literally! This is a mistake made by its opponents (looking for a strawman) and proponents alike!
    Well, I generally only do this in situations where I'm trying to display how easy it is to find a certain meaning in the bible, if you look for it... Yes, I'm aware of this fallacy. And I don't generally use it. Also, keep in mind that these are just two quick examples I pulled out of the air. I didn't want to spend my afternoon doing a thesis on the most condemning aspects of the bible (besides, many people have already done that better than I could).
    Given that this is part of the Psalms (and given something of the surrounding text) I am inclined to believe that there's some poetic license here.
    Well, judge for yourself (NIV version, just how you like it). I don't really see how it can be read any other way (even though it's written in prose).
    Again, this doesn't appear (judging from context -- the verse references Malachi 1:2b-3a[0]) to be entirely literal. The contrast is likely meant to demonstrate the difference in purpose of the two brothers...
    I suppose I don't see your point. I went and read the NIV version of Malachi 1:2-3, and it seems pretty clear to me. God holds a grudge against Esau and "hates" him. What more needs to be said? Sure, we're talking about allegory or whatever literary tool the author was using (I'm no expert in this field). But... The point? God harbors the ability to possess hate. Regardless of if I haven't given a complete description of the story behind the extracted passage, the words and meaning are still there! I don't think I've done wrong in this respect.
    Incidentally, you should probably consider checking many of the problems that your Skeptic's Bible points with a more recent and accurate translation, since it seems to rely heavily on the King James -- not most accurate translation to be found.
    Yes, I know... And yes, I have. I haven't checked everything on the SAB site (who has time! And incidentally, I don't believe that everything they post on that site has much relevance). But I've taken passages here or there and confirmed the translation with later versions (New Jerusalem, NIV). I don't generally rely on the King James version for anything, including any of my casual reading.

    I understand the points you're making with me. And yes, you have some valid concerns. And yes, most people who blindly pull simple passages and quotes from the Bible haven't read or studied much of it. But I've done a bit of reading and studying. I'm no fool! (But no expert, by any means).

    Final summation? I carry a pretty big grudge about Christianity, and especially the Bible. That much is obvious. But equally, I would suggest that you defend it too easily. I could be wrong. But in most cases I've found, when someone responds and takes a stance the way you have, they generally just blindly defend it, and don't see any flaws in the book. Sure, they might do intense study to be able to back up their convictions, but I would say they are largely driven by their convictions to do so, and have found effective methods of arguing to make their opponents' viewpoints seem much less convincing. Now, you might say the same about me. But keep this in mind... I was once Catholic. I went to 12 years of Catholic school and Church. At one time, I actually believed this stuff. But after awhile, I started seeing all kinds of flaws and problems in the doctrine and in the Bible. This eventually led me down a path of realizing it was just too flawed to pursue as a Religion. So, this is not just knee-jerk reaction for me. It was a logical breaking down process that I went through over a period of some years. And I'm not alone (just one example, there are more).

    Final final summation? People like us are both at fault here. I don't think we'll ever agree. :-)

    I'm starting to doubt all this happy propaganda about Islam being a religion of peace. Heck, it's just as bad as Christianity. -- Dphitz
    [ Parent ]

    DIS CORD I AN ISM (3.00 / 1) (#60)
    by Farq Q. Fenderson on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 09:52:09 AM EST

    Was once popular among a lot of programmer types. Now the world has become rather stuffy.

    Discordianism has proven to be completely unpallatable here on Kuro5hin, consider this: The GWADFC Comics.

    Which was declared unfunny because it was discordian, apparently.

    farq will not be coming back
    wtf? (3.60 / 5) (#61)
    by Estanislao Martínez on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 10:23:06 AM EST

    For example, symbolic logic is extremely faith-efficient. You must accept, on faith, a few very clear axioms such as "a = ~a is false."

    What is the "=" supposed to stand for?

    If it's the biconditional, well, although it would work if you add the appropriate axioms, nobody ever proposes that as an axiom of classical logic. What's used instead is the principle of non-contradiction, which says "It is never the case that A and ~A".

    And while it's acceptance is the mainstream of logic, the axiom is controversial.

    If you agree to hold these beliefs despite having no rational reason to do so, then you receive a comprehensive system for testing whether any given set of declarative statements is self-consistent [sic] and for deriving additional true statements given an initial set of true statements.

    First of all, as a trained logician, I find your statement that there are no rational reasons to choose between different systems of logic quite offensive.

    Second, by "self-consistent" you must mean "non-contradictory".

    Finally, you are stating, essentially, that logical (in)validity is decidable for any logic, which is plainly false.

    --em

    Okay (none / 0) (#349)
    by ghjm on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 09:45:03 AM EST

    I am not a trained logician, nor do I play one on TV. I once took a symbolic logic class in college. My point was simply that for a small investment in axioms, symbolic logic provides a large payoff in terms of useful results.

    I find it interesting that you are _offended_ (a non-rational, emotional response) to what you percieve as an attack against your dogma. How is this different from all the various Christians who are _offended_ by my discussion of the Nicene Creed? Also, you are taking offense to a statement I didn't make. I'd sure like to see how you got "there are no rational reasons to choose between different systems of logic" from anything I actually said.

    By "self-consistent" I mean self-consistent. This is defined on dictionary.com as "not self-contradictory" which is very close to your "non-contradictory." I spelled it right and it is a correct usage. I am _offended_ by your [sic]. :-)

    And at the end you go totally off the deep end. I am stating that logical validity is decidable for any logic? Maybe I'm not a trained logician, but I did do some Comp. Sci. - I have heard of the halting problem. But how on earth did you get that from anything I said?

    [ Parent ]
    Finding God (4.50 / 4) (#65)
    by jabber on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 10:45:14 AM EST

    Personally, I find little trouble in reconciling faith in $DIETY and science/technology/etc.. The problem I run into consistently is that God (as I see it) doesn't fit squarely into any one religion. "Religion" implies a set of rituals that is bigger than the individual, so all the points made about abdication of individuality to one's religion of choice are very true.

    This is a combustible topic, and we've seen wildfires over religion before, so to disclaim, all I say here is personal delusion about the sacred - I'm not trying to judge anyone or impose my beliefs onto anyone else. Just sharing some thoughts.

    To me, God and Creation are one and the same. The Judeo-Christian religion hands us 10 Commandments (yes, most religions share these in some form, since they are common-sense rules for the existence of Society). I see the laws of Physics as God's Commandments for Creation. Where we are told "Thou shalt not kill", bodies at rest are told "Thou shalt remain at rest unless acted upon by a force external to thyself".

    I think that we are not separate from Creation, but an integral part of it. We are a feature of Creation which is capable of attempting to comprehend Creation. We are the Universe's way of trying to understand itself. We are the eyes and ears of a vain God.

    The trick to a hyper-rational finding God is that it is something that must be done on personal terms. A mind that is compelled to question all systems and patterns it sees will not be comfortable with an imposed system of beliefs. If anyone out there is candidate for a 'personal relationship with God', it is "the geek".

    And I have to object to the definition of 'hyper-rational' that you pose. Geeks are notoriously good at suspension of disbelief.. We're the sci-fi freaks, the AD&D players, the ones to imagine data structures and algorithms.. If your ability to lose yourself in fiction makes you irrational then geeks are hypo-rational, and business majors are hyper-rational. ;)

    Why Won't God Go Away?

    [TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"

    Ten Commandments. (5.00 / 3) (#137)
    by priestess on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 01:51:32 PM EST

    The Judeo-Christian religion hands us 10 Commandments (yes, most religions share these in some form, since they are common-sense rules for the existence of Society).

    I see this a lot, people claiming that Moses commandments are 'common sense', but are they?
    1. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
    Common sense? Sounds more like divine vanity
    2. Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
    No other gods, no idols, no painting, no sculpture, god's admision of jealousy, which he later tells us is against these very same rules. Sure, common sense there.
    3. Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain; for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
    Blasphemy is god-damn unforgivable. I guess that's me fucked then.
    4. Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.
    Nobody really wants this surely? No telly, no operating an elevator, no driving a car, no public transport or electricity or hospital care one day in seven? I defy anyone who calls that common sense.
    5. Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
    Honouring your parents will give you a longer life? Sure, common sense. We're getting closer to a 'rule for society' now though, but I'd sooner say Honour the Honourable myself than make hard and fast rules you have to break if your folks go on a murdering spree.
    6. Thou shalt not kill.
    Okay, fair enough, but it's very general. Murder would have been a better word, we have to kill in order to EAT, even if it's just a soy bean we're killing.
    7. Thou shalt not commit adultery.
    This might be a good rule, but I'm not entirely convinced it's a universal one, tribes that share their women around would surprise me not one bit and I have quite a bit of sympathy for the free love hippies too, truth be known. I think don't LIE about what you're thinking there might be a better rule. Not bad though.
    8. Thou shalt not steal.
    Fair enough, though again very simple minded. Is stealing to eat okay if the alternative is starving?
    9. Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.
    Lying's pretty naughty, purgery more so, I think I've agreed with four now.
    10.Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour's wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour's.
    Thought Crime! You won't even think about that donkey, never mind that half of the rat race seems based on the jealousy of keeping up with Mrs Jones next door and that God himself admitted to jealousy a few verses ago. I guess it never said not to covert your next door neigbours idol, god or godess though.

    So I'd say that four out of six of them are maybe 'common sense', and judging by their placements they're four of the least important half, some caveats for most of them too.

    Anyone want to argue that Sabbath thing is generally a good idea? Even Jesus broke that one.
    I see the laws of Physics as God's Commandments for Creation. Where we are told "Thou shalt not kill", bodies at rest are told "Thou shalt remain at rest unless acted upon by a force external to thyself".
    I guess the laws for things that aren't alive are less irrelevent, vain, pointless, and even destructive if everyone does it in the case of that sabbeth one.

    Pre........

    ----
    My Mobile Phone Comic-books business
    Robots!
    [ Parent ]
    Literal interpretation? (4.66 / 3) (#157)
    by jabber on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 03:03:24 PM EST

    Interpreting literally something that has been passed down for thousands of years, and translated from language to language along the way is a dangerous practice. Case in point, those are not the 10 Commandments I learned back when I was a good Roman Catholic.

    1. ... Thou shalt have no other Gods. This includes your #2 re: 'graven idols'.

    When this is interpreted figuratively, it states that people should abide by this single set of ethical teachings. That hybridization and rampant annexing of exceptions to the 'one' code of conduct detracts from it's usefulness. To wit, look at our legal system - the bulk of complexity has made it much less effective, and often downright harmful, when it could be streamlined and cleaner. And no, I do not have a solution for that.

    2. ... Thou shalt not take the name of God in vain.

    Interesting point on perjury, I never saw it that way. As I understand this #2, it is about holding up this code of ethics and behaviour, even when challenged. It's a guard against hypocrisy.

    3. ... Thou shalt honor the Sabbath.

    Rest is important. Bear in mind that when these were written, slavery was widely accepted, and working the fields meant the difference between life and death. The purpose here is to keep masters from working slaves to death, and workers from neglecting their families and need for rest. The IT pros pulling in 80 hour weeks should take note.

    4. Thou shalt not kill.

    Good rule. It has it's exceptions, and those were outlined in Exodus, in a time-sensitive context. Self defense, treason... Even though these were 'set in stone', they apparently are not. ;) Times do change, and I'm glad we don't stone prostitutes anymore. This is a good example why occasional reinterpretation of the Commandments is needed, rather than blind adherence or outright rejection. It's not all black and white.

    5. Honor thy father and mother.

    Not only does this have to do with maintaining the family unit, upon which society is built, it also alludes to respect for authority. Again, consider the time these were written. Fathers ran businesses, sat in council, etc, while mothers nannied the children and provided support within the family. Honoring the honorable is totally subjective, and then you get into dictating what 'honourable' entails. Yes, it is a rule of society. What, besides laws of nature, isn't?

    6. Thou shalt not steal.

    The taking of material possessions results in retaliation. Stealing is a root cause for things like robbery, burglary, the various violence that results here. It causes fear in those that have. It gives those that have not, to try having without earning and contributing to society. Yes, it's a societal rule. Why is that a bad thing?

    7. Thou shalt not commit adultery

    VD for one. Paternity for another. Crimes of passion for a third. (NNITO) Need more reasons? The whole idea of polyamoury creeps up, but the fact is, the vast bulk of the world, all 6 billion of us at this point, still see monogamy as a rule, and the 10 Commandments are not the basis of the moral compass for India and China. Curious indeed.

    8. Thou shall not bear false witness.

    Another good rule. Truth is a good baseline upon which to build a code of conduct. There is enough misunderstanding and miscommunication, without adding misleading to the mix.

    9. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbors wife.

    'Covet' does not mean 'to want', it means 'to desire enviously' and the difference is not purely verbiage and semantics. Covetousness blinds one to the consequences of actions. This rule is to prevent crimes of passion specifically. It is to prevent the breakup of the family unit by external forces. It is an attempt at placating relations between neighbors (literally and figuratively) just because one got to marry a pretty girl while the other got stuck with her fugly sister. Again, recall when these were written, in a time when most people lived in relatively small tribes of few families which tended to interbreed. To covet your neighbor's wife could easily mean to covet your brother's wife, or to covet your wife's sister. It's not just about 'thought crime' - you're bringing today's problems into the remote past. It's more about protecting the integrity of the family, and by extension, of society.

    10. Thou shalt not covet anything belonging to thy neighbor.

    Yes, it's very much a reinterpretation of #6, but in a more abstract and preemptive sense. Not only are we fordibben to take another's possessions as our own, we are forbidden to consider doing so. And again, it's not 'want', it's 'covet'. If we delve deeper into the Judeo-Christian dogma, we find the 7 Deadly Sins, and they are such for a reason. They are ones which cause delusion by affecting one's ability to consider the wellfare of society - and in a land of few people and fewer resources, the covetting of the latter posed serious problems.

    Don't get me wrong here, I am far from being a Judeo-Christian apologist. I've grown quite disillusioned with the bulk of the RC religion, it's ritual, it's hypocrisy, and it's preference for obedience to analysis and understanding. A little heavy on the myth too, if you ask me. But, I think that the 10 Commandments as a basis for a code of conduct, when INTERPRETED appropriately for a given context, are a pretty good thing.

    They are far from absolute and all-encompassing, and they are for the most part common sense. The 'God related' ones are jurisdictional, the others are there to constrain actions for the benefit of individuals and society as a whole. What's wrong with that?

    And we must also not forget whence they came.. If I were to climb a mountain on a hot summer day, pass out from heat exhaustion and suffer smoke inhalation from a Burning Bush, I too might think that God Himself dictated some common sense stuff to me. :)

    [TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
    [ Parent ]

    9 Commandments? 11 Commandments? (5.00 / 1) (#174)
    by priestess on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 04:23:26 PM EST

    Interesting that the RC's number the things differently to my admitedly small (and some have said cultish) folks religion. I suspect my parents have a more literal interpretation than most would call strictly sane.

    Gotta stick up for them on this point though, if you merge the first two divine vanity commandments and try to split the last thought-crime one into two then you have to explain why "Covet Neighbours Wife" is listed between House and Manservent. If there must be 10, then the way I split them is better. It's not entirely obvious where to draw the lines between them all though.

    I'll agree that "Use a Simple Legal Code, eg this one" might be a good rule, but it's just not what these commandments say. The first three (two?) are simple nonsense designed to inspire fear.

    You don't have to argue with me that rest is a good thing. I work a four day week personally. I think everybody should, but I don't think we should all have the same day off. It's lunacy! I can't even 'rest' in the pub if all the staff are off resting too. Why must the sabbath be the same day for everyone?

    I don't think we differ much on the rest, except I think it's definately cheating to split the Covet Commandment into two (and not even in the middle, you just picked one item from a list out to seperate it) and anyway, Coverting is something you do in your head, not with your hands, no rule should ever forbid a thought, if only because a fair trial investigating what I was thinking when I was looking at my neighbours tits and donkley would be completely impossible.

    Maybe there are only nine commandments. That'd be a surprise to the RC's wouldn't it!

    The 'God related' ones are jurisdictional,
    The Vanity commandments take up nearly HALF of the code! Way more if you measure by number of words. They reference a God who's hypocritical WITHIN THE CODE (I can be jealous, and indeed pick on your great grandkids if you don't devote yourself only to me, but YOU can't be jealous even in thought) and who's clearly made up. And they want to stick this junk on the classroom walls.
    the others are there to constrain actions for the benefit of individuals and society as a whole. What's wrong with that?
    Nothing wrong with about half of the code I guess. Strange that you think the first few amount to 'keep it simple stupid' when clearly it's at about 50% junk.

    Pre.........

    ----
    My Mobile Phone Comic-books business
    Robots!
    [ Parent ]
    God gave Moses 20 commandments, not 10 (none / 0) (#192)
    by scorbett on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 05:11:12 PM EST

    Read about it here:
    http://www.thehappyheretic.com/7-99.htm

    or here (scroll down to section called "Ten commandments?"):
    http://www.scorbett.ca/writings/religion/anti-christianity.shtml



    [ Parent ]

    Two remaining points (5.00 / 1) (#209)
    by jabber on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 05:55:01 PM EST

    The Vanity Commandment(s) are not there to inspire fear any more than making school children stand and recite the Pledge of Allegience is. They are simply a statement of authority and supremacy of the moral code over the life and behaviour of the individual - same as the Pledge asserts dominion and jurisdiction over the individual politically.

    I personally resent being made to say The Pledge as a child, and have not done so since I was old enough to be able to formulate an argument against doing so. Being forced to declare allegience is an abridgement of Freedom, is it not? Can you imagine how frightening for a child it may be to even consider NOT saying the Pledge with their classmates?

    I hope that makes my point on that matter - God's Vanity is no more scary than accepting the dominion of the country within the protection of which one chooses to live.

    The Thought-Crime Commandment(s) IMO should necessarily be split, preferably with the 10th being revised to remove any implication of slavery from the term 'manservant'. Why?

    Well, the 9th Commandment in my list deals with the Wife, an autonomous (albeit in the ancient context, not very) human being. The relationship with a wife is very much different than the relationship with possessions (including houses, donkeys, manservants, etc).

    The covetting of a wife, of a relationship someone has with their wife, is a very different thing than the covetting of one's possessions. The actions which may follow from such a covet are different and the consequences which are concievable in response to such actions are different still.

    Would you not vehemently agree that the (emotional/sexual) investment in another person is fundamentally different from the investment one has to things?

    Do these two types of relationships not warrant a clear delineation, to remind people that a wife is in fact very different than a possession? Because after all, if my 9th and 10th Commandments were united, then the desire of someone's wife would be the same in God's eyes as the desire of someone's cow. And a man whose wife is lusted after by another man would feel no different (by virtue of ethical recourse) than one whose cows are desired by another. This would set up a dangerous precedent for wives being objectified more than they already were, and we as the moral descendants of those ethics would have yet one more knot to unravel.

    Consider that the Southern Baptists, in the last year or two, proclaimed that it was a woman's duty to subject herself to the will of her husband. The KKK still references an obscure passage in the Bible which states that the 'black man' is meant by God to be a slave to the 'white man'. The phrasing matters, especially to people who tend to read the books literally. ;)

    [TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
    [ Parent ]

    Fear (4.00 / 1) (#233)
    by priestess on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 07:04:33 PM EST

    I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation
    This isn't about fear? I don't live in a country which makes you take a pledge. My odd family religion demanded that I not do so, even if asked in fact. My allegence was supposed to be to God, not my country or something. The Cubs wanted me to pledge to the queen or something so I wasn't allowed to join.

    If you want to go around editing the list, splitting one commandment and redefining what' meant by others, then surely you're agreeing that the list isn't so hot as it stands. Not 'common sense'. Frankly I suspect that any one person here could write up a better list of ten rules at two rules a minute.

    Also, the links from Scorbett in comment #192 were pretty enlightening. I know most Christians don't know the bible as well as I do (or did at least, it fades after a while) and it seems I'd just taken it at face value when God said he'd write the commandments down again. I tend to skip bits that look like they'll be repititious so I probably just assumed that God would at least remember his own rules a few verces later.

    Pre........

    ----
    My Mobile Phone Comic-books business
    Robots!
    [ Parent ]
    Full circle? (4.00 / 1) (#294)
    by jabber on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 10:57:59 PM EST

    Ok, so we've beaten that into the ground then?

    The whole thing started because I mentioned the Commandments in an unrelated context, and chose as example one of the few that we actually agree ISN'T up for interpretation. :D

    Yes, they are quite mutable. I never claimed otherwise. They were written for people who were much more willing to believe in magic, and understood much less of the world, than we today. For God's sake (lest lightning strike me), these people needed to be told not to eat pork at all, since they could not be trusted to cook swine enough to not give themselves dysentery.

    I stand by my points that the Commandments are a means of enforcing a tracable, verifiable code of conduct. I suppose I used the term 'common sense' because all that they are good for, to me, is that which is 'common sense'. All else is negotiable - God's vanity, the possessability of a spouse.. Whatever.. Killing bad, lying bad.. Not having to work on Sunday is pretty cool too. :)

    What's more, I stand by my original post from which this tangent originated. Personally, I'm a big fan of the laws of science, and what can be gleaned from them with a little enlightened self-interest.

    Cheers!

    [TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
    [ Parent ]

    Murder (none / 0) (#218)
    by delmoi on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 06:23:57 PM EST

    Okay, fair enough, but it's very general. Murder would have been a better word, we have to kill in order to EAT, even if it's just a soy bean we're killing

    Supposedly the hebrew says that, at least thats how bible thumpers defend the death penalty...
    --
    "'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
    [ Parent ]
    Another interpretation... (none / 0) (#278)
    by mech9t8 on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 10:09:50 PM EST

    1. ... Thou shalt have no other Gods

    2. ... Thou shalt not take the name of God in vain.

    Best way to maintain control of a group of followers when surrounded by polytheistic tribes is to not allow them to worship other gods. It makes your god seem more important and people more likely to be hostile to rival faiths. ie. More political control. Very understandable human cause.

    3. ... Thou shalt honor the Sabbath.

    What better way to make people pay attention to your religion than to have a whole day devoted only to you, and nothing else? Again, more control.

    The rest are just obvious society rules... of course, without any allowances for grey areas or exceptions, so not very useful as moral compasses.

    In any case, it seems these rules are either fairly obvious societal rules which every society has, or rules that are very good at keeping the religion alive. It gets even better with Christianity - "You can do whatever you want, but as long as one of the priests from our church forgives you you're going to heaven. And without our approval, you're going to hell. So don't mess with us."

    Were these rules instituted by God to make sure the "true religion" flourishes? Are they unfortunate side effects and misinterpretations of what he meant? Were they designed specifically by cynical leaders to control the masses? Or, perhaps, is the Judeo-Christian faith a man-made faith just like all the others that flourished because it happened to stumble upon the most successful rules at the right time - survival of the fittest?

    --
    IMHO
    [ Parent ]

    Newtonian physics != truth. (none / 0) (#219)
    by delmoi on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 06:25:37 PM EST

    I see the laws of Physics as God's Commandments for Creation. Where we are told "Thou shalt not kill", bodies at rest are told "Thou shalt remain at rest unless acted upon by a force external to thyself".

    Newtonian physics != truth.
    --
    "'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
    [ Parent ]
    The Constants are not (4.00 / 1) (#576)
    by jabber on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 03:22:05 PM EST

    Right.. First of all, the Laws of Science are not the Laws of the Universe, they are merely guidelines and relationships which we have observed. Unlike laws which we craft and enforce, our science is entirely derived from observation of naturally occuring phenomena - and our observation is in a constant state of refinement.

    Newtonian Physics is perfectly good for macro problems. Just as 'thou shalt not kill' is a handy, general rule. Special Relativity blows Newtonian Physics apart, in certain specific cases, just as self-defence, euthanasia, abortion, suicide, etc take the 4th Commandment apart in those special cases. But the over all sense is still true, is it not?

    As for the statement Newtonian physics != truth... Well, of course.. We're just now learning that the constants upon which even Special Relativity is based are not really constant.. But the over all sense is still true, is it not?

    Why is it that people insist on nit-picking generalities when they do not hold true completely or in all extreme cases. The world is gray, some things are lighter and some are darker, but there is no black and no white - so a rule or metaphor that is 'good enough' is just that, until a better one comes along.

    [TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
    [ Parent ]

    Is there anything common about it? (5.00 / 2) (#239)
    by DangerGrrl on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 07:19:49 PM EST

    I always find it amazing that we call it common sense when the majority of the population seems to lack it...
    I find the subsiquent debate on the merit/interpretation of the Ten Commandments fairly amusing... It seems there isn't even a strict definition as to what all ten actually are.
    But if you think having ten guidlines to interpret is difficult - try being a Orthodox Jew - They have 200something to follow and incorperate into their lives. Then again, they don't believe in Hell as Christians see it, so maybe the penatlties for infractions aren't so bad... You know, kinda like having a choice of a 10 question test where each are worth 10 points, or a 200 question test where each answer is worth half a point. Sure the 200 question test is more tedious, but it leaves a bit more room for error.
    But I am hardly the expert on Judeo-Christian belief structures. I'm just an ecclectic wiccan-based Pagan And we've got one 'rule' - "An thou harm none, Do what thou will" .
    And you would THINK 'one rule' would be easier than 10 or 200ish. But no, the Wiccan Reade gets sliced and diced to more peices than the big 10 with the way you and Preistess dissecting it. It gets Clintonized - i.e. Define what it is to Harm someone. If I get my back injured durring recklessly rough sex, have I not just been harmed? Is manipulation harmful to an individual? How about persuasion? Does harming none include oneself? And if so, does that mean I am going against the Reade by smoking ciggerettes? It goes on and on ad infenitum...
    NO religion that has guidelnes or rules... even if they are minimal... is immune to interpretation and misinterpretaion. And Wicca is a fairly young religion... I can only imagine what's been done to the 'original' 10 commandments...
    Anyone want to go looking for an ark?

    [ Parent ]
    RoboCop? (4.00 / 1) (#297)
    by jabber on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 11:19:51 PM EST

    200 directives? And all of them Prime? My God!!

    You're absolutely right though, all tennets of faith are subject to dissection. In fact, the more there are, the less scrutiny each of them undergoes - since they are, by virtue of cardinality, more definitive, or rather less comprehensive individually.

    If we had simple, clear and definitive rules, such as "Thou shalt eat your weenies plain, on a bun, no condiments" life would be simpler than with only a handful of vague, interpretible 'guidelines' that each generation, dialect, context and mood interprets and reinterprets to be more lenient, or strict, depending on the number of people they have under their power... (breath)

    So what it boils down to is that it is necessary to live in accordance with one's conscience - but the conscience itself is formed within a specific moral/ethical framework, and can become quite bothersome when faced with reasonable, yet 'out of frame' situations.

    Is doing something against someone's will, but out of the belief that it is truly for their own good, necessarily good or bad? Is it not presumptious to assume that we know better than someone else what is truly good for them? Conversion by sword is a shameful practice in today's eyes, yet at the time, most of those doing the converting (that were not getting off on the power trip) genuinely believed in the moral rightness of their acts.

    As for pain resulting from a religious experience, well, the things we do for our beliefs leave us with no one to blame but ourselves.. Don that hairshirt and start scratching..

    [TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
    [ Parent ]

    But... but... (5.00 / 1) (#361)
    by DangerGrrl on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 11:37:48 AM EST

    As for pain resulting from a religious experience, well, the things we do for our beliefs leave us with no one to blame but ourselves..

    <mocking sarcasm> No no, my deity made me do it! </mocking sarcasm> (re: Because Hank said so.)
    Besides, I'd much prefer a internally spiked corset to a hairshirt anyday.

    In all seriousness you bring up a interesting point. People do crazy things for their beliefs religious or otherwise. From drinking strychnine to giving up meat to fasting to giving up sex and so on - does anyone ever think of the consequences of their practice beyond the possibility of geting 'closer to god' through them?


    [ Parent ]
    Discipline (4.00 / 1) (#365)
    by jabber on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 11:54:10 AM EST

    Of course. There's much to be gained from the practice of religion, and becoming closer to God is only part of it. There is discipline, self control, satisfaction from living within a set of self-imposed boundaries (rather than a sense of opportunism and decadence).

    It may be a purely Judeo-Christian phenomenon, but self-denial is actually a very rewarding (though arguably misguided) thing.

    [TINK5C] |"Is K5 my kapusta intellectual teddy bear?"| "Yes"
    [ Parent ]

    Judeo-Christian Centric (4.00 / 1) (#388)
    by DangerGrrl on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 01:34:38 PM EST

    It may be a purely Judeo-Christian phenomenon, but self-denial is actually a very rewarding (though arguably misguided) thing.

    Self-denial is hardly limited to the scope Judeo-Chrisitan practices. Or do you shove Islam in there as well? They love forcing denial on others. Though I think there is a differnece between forced self denial (ie. being put to death for dancing) and willing self denial (i.e. A buhhdist monk taking a vow of silence).
    Then there are those who claim to doing whatever denying tenet, but manage to find loopholes to satiate the need for the behavior that they are allegedly denying to begin with. (i.e. Preists who take a vow of chastity only to molest little boys - technicaly they aren't having sex by the biblical definition but...)
    Of course there are those like me who think that most self denial is a waste of the gifts that 'The Powers That Be' gave us in making us human. Living ones life to its fullest potential is about as close to godliness as one might come. For what is life without expressing ideas and dancing?

    [ Parent ]
    Here's a shot at it (4.35 / 14) (#66)
    by dennis on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 10:45:25 AM EST

    I wouldn't presume to tell anyone which religion to pick, but here's a suggestion: you won't find it with pure rationality.

    Step away from the computer. Go someplace where not everything you see was made by Man. Any undeveloped wooded area will do nicely. Spend some time there. Feel the breeze on your skin, try to pay attention to everything. Let your brain quiet down. And reach for that little voice inside you. As Pascal said, "the heart has reasons that Reason does not know."

    Then do research on religions, and keep listening for that little voice.

    Why nature? (4.66 / 3) (#190)
    by dasunt on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 05:08:30 PM EST

    Why nature? Why do we have to "get away from it all" to find religion? Is a forest clearing an optimal place to find God and a crowded subway not?

    I'm genuinely interested in your response, but I don't see any reason why we have to go into the wilderness to find God.

    [ Parent ]

    Not the original poster, but.... (4.00 / 1) (#227)
    by nads on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 06:47:37 PM EST

    .... I'd venture to say it has at least a bit to do with isolation. To think deeply, you really want to be isolated with your thoughts. Of course you coudl do this in yoru room, but nature usually inspires people.

    [ Parent ]
    Well... (4.00 / 2) (#260)
    by CyberQuog on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 08:46:33 PM EST

    In my experience, to find that "little voice" it requires looking at the bigger picture. This tends to be extremly hard to do in front of a computer, tv, book, or what have you, where your attention is supremly focussed on one thing. In nature, to truly enjoy the beauty of it, you have to look at the bigger picture, take everything in as a whole. Once you learn to do that you can then apply it to other situations. Anyway, just my $.02 on the matter.


    -...-
    [ Parent ]
    Bigger Picture (4.00 / 1) (#366)
    by Merc on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 11:59:23 AM EST

    But aren't those birds, bees, mosquitos, chipmunks, squirrels, kangaroos, lions, tigers, rats, etc. distracting? Wouldn't it be less distracting just to be at home and turn off the computer, turn off the tv, close the book, and then think?

    People seem to think there's something magical and mysterious about nature. But couldn't that be because they're so often far away from nature that when they go out in the woods there are a lot of amazing things out there? Don't you think someone who lived all their lives in the woods would see something magical and mysterious about a big city?



    [ Parent ]
    Very true (none / 0) (#378)
    by CyberQuog on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 12:56:55 PM EST

    Maybe what I was trying to say then, is that it's a lot easier to focus on the big picture if you are removed from the enviroment you are most used to.


    -...-
    [ Parent ]
    Why nature (4.00 / 2) (#341)
    by dennis on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 08:26:39 AM EST

    Cyberquog's and Nads' responses are part of it. But I also think that when we are surrounded by things we made ourselves, it becomes harder to credit the idea that there's a Creator aside from us. Being in the wilderness is an antidote to that kind of unconscious pride.

    A long time ago, I tried an exercise from a book by Tom Brown. I walked through a patch of woods, at a normal pace, for a hundred yards. The whole time I thought "yeah yeah, woods, like any other woods, except with trash and beer cans." Then I walked back - at one tenth the pace. It took an hour. Halfway, it was like the scales fell off my eyes, and I realized how incredibly beautiful it was. Every new angle, every direction I looked, was like the work of a master artist.

    No, I don't think it's necessary, and certainly not all the time - I've had profound experiences at home, too. But it helps. And there's certainly precedent, from native american vision quests to Jesus going to the mountains to pray.

    [ Parent ]

    Humanism... (4.25 / 4) (#67)
    by perdida on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 10:48:13 AM EST

    politics, the preservation and survival of human civilization and the human race in general.

    Kurt Vonnegut put it best. "We serve the highest abstraction of which we are aware, our community."


    The most adequate archive on the Internet.
    I can't shit a hydrogen fuel cell car. -eeee
    Why should the human race survive? (3.00 / 2) (#391)
    by Merc on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 01:40:06 PM EST

    Why put any effort into human civilization or the entire human race surviving? Are humans so important? Humans are the ones making the planet unlivable for all kinds of other creatures. They are polluting the planet, throwing all kinds of dangerous junk into outer space, etc.

    Chances are, if we met another alien race that wasn't significantly more powerful than us, we'd end up trying to wipe them out.

    Why care about how humanity does? Let us kill ourselves and our planet off, and not bother the more successful alien races, if they exist. If they don't, who cares. On a galactic scale, nobody is going to miss us.



    [ Parent ]
    Why are we here in the first place? (5.00 / 1) (#440)
    by perdida on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 06:11:08 PM EST

    That argument is the flip side of the question:

    "why are we here?"

    In other words, if our judgement is bad enough to wipe out all kinds of people, and all manner of ecosystems and species, then who are we to say that the entire human race should be wiped out?

    It reminds me of talking to a suicidal person who thinks the world would be better off without him or her. If you want to be a better person, I'd say, the much harder and more admirable thing is to try to live a good life.

    The human race can do so many things and can think and create so many things, and we can investigate more, and encompass and experience more, than any other animal on this earth. And there are few animals quite like us in that regard.

    The harder and more admirable thing to do is to try to live a better life as humans, to pass through this technological threshhold and to live peacefully with each other, with nature.

    I feel that it is ironic, and right, that we will probably only be able to devote enough resources as a species to properly explore the stars when we have matured enough in judgement to stop consuming the resources in something as wasteful as war. Then we will be safe to look for others like us. ;)
    The most adequate archive on the Internet.
    I can't shit a hydrogen fuel cell car. -eeee
    [ Parent ]
    okaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay... (4.14 / 7) (#72)
    by flummox on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 10:57:39 AM EST

    i'll just comment on one statement...

    They need to hold a moral and ethical code and better themselves though striving to remain true to it. In other words, they need religion, just like everyone else.

    huh? does everyone need religion? i don't think so. why? why do i need religion? is it like food? will i die if i don't have any?? i'm flummoxed...

    this is stupid. i have no problems loving myself or feeling loved and i have no religion. i don't believe in any "higher powers". and i certainly don't follow the nicene creed (whatever that is). didn't even hear of the word until today...

    so, why don't we start with asking you why you think (or believe) that people need religion? what's wrong with people just trying to be good to one another? do you have to be influenced by a "higher power" in order to be good? what about feeling loved or wanted? since i have no problems feeling these things, and, i don't believe in those stupid things called religions, what is your point? oh, wait. some of you might claim that "just because you don't believe, doesn't mean that god does not love you." ha ha... yeah. whatever... that same person would say, "yer gonna burn in hell!" on any other occassion if i told them my true feelings about their "god"...

    personally, i don't think humans need religion. i think religion is what is holding us back from realizing our true potential. you have to dig through the shit to get to what is good. religion keeps people from this. it keeps them in check. and, even worse, it creates a fear and hatred of anything that opposes that religion. didn't any of you geeks listen to what Yoda had to say? fear leads to anger... anger leads to hatred... hatred leads to suffering... c'mon, guys and gals... even a stupid hollywood flick makes more sense than the bible... (oh, well, okay. so G.Lucas did borrow some stuff from "religions"... whatever... you get the point)

    my point is that you don't need religion to have morals. to have direction. to feel love or wanted or fulfilled... all you need is an open mind... that's it... once you open your mind, you'll have anything you ever wanted...

    open your mind to "god" and all you'll have is stupid stories and a "fear" of stepping off of the good path...

    if you flame me or hate me, then you are dishonoring "your god"... ha ha ha ha haaaaa...

    listen to some TOOL and get a clue about discovering yourself, your potential as a human, and the fact that you are human and connected and "loved" by every other human (and lifeform) on this planet...

    say hi to Mother Nature for me...

    cap'n flummox


    ...bring me my cheese...

    Tool (1.00 / 1) (#84)
    by bdowne01 on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 11:34:14 AM EST

    Right on brother. I just wanted to say that it's "Maynard"

    [ Parent ]
    So what are you ranting about? (3.00 / 2) (#94)
    by gordonjcp on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 11:56:29 AM EST

    I'm quite prepared to accept that people don't need religion. I'm also quite prepared to accept that God may not exist.
    But I don't think you need to be quite so rude about people who do believe in God. And, I'm not going to flame you for your beliefs, but for your lack of capitalisation.
    So, here goes...
    <flame>
    If you're so bloody clever, and don't need religion, does this also mean you don't need capital letters?
    Your point is completely lost in your moronic, unstructured ranting. Go back to AOL.
    </flame>

    [tongue firmly in cheek]

    Give a man a fish, and he'll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he'll bore you rigid with fishing stories for the rest of your life.


    [ Parent ]
    tongue not anywhere near my cheeks... (none / 0) (#575)
    by flummox on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 03:11:02 PM EST

    thanks for the flame...

    no, you can believe whatever it is you wish to. i have an aversion to "religious" people because they have an aversion to me... why do i think religious people are stupid in their beliefs? because they think i am stupid in my beliefs. keep in mind that i don't push my opinion onto others. i wait for them to speak up first... i never push my beliefs onto others until they push theirs onto me...

    look, let's just drop it. no one is gonna "win" this one. no one is gonna change my mind or yours or anyone else's. if you want to have a discussion about this, post a story and i'll be more than glad to comment on it. i'd write one, but i suck at it (as you can tell)... besides, the lower case thing really seems to annoy a lot of people. don't know why, but it does...

    on that note, ta-taa...

    cap'n flummox


    ...bring me my cheese...

    [ Parent ]
    Swing on the spiral... (4.00 / 1) (#125)
    by Francois on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 12:52:09 PM EST

    I had a good chuckle reading this but was never going to be drawn into posting a reply, until you mentioned Tool. They do happen to be my favourite band in the genre (not to pigeonhole them), so here's my take.

    I am an Agnostic going on borderline Atheist (disclaimer). No one needs religion, but the way our culture has developed, we need spirituality. Humans needed culture to evolve civilisation, and we invented religion to keep civilisation running, so whether you like it or not the need for spirituality is ingrained in the fact that you are human.

    listen to some TOOL and get a clue about discovering yourself, your potential as a human

    You might want to trace this to its source, instead of quoting Maynard (not Maynerd), namely Carl Jung who articulated the idea of a collective unconscious much better than MJK, since it's in prose form.

    Keep looking, but remember to keep an open-mind, that includes religion...

    [ Parent ]
    disclaimer (none / 0) (#444)
    by flummox on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 06:18:48 PM EST

    my quote, which goes on all my posts, had nothing to do with any of this. mentioning TOOL was just a coinkydink...

    but, if you look at the quote for just one second, you might see something there... think about it... without pain, there is no need for improvement... no need for change... well, something to think about...

    later,

    cap'n flummox


    ...bring me my cheese...

    [ Parent ]
    oops... (none / 0) (#442)
    by flummox on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 06:15:02 PM EST

    the place where i got the MJK quite from listed it as "nerd". i was skepticle at first when i typed it in... but, sense i trusted that source, i'll trust you two... i'm gonna change it now...

    ...bring me my cheese...

    [ Parent ]
    some quibbles (4.33 / 9) (#73)
    by ellF on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 11:02:22 AM EST

    A few points that chomped at my ankles as I made my way through the article:

    • The Nicene creed is not a set of axioms, as the author seems to be indicating. Axioms, like postulates, should be self-evident. My suspicion is that the confusions arises from the fact that the author is familiar with the notion that axioms are not proven, but didn't quite grok (no offense, ghjm) that the reason for that lack of proof is that it is deemed either unneccessary or unneeded. Neither are true when discussing the Nicene creed.

    • Now, this really isn't that much faith. As a set of axioms, this is not much larger than, say, Euclidean geometry.
      Euclidean geometry is actually a pretty substantial leap of faith - I had a high school teacher who insisted that the fundamentals of geometry were as sublime as God. Kind of amusing when I raised my hand, explained I was an atheist, and asked to be thus excused. Our acceptance of geometry does not somehow lessen the massive bounding of irrationality that we must take to accept the "fundamentals" of Christianity, as you have laid out here.

    • Perhaps it's because there are many hidden assumptions, which must also be taken on faith: that we are all sinners, that we cannot redeem ourselves through our own actions, that Christ is the only path to God, and so forth. These are not axioms, but as properly derived theorems they must be believed if the axioms are to be believed.
      It seems that you want to make two claims here, but I'm not sure I see how they jive. If the points that you outline are "hidden assumptions" in Christianity, then they are not "properly derived theorems". A hidden assumption is a fallacious bit of logic, in fact. The only way that you could insist upon the acceptance of these points ("we're all sinners", "Christ alone leads to God", an so forth) is if you provide an argument that is logically valid (which is to say free of fallacies and in valid logical form), and employs premises which are true.

    • Hyper-rationals have the same spiritual needs as anyone else; they need, in their hearts, to know that they are cherished, precious, and unique.
      Hmm. I am a person; I do not need to feel precious and unique. I do not need religion. I am not special. I am not a beautiful or unique snowflake. I am the same decaying organic matter as everything else.

    • They need to hold a moral and ethical code and better themselves though striving to remain true to it.
      As another poster pointed out, ethics is not derived from theology. One can, in fact, adhere to an ethical system that completely refutes the very notion of right or wrong - what is generally referred to as existential ethics. Good sources in this field are Albert Camus, Freidrich Nietzsche, Jean-Paul Sarte, and Martin Heidegger.

    • All belief systems -- religious or not -- eventually depend on faith.
      I'll agree, but I'll condition that agreement by stating that not all people feel the need for a belief system. For some, a philosophy is more effective.

    I wish I could answer the question that you actually ask - whether or not I've found a "faith-efficient religion" to satisfy my spiritual needs - but I can't say that I have those sorts of needs.

    Heidegger not so good (none / 0) (#107)
    by BinaryBoy on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 12:17:39 PM EST

    They need to hold a moral and ethical code and better themselves though striving to remain true to it. As another poster pointed out, ethics is not derived from theology. One can, in fact, adhere to an ethical system that completely refutes the very notion of right or wrong - what is generally referred to as existential ethics. Good sources in this field are Albert Camus, Freidrich Nietzsche, Jean-Paul Sarte, and Martin Heidegger.

    Perhaps not Heidegger, considering he was a Nazi. Recently my girlfriend had significant moral troubles doing a writing assignment based on some statements made by Heidegger. She's Jewish, and took serious offense to it, as did I.

    [ Parent ]

    ad hominem, exemplified (4.75 / 4) (#117)
    by ellF on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 12:34:19 PM EST

    heidegger's political affiliation has no bearing on his being a titan of a philosopher and possessing a marvelous mind. i'm sorry you find some of his statements offense - i personally stick to his philosophy and ignore his politics.

    closing your mind to a man's works because you disagree with his life demonstrates a fairly interesting existentialist point in itself: morality is often the hobgoblin of the daring.



    [ Parent ]
    Morals from a Nazi? (none / 0) (#213)
    by delmoi on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 06:15:52 PM EST

    If I were to say that my mathematical system was perfect, and could be used to prove that 4 and 5 were infect equal, it would be obvious that my mathematical system were flawed.

    Similarly, if someone's moral philosophy allowed him to be a Nazi, then it obviously must be broken.
    --
    "'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
    [ Parent ]
    assuming of course... (none / 0) (#399)
    by Merc on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 01:52:10 PM EST

    That this person followed his/her moral philosophy to a tee. Besides, nobody claimed his philosophical system was perfect. The claim was that he was a "titan of a philosopher and [posessed] a marvelous mind".

    Newtonian physics is far superior to what came before. It gave rules that were extremely useful in predicting the outcome of experiments. But Newtonian physics would allow objects to move faster than the speed of light, provided a constant force. This is not possible. If you look at it, this one small error makes every equation false. But guess what, people know this and use it anyway.

    Newton is also widely acknowledged as a horrible, spiteful person. He was a mysogenist and did all sorts of awful things to his scientific rivals. But that doesn't change how well his equations predict scientific outcomes.

    As many a parent has said: "Don't do what I do, do what I say".



    [ Parent ]
    Non-euclidian geonmetry (none / 0) (#211)
    by delmoi on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 06:13:20 PM EST

    If you look at the last of Euclid's postulates, "two non parallel lines will cross" it seems pretty clear, but without the world 'parallel' it gets difficult. I don't remember the exact wording but it seemed Harry, But whole other kinds of geometry were developed without that postulate. And they were actually useful for things too : P

    My guess is that while the idea is simple, it's extreemly hard to express without the word 'parallel'. If there haddn't been words like 'circle' and 'line' he would have had even more trouble...
    --
    "'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
    [ Parent ]
    "spiritual questions"? (3.00 / 1) (#74)
    by lb008d on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 11:03:47 AM EST

    useful answers to spiritual questions

    I think you've hit the nail on the head here - you're looking for some answers - not rationality, not faith exactly, just some answers. Unfortunately, you don't state the questions - so let me guess as to what some of them might be:

    • Is there a God?
    • If so, is there life after death?
    • If so, what can I do to prepare for it?

    Now, not many replies to this article have advocated atheism as an "answer", probably because it doesn't seem like an answer to questions like those I have presented - just a quick denial. As an atheist, I'm not out to convert anyone - just let people live their lives.

    However, since you asked for "what works" for us geeks, let me say that personally I couldn't see the universe in any other way. Why? Who knows - I've always been an atheist (thankfully my parents never forced me to go to church and they let me make my own decisions). Having "No" as the answer to my first proposed question just seems to make the most sense to me - and gives me the most freedom in my life.



    Faith and Reason (3.50 / 6) (#75)
    by DoomHaven on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 11:05:12 AM EST

    Faith and Reason are not mutually exclusive; they are very complementary. Science and religion are very similiar, their only difference is the base assumptions that precede any logical effort in either field. Ultimately, you have to have faith in the core "beliefs" of either system to follow the reasoning on any proof of additional aspects of the system. If you believe that God is false instead of true, a lot of the religious arguments fall apart; and the opposite is true for scientific arguments.

    I don't know who originally stated this, but I J. Michael Straczynski quoted it in his TV show, "Babylon 5": "Faith and Reason are the shoes on your feet. You cannot walk very far with only one". That is dogma to me. Truer words are never spoken.

    I believe in a higher power. Why? Because, despite the fact that I am a lazy, arrogant, loud, and jaded individual, I have graduated from university with a five-year degree, found work despite the tech slump, and an very well respected by my co-workers and supervisors for my excellent work. Through observation, I have made the following observations about said higher power:
    1) It's got a great sense of ironic humour. My life has been something that can only be described as a cosmic joke. It took me five months to find work after I graduated, and the next working day after I accepted my job offer, I received two more. My love life is hilarious: when I am single, I cannot get a woman to even spit on me. The minute I start dating, I have to beat women off me. My life has been the poster child for dramatic irony.
    2) It hates arrogance. See 1).
    3) It has invisible helpers, which I call gremlins, that are michevious but not necessarily evil. These gremlins love misplacing items, and only after a lengthy search will they return to somewhere that has be search about 5-6 times. Or, they will place something I am not looking for in the weirdest place; just yesterday, I found a spoon in my bedside dresser drawer. I live alone, and I have yet to invite anyone into my bedroom. The worst part is that I know how utterly foolish this observation seems. But, I do not have periods of missing time (blackouts), I do not sleepwalk (this is known because I do shut my alarm off while asleep without remembering, but only when it is within arms-reach of my bed), and I am only moderately absentminded.
    4) That, aside from arrogance, I must be living a good life, because I have not been smote, poxed, or suffered undue hardships. That It must like me, even if only because I seem to be the butt of It's jokes.
    5) It is a pretty low-key god. It has not manifested itself to me. It has not demanded or required a religion built around it. It do not seem to require praise, sacrifice (aside from arrogance and pride), or gaudy acts of architecture as a symbol for It.

    Just my thoughts on faith, reason, and religion.

    My bleeding edge comes from cutting myself on Occam's Razor.
    Useful text (3.00 / 1) (#76)
    by Herring on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 11:08:47 AM EST

    Others have recommended Pirsig - more philosophy than religion really. I recommend this.

    I particularly like the second reader review (from Canada - eh).

    Say lol what again motherfucker, say lol what again, I dare you, no I double dare you
    An interesting read (none / 0) (#246)
    by kabhul on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 07:34:09 PM EST

    I recommend Rudolf Otto, The Idea of the Holy. It's been ages since I dared to open it, it's an incredibly heavy read, but also very insightful. Be warned that it is written by a christian (and mysticist). But as an atheist, just take is as a psychological treatise on the mysterious, the wholly different, and on what believers feel in rare moments of devotion.



    [ Parent ]
    Many topics.... (4.41 / 12) (#80)
    by Anatta on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 11:23:24 AM EST

    But for a minority of the overall population -- perhaps a majority of Kuro5hin readers -- suspending rationality is extremely difficult. For this type of person, it is hard to engage in activities which don't seem rational. At the risk of sounding extreme, I will call these people hyper-rationals. The stereotypical "geek" falls squarely into this category.

    In the last 600 or so years, there has been a movement in the west to suggest that science and religion are at opposite ends, and that any good geek should be innately distrustful of religion. To me, this is organized religion's fault... however for a thousand years before that, the greatest minds in the west were.... monks.

    Don't be so quick to rank geeks "above" religion; those foolish monks were smart enough to create the first machines (time pieces)... arguably an advance far more significant than, say, the internet. There were many incredibly solid thinkers who were religious... see St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Anselm as two of the greatest philosophers who have ever lived. If you look beyond christianity, you'll find some Islamic monks who made some serious advances in mathematics, you'll find some buddhists and conficians who made significant advances in science, etc. You'll find some african and native american shaman who discovered the pharmacological properties of substances thousands of years before the westerners did. It seems to me that modern western geeks who find themselves "above" religion are no more enlightened than those who practice religion, and there are plenty of very sharp people who do have some sort of religious belief/practice.

    Bottom line is that your premise is a good one, and that taking a look at various religions is a very good idea, if for no other reason than to learn why they're not for you.

    Most religion requires a large exercise of faith, or in other words, holding beliefs despite having no rational reason to do so. Some religions also require a stronger form of faith: holding beliefs despite having a rational reason not to do so. For hyper-rational people, the former type of faith is difficult to achieve and the latter type is simply impossible.

    I'm not sure I'd say most religion requires a ton of faith. Certainly, buddhism doens't require much faith... taoism really doesn't, either. There are buddhist athiests and taoist athiests. As for christianity, there are so many ways to look at the bible that if you study it enough, you'll find the meaning that's right for you (after all, we're talking about you here). There are plenty of christians out there who will argue till they're blue in the face about how adam and eve were literally the first two humans on the planet. They neglect to realize that adam is the hebrew word for "human" and eve is the hebrew word for "life", and that clearly this story was meant as an allegory. When you do start to look at the bible as allegory, it becomes very interesting, even for rationalist geeks.

    Perhaps it's because there are many hidden assumptions, which must also be taken on faith: that we are all sinners, that we cannot redeem ourselves through our own actions, that Christ is the only path to God, and so forth.

    There are many groups of christians who don't believe in sin, or who emphasize redemption over sin, let alone non-christians who don't fit it into their ideas at all.

    You can't just go from religion to religion, worshipping god today, allah tomorrow, and thor the next day, hoping that eventally one will trigger and suddenly you'll feel at one with the universe and discover the truth.

    You can't "choose" to believe.

    You can, however, read up on many different religions, find what you like, and make your own. Hell, you can abandon all the old ones and make an entirely new one based upon worshipping the on switch on your computer monitor. After all, that's essentially the same thing Muhammad, Christ, Moses, the Buddha, Zoroaster, etc. did to create their religions.

    For a few sites on religion that might interest a geek, check out:

    BuddhaNet -- good all-around buddhism site
    Gnosis Information -- by far the most fascinating area of religion, to me
    PBS Frontline Series on Christ -- a good overview of christianity
    Infidels.org -- a good athisesm website
    Tantric Buddhism -- interesting ideas, and SuperSex to boot!
    Mahayana Buddhism -- good basic description of a sect of buddhism

    I'm sure there are tons more out there, but that should be a good start... Also, don't be afraid to go pick up a bible, a koran, or a sutta; many of the "ignorant" believers don't even bother to read up on their religion. Those who do are often quite fascinating...


    My Music

    Dim Sum Religion: I disagree (4.33 / 3) (#102)
    by kostya on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 12:11:16 PM EST

    I disagree with this statement:
    You can, however, read up on many different religions, find what you like, and make your own.
    I heard a great interview on NPR's Fresh Air with the retired head of Religious Studies of Harvard/Yale/Princeton (something, but it was pretty impresive <grin>). He had been methodist and had converted to buddhism, I believe. The host asked him what he thought of taking bits and pieces of religions and making your own belief system.

    He replied something like this:

    I think that is a horrible idea. The point of religion is to make you a better person, to challenge you to be more than you are. If you just take bits and pieces of religion, you will only take the parts you will like. They will not change you, but reinforce you and keep you the way you are. That is not the goal of religious belief.
    And while I may disagree with his conversion, he makes a spectacular point. Religious belief is not about making you feel better about yourself, it is about changing who you are. Really. For the atheists out there who think people are just looking for a security blanket, true belief is hard and life shattering at times. It is anything but a nice cozy retreat from a big mean world ;-)

    I'd throw in one more point of disagreement. Truth, by it's very defintion is exclusionary. Something is true or not true. To take bits and pieces from conflicting world views and belief systems will only leave an illogical and inconsistent of mish mash that will do nothing to satisfay the needs of the heart and psyche. It will be still born.

    Sure, I think Christianity is the most correct belief system. But whatever system you think is best, stick with it. Hodge-podging is just pointless. You might as well remain an declared agnostic with no opinion. It is more intellectual honest and true to the pursuit of belief: life changing answers.



    ----
    Veritas otium parit. --Terence
    [ Parent ]
    Shocked... (4.00 / 3) (#124)
    by Anatta on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 12:49:07 PM EST

    The point of religion is to make you a better person, to challenge you to be more than you are. If you just take bits and pieces of religion, you will only take the parts you will like.

    Yet Buddhism essentially took the parts of hinduism the Buddha liked, and added some other stuff. Christianity took the parts of Judaism the early christians liked and added some other stuff. Islam took parts of christianity and judism that Muhammad liked, and added his own stuff. Gnosis took parts of judaism, orthodox greek, buddhist, and christian thought, and added a few new things. Early religions tended to recognize and accept each others' pantheons, and if I believed in El'ohim and you believed in Ba'al, we could both be happy together. There's nothing *wrong* with that.

    My guess is this guy was attacking New Age religion... the fluffy, nonsensical, closure-happy, crystals and astrology focused "religion" and saying it's a bunch of crap. It tends to look at meditation as a vehicle for making one "speical" rather than as a vehicle for destroying the self... it looks at Christianity as a fluffy religion without really understanding what christ said (which actually may not be that far from what the new agers think!). I would agree with him, however I'm sure there are some who would disagree...

    The problem isn't in fusing religions, it's in throwing out morals (which may or may not be bad). Look at the tantrics... they took the buddhist idea that there is no "reality", and some extended it to the point where it was ok to murder, rape, and pillage, because there is no reality. Herman Hesse's Demian explored the idea that Cain was the great one in the story... relavent quote:

    The first element of the story, its actual beginning, was the mark. Here was a man with something in his face that frightened the others. They didn't dare lay hands on him; he impressed them, he and his children. We can guess -- no, we can be quite certain -- that it was not a mark on his forehead like a postmark -- life is hardly ever as clear and straightforward as that. It is much more likely that he struck people as faintly sinister, perhaps a little more intellect and boldness in his look than people were used to. This man was powerful: you would approach him only with awe. He had a 'sign.' You could explain this any way you wished. And peopl always want what is agreeable to them and puts them in the right. They were afraid of Cain's children: they bore a 'sign.' So they did not interpret the sign for what it was -- a mark of distinction -- but as its opposite. They said: 'Those fellows with the sign, they're a strange lot' -- and indeed they were. Peple with courage and character always seem sinister to the rest. It was a scandal that a breed of fearless and sinister people ran about feely, so they attached a nickname and myth to these people to get even with them, to make up for the many times they had felt afraid.
    To me, such ideas as this are "dangerous" -- while you and I may disagree with them, they can completely alter ones understanding. Look at the gnostics... a sect that some scholars believe wrote their gospels at the same time as the four NT gospels... they believed that the snake was the hero in the creation story!

    I'm rambling, now, but the bottom line, to me, is that that scholar, while likely attacking soulless New Age ideas (and who is he, or me, to say that such ideas are wrong), made a drastic error.

    Religion and spirit are the most intensely personal subjects in existence. We have a vareity of books and teachings from all over the world to work from, however there is no question in my mind that there are no two people on this earth who believe exactly the same thing. Because of that, beliefs get processed differently in different people... when it gets really interesting, someone writes it down or starts telling people about it, they like it, and it grows.

    Suggesting that by making new religions, we won't have any changes in ourselves is ridiculous. Islam is well known as one of the physically and mentally hardest religions around, and yet it was created by a man (some would say divine). If I suddenly felt I was divine, and was the next in the line after Muhammad, I could write an even harder religion. Mixing and matching, or creating new religions doesn't mean they're all going to be bland and new age...

    I think they need a new head of religious studies!
    My Music
    [ Parent ]

    Orthodoxy: point or region? (5.00 / 2) (#135)
    by kostya on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 01:37:54 PM EST

    Before I respond to specific points, I'd like to clarify my thinking on belief using the term orthodoxy. Orthodoxy literally means "right thinking"; it's used to talk about correct or acceptable belief and thinking within a belief system. It can be applied to any religion or system of belief, because they all have a certain definition of orthodoxy. Or more simplified, by their very defintion of being a "system", there are things you have to believe or agree with or you are not a "believer" in that religion or belief system.

    Now I know this is a problem in the US, but it is probably common elsewhere: orthodoxy is perceived as a set of points or one point. You believe these [X] things, and being off-bead on any of them makes you unorthodox or a heretic by that religion or belief system. But that's not orthodoxy. Orthodoxy is actually a plane or region, marked by fence posts or lines of beliefs. Orthodoxy is more a definition of range of belief (we believe this and this and something like this, but not outside this and that) that marks the "playing field" for that belief system. It works that way in Christianity and in several other religions that I know of.

    For instance, to be a Christian, you have to believe a few things about God and Christ, but as to how salvation works there is a wide range of belief. However, they are all based on the concept of grace. A Catholic, an Easteren Orthodox, and an Evangelical are going to differ on how they think grace works with santification, but they all believe the same thing about Christ.

    Which is to say, it is possible to believe different things about different concepts while still being orthodox in your beliefs. Both a Catholic and I are orthodox in our beliefs about God, Christ, and salvation, we are both Christians, but we do not agree on a lot of things.

    With that said, I believe that is what this professor meant. That we should give these belief systems a chance and trust in them first before we go off making our own brands. I think your comments about New Age religion are on the mark, and they match a lot of what this man was trying to say. But I would back up his main point with one word: humility.

    I may want to fashion my own religion out of Buddhism and Christianity, but it's doing a grave disservice to both those belief systems. They have both been around for thousands of years, with great philosophers and thinkers in each working out the intracacies of beliefs and practice. To just discard thousands of years of belief and thinking because I believe I can find a better way is pretty stupid, IMO.

    I practice yoga because I find it an excellent tool for concentration, meditation, and prayer. So clearly I practice "trolling" through other belief systems for concepts and approaches to help me think. But, I still stick with one belief system and work through it. Because that is ultimately more productive.

    Religion and spirit are the most intensely personal subjects in existence. We have a vareity of books and teachings from all over the world to work from, however there is no question in my mind that there are no two people on this earth who believe exactly the same thing

    Agreed, but we can all find points of commonality and be challenged by one another in discussing our points of difference. I believe a "seeker" will find more benefit in trying a belief system wholeheartedly because they will be forced to bump up against the tough parts of that system and see for themselves. lee_malatesta and I are both Christians, but we both have different approaches on certain topics. So there is a demonstration of different beliefs, individual beliefs, but a commitment to orthodoxy on both our parts (he progressing towards Eastern Orthodoxy and I being an Evangelical).

    BTW, I agree with most of your other points about discarding morals. Some pretty damn scary stuff has come from Christain cults that forget everything that Christ was about.

    I would also disagree about "borrowing" and how you have used it with major world religions. I don't see this necessarily as borrowing that then justifies cobbling together your own personal religion, but I see what you are saying. At least in the case of Judaism and Christianity, Christianity was a wholly Jewish thing in that they believe they had finally found the Messiah. Islam is something else too, but I do not understand it enough to make an intelligent (i.e. non-ignorant) comment. As for Gnostics, they were just Greeks and Hellenists taking Christ from a purely greek-philosophical perspective--i.e. heretics ;-) Ironically, look at any "cult" springing from Christianity and you will only see gnostic beliefs again and again. In a funny way, gnosticism has been with us for a long time. A new meaning to "There is nothing new under the sun." ;-)



    ----
    Veritas otium parit. --Terence
    [ Parent ]
    What Does God Say? (none / 0) (#348)
    by Anatta on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 09:41:22 AM EST

    For instance, to be a Christian, you have to believe a few things about God and Christ, but as to how salvation works there is a wide range of belief.

    I get scared of statements like "you have to believe a few things" because it tends to create insular thinking. For example, I consider myself a christian, however a) I doubt jesus ever existed, and b) I don't necessarily believe in god. I look at the bible as a good guide to how to live on earth, and how to treat my neighbor, but I would say that it's not a good guide to the almighty creator of the universe, or to the afterlife (should there be such a thing.)

    I suppose that makes me a heretic, which doesn't bother me, but I don't feel that heretical ideas are necessarily bad ideas. I would even go so far as to say most of the really important ideas were, indeed, heretical at one time. Seems to me we should be embracing heretical ideas, giving them the full analysis, and keeping those ideas that stand up to scrutiny.

    But, I still stick with one belief system and work through it. Because that is ultimately more productive.

    It's ultimately more productive for you, which is 100% fine, but it may not be more productive for me. Spirituality always comes down to a personal quest, and just as you want to get these tools to aid you on your quest, I want those tools to aid me on my quest. Suggesting that I, or anyone, should limit the stores I get my tools from to one big store with maybe a few small out of the way stores isn't fair to those who want to quest on different terms.

    I believe a "seeker" will find more benefit in trying a belief system wholeheartedly because they will be forced to bump up against the tough parts of that system and see for themselves.

    I'm not sure one can really "try" a belief system. One can go through the pomp and circumstance, but I'm not sure one can try to believe. For example, I could go to a mosque, wear islamic garb, grow a beard, bow to mecca 5X daily, etc. but I couldn't just "try" to believe in allah. I would not be a muslim.

    I'm sure you know what Pascal's wager is, but one of the big flaws in it that philosophers have pointed out over the centuries is that you can't choose to believe. Even if somehow you knew eternity in hell waited for you if you didn't believe, belief has to come from your heart and god would know who truly believes. The belief has to come from inside first and then, as one realizes one believes, he or she starts to explore exactly what it is he or she believes.

    Some pretty damn scary stuff has come from Christain cults that forget everything that Christ was about.

    Don't forget, some of the largest established religions in the world have done some less-than-savory things in the name of god, too. It's not just cults. It always makes me laugh when people think the 2nd commandment means "don't say god damn it!" when it really means "don't go doing very very un-godlike things like murdering, hating, raping, etc. and attaching god's name to the ideas and actions." Then again, each of us looks at what god says differently...

    At least in the case of Judaism and Christianity, Christianity was a wholly Jewish thing in that they believe they had finally found the Messiah. Islam is something else too, but I do not understand it enough to make an intelligent (i.e. non-ignorant) comment.

    Yes, your example of christianity illustrates my point exactly. Even accpeting your version of what happened, the early christians took the old testament, threw out a bunch of the nasty stuff like... leviticus... and adopted some rather greek ideas of grace and salvation. Basically, they did exactly what I have been talking about.

    As for Gnostics, they were just Greeks and Hellenists taking Christ from a purely greek-philosophical perspective--i.e. heretics ;-)

    I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss the gnostics as heretics -- they certianly did not see themselves as heretics, and as we all know, the winners get to write history. From the PBS frontline on jesus,

    [T]hose who wrote and circulated these texts did not regard themselves as "heretics." Most of the writings use Christian terminology, unmistakable related to a Jewish heritage. Many claim to offer traditions about Jesus that are secret, hidden from "the many" who constitute what, in the second century, came to be called the "catholic church."
    and adding this part, from the same text,
    Quispel and his collaborators, who first published the Gospel of Thomas, suggested the date of c. A.D. 140 for the original. Some reasoned that since these gospels were heretical, they must have been written later than the gospels of the New Testament, which are dated c. 60-l l0. But recently Professor Helmut Koester of Harvard University has suggested that the collection of sayings in the Gospel of Thomas, although compiled c. 140, may include some traditions even older than the gospels of the New Testament, "possibly as early as the second half of the first century" (50-100)--as early as, or earlier, than Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John.
    As I said, assuming that just because they didn't become the dominant belief set they were written after the NT gospels and should be regarded as heretical may indeed be extremely inaccurate. The winners get to write history, and the church attempted to "write" gnosticism out of history. Not exactly very christlike, any way you slice it.

    Anyway, I don't want to turn this into a gnosticism vs. catholicism (in the old meaning) debate. Bottom line is we should be discussing all ideas of religion on their merits, and keeping those which stand up to scrutiny, instead of exterminating (in the gnostic meaning, and in the "get rid of the new age fluff" meaning) those belief systems we're not happy with.
    My Music
    [ Parent ]

    What is orthodoxy really? (none / 0) (#358)
    by kostya on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 11:10:54 AM EST

    Again, what is orthodoxy? It is simply how groups define what is and what is not in their belief system. An orthodox Buddhist is going to adhere to the foundations of bhuddism. Perhaps they are in a specialized branch of thinking that might disagree with another specialized branch; perhaps those two branches of buddhists would even say the other is wrong. But if they both hold to the orthodox beliefs, the foundations of what it means to be buddhist, they would still call one another buddhists.

    Orthodoxy has gotten a bad wrap because it is often associated with oppression or whatnot. You ending comment about "exterminating" proves my point--I mention orthodoxy and you begin to get very "scared". I'm not sure what to say about that.

    The reason I bring up orthodoxy is that in order to understand the concepts of a religion or a belief system, one must understand the context. You can't just pull concepts or beliefs out of the context of the belief system and consider them in isolation. It will only lead to false or misguided conclusions. You need to understand the context of the beliefs, the history, the reasons, etc. Westerners are especially guilty of this, taking Eastern concepts and dropping them in the middle of their Western mindset. Much of Eastern philosphy is predicated on concepts that are truly foreign to the Western mind. "New Age Fluff" as you called it is especially guilty of this inability to understand the original context. A westerner would benefit more (in terms of learning and understanding) by embracing orthodox Eastern thinking, considering it all from within the Eastern framework. And that is basically my point (unfortunately I have apparently muddied the waters with other issues).

    For example, I consider myself a christian, however a) I doubt jesus ever existed, and b) I don't necessarily believe in god. I look at the bible as a good guide to how to live on earth, and how to treat my neighbor, but I would say that it's not a good guide to the almighty creator of the universe, or to the afterlife (should there be such a thing.)

    I suppose that makes me a heretic ...

    I got into a long discussion about what heresy is and is not. It would be fruitful to read that (since it is friggin' long, and I don't want to inflict it on you in one post). Suffice to say that heretic according to dictionary.com means:

      a dissenter from established church dogma; especially : a baptized member of the Roman Catholic Church who disavows a revealed truth
    But a more general (and accurate) meaning would be anyone who does not fall under the umbrella of orthodoxy (remember, it's more of a region of belief, not a system of points) but insists that they are a part of orthodox thinking (i.e. that they fall within in that region of belief). That is, the word is used to identify those who do not adhere to the orthodox foundations, but still claim to be a part of the religion or philosophy. Someone who just doesn't believe or want to belong is simply someone who doesn't believe (atheists, for example, are not Christian heretics <grin>).

    From what you have listed above, you would be hard pressed to prove yourself a "Christian". That's not me being an ass; really, I'm not trying to be one (but probably am). It's just that you have stated pretty much the opposite of the basic meaning of "Christian". Christians do believe that Christ existed and that there is a God. It's the very essence of Christianity. You cannot say you are a follower of Christain beliefs while not believing Christian beliefs. It doesn't make sense ;-)

    You are using the word, but that is not its original definition. You consider yourself Christian, but your definition of what "Christian" means is not the traditional meaning. This is ultimately the real purpose of orthodoxy--it provides the "definition". But again, it is not a set of exact points, but more of a playing field that you work within.

    I'd imagine that many would be very confused if you called yourself a Christian but didn't believe in a God. Even strong atheists would probably find that confusing, wondering why you bother with the label if you don't hold to any of the basic beliefs that define "Christian".

    I draw great priniciples and truths from other belief systems, but I do not believe myself to be a part of those systems. And I doubt the adherents of those systems would either. You already admit you don't adhere to the basics; it shouldn't bother you to find out you aren't technically (by definition) Christian. Again, orthodoxy is just a handy way to define what belief systems "are".

    Yes, your example of christianity illustrates my point exactly. Even accpeting your version of what happened, the early christians took the old testament, threw out a bunch of the nasty stuff like... leviticus... and adopted some rather greek ideas of grace and salvation. Basically, they did exactly what I have been talking about.

    No. I'm sorry, but you are still not hearing me. That is not accurate or true. A careful study of Christian/Church history would show this to be an over-simplistic and incorrect understanding of Christianity's roots and origins in Judaism. Which is exactly my point.

    We could get into a long discussion over Christian theology, but in doing so, we prove my point. Which is that you cannot fully understand the beliefs of any system without considering it as a whole. Again, to cobble bits and pieces of several religions together does a great disservice to each of them.

    As for gnostic teaching, again, I think you need to really study the whole picture to understand where they are coming from. If you like, we could discuss that out-of-band.

    Bottom line is we should be discussing all ideas of religion on their merits, and keeping those which stand up to scrutiny, instead of exterminating (in the gnostic meaning, and in the "get rid of the new age fluff" meaning) those belief systems we're not happy with.

    Clearly the talk of orthodoxy has set off some sort of reaction in you. No where have I said we should ignore beliefs or exterminate belief systems. I have advocated studying them, just as a whole. By all means, try different beliefs and religions! But do those belief systems the honor of studying them as an intact whole. You will get a greater understanding of how they are trying to answer the questions of life.

    I'm not sure one can really "try" a belief system. One can go through the pomp and circumstance, but I'm not sure one can try to believe. For example, I could go to a mosque, wear islamic garb, grow a beard, bow to mecca 5X daily, etc. but I couldn't just "try" to believe in allah. I would not be a muslim.

    Your right. I was trying to say that we should consider the whole system, give it a chance to work itself out in our head as a whole. I agree that you cannot "try". Thanks for pointing that out.



    ----
    Veritas otium parit. --Terence
    [ Parent ]
    Orthodoxy (none / 0) (#393)
    by Anatta on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 01:41:13 PM EST

    An orthodox Buddhist is going to adhere to the foundations of bhuddism.

    There really are no foundations of buddhism. We don't have all that much that is actually written by the buddha himself. A friend of mine told me that if you watch Nepali television, you'll see monks arguing with one another over which way is right. It's apparently quite entertaining.

    Perhaps they are in a specialized branch of thinking that might disagree with another specialized branch; perhaps those two branches of buddhists would even say the other is wrong. But if they both hold to the orthodox beliefs, the foundations of what it means to be buddhist, they would still call one another buddhists.

    Again, compare the Tantric buddhists to the Theravada buddhists. They are vastly different from one another, and really have no orthodoxy in common. They both may use the 8-fold path, but they interpret it very differently. Are the tantrics heretical? Maybe the theravadas are?

    I don't think orthodoxy is very important at all. I recognize what it means and the weight you're trying to give it, but tend to think it's much less important than you seem to think.

    The reason I bring up orthodoxy is that in order to understand the concepts of a religion or a belief system, one must understand the context. You can't just pull concepts or beliefs out of the context of the belief system and consider them in isolation. It will only lead to false or misguided conclusions. You need to understand the context of the beliefs, the history, the reasons, etc.

    I agree, you cannot. You can, however, look at the religion as a whole, then reject that which you deem illogical, false, or unenlightening. Once again, if you don't believe something in your heart, god will know... so following something solely because it is orthodox won't accomplish anything.

    From what you have listed above, you would be hard pressed to prove yourself a "Christian". That's not me being an ass; really, I'm not trying to be one (but probably am). It's just that you have stated pretty much the opposite of the basic meaning of "Christian". Christians do believe that Christ existed and that there is a God. It's the very essence of Christianity. You cannot say you are a follower of Christain beliefs while not believing Christian beliefs. It doesn't make sense ;-)

    No, I don't think I'm very hardpressed at all. Most people who call themselves "christians" (I would likely call many "paulian") tend to believe in the god of the bible, tend to believe that jesus was his son (part man, part divine), tend to believe that jesus died on the cross, descended into death, and finally was ressurected. I don't believe any of this, yet I still call myself christian... perhaps I can explain why.

    God, to me, is the sum of everything in existence and non-existence. In essence, everything is god. God is referred to as the father, the creator. Jesus -- a carpenter, an everyman (notice the significant break from all the kings found earlier in the bible) -- was created by god through intercourse. By default, he is divine, as he is part of "everything". He is also a man. He died on a cross to save those who are not worthy of salvation -- in essence, he is the ultimate hero. He is the fireman who loses his own life while saving another's life, he is the dragon slayer who dies killing the dragon in order to save the town. Jesus is the ultimate archtype of a selfless hero. He is ressurected, and will live on in the hearts and minds of all people who are selfless and loving... they don't even need to believe in him, or even hear of him, to worship him. He is an average carpenter, someone just like you or I, yet he is the King, the ultimate pinnacle of humanity.

    Many "chrisitans" believe they will be saved by grace, and grace alone. I believe we will be "saved" by our acts alone. This is really an issue between Paul and Jesus. Compare the two:

    Paul: A not-so-nice guy who was riding a horse, fell, hit his head, and found god. Once he had found god, he was all set to go to heaven (so he felt.) He had found grace, and that was all he had to do. No action, no selflessness required.

    Jesus: A nice guy who found heaven by sacrificing himself for those he did not know, those likely deemed unworthy of his life. Extreme action, extreme selflessness required.

    I can look at the same passage in the bible that a typical christian might read, and come to a completely different conclusion. For example, the sermon on the mount. A literal reading of the passage suggests that jesus magically made a few fish and loaves really dense and allowed just a little food to feed the entire populace. By the end, he magically had created more and more. Wow. There is no lesson all reading it this way.

    A non-literal reading would suggest that jesus took his food (a few loaves and fishes) and offered it to the crowd. The crowd saw how generous and selfless he was, and they began to share their own food with one another. Everyone was generous, and the result was abundance for all. No magic involved at all... but a significant lesson... in essence, the golden rule in action.

    To me, the significance of the new testament is not in this person named jesus, but rather in the teachings it can offer to you and me. Whether or not jesus existed is really irrelavent. The teachings are the important part.

    So, where does that leave me?

    You are using the word, but that is not its original definition. You consider yourself Christian, but your definition of what "Christian" means is not the traditional meaning. This is ultimately the real purpose of orthodoxy--it provides the "definition". But again, it is not a set of exact points, but more of a playing field that you work within.

    I don't particularly care about tradition; jesus was a revolutionary... he was a lamb who was sacrificed, but he carried the largest sword in the history of the world... and it cut deeply. If you read Matthew's account of jesus and barabbas carefully, you'll notice barabbas' first name was... jesus. Barabbas means "of the father" (bar abba.) The whole story of jesus becomes somewhat clear right here with that piece of information. The jews wanted a revolutionary to free jerusalem from Roman rule... they wanted a messiah who was a warrior, who would lead a revolution. They got jesus [christ], a humble hermit who ate with the downtrodden and cared for the lepers. When given a choice between the warrior and the lamb, they chose the warrior (perfectly understandable!) Little did they know the lamb's sword was the sharpest in history. In any case, jesus was a revolutionary, and would not a revolutionary (in the modern era, however arguably very old in context) look at the bible be appropriate?

    A careful study of Christian/Church history would show this to be an over-simplistic and incorrect understanding of Christianity's roots and origins in Judaism. Which is exactly my point.

    I'll give you overly-simplistic, but not incorrect. If you care to elaborate, feel free. This is what the frontline special had to say...

    Clearly the talk of orthodoxy has set off some sort of reaction in you. No where have I said we should ignore beliefs or exterminate belief systems. I have advocated studying them, just as a whole. By all means, try different beliefs and religions! But do those belief systems the honor of studying them as an intact whole. You will get a greater understanding of how they are trying to answer the questions of life.

    I didn't necessarily suggest that you felt we should exterminate those we disagree with, but there is no question the early orthodox church felt it necessary (it's amazing we ever found the gnostic gospels at all!) There are many who argue that the orthodox churches (different from what christ referred to, ecclesia) never had it right, even from the beginning, and so they should not be relied upon when searching for understanding of the bible.

    Perhaps I should not refer to myself as "christian" and instead use "jesusist" or "gnostic" or something, but to me "christian" is the most accurate word to sum up my beliefs.
    My Music
    [ Parent ]

    The last time I try to be creative :-) (none / 0) (#423)
    by kostya on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 04:16:04 PM EST

    There really are no foundations of buddhism ...

    I'll have to bow to your knowledge there. I've only shown my ignorance :-) I was trying to use something other than Christianity to illustrate the global nature of the definition of orthodoxy. I choose poorly ;-) I think you get my "drift", however.

    Again, my point in posting was to say that considering religious systems in their entirety is preferable to lifting concepts out at will. That was my main point.

    We have gotten on to issues of Christian theology, which is fine, but not really what I wanted to focus on (especially considering the original question of the article's author).

    --------------------------------

    That being said, I'm sucker for theology ...

    Many "chrisitans" believe they will be saved by grace, and grace alone. I believe we will be "saved" by our acts alone. This is really an issue between Paul and Jesus ...

    Sigh. That is not the case. Paul and Christ are not in opposition to one another. If you would like, I can start a diary entry to discuss this point in detail. However, I feel this proves my point yet again: that you cannot lift concepts from a religion without studying it as a whole. This is a very conflicted view of Christ and Paul that is not supported by the texts.

    Back to my earlier point about getting context. You have missed some significant statements in Matthew (since you mention it specifically). Have you read the claims Christ made about himself? Do understand what "Son of Man" means? Do you understand the significance of what Christ claimed to have the power to forgive sins? Why the religious leaders were always grabbing rocks?

    Jesus of Nazareth made some big claims about who he was. He wasn't some bloke who found enlightment by being a self-sacrificing and all around nice guy. He claimed to be God. He claimed to be the Messiah. Over and over again. There is ample evidence within the Bible (1 Corinthians 15 very early creed, Philippians 2 later creed), and there is actual evidence outside the Bible about the early Church worshiping Christ as God. The Roman philosopher Celsus wrote a diatribe against the Christians in the 2nd century, before almost all of the Gnostic writings. It was titled, "On the True Doctrine." It described the practice of Christians praying to and singing songs to Jesus as if he were a god.

    As for your other points about Christ, his origins, his death, and his resurrection, that is all pretty standard gnostic lines of thinking. If you would like to discuss that in specifics, I'd be happy to; but I'm sure you are already aware that we disagree on pretty much everything you just said ;-) We can take it out-of-band into some diary entries if you like.

    I'll give you overly-simplistic, but not incorrect. If you care to elaborate, feel free. This is what the frontline special had to say...

    Perhaps it is merely a "view point" or teminology problem. I read the page you linked and didn't see any real evidence for backing up your perspective of "borrowing".

    If you see Christianity having similar values to Judaism as Christianity "borrowing" from Judaism, that's fine by me. I just don't think that wording is very accurate or reflects the reality of what took place. In that page itself it points out that there was no real distinction drawn until 110 or 120. That's around 90 years, almost 3 generations where Christianity was considered a sect of Judaism by most outsiders and probably the church itself. Remember, the church was basically waiting for everyone else to figure out that the Messiah had really come. They didn't see themselves in opposition to Judaism.

    I would term it as an "outgrowth", i.e. in that it had its roots in Judaism. But when you speak of borrowing, it makes it sound like some apostles sat down and said, "We don't like being Jews anymore. Let's take what we like and drop what we don't like and start something new." Because that is the exact opposite of what happened. Again, they did not practice the borrowing you have been advocating.

    If you like, we can also take this out-of-band and I can offer some resources and articles to provide more information and background. I am at work right now, and most of my resources (short of a Bible) are at home.

    I didn't necessarily suggest that you felt we should exterminate those we disagree with, but there is no question the early orthodox church felt it necessary (it's amazing we ever found the gnostic gospels at all!)

    I assume you have read this page since you sent me the other link. Needless to say, I think it is pretty clear why the orthodox church forbade the teaching of gnostic principles (from the page): They thought of themselves as Christians who had received, in addition to the other gospels, secret teaching. There is also some good explainations of docetism in that page.

    The main sticking point is that gnostics believed in a secret knowledge and secret teaching--something in addition to grace. This additional secret knowledge also ran counter to all the foundational beliefs of Christianity (i.e. those held from the very beginning): mainly Christ's deity and salvation. It is this main point (something in addition to grace) that made gnostic teaching unacceptable to the church. Grace has, and always will be, the linchpin of Christian belief. Christianity is about "The Good News" (literal meaning of gospel) of salvation provided through Christ. Nothing is needed from us, save accepting this free gift. This is the whole point of Christianity. Anything that comprimised that one, central truth invalidates all of Christianity. By seeing themselves as being "more complete" due to secret knowledge, the gnostics were teaching something counter to the gospel of the Apostles.

    Another thing to remember is that all of the Gnostic gospels date 2nd century or later. That's at least two or more generations after the beginning of the church. The NT was written first century. So gnosticism is not the original thinking of the church, but a bizarre fusion that came after the church. Referring to gnosticism as an earlier or more pure form of Christianity is just not supported by the historical and archelogical evidence.

    Additionally, 1 Corinthians 15 has the earliest record of a Church creedo, which very clearly states the exact opposite of what you claim above. Most scholars consider this to be Paul reciting the creed he received after his conversion in Damascus (and by most, I mean even non-evangelicals).

    As for extermination, well, I don't know a whole lot about what you are referring to. I'd be glad to read up if you have some links. That being said, the church (as with many other religions that have people in them) has made a lot of mistakes. If they killed or oppressed people, that's something I regret. Again, the page has a great explaination of Heretics and such in it. It was about survival and remaining clear on what was believed and held as true. Gnosticism runs counter to everything the Church believed from the very first apostles.

    Again, if you would like to dig into specifics, I'm more than willing to start a side discussion via diary. I suggest that only since many of my posts are long without me citing and quoting :-) So if you would enjoy further, more detailed discussion, please let me know. I believe my email is simple enough to decipher :-)

    I'd also recommend A Short History of Christian Doctrine by Lohse. It's a great text and it explains all the church councils, what was decided, why it was important, who espoused what, etc. Additionally, if you want to really get into church history and theological history with someone other than me, I advise looking up lee_malatesta. He has studied much of this as well, and is usually more cogent than I :-)

    BTW, thank you for the great discussion. I have enjoyed it immensely!



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    Veritas otium parit. --Terence
    [ Parent ]
    Orthodoxy (none / 0) (#427)
    by Buclerpp on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 04:42:03 PM EST

    It seems to me that Kostya's use of the term orthodox could be replaced with the term "definition" as in, this is how Christians are defined, and have been, through 2000 years. It's how people know what they are talking about.

    CS Lewis was fond of chastising his debating opponents for specially defining their terms so that they would use the same language, and thus appear to be speaking about shades of difference instead of the foundational differences which were, in fact, being debated. Orthodox seems only to be a way for Christians to say 'defined as Christian'. And as such, individually we cannot redefine that for ourselves. It would be as if I wanted to redefine myself (an American) as European. I can't. Similarly, orthodox is a definition larger than myself.

    <<I don't particularly care about tradition; jesus was a revolutionary... <snip> In any case, jesus was a revolutionary, and would not a revolutionary (in the modern era, however arguably very old in context) look at the bible be appropriate?>>

    2 points here. 1) Just because you don't particularly care about tradition doesn't mean you can dismiss it. I could similarly say that I do particularly care about tradition. ;-) I'll need a better defense of your position before I can be convinced. <grin>

    Similarly 2) to call Jesus a revolutionary and place a marxian/liberation theology slant on that title is to misunderstand Jesus completely, as well as try to apply a modern theory to an ancient text and call it authoritative. You simply cannot do that. I may be wrong about what type of revolutionary interpretation you mean, and as such am willing to be corrected. However, as theologians discuss reading revolution into the gospels (liberation theology and such), those are generally the areas/definitions intended. I may be wrong in my assumption.

    If anything, Jesus's revolution (he never referred to himself as revolutionary) was against the law, and in fact he called that which he was 'revolting' against good! (Matthew. 5:17 and following). He did not tell people to revolt agains authority (Luke 20: 20-26)--which is what the modern understanding of revolution is--but rather to follow and remain under it. Jesus's revolution, if anything, was a theological revolution (often grossly oversimplified to a revolution of love over law). A new way for humanity to relate to a loving God. The old method was gone, and a new one was ushered in.

    Issues of caring for the poor and the downtrodden were nothing new (Amos 4:1, Deuteronomy 10: 18, Isaiah 1: 17). If anything, Jesus was merely living out that which should have been. But now, God could be directly spoken to, the veil between God and humanity had been destryoed (symbolically seen in Matthew 27:51). That was Jesus's revolution.

    <<Perhaps I should not refer to myself as "christian" and instead use "jesusist" or "gnostic" or something, but to me "christian" is the most accurate word to sum up my beliefs.>>

    However, due to the special interpretations which you place on the term Christian, you remove yourself from the actual definition of the term. It's like how Machiavelli's Virtu is never translated from the original language. Because he gives his sense of virtue such a specific definition, he in fact created a new term. To translate his Virtu into English would be confusing, and so it isn't.

    I would argue that your definition of Christian is similarly unique, and as such should, somehow, be seperate from the common definition so as to avoid confusion.

    Orthodoxy is a definition, and as such isn't something we individually can change.

    [ Parent ]
    So maybe it's not about rationality at all (3.66 / 3) (#136)
    by mrowe on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 01:43:06 PM EST

    Religious belief is not about making you feel better about yourself, it is about changing who you are. Really. For the atheists out there who think people are just looking for a security blanket, true belief is hard and life shattering at times. It is anything but a nice cozy retreat from a big mean world[.]

    I'm as guilty as anyone of tagging people who are religious as "weak" and "dependant", and yes, "just looking for a security blanket". And I'm sure there are (many) people of which this is true.

    But maybe you are touching on the real distinction here. It's not about rational vs irrational, geek vs non-geek, it's about (dare I say it) intelligent vs lazy. For intelligent, inquiring, curious people (== geek?), true belief can certainly be hard and life shattering, and perhaps should be those things. But so can lack-of-belief in any traditional, mainstream religion. And so, I'm sure, would be creating your own religion out bits and pieces of others.


    --
    "Small minds discuss people, average minds discuss events, great minds discuss ideas"
    [ Parent ]

    Intelligent v. Lazy (very good) (4.50 / 2) (#151)
    by kostya on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 02:24:44 PM EST

    But maybe you are touching on the real distinction here. It's not about rational vs irrational, geek vs non-geek, it's about (dare I say it) intelligent vs lazy.

    I think that is a great way of looking at it. We all (theist, atheist, agnostic) have our intelligent followers or adherents and our lazy adherents or advocates. I used to think agnostics were the worst--even if I thought atheists were dead wrong, at least they stood for something. That's because most of the agnostics I met were just lazy and didn't understand what they thought about various issues. I later found this to be true of a certain portion and not the whole, just like you are describing.

    Lazy thinkers, or perhaps "canned answer" thinkers--people who let others do their own thinking for them. People who can only express their beliefs or ideals by quoting others. Not that quoting others is bad, but you need to own your ideals and beliefs--truly understand them for yourself.

    For intelligent, inquiring, curious people (== geek?), true belief can certainly be hard and life shattering, and perhaps should be those things. But so can lack-of-belief in any traditional, mainstream religion. And so, I'm sure, would be creating your own religion out bits and pieces of others.

    Perhaps you're right. I think that was probably what the man I was quoting meant. And I think he felt you had to give a belief system a whole-hearted try before you could really understand its concepts. I'd agree with that.

    I like your way of looking at it; it reminds me of research. If you just grab quotes here and there and mash them together, you will get something that means exactly what you want it to--even if the original intent was the exact opposite. That's why I used dim-sum (which means "a litte of this and that" from my understanding).

    For people to take bits and pieces of religion and craft a new one is like someone lifting some conclusions of quantum mechanics and combining it with biology and concluding some scientific principle. Unless you really understand both these fields, it probably won't produce something workable. The same is true of religion and philosophy. For some reason, people don't understand that.



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    Veritas otium parit. --Terence
    [ Parent ]
    God vs. Allah (2.00 / 1) (#210)
    by delmoi on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 05:57:13 PM EST

    You can't just go from religion to religion, worshipping god today, allah tomorrow,

    "god", and "allah" are the same thing
    --
    "'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
    [ Parent ]
    My laziness... (none / 0) (#214)
    by Anatta on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 06:16:48 PM EST

    "god", and "allah" are the same thing

    You're right, and I noticed that after I had pushed Post. I should have read it a bit more carefully. But even still, I think the point I was making was correct...
    My Music
    [ Parent ]

    Rationality (2.50 / 2) (#85)
    by Caranguejeira on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 11:38:35 AM EST

    How do you quantify rationality? I've never seen anyone succesfully measure it yet. In some cultures what is rational would be absurd in others.

    You might say, "well, science is rational," but how much bad science have we suffered since the beginning of civilization?

    People put their faith in something because it works for them. Scientists aren't exempt.

    I'd like to point out... (2.28 / 7) (#86)
    by skeezix on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 11:40:03 AM EST

    ...that Christianity is a rational worldview. Although it could be argued until the end of time, it takes just as much "faith" if you want to use that word, to disregard the evidence that there is a God than it does to believe that there is one.

    Christianity satisifies both my needs as a spiritual being and my intellect by answering both questions of meaning, purpose, explanation of beauty/ugliness/love, and the why questions--why is the universe here, how'd it happen...and it answers them logically and consistently.



    Well.... (none / 0) (#91)
    by PhillipW on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 11:49:59 AM EST

    it takes just as much "faith" if you want to use that word, to disregard the evidence that there is a God than it does to believe that there is one.

    What "evidence?"

    -Phil
    [ Parent ]
    Evidence (3.75 / 4) (#130)
    by Dlugar on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 01:13:22 PM EST

    The little voice in my head that says that God exists, and the millions of others right now and throughout history who say they've heard the same little voice. Seriously.

    I believe very strongly in God, and I think that anybody touting any other evidence than this that God exists is "smoking the cheap stuff", so to speak.


    Dlugar

    [ Parent ]
    Short, sweet, and elegant ;-) (3.00 / 1) (#141)
    by kostya on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 02:02:17 PM EST

    The little voice in my head that says that God exists, and the millions of others right now and throughout history who say they've heard the same little voice. Seriously.

    Man, that just makes me smile. That's it in a nutshell, isn't? Reminds me of the line in the Contact movie: "How can you believe that 90% of the world's population is either stupid or deranged?"

    I believe very strongly in God, and I think that anybody touting any other evidence than this that God exists is "smoking the cheap stuff", so to speak.

    Hehe. Cheap stuff, indeed. Again, great answer. It goes back to my comment: when all is said and done, we believe because we believe, not necessarily due to logic or rationality. That goes for atheist or theist.



    ----
    Veritas otium parit. --Terence
    [ Parent ]
    Deranged, no. Stupid... (4.00 / 2) (#208)
    by delmoi on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 05:53:22 PM EST

    Man, that just makes me smile. That's it in a nutshell, isn't? Reminds me of the line in the Contact movie: "How can you believe that 90% of the world's population is either stupid or deranged?"

    Come on, look at the state of the world today. Look at the mobs in england that just recently when beating up paeditrictions because they (the mob) hated child abuse. Look at the situation in Africa, Look at any point in history.

    Is it really hard to belive that 90% of the worlds population is stupid?
    --
    "'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
    [ Parent ]
    Hehe, reminds me of ... (none / 0) (#226)
    by kostya on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 06:41:48 PM EST

    I once heard a survery/poll said that 80% of people feel they are of above average intelligence. Then I read a Trivial Pursuit card that said the average IQ is 100. 100 doesn't seem all that bright to me, but who am I to disagree with TP?

    Now consider a bell-curve. The way those things work is that usually 70% of the population is in the "bell", right? I.e. that the "smart people" would be a freak fringe of maybe 10%. So what does this mean?

    That the majority of the people in the world (probably 60-70%) are running around under the false assumption that they are much smarter than they actually are. I always felt it explained road and traffic problems. It also explains the need for instructions on Pop Tarts ;-)



    ----
    Veritas otium parit. --Terence
    [ Parent ]
    Stupidity (none / 0) (#232)
    by nfnnmidata on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 06:56:58 PM EST

    People can be extremely intelligent and yet exhibit no common sense. By common sense, I mean if the stove is hot don't put your hand on it. Going by the common sense meter, I'd say that most people are dumb as dirt, those who believe in a god or gods are even dumber.

    [ Parent ]
    Average IQ (none / 0) (#448)
    by delmoi on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 07:36:07 PM EST

    is defined to be 100, IQ is actualy a relative mesurement.
    --
    "'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
    [ Parent ]
    OK... (4.50 / 2) (#164)
    by Rocky on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 03:25:15 PM EST

    ...so that little voice in my head says there's no God. Millions of people hear the same thing, or that they're the Messiah themselves, or that they better do this or that to win the battle of Austerlitz...

    So that's evidence that God doesn't exist.

    Make the same amount of sense as your explanation.

    If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?
    - Albert Einstein (1879 - 1955)
    [ Parent ]
    That little voice you hear... (4.75 / 4) (#167)
    by John Miles on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 03:32:40 PM EST

    ... is the same little voice that tells the wolves in a pack to leave the biggest portion of their kill for the alpha male.

    It's the same little voice that tells your dog to hang its head and look contrite when you come home to find a chocolate surprise on the kitchen floor.

    It's the same little voice -- obey the alpha -- that keeps primate societies from tearing themselves apart with constant violence between males.

    Seriously... it's fairly clear that the religious urge is just an atavistic remnant of the "find a leader, submit, and raise your odds of survival," instinct that kept our ancestors alive in the deserts and jungles of prehistoric Earth. We don't need to listen to that "little voice" any more -- at least, we don't need it at the subconscious, instinctual level that lower animals must rely upon -- but most of us still hear it. No matter how much pride we take in our individuality, the need to submit to a higher power is still part of our psyches at a level that we can neither reach nor change.

    Once you consider it this way, the paradoxical fact that we still have a concept called "religion" in the twenty-first century starts to make a whole lot more sense. It's just how we're wired, for better or for worse.

    For so long as men do as they are told, there will be war.
    [ Parent ]

    okay... (3.33 / 3) (#198)
    by skeezix on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 05:27:53 PM EST

    This is all documented, on the books, and out there for anyone to explore, but okay, I'll give a few points of scientific interest, completely bipassing the vast multitude of more social and moral evidence. Also, I don't have time right now to get into the points of the reliability of the Bible and evidence for the Judeo-Christian God, so I'll keep it simple, argue for a deity.

    One of the first things that I stand in awe of is the level of complexity and fine-tuning that the universe possess, which suggest intelligent design of a being that is beyond space and time. To give one example, the cosmological constant must be tuned to one part in 10^120 in order for the universe to contain stars and planets. In a single universe, to say this is unlikely, is an understatement. Hawking, amongst others, has suggested the multiverse theory, as a possible solution. Most physicists agree, when prompted, that you must believe in the multiverse theory in order to be an atheist. And I use the word believe, because that' s precisely what it is--there is no evidence to support that theory. Believing that there are more universes than subatomic particles in this universe is quite a leap of faith. The physics of our universe dictate (or at least suggest strongly) that this theory could never be put to test. This theory is typically what physicists who are atheists ascribe to, because the alternative (one universe) with such finely tuned constants suggests an intelligent designer.

    A few quotes for ya:

    "Amazing fine tuning occurs in the laws that make this [complexity] possible. Realization of the complexity of what is accomplished makes it very difficult not to use the word 'miraculous' without taking a stand as to the ontological status of the word." -- George Ellis (British astrophysicist)

    "I find it as difficult to understand a scientist who does not acknowledge the presence of a superior rationality behind the existence of the universe as it is to comprehend a theologian who would deny the advances of science. " -- Wernher von Braun (Pioneer rocket engineer)

    "Here is the cosmological proof of the existence of God - the design argument of Paley - updated and refurbished. The fine tuning of the universe provides prima facie evidence of deistic design. Take your choice: blind chance that requires multitudes of universes or design that requires only one.... Many scientists, when they admit their views, incline toward the teleological or design argument." -- Ed Harrison (cosmologist)

    "When I began my career as a cosmologist some twenty years ago, I was a convinced atheist. I never in my wildest dreams imagined that one day I would be writing a book purporting to show that the central claims of Judeo-Christian theology are in fact true, that these claims are straightforward deductions of the laws of physics as we now understand them. I have been forced into these conclusions by the inexorable logic of my own special branch of physics." -- Frank Tipler (Professor of Mathematical Physics)

    The first, and main, problem is the very existence of the big bang. One may wonder, What came before? If space-time did not exist then, how could everything appear from nothing? What arose first: the universe or the laws determining its evolution? Explaining this initial singularity-where and when it all began-still remains the most intractable problem of modern cosmology. -- Andrei Linde's admission

    [ Parent ]

    Bah (5.00 / 1) (#238)
    by nfnnmidata on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 07:18:38 PM EST

    Idiots marveling at shiny things. Like MTV.

    If there is a creator, he didn't exactly do a fabulous job. One need look no further than the human body to see the imperfection of "God's work". An example: cholesterol, used by all the body's cells and manufactured for that purpose within the cells themselves (only 20% comes from food we eat), is deposited and retrieved from the bloodstream as needed, but is produced without regard to the amount already in the bloodstream - causing clogged arteries over time. It turns out that cholesterol-production levels are controlled by insulin levels, not by the available supply. The left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing, to the detriment of the body. Way to go, almighty creator, you just failed the first part of the exam - the creation self-destructed 50 years early.

    [ Parent ]
    and... (1.00 / 1) (#289)
    by skeezix on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 10:43:45 PM EST

    ...one need go no further then the historical records contained in the Bible to understand where the imperfection came from.

    At the same time, the intricacies contained in one cell of a human being make me marvel that it works at all. I can't help but come to the conclusion, based on what I have studied, that the universe was designed.

    [ Parent ]

    You do realise.. (none / 0) (#328)
    by ajduk on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 05:17:18 AM EST

    That it took about 2.5 billion years to evolve a cell complex enough to start forming a multicellular organism. And single celled organisms have a much shorter generation time (->faster evolution) than multicellular organisms.

    Therefore the complexity at a cellular level is not hard to explain at all. Indeed, it is expected.

    The probability of us observing a universe capable of supporting life is exactly 1, since we could not observe a universe that was not capable of supporting life.

    [ Parent ]
    the antropic principle (2.00 / 1) (#345)
    by skeezix on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 09:16:29 AM EST

    ...doesn't explain the fine-tuning and the evidence for design found in the universe. It's a cheap debate trick.

    [ Parent ]
    Fine Tuning (none / 0) (#483)
    by finn on Thu Aug 23, 2001 at 08:42:38 AM EST

    Please, enlighten me:

    1. What evidence do you have that a finely subdivided range of possible values, systems, objects exist that will allow the creation of a universe?
    2. What values, systems, objects have been fine tuned?
    3. What evidence you have to the effect that these values, systems, objects have been finely tuned?

    ----


    [ Parent ]
    sure.. (none / 0) (#489)
    by skeezix on Thu Aug 23, 2001 at 10:15:46 AM EST

    1.) huh?

    2. & 3.) the following to name a few:

    Evidence supporting the design of the universe.

    1. gravitational coupling constant

    • if larger: no stars less than 1.4 solar masses, hence short stellar lifespans
    • if smaller: no stars more than 0.8 solar masses, hence no heavy element production

    2. strong nuclear force coupling constant

    • if larger: no hydrogen; nuclei essential for life are unstable
    • if smaller: no elements other than hydrogen

    3. weak nuclear force coupling constant

    • if larger: all hydrogen is converted to helium in the big hang, hence too much heavy elements
    • if smaller: no helium produced from big bang, hence not enough heavy elements

    4. electromagnetic coupling constant

    • if larger: no chemical bonding; elements more massive than boron are unstable to fission
    • if smaller: no chemical bonding

    5. ratio of protons to electrons

    • if larger: electromagnetism dominates gravity preventing galaxy, star, and planet formation
    • if smaller: electromagnetism dominates gravity preventing galaxy, star, and planet formation

    6. ratio of electron to proton mass

    • if larger: no chemical bonding
    • if smaller: no chemical bonding

    7. expansion rate of the universe

    • if larger: no galaxy formation
    • if smaller: universe collapses prior to star formation

    8. entropy level of the universe

    • if larger: no star condensation within the proto-galaxies
    • if smaller: no proto-galaxy formation

    9. mass density of the universe

    • if larger: too much deuterium from big bang, hence stars bum too rapidly
    • if smaller: no helium from big bang, hence not enough heavy elements

    10. age of the universe

    • if older: no solar-type stars in a stable burning phase in the right part of the galaxy
    • if younger: solar-type stars in a stable burning phase would not yet have formed

    11. initial uniformity of radiation

    • if smoother: stars, star clusters, and galaxies would not have formed
    • if coarser: universe by now would be mostly black holes and empty space

    12. average distance between stars

    • if larger: heavy element density too thin for rocky planet production
    • if smaller: planetary orbits become destabilized

    13. solar luminosity

    • if increases too soon: runaway green house effect
    • if increases too late: frozen oceans

    14. fine structure constant (a function of three other fundamental constants, Planck's constant, the velocity of light, and the electron charge each of which, therefore, must be fine-tuned)

    • if larger: no stars more than 0.7 solar masses
    • if smaller: no stars less than 1.8 solar masses

    15. decay rate of the proton

    • if greater: life would be exterminated by the release of radiation
    • if smaller: insufficient matter in the universe for life

    16. 12C to 16O energy level ratio

    • if larger: insufficient oxygen
    • if smaller: insufficient carbon

    17. decay rate of 8Be

    • if slower: heavy element fusion would generate catastrophic explosions in all the stars
    • if faster: no element production beyond beryllium and, hence, no life chemistry possible

    18. mass difference between the neutron and the proton

    • if greater: protons would decay before stable nuclei could form
    • if smaller: protons would decay before stable nuclei could form

    18. initial excess of nucleons over anti-nucleons

    • if greater: too much radiation for planets to form
    • if smaller: not enough matter for galaxies or stars to form

    Evidence for the design of the sun-earth-moon system:

    1. galaxy type

    • if too elliptical: star formation ceases before sufficient heavy element buildup for life chemistry
    • if too irregular: radiation exposure on occasion is too severe and/or heavy elements for life chemistry are not available.

    2. parent star distance from center of galaxy

    • if farther: quantity of heavy elements would be insufficient to make rocky planets.
    • if closer: stellar density and radiation would be too great.

    3. number of stars in the planetary system

    • if more than one: tidal interactions would disrupt planetary orbits.
    • if less than one: heat produced would be insufficient for life.

    4. parent star birth date

    • if more recent: star would not yet have reached stable burning phase.
    • if less recent: stellar system would not yet contain enough heavy elements.

    5. parent star age

    • if older: luminosity of star would change too quickly.
    • if younger: luminosity of star would change too quickly.

    6. parent star mass

    • if greater: luminosity of star would change too quickly; star would bum too rapidly.
    • if less: range of distances appropriate for life would be too narrow; tidal forces would disrupt the rotational period for a planet of the right distance; uv radiation would be inadequate for plants to make sugars and oxygen.

    7. parent star color

    • if redder: photosynthetic response would be insufficient.
    • if bluer: photosynthetic response would be insufficient.

    8. supernovae eruptions

    • if too close: life on the planet would be exterminated.
    • if too far: not enough heavy element ashes for the formation of rocky planets.
    • if too infrequent: not enough heavy element ashes for the formation of rocky planets.
    • if too frequent: life on the planet would be exterminated.

    9. white dwarf binaries

    • if too few: insufficient fluorine produced for life chemistry to proceed
    • if too many: disruption of planetary orbits from stellar density; life on the planet would be exterminated
    • 10. surface gravity (escape velocity)
    • if stronger: atmosphere would retain too much ammonia and methane.
    • if weaker: planet's atmosphere would lose too much water.

    11. distance from parent star

    • if farther: planet would be too cool for a stable water cycle.
    • if closer: planet would be too warm for a stable water cycle.

    12. inclination of orbit

    • if too great: temperature differences on the planet would be too extreme.

    13. orbital eccentricity

    • if too great: seasonal temperature differences would be too extreme.

    14. axial tilt

    • if greater: surface temperature differences would be too great.
    • if less: surface temperature differences would be too great.

    15. rotation period

    • if longer: diurnal temperature differences would be too great.
    • if shorter: atmospheric wind velocities would be too great.

    16. gravitational interaction with a moon

    • if greater: tidal effects on the oceans, atmosphere, and rotational period would be too severe.
    • if less: orbital obliquity changes would cause climatic instabilities.

    17. magnetic field

    • if stronger: electromagnetic storms would be too severe.
    • if weaker: inadequate protection from hard stellar radiation.

    18. thickness of crust

    • if thicker: too much oxygen would be transferred from the atmosphere to the crust.
    • if thinner: volcanic and tectonic activity would be too great.

    19. albedo (ratio of reflected light to total amount falling on surface)

    • if greater: runaway ice age would develop.
    • if less: runaway greenhouse effect would develop.

    20. oxygen to nitrogen ratio in atmosphere

    • if larger: advanced life functions would proceed too quickly.
    • if smaller: advanced life functions would proceed too slowly.

    21. carbon dioxide level in atmosphere

    • if greater: runaway greenhouse effect would develop.
    • if less: plants would not be able to maintain efficient photosynthesis.

    22. water vapor level in atmosphere

    • if greater: runaway greenhouse effect would develop.
    • if less: rainfall would be too meager for advanced life on the land.

    23. ozone level in atmosphere

    • if greater: surface temperatures would be too low.
    • if less: surface temperatures would be too high; there would be too much uv radiation at the surface.

    24. atmospheric electric discharge rate

    • if greater: too much fire destruction would occur.
    • if less: too little nitrogen would be fixed in the atmosphere.

    25. oxygen quantity in atmosphere

    • if greater: plants and hydrocarbons would bum up too easily.
    • if less: advanced animals would have too little to breathe.
    • 26. oceans to continents ratio
    • if greater: diversity and complexity of life-forms would be limited.
    • if smaller: diversity and complexity of life-forms would be limited.

    27. soil mineralization

    • if too nutrient poor: diversity and complexity of life-forms would be limited.
    • if too nutrient rich: diversity and complexity of life-forms would he limited.

    28. seismic activity

    • if greater: too many life-forms would be destroyed.
    • if less: nutrients on ocean floors (from river runoff) would not be recycled to the continents through tectonic uplift.



    [ Parent ]

    Thank you very much... (none / 0) (#499)
    by finn on Thu Aug 23, 2001 at 12:12:49 PM EST

    It's nice to finally get some evidence in a science / religion debate.

    Point one was supposed to mean something, but it doesn't, and I can't figure out how to word it otherwise.

    I can't really comment on the physics bits except to say - if they weren't like that we wouldn't be here to discuss them - and I get the impression you feel that's a cop-out.

    As to the geological bits:

    • 1-9 - plenty of galaxies out there that have these. So in this case there would be no were else for us to be.
    • 10-16 - could be said that these are prerequisites of a life-bearing planet. Simple random chance would mean that some planet somewhere would have these characteristics - and here we are.

      Venus shows that there are planets where the odds didn't quite work out.
    • 17 - magnetic field strength - changes all of the time. Plenty of periods of magnetic field weakening and reversing - life carries on. In fact, the magnetic field is weakening now.
    • 18 - Crust thickness. Is variable from 6km (oceanic) to 30-40km (continental). Is variable over time, with a tendancy to become thicker because of cooling of core and isostatic rebounding.
    • 19 - albedo of earth - changes over time. During Ice Ages, is higher. During interglacial / non Ice Ages, is lower. Simply reinforces prevaling climatic conditions.
    • 21 and 22 - carbon dioxide and water vapour concentrations - were very high for large portions of the earth's history. Only relatively recently have they dropped. It is the actions of life that formed an oxygen rich atmosphere, and kept it at reasonable levels (see below)
    • 25 - oxygen quantity - any higher would (relatively quickly) be reduced by the burning of plants - any less and it would quickly be replaced by photosynthesis. There are also several other feedback systems which work to maintain an equilibrium (coral reefs, oceanic inorganic CaCO3 formation and recycling).

      The earth has reached a balance over the course of the last billion or so years. Theorising off the top of my head, it's actually possible that atmospheric oxygen levels began to rise several times, reached unstable levels and were reduced to negligible levels. Might actually explain the banded iron formations. (Talking out of my arse, obviously).
    • 26 - oceans to continents ratio - is dynamic, depending on atmospheric temperatures. During Ice Ages, sea levels fall, exposing continental shelf. Interglacial / non Ice Age conditions, sea levels rise, continental shelf flooded. Also, land is created through isostatic rebound - Scandanavia.

      There existed a time when continents as such didn't exist, and most of the earth was oceanic. Volcanoes and the like created land, which created land, etc...
    • 27 - soil mineralisation - is hardly constant over time or space. Large portions of the earth have relatively low levels of diversity (Sahara, Gobi, Kalahari). In contrast, soil fertility is not necessarily bound by mineral nutrition. The Amazon rain forest is notorious for being self-fertilising - existing in poor quality soil, it is only the decay of organic systems that makes the soil fertile.
    • 28 - seismic activity - is hardly constant or fine tuned. It varies massively over time. The configuration of the continents just means that for a large percentage of the human race, the earth is quite quiet at the moment.

      Life on earth has been brought to the brink on more than one occaision by tectonic activity (Permian-Triassic boundary extinction, (possibly) the K-T boundary extinction)). Sheer luck we're still here.

    I realise these arguements are a bit weak, but I didn't have much time to refine them.


    ----


    [ Parent ]
    The Bible, eh? (none / 0) (#454)
    by nfnnmidata on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 08:41:43 PM EST

    What a valuable "historical" document. It's been re-translated and mis-translated so many times, any original "word of god", if it ever existed, is lost forever.

    No, if there was divine intervention at some point in the history of the world, it would not have been in Eden, but rather at that most improbable moment so long ago when the first single-celled creature (from which all others descended) came into being.

    And of course, if there was such a divine touch, a design even, that in and of itself in no way negates the evolution which has taken place on this world. The reason why things (like your intricate cell) work as well as they do is that things that did not fell by the wayside.

    [ Parent ]
    actually... (none / 0) (#491)
    by skeezix on Thu Aug 23, 2001 at 10:39:02 AM EST

    The Bible is an extremely accurate document, both historically, and in terms of the accuracy of translations over the years. I'm not sure where you're getting your information from. Here are a few points of interest gathered from various sources:
    • The Genesis account of creation asserts that all humans descended from the same parents, Adam and Eve. There is now considerable debate in the scientific community over recent genetic studies which indicate that all men have a common father and all women have a common mother. In fact, the latter claim is sometimes called the Eve hypothesis. Some scientists are skeptical about these studies, and even those who are supportive would not generally accept the Genesis account; however, Bible believers should expect further research to add yet more evidence supporting these hypotheses.

    • Genesis 10:25 speaks of one Peleg whose name means division. The text then explains that he was so named because in his days the earth was divided. It is now commonly believed that all continents of the earth were once combined into a single continent called Pangaea. This belief is based upon the fact that present continents appear somewhat as pieces out of a puzzle. There are also other evidences, including several geological similarities on matching continental edges.

    • The fact that the earth is of spherical shape is generally considered to be recent knowledge. However, Isaiah 40:22 spoke of the circle of the earth approximately 750 years before Christ.

    • In possibly the oldest book of the Bible, Job asserted that God hung the earth on nothing (Job 26:7). The first scientist having this understanding would appear to be Copernicus around 1500.

    • Nowhere is the spate of evidence more compelling toward verifying the credibility of the Bible than in the scientific discipline of archaeology. Had the learned evolution proponents bean right in their testimony before the Scopes Trial Court in 1925, sixty years of intensive world-wide archeological investigation surely would have borne irrefutable proof. However, the very opposite has been true. The discoveries of archaeologists have not in a single instance shown the Bible to be in error at any point. Rather, the digging of archaeologists has piled evidence on top of evidence proving the historical accuracy of the Bible!

    • historical accuracy of the Bible.

    • Accuracy of Biblical Prophesies

    • Accuracy of Biblical Translation


    [ Parent ]
    factually... (none / 0) (#500)
    by nfnnmidata on Thu Aug 23, 2001 at 12:24:53 PM EST

    It is not surprising that there would be a common ancestor to all mankind, evolution dictates this. Saying that this ancestor is a man created looking as we do a scant 6,000 years ago - that's just crazy bible-thumper talk.

    Archaeological evidence supports evolution, largely via the found remains of the many stages of man. Archaeology also by its nature lends itself to interpretation (by both outside sources and the scientists themselves). Take for example the fact that there are so-called scientists attempting to prove that the shroud of Turin was specifically created by an enormous light leaving a body, rather than trying to ascertain what really happened regardless of the final result. Then there's the fact that to dig in some places you've got to have views that jibe with the local government's religious views, so persons who would be objective are not allowed.

    I just don't buy the archaeology done by people who are looking for King David's toilet ("and he did flusheth with great force upon the multitudes") or whatever, just for the sake of backing up the Bible. I will concede that there are historical accounts in the Bible; there are historical accounts in many works of fiction - that doesn't make them accurate accounts. Especially when the language was flowered-up by King James' hired goons.

    [ Parent ]
    yes... (none / 0) (#511)
    by skeezix on Thu Aug 23, 2001 at 02:15:56 PM EST

    t is not surprising that there would be a common ancestor to all mankind, evolution dictates this. Saying that this ancestor is a man created looking as we do a scant 6,000 years ago - that's just crazy bible-thumper talk.

    I never said the man looked exactly as we do, nor did I say that he was created 6,000 years ago. This whole thread was a discussion of evidence and counter evidence for the deity behind the creation of the universe which led to a discussion of the validity/accuracy of the accounts in the Bible. My point regarding the common ancestor was to state that the Bible claimed this thousands of years before modern science has come up with evidence supporting the same claim. This supports the claim that the Bible is accurate. For the record, I am a theistic evolutionist. I think the evidence for evolutionary theory combined with the evidence for a design by a being outside spacetime support the theory well.

    I just don't buy the archaeology done by people who are looking for King David's toilet ("and he did flusheth with great force upon the multitudes") or whatever, just for the sake of backing up the Bible. I will concede that there are historical accounts in the Bible; there are historical accounts in many works of fiction - that doesn't make them accurate accounts. Especially when the language was flowered-up by King James' hired goons.

    The points I was raising were to show that there has been no archaeological evidence to show that the accounts in scripture are false--atheists for years have claimed that such archaeological evidence would arise disproving claims of the Bible, but instead, the exact opposite has been the case. Peoples, civilizations, and actual events in the Bible really did happen and continually new evidence has been discovered which gives credance to this.

    [ Parent ]

    Ok... (none / 0) (#437)
    by PhillipW on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 05:33:04 PM EST

    So what you are saying is that it is very difficult to believe that all of this "fine tuning," as you put it, came naturally. Yet, it is easy to belive that it came from some deity who has always just been around, and was not created by anything, but is just there. For some reason this does not sit well with me.

    -Phil
    [ Parent ]
    I understand.. (none / 0) (#492)
    by skeezix on Thu Aug 23, 2001 at 10:49:37 AM EST

    You have to approach the problem of the origin of the Universe with some honestly about who you are and what basic assumptions about the universe you can't give up. Some are inexorably opposed to the idea that there could be a deity who has always existed (i.e. he lives outside of space-time) and who created the universe. For me, it's unthinkable to conclude that the universe wasn't designed given what I've studied and the unfathomable complexity. I cannot see how the universe could have come into existence on its own.

    [ Parent ]
    How can you just throw that out like that? (none / 0) (#196)
    by Shren on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 05:22:48 PM EST

    You know that most of the people here arn't going to accept that. How can you have the gall to try to conclude several thousand years of debate with an off-hand comment? Why did you just throw that out without any evidence? Even if someone were compelled by your statement, what would they do next? Are you just trying to make noise? Are you trolling?

    [ Parent ]

    I'm sorry.. (none / 0) (#201)
    by skeezix on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 05:31:53 PM EST

    ..if you mistook the purpose of my post. As you say, I can't in one post, or even several, do justice to the rich debate that has endured centuries. My post was not intended to convince anyone, but rather to simply say freely that Christianity satisfies both my mind and soul. Interestingly enough, most of the posts I see, do the opposite, they toss out the possibility of God existing without evidence.

    [ Parent ]
    Religion? There are Many Experts (3.57 / 7) (#88)
    by quam on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 11:43:10 AM EST

    I guess it depends on who you ask and I am willing to wager there are many in the world who believe they have the right answer. This is unfortunate because the selection of a religion seems to require individual selection wbich should not be influenced by marketing campaigns, recruitment tactics or peer pressure.

    Of the many issues life presents it seems with regards to religion, many believe themselves as an expert on the matter and it seems society itself exerts religious pressures, such as the types I mentioned, by also occasionally inquiring, as you have, what is your religion?

    Well, I'm a dzogchen buddhist.

    A what? Buddhist? But, you're not Asian? You haven't given up all your possessions, have you? Is your family from Asia? You're not Christian? So, you don't believe in God? You don't go to a church? You don't have a bible? You're not Tibetan, are you? You haven't travelled to Asia? You don't speak an Asian language? Don't you have to speak Chinese or something? You don't look like the new-age type? You don't believe in spirtual rocks and stuff do you? So, you don't like money? Aren't you kind of materialistic? Don't you work? But, your apartment doesn't have any Asian furniture? Aren't you for capital punishment? Didn't you support some war? That's not buddhist, is it? You don't do Tai-Chi? You don't do Yoga? If you aren't christian and don't go to church then where will you get married? Aren't all buddhists the same? What will you reincarnate as? What? You don't believe that you'll be born after death as a human or other creature? You don't believe you have bad karma from a previous life? Don't you believe your life is full of suffering? You celebrate Christmas and Easter? You don't look buddhist? Do you eat only Asian foods? You don't seem to be suffering? You don't seem weird? I haven't seen you at the airport recruiting members? Aren't you a conservative? You don't look like an Asian? But your last name sounds kind of German? Why haven't you shaved off your hair?

    -- U.S. Patent 5443036 concerns a device for encouraging a cat to exercise by chasing a light spot.
    This Comment Rated a 1? An Explanation? (none / 0) (#178)
    by quam on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 04:41:07 PM EST

    I am curious.

    -- U.S. Patent 5443036 concerns a device for encouraging a cat to exercise by chasing a light spot.
    [ Parent ]
    I think I know why (5.00 / 1) (#364)
    by CodeBhikkhu on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 11:47:28 AM EST

    Probably for the same reason that someone rated one of my comments with a one.

    here

    Some people define themselves based on external factors. There are many "flash" buddhist who have to shove it in peoples' faces. In some circles it is cool to be a rebel, cool to be a buddhist, cool to bounce between religions and philosophies sporting a new look every other day. It just shows that these people know nothing of personal buddhism but only really understand some of the asian cultural aspects of buddhism (which are not part of the philosophy, but rather part of the culture and ritual.)

    As I'm sure you know, most dharma teachers in the USA (if that is where you are from) realize that buddhism in the united states is different than buddhism in Asia. In fact the buddha said that the process of awakening would change and adapt with the different cultures it met and that there were aspects of buddhism which were cultural and could be abandoned. The ideas of karma and reincarnation are not really corner stones of buddhism in my opinion. They were the cultural belief of Indians at the time. They were part of the Indian conciousness and I'm sure all of buddha's greatest followers realized this like he did.

    In my particular case I was rated a one on my comment because I rated his comment a one. He was spouting all this stuff about how Nichiren buddhism was the "true buddhism" and all others were wrong. He didn't back it up at all and I thought it was all drivel. It seemed like flag waving to me so I rated him down because this espousing of the truth is contrary to everything the buddha ever said.

    Basically flag wavers don't like it when you burn their flags and break up their narcisitic parade!

    Once again I probably should have just kept my mouth shut but the problem of flag wavers really bothers me. I think it cheapens this wonderful way of life.

    By the way, I enjoyed your synopsis of "your buddhism" very much. I think we are frighteningly similar!

    With metta brother,

    CodeBhikkhu

    "A week long Dalai Lama Fantasy Camp where you get to run around in red robes and eat rice and chant mantras with the Twelfth son of the Lama himself wont teach you what zen is." -- skyhook
    [ Parent ]
    It's real ... my only defense in the end (4.33 / 9) (#96)
    by kostya on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 11:59:04 AM EST

    One of the interesting things I've seen so far in the discussion is some great quotes that are just plain honest. From Christian and atheist alike, a point of agreement has arose in one form or another: "I can't see this not being true."

    Which is to say, even some atheists have said that they just believe there is no God. Sure, many theists have good arguments and present real problems with atheism, but to the atheist the universe without God fits and is most logically consistent with how they view the world. And likewise could be said of the theist.

    Which brings up the issue not of doctrine, but of framework. If I, as a theist, take and examine atheist claims within a theist framework or viewpoint, none of them make sense. Likewise for the atheist studying theism. It's the basic assumptions of the worldviews that are truly interesting--they are the unspoken rules and assumptions we all judge our world by.

    For those out there searching and testing like ghjm, I'd recommend the book by James Sire, The Universe Next Door, which examines world views and the basic questions they try to answer (what is man? what is the universe? what is man's place in the universe? etc.). It's a great way to look at religion and "non-religion", at what they are really trying to do. They are all systems of looking at the world which try to best answer the basic questions of life.

    For me, I'm a theist, and more specifically a Christian (but you knew that if you have been interacting with me here long enough <grin>). Atheists do raise great questions, but I have time and time again found that my faith answers those questions. Not blind faith (as in "I choose to ignore that ..."), but studied, rational, and logical faith. It fits, it makes sense, it works. But as lee mentioned below, it ultimately comes down to trust. And I trust.

    I have a long history with God. I trust him because he has provided for me in times when I needed and in times when I didn't think I needed it. There have been times where my whole life has fallen apart and I have clung to God like a shipwrecked survivor clinging to the rock in the beating surf. Through the darkest moments, I have known that God loves me and cares about me, and it has carried me through. Our relationship is quirky and bizarre, but then that fits me.

    I'd encourage you to keep looking and searching, but to also remember that God is interested in an individual relationship with you. If you see someone's relationship with God and don't know if it is for you, remember it might work totally different for you. For me, God seems to delight in taking me on a rollercoaster (much like DoomHaven mentioned). Like Robert Duvall's Sonny in The Apostle, I shout and struggle with God. I sass God with comments like, "Ok, you think this is funny? Thanks a lot!" He's a big God, and he seems able to take my futile jabs at humor and sarcasm. I have even said that God loves to mess up my life (many fellow Christians mouths drop in shock). But he does--when my life gets comfy, he seems to toss in monkey wrenches to keep alert and on the mark. It fits, even if it sounds irrevent. And it works.

    I believe because God is real to me. Perhaps that is anecdotal or perhaps it reveals how much of a rube I am. Oh well :-) OTOH, when we all are honest, we believe because that is "how it is" for us. Atheist or theist.

    Faith and Reason are only incompatible if you want them to be. Keep looking. You'll find what you are looking for. If you are interested in kicking the tires of your Christian upbringing, try reading A Case For Christ by Lee Strobel (former legal editor at the Chicago Tribune). It's a good read, and it is about his own personal search and skepticism.



    ----
    Veritas otium parit. --Terence
    sense of connection to something more (none / 0) (#225)
    by bonemesis on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 06:37:04 PM EST

    There are so many great points of view on this thread. I have grown up finding clauses in many religions that I could not believe in, although I have enjoyed the debate and company. To make a long story short after experimenting with many systems I have grown comfortable with Taoism, Zen Buddism, and the Native American approaches. I like the logic, civic common sense and meditative connection of what is within me that the Eastern belief systems offer. While from the Native Americans I have been able to foster my love and curiousity for the awesomeness of Nature. There is so much to learn from the way our earth works, I have had so many moments of bliss and connection while exploring earths beauty and magic. That being said I remember reading a book by John Lilly in college called "Programming and Metaprogramming in the Human Biocomputer" which did a detailed analysis on beliefs and their impact on the reality we experience. John Lilly's book exposed to me many basic beliefs that I was using that I was not aware of.

    [ Parent ]
    Issues of applicability and validity (3.50 / 6) (#104)
    by kabhul on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 12:13:34 PM EST

    First of all, I would like to thank ghjm for writing this article. It is well-written and thought-provoking. Unfortunately, as often happens in discussing religion, many comments are just knee-jerk responses by atheists who feel they're being told that they are wrong.

    A little about my personal belief system. I condemn organized religion wholeheartedly. I condemn unreflected, uncritical belief in anything, whether it is Christianity, Capitalism, or the stability of the Linux kernel. I may well be a hyper-rationalist in that irrationalist arguments make me wince, as if feeling physical pain.

    Rationalist as I am, I don't think science can answer all questions we tend to ask ourselves. In fact, it can't answer many fundamental questions at all. Now, arguing from a rationalistic viewpoint, I would have to conclude that if I can't answer a question scientifically, I should not be asking it. But that viewpoint is not only unsatisfactory, but also unproductive; it reduces the number of emotionally (can't think of a more appropriate qualifier right now) valid questions we can ask.

    Some of you may think I just contradicted myself. But in my opinion, the extreme usefulness of the scientific method corresponds to its extremly limited applicability. And I don't think it is irrational for me to use other methods for getting answers to questions where rationality isn't productive. I think his corresponds to ghjm's distinction between "holding beliefs despite having no rational reason to do so" and "holding beliefs despite having a rational reason not to do so" (which I think is brilliant and insanely helpful).

    ghjm asks:

    So, my question to the Kuro5hin community is this: What have you tried? What works? Has anyone out there found a faith-efficient religion that satisfies one's spiritual needs?

    I would rephrase that to: If you think that questions that cannot be answered by science are valid, how do you go about answering these questions?

    My personal answer to that is beauty. Like elegance is the sign of a got scientific theory, so I think beauty is the sign of a got philosophical/religious theory. For example, I find the Christian belief in a kind of Purgatory deeply moving. Not as a punishment -- that's only what organized religion has made of it, in order to discipline its followers -- but as a place of catharsis, cleansing and purification. If Purgatory is painful, it's not pain inflicted by flames some vengeful deity unleashes on us; it will be the pain when we realise just how horrible persons we were, in that we have hurt our fellow humans, by word or deed, or by not speaking or not acting when we should have.

    That said, I don't believe a Purgatory exists. It's just a beautiful concept, and somehow, a concept that is enormously comforting for me (even if it's only a concept). Maybe one can get the same comfort from merely regarding certain religious beliefs as concepts, as from taking them for reality?

    Rereading what I have written, I'm not satisfied at all with what I wrote, but I can't do any better right now. There's much more to say, but there's no energy left :-)



    My Geek Story of Science & Mysticism (3.33 / 12) (#105)
    by snowlion on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 12:13:36 PM EST

    I practice Surat Shabda Yoga, or Union (Yoga) of the Awareness (Surat) with the Light & Sound (Shabda- literally translates to "Word").

    My experience of Surat Shabda Yoga is quite unusual, and difficult to repeat.

    Here is my longer story made long.

    When I was in 2nd grade, I was having a hard time gripping the concept of death. It was difficult from a phenomonological view: How can you understand what it is to be dead, when it implies a complete lack of being? I'd try and watch the interval between going to bed and waking up, but it didn't work. I asked my dad if there was anyone who knew about this kind of problem, and he looked sort of grave, and then, said, "Well, there is church." I asked if I could go to whatever this place was, and he said, "Well, yes." We never went.

    I got into the occult, as I quickly learned from various people that church is extremely controversial, but most adults seemed to agree on the subject of the occult: It existed, was dangerous, but had verifiable answers. I was deeply interested in Science at the same time- I read mathematical books, the Phantom Tollbooth, books about how to program computers, simple physics for children, biology books, astronomy books. I didn't yet know how condemning the scientific community was of the occult (that would come much later). I liked the scientific method. So, the obvious thinhg to do was to actually play with the occult.

    I met Joel Ford (my best friend) in an experience of mutual deja vu, and we talked about the occult a lot, experiments with dreams, ESP, telepathy, all kinds of things, as well as about how to program computer games, get the "Black Dot" in Adventure (Atari 2600 games), and occasionally venturing to talk about girls.

    I continued to read Science books and Fantasy/Mystic books, such as A Wrinkle in Time.

    In Junior High, I had my first and only shared dream ever, with said Joel Ford. We met each other in the morning, and began recounting our dream to each other. We spoke each other's words before we spoke them ourselves; We took turns continuing the narration.

    Science, Games, and Mysticism continued to be at the front of my attention as I grew up. I didn't like my time at High School, save my Senior year (Who doesn't like the sudden popularity and admiration of young girls that being a Senior brings? But there were deeper changes within me as well.) I was largely depressed. The school system did not work for me; I got mostly B's and C's, despite the happy and encouraging teachers' attention. I took AP and Honors classes, but didn't really see the point to it. I've written elsewhere here about how school systems are near incapable of giving an integrated education, and why I believe that our social environment is the cause of teenage strife, rather than brain chemistry. (It's a social illusion that teenage years must be painful; Teenagers are ostracised to no end.) Being a mystic in High School is a strange experience. I was reading Zen, Aleister Crowley, various Hindu paths, Richard Bach, Christian Mystics (Meister Eckhart, Doestky, Madeline Le' Engle, C.S. Lewis), NeoPlatonism, Gnosticism, the Book of Changes, various new age teachings (mostly Robert Bruce, some Carlos Castaneda), Buddhism (Thich Nat Hahn), The Little Prince, all kinds of stuff; this is just a scratch of the surface. It's too bad Harry Potter wasn't around then.

    Note also that in this time, I am working with Science, and in particular, Computer SCience, and Mathematics. In the back of my mind, I am trying to build an Aware Computer. Not seriously, not grandiosly, I'm just trying to figure- How can I make this computation/equation aware? Everyone says it can be done (except for close minded religious bigots)- Can it be done? How do I do it? This is an issue that is critical, and will come up time and time again, but most importantly, when I am in college and need to reconcile Spiritualism with Science.

    I didn't have the integrity at this point to link what I was reading to my school work. That's the way school's fail: We get this split view of the world: What we learn (on our own), and What we are indoctrinated with (what's taught at school). It didn't even ever occurr to me to link them together. Even if it did, it would have been hard: Schools are built on unspoken assumptions that make this kind of integration incredibly difficult. (More on my skepticism of organized education, especially state education, later.) When I went to school, it was like this: School exists in it's own little box, which is seperate from the rest of the world. Anything I learned outside of the box immediately disappeared to my consciousness. Everything that I learned inside the box immediately became the sum of what existed. That was the spirit in which my work was done, and that's the spirit that most people's work is done. School is totally disconnected from Reality.

    More (most?) subtle, but equally important, I was playing the Final Fantasy series by Square soft. I didn't recognize anything important going on here, but looking back, I see this as a critical element of my development. Laugh if you will, but there's something really deep in there; Final Fantasy is an entity that if cast into your spirit, will trace intense ripples. I doubt it would work if it were a conscious effort, though. I have yet to see anyone write books on the subject; I'll let it pass for now.

    I eventually came across ECKANKAR and Paul Twitchell. I learned about the ECKANKAR controversy shortly, as I got my Internet connection, but such things aren't important when you are dealing with something really fascinating. Imagine if a scientist showed you a really cool machine, but he was also a lech (Spirit of Wonder; Excellent read). Only a fool would ignore the amazing machine because the guy was a lech. I read everything I could that Paul Twitchell wrote, but in particular I want to note "The Tiger's Fang", "The Spiritual Notebook", and "Key to Secret Worlds". Because Paul Twitchell cribbed so much from other books, these books are being removed by ECKANKAR from circulation; It's too embarrasing for the org. Too bad; Even though half the material is cribbed, it's well put together, and incredibly insightful. If you can find them and are interested in this stuff, steal them if you can't buy them.

    It took several years to digest what I read in a few months.

    I tried to get involved with ECKANKAR org, knowing full well the problems inherent in it, but was denied, because I was under 18, and they don't want problems with parents. I discovered Michael Turner on the Internet news groups, and established a correspondence with him that continues to this day.

    My meditations were filled with blue light and the sound of the bells. I saw astral creatures here and there. Meditation was-... Really Interesting. Incidentally, I did no drugs (save having sugar on my toast) this whole time. Realize that there are absolutely no drugs present here. Modern western mystics need to remove the drug component from their teachings, because it destroys the credibility of their inner experiences.

    I applied to and was accepted to go to Harvey Mudd College, the best Science school on Earth. I know of no better place to learn science. I've visited my friends at Stanford and Berkeley. I've read about MIT and CalTech. From everything that I've read and seen, HMC is the very best. Once a Mudder, Always a Mudder. You have to see it to understand it.

    I was initiated by Michael Turner into the Surat Shabda Yoga (Union of the Awareness with the Light & Sound) after I called him at three in the morning following a lucid dream experience that left me drenched in sweat.

    At Mudd, I learned most intensily the extremes of beliefs that scientists hold for mysticism. There's a myth that the scientific community is Iron Clad Solidly Against mysticism. While that is true from a journalistic standpoint, I can tell you that it is anything but true from an insider perspective. Most Scientists in our past have had all sorts of wild ideas and speculations, you really don't have to look far. Just pick a scientist from the past, and explore their ideas. It doesn't take long to find one that was a Free Thinker, even in the religious/spiritual/mystic domain. (Also, btw, mathematical rigour and formalism only became popular within the last two centuries; That Rigour is more important than Intuition is just a fashion of our day- I hope!)

    I was entertaining pet notions that perhaps in Quantum Mechanics, we'd find the interface between Awareness and the Universe. I no longer believe that this is fruitful; Let me stress the M in QM. Quantum Mechanics is just another set of equations, just another Turing Machine (to take a leaf out of Princess Nell's illustrated book). While those equations are "magical" to us because they are occult (that is, not understood by most folk), they are just a set of equations, and bring us no closer to the mystery of Awareness than any other set of equations.

    The perplexity of Awareness is ultimately what connects the world of Spirit to the world of Matter. The Gnostics are right; Awareness is a foreign entity to these worlds of mechanics and possibility. Awareness is a pair of eyes passing over an equation, giving momentary reality to the variable "t". The Scientists can't figure out Awareness, and never will, any more than someone will invent a tool or idea that will be able to show that this universe is nothing but a Dream. (Urusei Yatsura ][: Beautiful Dreamer, is recommended Anime, btw.)

    My training continued through college.

    Because I took 21 units of Mudd curriculum, including AF*ROTC (Air Force ROTC- what the fuck was I thinking?!) which demanded waking at 5:00am so I could take the mandatory trip to USC, I failed two classes. I took Physics ("Mechanics") again next semester and did wonderfully with an A, and I got a B in Physics ("Mechanics 2", mostly angular stuff and special relativity). Chemistry though- I couldn't take it again until next year. When I got a C- in chemistry the following year, they decided that I was ITR (Inelligible to Reregister): You have to pass Chemistry by your sophomore year, or you can't graduate. Apparently, my C- wasn't good enough. (I have since taken Chemistry again at UW, strangely taught by Christine Loftus, a girl who was a Mudd Senior while I was a Mudd Frosh, and got a 3.5/4.0; I Love Chemistry, but have difficulty with how it's taught, which borders on nightmare.) So, I failed out of Mudd.

    Incidentally, my best friend from HMC, Whit Myers, was at (or at the very least, near) the top of my class. We still keep in very close contact, about 1-2 phone calls every two weeks. He's getting his PhD in Physics at Berkeley, researching SQUIDs. Small Quantum Interference Devices, I believe. He comes and visits up here every now and then, we split costs. We talk about Science, Culture, and Anime together. He understands my perspective, and it is somewhat similar to his own. I say this so that you know I'm not an ign'ant superstitious person. If I were, Whit wouldn't associate with me. Since our society respects Physics PhD's as valid indicators of intelligence and even an almost religious and ethical authority (after all it was the Physics PhD's who "proved" for most people that God doesn't exist, whatever the word God means), I list him here.

    I went to work in the Games industry, where I had a lot of fun. Throughout all of this, my mystic studies and meditations are continuing.

    I come across the I AM, and study fervently. Some amusing and embarrasing experiences at work; Thank God everyone was so kind and understanding there. (Small team, friendly people, and Hey, It was Santa Cruz.) I was trying to get to the root of enlightenment.

    Some time near the end of 1998 (or 1999?) I realized the I AM. A description of what happened thereafter is hard to render; not because it is beyond description, but just because the description would take way to long and would consume a book, which I will spare everyone.

    I had considered that I had reached enlightenment, since the I AM is the destination of HOARDS of world religions, in particular the Old Testament (God's Name is "I AM"), the Mormons (Mormon literature is replete with evidence of the I AM as the central crux), almost all New Age/Occult Psychology, Hinduism (Atman/Brahman), Monism (coming from a psychological angle), yadda yadda yadda.

    I called Michael to tell him that I was done, that I was dissociating from the Shabda Yoga, having taken it to it's extreme, only to be told, in effect, "Oh, welcome to square 1. Good. This is why we say that the Shabda Yoga (Union of the Awareness with the Word) starts where most other paths end." Incidentally, the New Testimate is based beyond the I AM (Though the book of Matthew has plenty of evidence and references to the I AM in the form of manipulations of reality through prayer/affermation- Read this stuff, it's all there, its rather intense) as well, and I think that lends to the modern day strength of Christianity, though the vast majority of Christians that I have met do not follow.

    My spirituality completely took a dive beneath my consiousness, and for many months, I stabilized myself in the world. That was an overload, since then my spirituality has been mostly out of view of my conscious attention. It's there; I feel it; It peaks it's head up now and then for a few weeks at a time, and then goes back underwater again. It's a strange sensation. I think that the I AM thing was just a bit too much, and it's going underwater for a few years.

    I continue to meditate on the Light and Sound, though not nearly as frequently as I used to. I have just born a daughter ("Sakura"), my conscious attention is on outer issues for the most part immediately. I am studying Confucius and Mark Twain immediately; Both people with inner ties, (YEP!, Mark Twain too; He's a closet mystic; and Confucism rests entirely on the Tao) but few overt proclamations to these ties.

    Sakura is made out of Love.

    Well, there's my story, in a very large (but relatively small) nutshell.

    You can read about Surat Shabda Yoga with Michael Turner on a server I host, or my own personal web pages.

    Other than that, there's my story.

    Learn about the Light and Sound. Discover the Ocean of Love and Mercy. Meditate, and Explore Inner Worlds.

    If you reach the I AM, or already have, continue on; The I Am is just the Lord of Mind speaking through you. The Ocean of Love is way beyond it, as far from Mind as Kabir's boat is from Reason. (Not that there's anything irrational about the Ocean of Love, but by the power of Reason alone, it cannot be reached. That doesn't mean we can't be scientific about it, applying experiments and seeing things for ourselves.)

    From your post, you have good training and vision. Continue. Follow the Golden Thread. From what you have said, you have been able to discriminate the good from the bad. This is excellent and a sign of appreciation of subtlety and intelligence.

    Commune with the Life Stream.


    --
    Map Your Thoughts
    Location is everything ... (none / 0) (#138)
    by aphrael on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 01:58:47 PM EST

    I got into the occult, as I quickly learned from various people that church is extremely controversial, but most adults seemed to agree on the subject of the occult: It existed, was dangerous, but had verifiable answers.<.p>

    As someone who moved to santa cruz from the san gabriel valley to go to college, this strikes me as being an amazing statement, and a strong indicator of how unique this town is --- where i grew up, the reverse was true.

    [ Parent ]

    {;D}= (none / 0) (#216)
    by snowlion on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 06:20:25 PM EST

    Actually, I think if you just take the entire US, and sample over it, you'll find that >50% believe in the supernatul or UFOs. That's what I was thinking of.

    But Santa Cruz does have more than it's fair share of weirdos..!


    --
    Map Your Thoughts
    [ Parent ]
    Wow. (none / 0) (#143)
    by xaositec on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 02:13:35 PM EST

    The subject line pretty much says it. :) This is an impressive story and it even had me hooked for a long duration.

    One question/clarification, though: Is what you refer to as the 'occult' closer to what many people call pseudoscience? It would seem, from your descriptions, that what you are labeling as 'occult' would better be labeled 'pseudoscience'. I say this as an outside reader that sees alot of bagga int he word 'occult'. Perhaps you meant it with all of its baggage.



    [ Parent ]
    Occult vs. PseudoScience (5.00 / 2) (#207)
    by snowlion on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 05:51:15 PM EST

    When I think of PseudoScience, I tend to think of hicks who say that they built perpetual motion machines in their back yard. It starts to get into UFOology if they say that aliens- (spooky music) from outer space- told them how to do it in their dreams.

    When I think of the occult, I tend to think of Aleister Crowley, bending spoons, and ghost stories.

    When I was a child, the occult to me meant: Telepathy, ESP, Foresight, Ghosts, OOBE, and a smattering of magic spells.

    I think it's a different crowd than the pseudoscience crowd, though there is obviously a lot of overlap (I'm thinking of "GhostBusters"). I had sort of figured out in high school that people who have claimed to build perpetual motion machines hadn't, and I still get a little twitch in the eye whenever I read people on Slashdot saying, "Hey, human inginuity found a way 'round the sound barrier, and Human Inginuity will find a way 'round the light barrier," as if it were just a matter of oppressive science (& the Man) trying to stick it to the young up-and-comer pseudo-scientists working out of his back yard, and as if Human Inginuity were some spirit battling with the laws of the universe, which it would ultimately win. (No! The Sound Barrier was a difficulty in engineering, not a difficulty with law...) Physicist and Math professors receive no end of sealed packages containing detailed detailed instructions on how to build devices that aliens told them to make ("And ALL I need to finish it, is access to YOUR Matrix Assisted Laser Desorption Mass Spectrometer, and I can pull the critical pieces from it, and duct tape it to this here device, and BAM! We'll split the money 50/50!") or critical new insights into Astrology proven by xyz equation. I have a hard time mustering sympathy for these people. At the very least, take a few physics and mathematics courses at your local college.

    Now, to be on the safe side: NO, I wasn't into summoning demons, or wrecking havoc on local cities. I may have tried to cast a love spell or two when I was into Wicca, but nothing beyond that- nothing of Wizard of EarthSea (Ursula LeGuin) proportions. These are usually the concerns of Conservative Christians: A young child plays with the occult. A demon walking by says, "Ah Hah! A fresh Victim!" and leaps inside the child. The child rejects Jesus and starts playing Dungeons and Dragons, and listening to Heavy Metal, where the demons cause him to get into a violent ferver, and think that he is the character he plays. He kills his friends, or better yet, his friends round up a 14 year old girl, rape her, kill her, rape her again, resurrect her, rape her, kill her again, repeat. The gorier the story, the better.That's what Conservative Christians tend to think of the occult, at least judging by their literature that I've read. So, if you are wondering if I did that: No.

    (I did play a couple games of D&D with my friends, though.)

    I was playing with flash cards with circles, wavy lines, triangles, and stuff like that. I was counting how much I could foretell the next card. One humerous incident: When I started, I took down 5 measurements, and I had correctly guessed 3 out of the 5, or something like that. I ran down stairs to tell my dad that I had discovered ESP! He laughed, and (code-breaker that he was in the middle east, long time ago) told me to learn about statistics; then pointed out a few problems with my reasoning. I took a few measurements, and figured that if there was ESP, I wasn't such hot stuff at it.

    Perhaps a demon jumped into me then, perhaps not. I don't know; I didn't see any demons. {;D}= Some Christians reading my article would probably be convinced that I did, seeing as all those heresies I looked into as I grew up.

    More seriously: I did a lot of experiments with meditation, recording dreams, observing deja vu, and trying to broadcast/receive thoughts. There were many disappointing failures, and a few highly interesting (to say the least) successes.

    I think the most interesting thing at that time was working on Astral Projection. Robert Bruce's Treatise is on the web, it's easily the best work I've ever seen on the subject of Astral Projection. If you are ever motivated to see another dimension, aren't really into spirituality or the occult or whatever, this is probably the best route to go. I haven't seen anything else like it on the web. (WELL; I've seen things like it, but no where near the quality.) No, I don't have any affiliation with Robert Bruce, though I did have a few emails exchanged with him in 1995.

    Hope this clarifies occult vs. pseudoscience, and my own experience with the occult.

    I suppose you could call it "PseudoScience" if you take it from the angle of the Monroe Institute. I'm not so sure I want to call the Monroe Institute "PseudoScience" though; I really don't know much about them or their methods, but from what I have seen, they do very good work, keep good notes, are honestly into what they do, have a good reputation, even outside their own circles, yadda yadda yadda.


    --
    Map Your Thoughts
    [ Parent ]
    Ah, ok, that's you... (2.66 / 3) (#169)
    by delmoi on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 03:40:08 PM EST

    The guy who wanted to give a vibrator to his daughter when she turned 5.

    That "light and sound" or whatever link you provided the other day (linked with "her mind") didn't any sense whatsoever. Now I guess it does. Or something.
    --
    "'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
    [ Parent ]
    I am too (none / 0) (#403)
    by Wah on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 02:00:35 PM EST

    Hey, I'm looking for some good links on this. I caught a snippet of a guy the other day on some cable access show, and then did some googling and found Peter Russell's site. Can you save me some time and work on some of that cosmic linking? ;-)

    thanks.
    --
    Information wants to be free, wouldn't you? | Parent ]

    Some thoughts on the matter (3.40 / 5) (#109)
    by mindstrm on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 12:21:46 PM EST

    Firstly, I've been a typical 'geek' all my life; yet I have no problems whatsoever suspending disbelief to watch a movie. I thoroughly enjoy movies.

    As for religion.. it's not because I can't 'suspend disbelief' that I don't practice some wacky religion.. I simply don't require the belief in some sort of diety or force in order to feel at peace with myself.

    I just don't see what the big deal is. I don't consider myself a 'failure' at religion. It's not some personal weakness that I can't 'believe'. I don't understand the whole quest for religion int he first place!

    I think if you need to satisfy your 'spiritual' needs, you need to first define what those are, because if you don't understand what they are, how can you fulfill them?

    To answer your question, the one thing that makes some sense to me, or rather, seems to coincide with my own personally-developed philosophies is the Tao. Now, I'm not a Taoist nutball... I'm not even a Taoist... I just found it interesting that it happened to have the same precepts as myself.



    Not religion (3.60 / 5) (#110)
    by drivers on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 12:23:39 PM EST

    Hyper-rationals have the same spiritual needs as anyone else; they need, in their hearts, to know that they are cherished, precious, and unique. They need to know that what they do with their life matters. They need to hold a moral and ethical code and better themselves though striving to remain true to it. In other words, they need religion, just like everyone else.

    What you describe isn't spirituality. It's psychology. It could be self-help books or it could be one of various kinds of therapists, or it could come from some kind of spirituality I suppose, but speaking as a "hyper-rational" atheist, I approach any "ancient wisdom" with extreme skepticism. I also realize psychology is one of those soft sciences which is subject to constant revision, at least until we really understand how the brain works.

    By the way, I haven't found that the proportion of computer scientists, engineers, or geeks who are religious is any different than the general population. If you looking for atheists, look in the physics and astronomy department. (77.9 per cent do not believe in a supreme being.) source

    Religion for Geeks (2.50 / 2) (#112)
    by autor on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 12:25:49 PM EST

    Try reading "The Physics of Immortality" by Frank J Tipler (the same man who gave us "Rotating Cylinders and the Possibility of Global Causality Violation". Doubleday, 1994; ISBN 0-385-46798-2. Not a light read, but then we are talking about eternal verities, aren't we? For anyone with PhDs in global general relativity, theoretical particle physics and computer complexity theory it should be a piece of cake.

    Uh, yeah but... (3.00 / 1) (#147)
    by flimflam on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 02:17:14 PM EST

    For anyone with PhDs in global general relativity, theoretical particle physics and computer complexity theory it should be a piece of cake.
    Yeah, but these same people will realize that his whole book is a house of cards based on false premises, and generally makes no sense.


    -- I am always optimistic, but frankly there is no hope. --Hosni Mubarek
    [ Parent ]
    I like Bahá'í (2.33 / 3) (#118)
    by joegee on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 12:36:31 PM EST

    Obviously everyone has their own idea of what is appealing/fits in with their belief system, but the beliefs of the Bahá'í Faith make sense to me. :)

    <sig>I always learn something on K5, sometimes in spite of myself.</sig>
    Go back in history (2.00 / 2) (#120)
    by Emir Cinder on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 12:42:02 PM EST

    Didn't Epicurus start something almost resembling a religion?
    Didn't it support science and rational thought unlike Christianity?

    Religion, et cetera. (3.75 / 4) (#127)
    by ShrimpX on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 12:59:54 PM EST

    Religion is a tough one. I can't tell a religious person that they are wrong, because the means by which I "prove" that it is wrong is meaningless to them. A religious can't tell me that I am wrong, because faith is a very primitive concept to me, and in no way can I understand or accept any explanation which is based on faith.

    Your burning question has no (absolute) answer. In a complex world as that of today, we must find a way to live without guilt, though we know that things don't really fall into place for anyone. Regardless of the path you choose, you will hurt someone, and will never reach a place where everything is "OK," unless your ignorance reaches such a great extent that your guilt is counterbalanced by lies.

    The key is that somehow, you understand that every single person on this planet is in the same boat as you, whether you do it by means of religion, or otherwise. I personally believe that any state of mind that promotes thinking that anyone on this planet is in the wrong, is by all means primitive and barbaric. Stay away from that.

    Rationality, sheepness and faith (4.00 / 5) (#128)
    by Pseudonym on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 01:11:24 PM EST

    We should all know by now that religion and sheepness are completely independent. There are plenty of intelligent rational followers of mainstream religions and there are plenty of atheist sheep.

    My advice is to follow any religion that works for you, but whatever you do, investigate it yourself. Don't go by what the sheep followers say. Go to the sources. You'll find that most founders of mainstream religions (Jesus, the Buddha, Lao Tse or whoever) were intelligent people like yourself. You might even find some synergy.

    The problem is with looking at a religion which you grew up in or is "mainstream" in your surrounding culture (Christianity in your case) is that you have so much to unlearn. Chances are that the sheep followers have turned your religion into a group of trite and highly misleading slogans and have got quite a lot of it simply wrong. Shedding that cultural baggage is exhausting but you'll learn more than you ever will any other way.

    In your search you should also look into as many mainstream religions as you can. All religions have wisdom. Indeed, many religions say the same sorts of things, but say them in different ways which supply different insights onto the same issues.

    One last point, on the question of "faith". I think that you, like most people, misunderstand what that means. "Faith" is not "belief". "Faith" is what you have when you are "faithful", or when you exhibit "fidelity". It's more to do with deep trust than with mere intellectual assent, and therefore, IMO, "blind faith" is an oxymoron. Faith is very powerful, if only for the placebo effect. This is why you won't find many sheep-followers of mainstream religions moving too many mountains: they have plenty of belief, but little faith.



    sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
    need (2.75 / 4) (#129)
    by goosedaemon on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 01:12:41 PM EST

    I need truth. I don't need an illusion that makes me feel good or superior. I need truth, regardless of what it is.

    Incidentally, I'm a Roman Catholic.



    Agreed (3.00 / 1) (#146)
    by Abstraction on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 02:16:13 PM EST

    I think most religious people see their religion as the truth. This brings up the big questions: "What defines 'the truth'"?

    [ Parent ]
    The role of religion (3.00 / 2) (#132)
    by akp on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 01:31:09 PM EST

    I get the impression that you're really asking two questions: 1) Why is it that geeks are generally less religious than the rest of the population, and 2) Given that there's probably something in most religions that goes against geek culture (which leads to 1 above), which religions/faiths have people found that fit in well with our culture? You then go on to speculate that 'Hyper-rationality' is the problem characteristic, and go on to try to reconcile this with religion.

    I'd rather look at this issue from a different angle. You mention that all people 'need, in their hearts, to know that they are cherished, precious, and unique.' Debatable, yes, but it should make a good starting point. Now, let's look at how well geeks can meet those needs without religion. Right now, we're generally in demand for high paying jobs (much more than the average worker, even in the current economy). Many of us have been able to find good groups of friends, whether locally or online. In short, we're pretty well provided for--we have good lives in this world.

    Compare this to the situation of the vast majority of humanity, both past and present. If you're living as a peasant--never knowing if you're going to have enough food during the winter, watching your children die young of untreated diseases, and subject to the whims of the local nobility--then, all of a sudden, the thought of having faith in an otherworldly, all powerful God makes a lot more sense. Especially one who loves all of his creation, the meek especially. Add on that this God will punish those who are evil in this world (the rich and powerful who are making your life so wretched now) with damnation in the next... Well, it seems to be a lot more rational in that situation, where you find yourself powerless, to put faith in an otherworldly power to make things better.

    So I'd say that it's not as much that geeks find religion conflict with their ideas of rationality more than other people do. Rather, I'd say that most people are rational, and that, for most people, belief in mainstream religions matches well with that rationality. For most geeks, mainstream religions don't make much sense; they don't address needs that we have. Or, rather, maybe I should say that geeks don't have the needs that most religions do address.

    As for religions that geeks do like... From the above, I'd say that religions that are humanistic (in the sense that they concentrate on making life better in this world, rather than focusing on rewards or punishments after death) would be the first place to try. At this point I'm kind of out of my depth, though I can say that I know a lot of people who are Wiccans and other neo-pagans. A lot of the more liberal sects of Christianity also fit this bill, as do some of the more philosophical Eastern religions (Zen Buddhism comes to mind).

    -allen

    Discussion of how religions that promote hardships in this life on the promise of happiness after death actually help ensure that their followers keep suffering, and that those who are causing the suffering won't have to pay for it in this life, is left as an exercise to Friedrich Nietzsche, Michel Foucault, and the reader.



    The problem of course.... (none / 0) (#234)
    by Vermifax on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 07:05:57 PM EST

    ...have we really gotten anything definite down about #1. Are 'geeks' (whatever a geek really is) really less 'religious'?

    Or is is that the author is not religious and because he is a geek, geek-ness somehow implies to him that most geeks are not religious.

    Maybe that is his understanding from his personal circumstance. Speaking for my personal circumstance, at the account I work at for IBM, the majority of employees follow some religious system or other.

    I don't feel that there is really any correlation between being a geek and how religious or not you are. If there is a correlation, I certainly haven't ever seen any data on it. Maybe he's just taking it on 'faith' :)


    - Welcome to the Federation Starship SS Buttcrack.
    [ Parent ]

    Why one religion? (3.00 / 1) (#133)
    by Grimster on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 01:32:43 PM EST

    I've been subjected to all sorts of religions, I've read about and mildly studied even more, and one thing I've found is none of the religions really appealed to me on all points.

    You can agree with most of the tenets of most religions, at the core they're all basically the same, treat others like you wanna be treated, don't kill, steal, hurt, adultery, etc. It's hard to argue with the basic beliefs of "goodness", but once you get beyond that it gets sticky.

    Overall I find the wiccan religion most compatible with my feelings on religion, do what you want as long as you're not hurting anyone (including yourself), respect other people's beliefs, the idea of the power of three, even though it doesn't necessarily turn out like that all the time it's a great way to live your life. Of course some portions of Wicca seem a little hokey to me (spells and rituals are not my bag) so it's not a perfect fit either.

    Grimster
    --- Do Not Click! Grimster
    Spirituality more rational than religion (2.80 / 5) (#145)
    by billstclair on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 02:14:57 PM EST

    I am one of the geeks to whom you refer, a hyper-rational sort.

    I have never been able to believe that life could be explained as simply a chemical reaction. There is no rational reason for my belief, I just couldn't believe it. I was brought up in a Presbyterian church. I went to church because I liked to sing in the choir. I was willing to wait through the sermon because I got to sing afterwards. I got nothing else out of attendance at church.

    At the end of my drug days (1982), I discovered meditation. Washing dishes was a meditation for me. Lying on the floor and staring at the ceiling when I couldn't sleep after a night of freebase (now called crack) was also a meditation. Then I found a spiritual teacher and started meditating consciously every day. I'm no longer doing that practice. Now I practice remembrance (zikr) on every breath. It seems to work for me.

    I can't tell you what will work for you, but the difference between spirituality and religion is that religion asks you to believe, to have faith, whereas spirituality asks you to do and observe, to learn from experience. Faith works for some. Experience works for others. I don't believe anything I haven't personally experienced (though I don't always behave that way). Everything else is somebody else's story, a piece of fiction. The universe is vastly huger than our western scientific model of it. The human bodymind is a wonderful instrument for learning about that universe, once you learn to play.

    I have personal experience with the Shri Ram Chandra Mission (srcm.org) and Sufi Order International (sufiorder.org). Both have served me well. Both also have their problems, but you solve this by taking from them what works for you and ignoring the rest. There are myriad other groups offering good spiritual teaching, or you can just sit in your room. Sincerely ask for what you want, look for it always and everywhere, and it will come.

    God is really the only game in town, though you don't have to use that name nor do you have to believe in anything.

    P.S. Lest you think I'm holier than thou, I run a political weblog where I often talk about killing fascists. A bit of therapy for me, I suppose. Lots of anger to work out here.

    Go for something unforgettable (2.37 / 8) (#148)
    by SIGFPE on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 02:17:50 PM EST

    I can't stand all of these religions that people forget. For example Muslims keep reminding themselves that "There is no god but Allah...". If you keep having to remind yourself of one of the fundamental tenets of your religion then something is seriously wrong. I don't keep saying to myself "evolution by natural selection" is a fact - I just know it and get on with my life. Similarly Christians have a tendency to go to church and sing things with lines like "I believe...". Clearly there is either a problem with their brains or their belief systems if they keep having to remind themselves of these fundamentals.
    SIGFPE
    Ayn Rand? (3.00 / 6) (#154)
    by Eri on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 02:37:36 PM EST

    I've searched and determined that for me, I cannot resolve the "big questions". Therefore I consider myself an agnostic, I live with it, and don't waste a lot of brain cells trying to determine that which can't be determined. (I'll still go to church on Christmas and Easter just to make my mom happy.)

    However I had a former boss who was in Catholic seminary, studying to become a priest. Then he discovered the teachings of Ayn Rand. For him it was a life-changing event. Her teachings may provide the framework you are looking for: a philosophy based on logic rather than mysticism and magic. I'd start with The Fountainhead, the real diehard seem to prefer Atlas Shrugged, but I find it a bit thick.

    No, GOD no! (4.16 / 6) (#163)
    by delmoi on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 03:21:55 PM EST

    Ayn Rand's objectivism is as much religion as anything else, her god is logic, yet she and her folowers don't even understand it.
    --
    "'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
    [ Parent ]
    I think you missed the point... (3.66 / 3) (#202)
    by Don W on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 05:38:01 PM EST

    Ayn Rand's objectivism is as much religion as anything else, her god is logic, yet she and her folowers don't even understand it.

    While I agree that die-hard Rand fanatics are almost as bad as, say, southern baptists, I don't believe that the original poster was trying to indicate that Objectivism is the ideal course of action.

    When I was coming into my own, and exploring various religions (Agnosticism, Buddhism, Wicca, Judiasm...), I had trouble trying to figure out what it was that bothered me about "spirituality" in general. After reading The Fountainhead, Atlas Shrugged, and a whole bunch of miscellaneous crap by Nietzche and Dawkins, I came to the realization that the thing that irritated me about spirituality is, well, all the spirits.

    The concept that we are somehow tied to a supreme being who, despite its vast knowledge and power, must lie and be contradictory seems absurd. Rocks wizzing around in space have as much knowledge of my future as I do; perhaps less. In short, I discovered the simplicity of atheism.

    Do I mind if other people have religious views? No. Religion is really nothing more than a psychological mechanism for dealing with the world. If someone needs Allah, or God, or Puff the Magic Dragon to comfort and console them -- that really isn't a problem. It's when people want others to believe in Allah/God/Puff that problems start. Why should I believe in Puff when I can believe in Barney? Why should I shun the Barney-worshippers? Where's the proof that Puff is more correct than Barney, or nothing at all? Logical, rational thought is where philosophies should begin, not end.

    Does this make me an Objectivist? Hardly. I enjoyed The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, but found the rest of Rand's work1 to be quite dry, self-absorbed, and illogical. Rand, as it seems to me, began believing her own press, and instead of sticking to abstract philosophical concepts, began defining a solid materialistic dogma that was, in two words, utter crap. That nonwithstanding, the pile of fecal matter that represents Rand's latter works does not stain her first two. The ideas presented in The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged about intellectual freedom, the need for creativity, and the need to focus internally rather than externally are all quite solid, and a good place to begin defining ones own moral/mythological stance from.

    1 Other than the aforementioned two books, I have only read Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal and The Virtue of Selfishness; I am certain Rand has written more, but I had lost any desire to continue with her works by this time.



    [ Parent ]
    objectivism in general (5.00 / 1) (#359)
    by tiberius on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 11:18:48 AM EST

    i have a hard time distinguishing some of the die-hard objectivists i know from johnny churchgoer with regard to their tenacity towards their religion. ive read Atlas Shrugged, Fountainhead and Anthem, as well as a few other of her writings and tend to agree with Don. as the years went on, rand seemed to make objectivism less of an ideal and more of a cult. this is quite apparent by her conflicts with nathaniel branden in the mid 60's. they were considered to be the mother and father of objectivism, but because of several reasons, they essentially became enemies and formed two sects of the original.

    overall, i agree with the ideals outlined in her novels and writings. if there is any faith at all that i practice is it is that i believe in the power of the human mind to rationally better one's self in life. i believe that every person has the right to live their own life but they have no right to the life of another. a philosophy or a religion is only as good as what you can take from it. however, the second you make it the end-all be-all of existence, you have given your mind a death sentence.

    anyway, i highly recommend reading Anthem and The Fountainhead, then Atlas Shrugged. all three are great books, but if you read them in that order, it should be much less confusing (i read them in the opposite order and had a hard time understanding some ideas, hehe).

    [ Parent ]
    The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged are fiction. (3.00 / 2) (#194)
    by Shren on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 05:14:54 PM EST

    To take a strictly athiest perspective here:

    John Galt is a fictional character. The Architect in the Fountainhead is a fictional character. Jesus Christ is a fictional character. Don't base a religion off of any of them.

    If you want to read The Fountainhead or The Bible because they're good books, that's cool. If you want to build your worldview, though, find something else. Might I suggest Bergmann's "On Being Free"?

    [ Parent ]

    hmmm (none / 0) (#272)
    by Anonymous 6522 on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 09:51:01 PM EST

    Jesus Christ is a fictional character.

    I'm not so sure about that, it'd be pretty hard to found a religion around a guy who never existed, so soon after he died.

    [ Parent ]

    You gotta be kidding. (none / 0) (#634)
    by hotcurry on Tue Sep 04, 2001 at 07:53:27 AM EST

    Ayn Rand? For grownups?

    [ Parent ]
    you are not special (3.77 / 9) (#159)
    by Ender Ryan on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 03:12:18 PM EST

    "Hyper-rationals have the same spiritual needs as anyone else; they need, in their hearts, to know that they are cherished, precious, and unique. They need to know that what they do with their life matters."

    I understand this need to feel special, but, that need is just as irrational as everything else so many geeks denounce.

    So, I offer you these great words of wisdom...

    Listen up, maggots. You are not special. You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake. You are the same decaying organic matter as everything else. We are the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world. We are all part of the same compost heap. - Tyler Durden

    So, basically, accept what you are, what you have, what you can do. You are not special. You are one out of over ~5 billion little organisms inhabiting this rock we call Earth. You are an ant. You are insignificant, our whole species in insignificant. The only thing special about your life is that it belongs to you.

    It only sounds depressing because we have all grown up to believe that we are special and unique.

    Of course, that's just IMO, make believe all you like.
    -
    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!


    Interesting quote... (2.00 / 2) (#188)
    by Shren on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 05:04:41 PM EST

    You quote Durden, because inside the fiction of that movie, he was special - he went mad and broke outside the bounds of sanity, started a cult, and destroyed the modern credit industry.

    He sounds pretty special. Yet here he is telling people they they *arn't* special. Guess he was trying to start a cult or something.

    [ Parent ]

    Who Is Tyler Durtin? (2.00 / 2) (#222)
    by Namagomi on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 06:34:38 PM EST

    You're not =P. But oh well. Personally, I'd like to think I am significant, at least to the few people I know. That feeling of worthlessness and apathy about yourself in the Grand Scheme of Things(tm) you describe sounds more like a manic-depressive than that of a intellectual

    ----
    There is no #nekomimi cabal.
    [ Parent ]
    Bump that number up... (3.00 / 1) (#288)
    by Kaki Nix Sain on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 10:43:32 PM EST

    ... We passed six billion a while back, and until we get this fucking->more people thing under control, I don't think we should allow ourself the comfort of rounding down any more than necessary.



    [ Parent ]

    It'll take care of itself (none / 0) (#400)
    by Wah on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 01:54:02 PM EST

    We might then think of humanity as some sort of huge global brain - a brain in which we are the cells linked together by our growing information networks. And there, indeed, are some interesting parallels between the way society is developing and the way the human brain develops. The main thrust of development of the human brain takes place mainly before birth - between weeks 8 and 13 after conception.

    Imagine for a moment that you are a nerve cell in this growing human brain. At first there's plenty of space . . Then very quickly there's a massive population explosion of nerve cells. . . If you were a nerve cell you'd probably think "This is getting dangerous. There's not enough oxygen to go round, we're going to be short of blood soon. . . But suddenly, at week 13, the explosion stops. From then on the development of the nervous system focuses on the growth of connectivity and complexity . . the linking together of these billions of nerve cells.

    Today we are seeing a similar process happening to humanity. We've had this massive population explosion, but its now beginning to slow down, and we seem to be moving into the next phase, the linking of the billions of human cells in this planetary brain. Through postal systems, telephones, computer networks, and satellites, we are increasing the connectivity and linkage of the billions of minds which together constitute humanity.

    From here. You might like it, and some of the other stuff around there, if it doesn't freak you out too much. At the very least, he's got a sane understanding of copyright.
    --
    Information wants to be free, wouldn't you? | Parent ]

    Uh (none / 0) (#350)
    by ghjm on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 09:58:52 AM EST

    Tyler Durden as a role model. Wow.

    Telling people they aren't unique is a great philosophy for a drill sergeant or cult leader. It may even work for you, if other things in your life are going well - for example, if you're filled with youth and vitality and don't see any reason to care what happens next, because what's happening now is so great. However, if you face adversity or the possibility of death, you may find yourself asking: What is this thing I call "me" and why does it matter? Why should it exist for a while, then not exist? Why does that make any sense?

    Tyler Durden's answer to these questions is, of course: The first rule of Project Mayhem is you do not ask questions. But Tyler's suicidal tendencies (think of the car crash scene) arise directly from his lack of belief. And if you recall, the final message of the movie is that Jack's essential morality triumphs over Tyler's atheism. Certainly, "Project Mayhem is the right way to live your life" is not the message *I* got from Fight Club.

    -Graham

    [ Parent ]
    the message (4.50 / 2) (#394)
    by Ender Ryan on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 01:45:10 PM EST

    Fight Club has a lot of messages.

    The ones that are meaningful to _me_ are the following...

    1. You are not the car you drive. You are not the contents of your wallet... You're not your fucking khakis.

    2. Don't waste your time trying to control everything, because you can't.

    3. Question EVERYTHING you've been programmed to believe. There are millions of ways people try to influence you and make you believe something without questioning it. Religion, Rules of society, manners, music, movies, even Fight Club itself.

    4. We as people are insignificant. We live, then we die. Everyone is always trying to leave some kind of legacy behind them, to acheive a sort of immortality in a sense. That's a waste of time. Take what you've got, do what you can, what you want, and "let the chips fall where they may". Maybe people will remember you, maybe they won't.

    Where Tyler went wrong is he didn't follow #2. He had no desire to be famous or leave some sort of legacy behind him, he was simply doing what he wanted to do, living how he wanted to live, but he was trying to drag others along with him.

    Tyler Durden is in no way a role model, he simply had some interesting ideas. Personally, the simple idea of a role model is disgusting to me. Only people who don't have ideas of their own and can't think for themselves have role models. In fact, that's one of the messages in Fight Club. Reject all the basic assumptions of... Basically, think for yourself.

    But, whatever, it's just a movie, but it did have some interesting ideas...


    -
    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!


    [ Parent ]

    Roll your own religion. (4.20 / 5) (#165)
    by delmoi on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 03:25:15 PM EST

    Hyper-rationals have the same spiritual needs as anyone else; they need, in their hearts, to know that they are cherished, precious, and unique. They need to know that what they do with their life matters. They need to hold a moral and ethical code and better themselves though striving to remain true to it.

    So, why not just believe, that? Believe that you are special, cherished, unique. Believe your life matters. Believe you are immortal if you want. Make up your on moral code and follow it.

    Why add all the superfluous and possibly evil baggage? Why not just think for yourself.

    Why settle for someone elses system, when you could have one that by your measure is 100% efficient? Are you that weak-minded?
    --
    "'argumentation' is not a word, idiot." -- thelizman
    For the same reason you study science ... (4.00 / 3) (#175)
    by kostya on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 04:27:24 PM EST

    So why not roll your own religion? An excellent question!

    The answer is actually pretty simple: because it is more efficient to study the work of others.

    Why do we study chemistry? Why not just figure it out on your own? Why not just leaf through science books and jot down all the things you find interesting and then sit down and try and come up with your own research?

    The answer is simple: some very, very talented and smart people have gone before you and spent their lives working through hypotheses and theories to come to some very powerful and useful conclusions. To take their work, recombine it with little understanding the background, and try to hammer it into a new theory or science is just asking for a world of hurt.

    The fact is that many of these religious traditions have thousands of years of thinking and writing on the questions that matter to humankind. To just run out there and "think for yourself" is good, but it is missing out on the wealth of thinking that is available to you if you embrace a particular system and study its beliefs.

    I have no issues with trying multiple systems, I just think it wise to try one at a time and see how they work out or fit with what you perceive as sensible. I am fully Christian, but I read philosophy from a diverse range (as I find time) because they have dedicated their lives to thinking about things that I might have not even considered.

    Why settle for someone elses system, when you could have one that by your measure is 100% efficient? Are you that weak-minded?

    Because when it comes to religion, it's not about making you feel comfortable, but about making you better. If left to your decisions, you will invariable pick self-reinforcing concepts or approaches. Religion should challenge you to be more than you are. See my comment on Dim Sum Religion: I disagree for more. Just as cobbling together scientific theories will not produce usable science, cobbling together religious concepts without their context will not produce life-changing belief. It will just be a worthless list of religious and philosophical mish-mash, with a lot of holes and missing pieces.

    Whatever he does, he should think for himself, examine things, think them through. But that kind of mental discipline does not preclude listening to others experiences or trying out their beliefs for yourself. And the best way to really understand some religious concepts is to immerse yourself in it. Much like if you were a Chemistry major you would have to fully immerse yourself in some QM texts before you could tackle some of the more interesting concepts in a useful way.

    Sure, being tossed about by the winds of religious whim is weak-minded, but ignoring thousands of years of thinking and writings on topics is also being a fool.



    ----
    Veritas otium parit. --Terence
    [ Parent ]
    I know what the answer isn't (4.33 / 6) (#166)
    by lessthan0 on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 03:30:57 PM EST

    There are quite a range of comments here. I spent a year or two of my youth struggling with this and de-programming myself from my protestant Christian upbringing.

    If you mapped the world population against religious beliefs, you would find a strong correlation between where people are born and what they believe as far as religion. It looks very much like a viral outbreak map.

    All religions are man made and just don't stand up to scrutiny (at least for me). History should teach you that if nothing more. Religions will come and go. When human knowledge makes a religion obsolete, it is forced to change it's dogma or it dies and new religions pop up. Also, press any theist on the specifics of their beliefs, and you will find that the number of religions exactly equals the number of religious people in the world. For me, science is really the only sane way to examine the universe.

    Now, while I subscribe to science for my worldview, I also know that science doesn't have all the answers. Our current level of knowledge can't provide answers for some of the bigger questions, like where did everything come from. The Big Bang theory as a freak quantum fluctuation doesn't explain how even the "potential" for a quantum fluctuation could be.

    So, while I know that man made religions are not the answer, I have to live without satisfactory answers to some of life's questions. Does this make me atheist, agnostic, or something else? I'll let you decide.


    Hard to say (4.50 / 4) (#286)
    by Pseudonym on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 10:36:14 PM EST

    Does this make me atheist, agnostic, or something else?
    Just in case you were after an answer to that question, the answer is: it's impossible to tell from what you said.

    Terms like "theist", "atheist" and "agnostic" refer to belief in the existence of a god or gods. The definitions are, approximately:

    • A theist believes in the existence of a god or gods.
    • A weak atheist does not believe in the existence of a god or gods.
    • A strong atheist believes that there are no gods. Note the subtle distinction between strong and weak atheism. A strong atheist has a belief, whereas a weak atheist does not.
    • A weak agnostic does not know whether there are gods or not. The distinction between this and weak atheism is even more subtle, and there is some overlap.

    • A strong agnostic believes that the question of the existence or non-existence of gods is fundamentally unknowable.
    I'm willing to bet that you're not a theist. As for choosing between the rest, take your pick, or pick something else. Assuming you care, of course.

    Note that these definitions have nothing to do with adherence to religion. A theist, for example, could either choose or not choose to follow the dogma handed to them by their fellow believers, without their belief in the existence of a god or gods changing.

    They also have nothing to do with religious organisation. I know one or two strong atheists who regularly attend a Christian church because they like going places on Sunday, meeting friends and singing songs.

    The reason I bring this up is that people use terms like "religion", "dogma" and "theism" somewhat interchangeably, which is incorrect. You can be religious without accepting dogma, you can be theist without accepting religion and you can be dogmatic without being a theist. All such permutations are possible and more common than some might think.



    sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
    [ Parent ]
    What is rationality?? (2.80 / 5) (#170)
    by jd on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 03:42:39 PM EST

    Rationality presupposes a faith in something to be rational about. Let us take "logic". You believe in logic, right? Why? How can you prove that logic is correct, outside of using logic itself? Ergo, you do not -know- logic is correct, you "merely" have faith that it is correct.

    Is this a bad thing? No! Faith allows you to concentrate on what is important, and describe the remainder in abstract terms. It allows you to do -something-, without having first to do -everything-.

    (If you tried to figure out the exact energies and motions required, at the quantum level, to transfer your food to your mouth, and then to your digestive system, and finally into your blood, you'd starve to death. So you just place it on faith that everything'll work as it should and you get on with the task of eating.)

    Christianity is a badly-understood faith. It extends the concepts of abstraction, but it does not define them. Think of it as a Java class, extending the class of Faith, which in turn extends the atomic class of Abstract.

    Using this OO analogy, Christianity defines one new exception handler, two new methods, and one new constant. As classes go, that's a pretty simple one. If you can't swallow that exception, might I suggest getting your throat examined?

    (There's a big difference between can't and won't. I fully respect any/all who won't accept Christianity. They have found solutions they feel are better-suited to them, and more power to them for doing so. But can't?)

    Now, if you want to go to Bible-Bashing, Fundamentalist, Extremist "Christians", you're in the wrong department. That's not faith, that's psychological and emotional abuse, often mixed with physical abuse. That's not a Java Class, that's a full-scale mental DDOS attack.

    logic (2.50 / 2) (#180)
    by Ubiq on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 04:42:57 PM EST

    If you reject logic, the only thing left to do is to sit in a corner and do ptptptptptptpt.

    I will assume you are just trolling, but that would sound like logic so you won't care about that, right?

    [ Parent ]

    That's my point (none / 0) (#384)
    by jd on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 01:22:41 PM EST

    It is -essential- to accept logic, however logic cannot (by definition) be proved. It must be accepted on faith alone.

    The argument of faith, IMHO, is not "must I have some?" but, rather, "how much am I willing to have?"

    These are two very very different questions. One is very binary (yes/no), but is arguably an impossible case to ever experience. The other is a continuum, and you can find whatever place on that continuum that YOU find comfortable.

    [ Parent ]

    ooh! ooh! look at the handwaving! (3.00 / 1) (#186)
    by Shren on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 04:59:42 PM EST

    Rationality presupposes a faith in something to be rational about. Let us take "logic". You believe in logic, right? Why? How can you prove that logic is correct, outside of using logic itself? Ergo, you do not -know- logic is correct, you "merely" have faith that it is correct.

    I'm not going to try to generate an ironclad proof of the validity of logic. I'll leave that the professionals. My layman's argument is this: All that is, is math. Math is the foundation of knowledge. Logic is binary math. Physics requires math, and so does chemistry. Math isn't a matter of perspective. Math doesn't require much faith - I can check any premise I like by hand. Math doesn't sometimes work and sometimes not.

    Does Math require Faith? Yes, a little. You have to have faith that the universe is a consistantly rational place, and that there isn't a place beyond your vision where math doesn't apply. For this little act of faith, you get all of modern science.

    Compare this to Christianity. You make lots and lots of leaps of faith. You don't get modern science after all of the leaps of faith, though. If the past is any evidence, let the Christians run things and you'll get a stinking pile of heretic corpses.

    [ Parent ]

    Interesting, but ultimately incorrect. (none / 0) (#401)
    by jd on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 01:54:03 PM EST

    First, there is no "ironclad proof". Quite the opposite. A cetain mathematician, I believe a German by the name of Goedel, proved the opposite, that mathematics and logic are, in and of themselves, unprovable.

    Second, "all there is, is math" is probably incorrect. Let us suppose there is an axiom A, which is NOT in the set of axioms required to create mathematics and which does NOT generate any conflicts with any axiom that IS in the set required to generate mathematics. That axiom lies outside of maths, by definition. In order for "all there is" to be math, you must prove that there is no such axiom as A. But herein lies the problem - disproving A is impossible, as it's an axiom. Proving that the set of axioms {M} U {A}, where M is the set of axioms required to create mathematics, is invalid is also impossible, as {M} /\ {A} = {}.

    Thus, A lies outside of mathematics, is unverifiable with mathematics, and offers no conflict with mathematics.

    Christianity - what faith does Christianity require that mathematics does not? It requires that you have faith that humans are not the centre of the Universe, and that it is better (in some undefined way) to pursue the positive rather than the negative. That's IT. That is the entirity of Christianity. Anything and EVERYTHING else can be derived from those two axioms, OR disproved as an element of Christianity.

    The "heretic-burners" throughout history have not been limited to one religion. Or, indeed, the religious. Atheists and Agnostics have been guilty of just as many attrocities. Why? Because it's generally not the faith that's the problem. It's the person. People are people, no matter WHAT culture or creed they pursue.

    And any "Christian" who has harmed ANY other living soul has violated both axioms that form the basis of Christianity, and have lost ANY right to such a title. Calling them "Christians" is like calling Windows an Operating System. It's an insult to the genuine article.

    [ Parent ]

    Logic (none / 0) (#314)
    by fluffy grue on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 12:50:42 AM EST

    Logic itself cannot be proven, but everything in logic can be proven from a very simple set of base axioms. Additionally, there are several different and orthogonal base axiom sets which can be used to derive the rules of logic to begin with. As a computer scientist who just took her PhD qualifying exams, the one which most easily springs to mind is lambda calculus. Here's a brief summary.

    A variable is an expression.

    λv.e (where v is a variable and e is an expression) is an expression.

    e1e2 is an expression.

    (λv.e1)e2 is an expression which is equivalent to replacing all instances of v inside e1 with e2. (For example, (λv.v)1 is equivalent to 1.)

    EVERYTHING in mathematics, computation, language, and logic can be derived from those base rules. With those rules you can write numbers as lambda expressions, you can prove the correctness of a program, you can prove that P->Q is equivalent to !P||Q, and you can write a quine as (λx.xx)(λx.xx).

    Hm. I thought I had a point with this, but... whatever.
    --
    "Is not a quine" is not a quine.
    I have a master's degree in science!

    [ Hug Your Trikuare ]
    [ Parent ]

    Exactly. (5.00 / 1) (#390)
    by jd on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 01:38:54 PM EST

    Once you have a base point, you can derive the rest from that base point. You still end up with axioms, though, to construct that base point.

    The core of my thesis that you cannot have an axiom-free existance. That there =must= be at least one axiom, one article of faith, on which the rest of reality can rest.

    The secondary element is that any worthwhile faith or religion may add axioms, or have articles of "faith" which can be derived from existing axioms (in which case, the "faith" doesn't need to be that strong), but CANNOT violate any axioms within the foundation on which it is based.

    (Once you accept a foundation, and stand upon it, you have to be brave and/or foolish to then start shifting it.)

    It would follow, then, if you accept this argument, that ANY religious doctorine can be mathematically proven correct or incorrect, solely from the base axioms PLUS any axioms that faith adds on.

    IMHO, if a geek chooses to follow a faith, whatever that faith may be - even if it's one that they themselves formulate, yet choose to pursue a contradictory doctorine, then the problem isn't one of the faith, it's one of attitude.

    Likewise, if that same geek, with that same faith, chooses to pursue a doctorine that is as close to being provably self-consistant as possible, then they truly have a faith a saint would marvel at.

    Being humans, with typical human stubbornness, finite time, and a willingness to take some things on trust, most geeks are likely to fall between these two extremes. Which is perfectly normal and shouldn't ever pose any serious problems. Quite the opposite. It will likely make life a whole lot easier and a whole lot more worth the living.

    [ Parent ]

    Religion has no monopoly on ethics (4.00 / 6) (#171)
    by Logan on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 03:48:58 PM EST

    This of course creates something of a problem: Hyper-rationals have the same spiritual needs as anyone else; they need, in their hearts, to know that they are cherished, precious, and unique. They need to know that what they do with their life matters. They need to hold a moral and ethical code and better themselves though striving to remain true to it. In other words, they need religion, just like everyone else.
    This seems to be a common fallacy that the religious often try to use to either attack or seduce the non-religious. The fallacy I am speaking of is the claim that only religion can provide moral guidance, that only religion can provide purpose to life, and that these two things are "spiritual" needs (whatever that is).

    Some religious people actively attack agnostics and atheists for what they perceive as the crime of trying to determine the nature of morality on one's own. They don't see ethics as a philosophical framework, but instead as a set of duties and prohibitions set forth by their religion. Those that seem to find other sources of moral codes for themselves are automatically alienated by such religions.

    Then there is the issue of finding a purpose in life. I think this is only an issue for those that are too afraid to determine their own purpose, too afraid to determine on their own what they want to do with their life. I suppose these people really do have a "spiritual" need, in that they need someone or something to tell them what to do. Perhaps this is why the same people have a need for religion to dictate morality, so they can safely have a moral code given to them, rather than having to discover or develop one on their on.

    I think the reason why "geeks" are turned off of religion is not exactly their rationality, but their sense of autonomy. Such people want to discover things on their own. They tend to dispute assertions by others until they can prove things themselves. Thus they will naturally desire to discover morality and their purpose in life on their own, and dictate their own terms. Perhaps this sense of autonomy and rational ability are inextricably linked.

    What does religion have to offer such people? They can deal with moral dilemmas on their own. They can and do dictate the terms of their own existence, finding their own purpose in life (if they want a purpose). They can set their own goals in life, and determine on their own how to better themselves to meet these goals. And they usually have enough of an ego to already feel important and unique. If not, there are other places than religion to find these feelings.

    It seems when you speak of "normal" people, you speak of people that are afraid of life. They are afraid to determine things on their own. They are afraid to make moral decisions without the backing of an authority. I don't think this describes "normal" people. I think this describes overly-dependent people. So, no, I don't think "hyper-rational" people need religion, nor do I think most other people do, either. Just the ones that never want to grow up.

    I liked the rest of your story, though. I particularly enjoyed your models of faith and religion, such as "faith-efficiency." But it seems like you are searching without for answers that can only come within. Best of luck to you.

    Logan

    But morality is little use without the courage... (none / 0) (#565)
    by marlowe on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 09:15:09 AM EST

    to back it up when it becomes incovenient or dangerous.

    Faith of some sort, most likely religious faith, can supply that moral backbone. I'm hard pressed to think of anything else that can do the job nearly as well.

    An atheist may have ethics and morals in an abstract intellectual sense. I know because I was one once. He may even act accordingly in small matters. But when it comes down to the clinch, you need something to bolster you up.

    And if religion is a crutch, then we're all cripples. Pity the cripple who won't use a crutch.

    -- The Americans are the Jews of the 21st century. Only we won't go as quietly to the gas chambers. --
    [ Parent ]
    None of the above (3.50 / 2) (#179)
    by scorbett on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 04:41:43 PM EST

    This is an odd question to post on a technology oriented site. Science, technology, and rational thought are the bane of any religion, and I believe society will eventually be freed from religion altogether. I would expect most "geeks" to share a similar opinion (I know there are many secular humanists posting on K5, for example). However, many people still carry strong religious beliefs due to heritage and tradition, and I suspect that there are quite a few of those around here as well. You missed an excellent opportunity for a poll here, a quick question to try to get a feel for what the dominant religion is among the K5 membership. Anyway, if you are looking for something to believe in, why don't you start by reading up on secular humanism.

    dude, that essay (none / 0) (#204)
    by el_guapo on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 05:43:16 PM EST

    ROCKS! go check out www.jraxis.com for some other stuff i found interesting (it has a god simulator, i love it)
    mas cerveza, por favor mirrors, manifestos, etc.
    [ Parent ]
    God simulator (none / 0) (#206)
    by scorbett on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 05:46:34 PM EST

    Yeah, I've seen the god simulator before, I found it highly amusing. If you liked my essay, you should also check out this site, it is one of the best atheist sites I've come across.



    [ Parent ]

    I'm a Geek, and I believe. (2.33 / 9) (#182)
    by generaltao on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 04:45:07 PM EST

    I've read through almost all the comments and I am frankly surprised at just how overwhelming the proportion of atheist geeks is.

    To me, the existence of God Almighty, the Creator, is completely self-evident. I can't understand why someone could look at something like a wrist-watch and find it self-evident that it was degined and built, and yet look at the Universe, or even just the anatomy of an ant and somehow convince him or herself that it assembled itself at random, without design or intelligence to guide it. THAT, to me, is a leap of faith.

    I simply don't understand how one jumps to the totally irrational conclusion that just because the Universe can be described by science it necessarily was not created by God.

    With no insult or injury meant toward the many people here at Kuro5hin who deny God's existance (you were given the gift of free will, and you are free to reject God if that is your choice) I simply cannot fathom the violence one has to do to one's intellect to reject the obvious Truth of God's existance.

    I can, to some extent, understand why picking an actual religion can be difficult, but to out and out reject God altogether? Reality and the Universe are not limited to what you and I can see with our eyes or touch with our fingers. Denying this is like denying that my house has 3 bedrooms before you've even bothered to check.

    I read a joke not too long ago that went something like this:

    A scientist walks up to God and says: "Hey God, you know what? We don't need you anymore. We've evolved and have gained knowledge, and whatever we don't know we'll eventually figure out for ourselves."

    God says: "Really? That's great. Hey, let's have a contest, ok?"

    "Sure," says the scientist. "What is it?"

    God says: "OK. Let's both create a man, just like I did it in the old days with Adam, ok?"

    "No problem," says the scientist as he bends over to collect some dust.

    "Hey now," says God. "You make your OWN dust."

    Logic Loop (4.25 / 4) (#185)
    by DeadBaby on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 04:55:43 PM EST

    If the universe is so complex that it could have not possibly come about by itself, how can GOD, who you'd have to assume is MANY times more complex than this universe he created, simply exist himself?

    Wouldn't it still be a giant leap of faith to assume GOD can "just exist" when the universe can't? At VERY least there is proof of the universe.

    "Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity -- in all this vastness -- there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us." - Carl Sagan
    [ Parent ]
    No loop. (2.66 / 3) (#203)
    by generaltao on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 05:39:58 PM EST

    God created everything, including time. Without time, something does not have to be created in order to exist. The question of what existed "before" God is irrelevant, in my honest opinion, and with all due respect to yours.

    Consider the other apparent paradoxes that exist at the borders of our capacity to understand:

    - In an infinite universe, every point is at the center since the distance to the edge in any direction is equally infinite.

    - Two points in space are always separated by an infinite number of points, and yet it only takes a finite amount of time to traverse the span.

    [ Parent ]

    Thanks for the pointless reply. (4.33 / 3) (#215)
    by Don W on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 06:19:06 PM EST

    God created everything, including time. Without time, something does not have to be created in order to exist. The question of what existed "before" God is irrelevant, in my honest opinion, and with all due respect to yours. [emphasis added]

    The question of what existed "before" the Universe is irrelevant, in my honest opinion, and with all due respect to yours. It's a circular argument.

    Consider the other apparent paradoxes that exist at the borders of our capacity to understand: - In an infinite universe, every point is at the center since the distance to the edge in any direction is equally infinite.

    The word "center" implies a finite area or method of distance measurement; it's a relative term. You can just as easily say every point is at the end of the universe -- but this is simply a linguistic construct (which results from working without any type of local coordinate system). If you were to establish a coordinate system for the infinite Universe, with a locus at a pre-determined point (say the center of the Milky Way), then every point is no longer "the center", it can be measured as X degrees laterally, Y degrees vertically, and at Z (where Z is in (0,infinity)) units of distance from the locus.

    - Two points in space are always separated by an infinite number of points, and yet it only takes a finite amount of time to traverse the span.

    Also known as the Runner's Paradox; a runner runs from point A to point B; but he must first run halfway to point B; and before that, halfway to the halfway point and so on. The thing is that a point is also infinitely small, and isn't a real physical construct -- it is strictly a mental mechanism for modeling the real world.

    So you have brought up two abstract paradoxes (ones with no readily established physical basis) to refute...what? The original post was quite clear: Your statement about complex systems needing a creator is a logic loop; for the creator is a complex system (in the case of the watch, a factory of a human would still be considered a complex system), and thus your statement boils down to:

    Every complex system must be created by a more complex system.

    I believe this is the logic loop about which the previous poster complained about; and you can't prove an argument by simply re-stating the argument. QED. ;)

    The original poster expressed no qualms with the existance of abstract paradoxes, nor did he express dissatisfaction with your opinion on the nature of your own little paradox (logic loop). I am therefore not entirely certain as to the point of your reply...?



    [ Parent ]
    Another pointless reply, just for you. (none / 0) (#418)
    by generaltao on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 03:40:11 PM EST

    The question of what existed "before" the Universe is irrelevant, in my honest opinion, and with all due respect to yours. It's a circular argument.

    Did you even read what I wrote? I am frequently wrong, and you are welcome to point it out when I am. But the reason I said it was irrelevant what existed "before" God is that "before" implies time, and I had already articulated my belief that Time was created by God.

    The word "center" implies a finite area or method of distance measurement;

    It implies a point that is equidistant from the ends of a line, figure or body. Any point in an infinite universe satisfies this condition, whether you like it or not.

    Also known as the Runner's Paradox;

    Actually, it's more commonly known as Xeno's Paradox.

    The thing is that a point is also infinitely small, and isn't a real physical construct -- it is strictly a mental mechanism for modeling the real world.

    You are confusing "physical" and "real". A point is not physical, but it is real. You also seem to imply that infinity is not real. I beg to differ.

    Tell me, does a shadow exist? It's two-dimentional and it exists on a plane. But does it exist?



    [ Parent ]

    Shadows are not two-dimensional and they don't exi (none / 0) (#531)
    by weirdling on Thu Aug 23, 2001 at 05:09:51 PM EST

    Shadows are the lack of something, specifically, light. They basically 'exist' in a volume of space described by the blockage that caused them. However, since it is an absence of light, they have no real properties except in comparison to lighted areas.

    Anyway, you still haven't answered to the 'God paradox'. To put it succinctly, if the universe calls for a creator, then god, who is much more complex than the univers (the Christian god is infinite), must call that many times more for a creator by the same argument. Inductively, we have gods that are ever more complex ad infinitum, hence the term 'logic loop'.

    I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
    [ Parent ]
    Fractals and Conway's Life (4.00 / 1) (#616)
    by waferthinninja on Tue Aug 28, 2001 at 10:30:45 AM EST

    I have always thought there was a flaw in the argument that God must be more complicated than the universe to have created it. A fractal pattern can be very complex (infinitely so) yet created from a remarkably simple equation.

    John Conway's "Life" and other similar experiments with cellular automata, showed what complex behaviour can result from a simple set of rules.

    Evolution shows how complex and remarkable organisms can arise from lowly creatures.

    Which leads me to believe that whatever started life on earth could actually have been a simple mechanism. Or maybe just a simple God!

    Regardless of whether you accept any of this, what gets me is how people can make the jump from a "required" God to make the universe, into following the tenets and beliefs of an established religion. "There must be a God" does not follow on to "The Christian God is real" or "The Norse Gods are real" or "<insert deity of choice here> is real"

    [ Parent ]

    Of course (none / 0) (#617)
    by weirdling on Tue Aug 28, 2001 at 12:26:07 PM EST

    A 'simple' God would be mostly irrelevant. To wit: if a simple God 'accidentally' started evolution, we've just reduced the size of the problem while adding unnecessary complexity; the God's existence *still* must be explained, while evolution satisfactorily explains our existence. In other words, we now have an intractable in our system, as the attributes of the simple God can't be defined, hence the system is just cluttered with an unknowable for no good reason.

    As to the idea that God works through natural laws, then, by Occam's razor, God makes no odds. In other words, if he just allows things to happen normally, then he might as well not be there, as that *is the way it would happen, anyway*.

    But, you are correct; the existence of a god does not imply the existence of The God. That is something weak atheists are constantly arguing; that in order for us to have a meaningful discussion of someone's god, we need a meaningful definition of said god. Most of us have been arguing against the Christian god, which is the one most prevalent in our areas.

    I'm not doing this again; last time no one believed it.
    [ Parent ]
    Except (4.00 / 1) (#638)
    by generaltao on Wed Sep 05, 2001 at 01:12:18 PM EST

    Except that by your own premise, his line of reasoning is invalid since it is based on the creation of something that does not exist (fractals).

    (I am assuming that since you believe shadows and other pojections do not actually exist, then the graphical respresentation of an algorithm in action exists EVEN LESS ;)

    So your response, rather than "of course!" should have been "hogwash! Fractals don't exist and therefore any conclusions about the creation of things that DO exist that are reached from the observation of fractals which do NOT exist are totally and completely irrelevant!"



    [ Parent ]

    Reality (none / 0) (#637)
    by generaltao on Wed Sep 05, 2001 at 01:06:34 PM EST

    Shadows are not two-dimensional and they don't exist.[...] Shadows are the lack of something, specifically, light.

    Shadows are two-dimensional. To deny it is to deny a basic basic fact. They have a height and a width. That's all they need to have to be two-dimensional. The fact that they result from light being blocked from a surface by a 3-dimensional object only means that they are a "projection". (The same can be said for the picture on a movie screen, which takes your "absence of light" argument and tosses it out the window.)

    So please, let's try to agree on some very basic points. Shadows (or pictures on a movie screen, if you prefer) do indeed exist. They exist on a plane. ie: a 2-dimensional system of coordinates.

    As for your assertion that God, who created time, must in turn have been created, this is another example of failing to understand the mathematical implications of what you are saying. Whether or not you believe in God is completely up to you. But the line of logic you chose is flawed.

    [ Parent ]

    Bzzt. (none / 0) (#594)
    by warrax on Sun Aug 26, 2001 at 10:24:05 AM EST

    >> The word "center" implies a finite area or method of distance measurement;

    >It implies a point that is equidistant from the ends of a line, figure or body. Any point in an infinite universe satisfies this condition, whether you like it or not.

    Umm, but if the universe is infinite, how can it have an end/border/edge???

    This leads to a contradiction, so we must in fact conclude that the universe has no center.

    -- "Guns don't kill people. I kill people."
    [ Parent ]

    No time (4.00 / 1) (#386)
    by kaatunut on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 01:25:32 PM EST

    God created everything, including time.

    'Create' is a verb. Verbs require some sort of time. God has often exhibited (in the Bible) an apparent sense of time. I would go so far as to say that very definition of action requires some time. Does God live in Angeltime? If so, he too either was created or has always existed, and in the latter case it is more plausible to assume that world, being the simpler entity, has always existed.


    --
    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 ]

    Excellent argument (none / 0) (#420)
    by generaltao on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 03:48:11 PM EST

    You have a very good argument and I can't really do anything to refute it except shrug my shoulders. The only point I disagree with is that God Himself is bound by time. I believe God exists outside of time and is not subject to it. I believe that we humans cannot comprehend things without a time constraint, which is why chronology figures in revealed scripture.

    [ Parent ]
    Gee, it's a regular Dice Clay we have here (none / 0) (#221)
    by Namagomi on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 06:27:32 PM EST

    I have no problem with anyones religous beliefs, but damn, that was a stupid stupid joke =P You hear that in Sunday School or what?

    ----
    There is no #nekomimi cabal.
    [ Parent ]
    You get into trouble in a couple of places (4.00 / 3) (#245)
    by JetJaguar on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 07:31:21 PM EST

    Your first mistake is your point about randomness, and a misconception about random processes:

    Random self-organizing complex systems really aren't all that magical. Any particular event may occur at random, but very often, there are "preferred" pathways so that, while processes may occur randomly, there are numerous examples of preferred outcomes. For example, take flipping a coin. There are 3 possible outcomes, heads, tails, and landing on an edge. This is a totally random process, but you can see immediately that 2 of the outcomes are preferred over the 3rd. Even in this very simple case, there is an organisation of the outcomes. In more complex systems, the outcomes can be incredibly complex, and there can be many preferred pathways, but there are also others that are extremely unlikely to occur. Anyway, what I'm really getting at here, is that you seem to be implying that God is guiding the coin so that it lands on heads or tails, but even you will admit that it's more likely that something else is going on. That's not a refutation of God's existance, only a refutation that complex random processes necessarily require some kind of intelligence to guide them. They don't, and it doesn't require a great leap of faith to believe that.

    And second:
    Reality and the Universe are not limited to what you and I can see with our eyes or touch with our fingers.

    How do you know this? Do you have any hard evidence for this? I'm not saying you're wrong. Sure it's possible, but what's the point of even bringing it up, since, by definition, it's impossible for us to know anything about it? For all intents and purposes, it doesn't exist. This is different from denying that your house has 3 bedrooms, because I already know that houses come in different shapes and sizes, some have 2 bedrooms, some have 3, some even have 50 or 60, and such things are not beyond my experience or comprehension. But to posit the existence of something beyond our perceptions is pure mysticism, and really doesn't lead you to God, at least not to any conception of God that I've ever heard of. Sure God could exist beyond our perceptions and comprehension, but if He then wants anything from us, He's going to have to come down to our level, but that's a different argument and doesn't really have any bearing on your assertian that you can say anything interesting about a so-called hyper reality.

    [ Parent ]

    I've always been a trouble-maker :) (none / 0) (#414)
    by generaltao on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 03:04:21 PM EST

    Anyway, what I'm really getting at here, is that you seem to be implying that God is guiding the coin so that it lands on heads or tails, but even you will admit that it's more likely that something else is going on.

    Why would I admit such a thing? Simply because people have decided to name certain observable phenomena "gravity" and "thermodynamics" and "physics" and "statistics"? Why does the fact that equations describe the coin toss preclude God's involvement? It's apples and oranges. One does not disprove the other, nor does it confirm it.

    I think it's very fortunate that gravity, for instance, can be relied upon to behave consistantly. It sure would make things alot tougher to predict if gravity was sporadic and random in the way it acted on matter.

    Let me ask you something. When you play Monopoly, or whatever game, do you assume that the rules for how the game must be played wrote themselves?

    That's not a refutation of God's existance, only a refutation that complex random processes necessarily require some kind of intelligence to guide them. They don't, and it doesn't require a great leap of faith to believe that.

    Statistically speaking, you are right. But by this argument, you don't know that the watch did not assemble itself spontaneously over eons. In fact, you may be typing on a computer that randomly came to be.

    If I find a coin sitting on its edge on a desk, it is possible, statistically, that the coin fell from somewhere and landed that way. However, it is far more LIKELY that a person is responsible for setting it on its edge. If I find 6 billion coins sitting on their edges, it is still statistically possible that this was a fluke, but it becomes increasingly likely that a person with a mind (and alot of time on his/her hands) is responsible.

    How do you know this? Do you have any hard evidence for this? I'm not saying you're wrong. Sure it's possible, but what's the point of even bringing it up, since, by definition, it's impossible for us to know anything about it? For all intents and purposes, it doesn't exist.

    For one thing, I know that the universe consist of at least 2 realms: "the empirical" and "the imaginary". I have no reason to believe "the spiritual" doesn't also exist.

    But regardless, I 'm floored by your statement that unless you can know something for certain it is not even worth bringing it up. People believe ALL SORTS of things without knowing for certain. In real life, you take what evidence you have, conclusive or not, and do your best with it.

    The most common way that unbelievers mock believers is to imply that we are somehow naive or simple-minded, taking shelter and refuge in a set of pre-packaged ideas. The joke is on them, because though they may not realize it, they have their OWN beliefs and pre-packaged ideas. Atheism is a religion. So is agnosticism.

    God has sent us prophets and messengers. Some people believe what these messengers said, others didn't. But regardless which side you are on, you don't KNOW that you are right, now do you? It's BELIEF that keeps you where you are.



    [ Parent ]

    Troublemaker? Not really. (5.00 / 1) (#436)
    by JetJaguar on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 05:32:39 PM EST

    Why does the fact that equations describe the coin toss preclude God's involvement?

    It doesn't, but that was not my point. If you want to believe in a God that consciously or subconsciously controls the mechanics of every event, from the smallest sub-atomic interaction to the "dance of the planets," so be it. In my view it's just a tad superfluous. It doesn't give you any additional predictive power, and allows you to explain away any deviations in our mathematical models as the cosmological equivalent of a "holy hiccup." Which is an explanation that definitely can hinder the development of better models. You are also likely to get into trouble with the whole "Free Will" problem, but I'm not about to get started on that one.

    Point 2: You're going to have to help me out here, I have no clue what you mean by an "imaginary realm," and as for spirituality, sure it exists, even atheists will speak of spirituality in their own unique way, although they don't put it in quite those terms. You're assuming that your conception of spirituality is the right one and anyone that disagrees with you significantly is wrong, how can you tell who's right and who's wrong without resorting to your own conception? Which is essentially another point that you were trying to make, but I'm coming at it from a different direction.

    But regardless, I 'm floored by your statement that unless you can know something for certain it is not even worth bringing it up.

    Ok, you've misinterpreted my statement. The key point here is evidence for some kind of hyper-reality, not certainty. However, you have described this higher reality as something that is beyond our perceptions and experiences, and therefore, by your definition, we can never obtain any evidence for it. It can never be anything more than a dream or a fantasy, and at that point you've gone way off the topic of the original article. Further, you even seem to distinguish this hyper-reality from your spiritual realm (which may be a misinterpretation on my part). So what, exactly is it that you are talking about and how does it relate to religion?

    Btw, I am not mocking you, I'm merely trying to understand how your belief in God hinges on the requirement of a hyper-realistic plane. It sounds to me like you're adding some things into your belief system that you don't need, making it unnecessarily complicated. I have no interest in tearing down anyone's religious views. I do have an interest in seeing religion at least make an attempt to make itself more intellectually appealing. Personally, I think that this is the biggest problem facing Christianity today. Churches have spent so long trying to bring the masses into the fold, that they have totally neglected the requirements of those who have an (arguably) deeper understanding of the world we live in. Churches no longer own (if they ever did) the hearts of the intellectuals the innovators, the visionaries in our society, all because they focus too closely on the masses, and imho, is the single biggest reason why they have begun to lose those masses today.

    [ Parent ]

    Ahead warp factor 2, Mr Sulu. (5.00 / 4) (#264)
    by kitten on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 08:53:36 PM EST

    I simply don't understand how one jumps to the totally irrational conclusion that just because the Universe can be described by science it necessarily was not created by God.

    I simply don't understand how one jumps to the totally irrational conclusion that just because the weather can be described by science it necessarily is not the work of magical Weather Gnomes.

    Welcome to Occam's Razor. You should never make things more complicated than necessary to explain something.
    To wit: If science (natural explanation) is enough to explain an event, then there is absolutely no reason to introduce a supernatural element into the equation. To do so only complicates matters and serves no purpose.

    I can't understand why someone could look at something like a wrist-watch and find it self-evident that it was degined and built, and yet look at the Universe, or even just the anatomy of an ant and somehow convince him or herself that it assembled itself at random, without design or intelligence to guide it.

    When I see a wristwatch, I know it is manmade because it exhibits properties that are not found in things that are NOT manmade.
    When you see an ant, or a tree, or a star, you conclude that it is designed. This statement is meaningless, however, unless you have a known undesigned thing to compare it to.

    Futhermore, biological systems really aren't all that well designed, individually speaking. Breakdown can occur from many causes. Insufficient safeguards are built in.
    The rods and cones - the light-sensitive cells in the human eye - are facing the wrong way, that is to say, they are not facing the lens of the eye. I am perfectly willing to attribute this unfortunate flaw of the eye to evolution, but if you ask me to believe that an Almighty God lacked the brains to make the cells face the right way, I'm going to laugh at you.

    I can, to some extent, understand why picking an actual religion can be difficult, but to out and out reject God altogether? Reality and the Universe are not limited to what you and I can see with our eyes or touch with our fingers. Denying this is like denying that my house has 3 bedrooms before you've even bothered to check.

    But it's also foolish of me to accept - without checking - that your house has three bedrooms, isn't it?
    Why not just admit that you don't know until you can check, and then admit that you have no way of checking? One who firmly believes he cannot know, and therefore chooses to suspend his decision one way or the other, is an agnostic. Perhaps you should consider this.

    mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
    [ Parent ]
    Aye, aye, Captain. (none / 0) (#411)
    by generaltao on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 02:35:40 PM EST

    I simply don't understand how one jumps to the totally irrational conclusion that just because the weather can be described by science it necessarily is not the work of magical Weather Gnomes.

    Agreed, that would also be an irrational conclusion, simply because one does not follow from the other. Thank you for helping me make my point.

    When I see a wristwatch, I know it is manmade because it exhibits properties that are not found in things that are NOT manmade.

    Like what? Why couldn't silicon and minerals gradually swirl around and eventually stabilize into a structure remarkably like a Rolex? Why couldn't the precisely right combination of lightning and forrest fires and meteorites, earthquakes, acid rain and erosion not produce a watch over time?

    Futhermore, biological systems really aren't all that well designed, individually speaking.

    I fail to see what the imperfections in God's creations have to do with anything. Seriously. What are you trying to say here? "My left pinky is smaller than my right one, therefore God does not exist" ?

    But it's also foolish of me to accept - without checking - that your house has three bedrooms, isn't it?

    Yes, it is. I agree with you on this one. Though some people may disagree with me, I think blind faith is foolish. I believe one should check. In the case of God, there is no proof that He exists, and there is no proof that He does not. But "checking" is very important. And then, I suppose, one just has to "accept" the world view that makes the most sense. To me, the world makes more sense if God exists than it does if He does not. If that's not the case for you, then so be it. It's not my place to tell you what to believe.

    I have no problem admitting that "I don't KNOW" if God exists. If I *knew*, I wouldn't need faith. You don't KNOW that He doesn't. In our mutual ignorance, we both have chosen to BELIEVE what our hearts AND MINDS tell us to believe. I believe the overwhelming evidence is for God Almighty's existance. I may be wrong, but I really don't think so.

    [ Parent ]

    Set phasers on stun. (none / 0) (#461)
    by kitten on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 11:02:36 PM EST

    I simply don't understand how one jumps to the totally irrational conclusion that just because the weather can be described by science it necessarily is not the work of magical Weather Gnomes.
    Agreed, that would also be an irrational conclusion, simply because one does not follow from the other. Thank you for helping me make my point.


    Sir, I do believe you missed my point entirely. The point was, that if rational explanations are sufficient to explain something, then there is no need to go beyond that and invent wild tales of supernatural beings.

    As you said, science has been - as far as we can determine using the best data available, which is all we can do - very good at explaining the origins of the universe from what is observed. You freely admit this, yet you say "but that doesn't mean there's no god."
    I must disagree: Once again, since natural explanations are sufficient, there is no justification for postulating the supernatural. To say that "natural things caused the universe but maybe there's a god anyway" is the same as saying "natural things cause weather, but maybe there's magic Weather Gnomes anyway."

    Like what? Why couldn't silicon and minerals gradually swirl around and eventually stabilize into a structure remarkably like a Rolex? Why couldn't the precisely right combination of lightning and forrest fires and meteorites, earthquakes, acid rain and erosion not produce a watch over time?

    To the best of anyone's knowledge, this has never happened - nor anything remotely like it. A manmade object can be readily identified as manmade - even if the object itself is not familiar - simply by the fact that it exhibits certain properties that are not found by natural (e.g., not manmade) items.
    Take, for example, the discovery of the large stone heads on Easter Island. Despite the fact that the discoverers of these heads had never seen anything quite like this before, they had no problem identifying them as artifacts of manmade origin, not the curious products of erosion and weathering.

    I fail to see what the imperfections in God's creations have to do with anything. Seriously. What are you trying to say here? "My left pinky is smaller than my right one, therefore God does not exist" ?

    Nothing quite that simple, but close. "Seriously" what I'm trying to say here is that it is naive to study anatomy of any biological organism and conclude that it is the result of a divinity - unless of course, you're willing to admit that your god is sloppy.
    What kind of slacker god would create eyes with all the light-sensitive cells facing the wrong way? You ask me, that's pretty poor workmanship - if this god had any competition, he'd be out of business.
    There is no reason to believe a guided intelligence designed organisms - and given the almost laughable design faults of the organisms, there's a lot of reasons to not believe.

    "Yeah, this eye is buggy, but it works - ship it!"

    Yes, it is. I agree with you on this one. Though some people may disagree with me, I think blind faith is foolish.

    But isn't that more or less what religion demands? There is never any way to prove the claims of a religion, and the religion therefore must demand blind faith.

    I believe one should check. In the case of God, there is no proof that He exists, and there is no proof that He does not.

    In the case of Magic Invisible Elves that Live In The Attic, there is no proof that they exist, and no proof that they do not. Therefore they could exist, is that so?
    You're willing to admit that Magic Elves could exist, simply because they can't be disproven?

    But "checking" is very important.

    As I said. Since there is no way to check on God, one should - at the very least, admit that one cannot know, and pronounce himself agnostic.

    To me, the world makes more sense if God exists than it does if He does not.

    That's a pretty bold statement. Can you offer some examples of events in history that make sense only if one assumes God had a hand in them?

    I have no problem admitting that "I don't KNOW" if God exists. If I *knew*, I wouldn't need faith.

    Sounds about right. Scratch the surface of a religious type, and you find an agnostic - every time.
    You don't know what things god does.
    You don't know why god does things.
    You don't know by what means god does things.
    In point of fact, you know absolutely nothing about this diety you worship, and you admit you cannot know.
    Welcome to agnosticism: "I don't know, and cannot know, so I refuse to say one way or the other."

    You don't KNOW that He doesn't.

    Well gee, I don't KNOW that magic elves don't exist either, now do I. I don't KNOW that a large invisible dragon isn't in my garage right now.
    I guess you'd have me believe that these things might be, since there's no proof that they aren't.
    You know, there was no actual proof that the people burned during the Salem witch trials weren't witches. You don't KNOW that they weren't, now do you?
    Actually, I don't KNOW that you're not a child molester.
    Point being, if you're going to make a claim, you'd better back it up, or else forget it. The burden of proof rests on the claimant to back up his claims - and saying "you can't prove otherwise!" doesn't count, and borders on childish.

    I believe the overwhelming evidence is for God Almighty's existance.

    People may be dumb, but if physical proof is laid in front of them, very few would choose to deny it.
    I find it telling that in all of human history not one single religion has ever been able to put forth a single bit of solid, reliable proof for it's claims of supernatural divinities.
    Would you care to dispel some of this "overwhelming evidence"?


    mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
    [ Parent ]
    Re-aligning the phase inducers (none / 0) (#493)
    by generaltao on Thu Aug 23, 2001 at 10:52:57 AM EST

    The point was, that if rational explanations are sufficient to explain something, then there is no need to go beyond that and invent wild tales of supernatural beings.

    Your choice of words notwithstanding, that's a proposterous statement. Science's "explanations" are NOT explanations. They are descriptions. Science describes a Universe which it did not create and the properties of which it is powerless to change.

    If a working description of something is sufficient to you, then I am happy for you. You are basically saying that "This table is red" should be good enough for me, and there's no need to go and as you say it "invent wild tales" about where the table comes from and why it is red.

    Once again, since natural explanations are sufficient, there is no justification for postulating the supernatural.

    I'm sorry, but the irony in this statement made me chuckle. Do you realize that you give "nature" all the power you deny God? Things in the world are either created by man or by nature, as you would have it. I would almost agree, saying instead that man does not create, he re-organzises creation. Everything created is created by God, and God is also responsible for sustaining the mechanisms whereby creation repeats itself.

    A manmade object can be readily identified as manmade - even if the object itself is not familiar - simply by the fact that it exhibits certain properties that are not found by natural (e.g., not manmade) items.

    This is the second time you say this without backing it up whatsoever. What are these properties you talk about? And what is it about your theory of how everything, including the mind you are using to argue with me now, came to be accidentally that denies the possibility of a watch spontaneously assembling itself to look like a Rolex? Why? Because "nature" doesn't spontaenously assemble screws and hinges and gearings and quartz timers and NiCad battery systems? Why not? If given enough time, it could happen, no?

    The watch is based on a system of telling time which depends ENTIRELY on "natural" cycles in the rotation and revolution of the Earth around the sun, or around the steady and predictable decay of radio active material. There are clocks and watches of ALL sorts, all around nature, many of these clocks are more accurate than a Rolex. THOSE clocks, you say, are just the result of prolonged randomness. But the Rolex is a designed thing?

    What kind of slacker god would create eyes with all the light-sensitive cells facing the wrong way?

    Again, you repeat a statement you made last time. I challenged you on that statement, and I am challenging you again. What does the imperfection of creation have to do with God's existance? Suppose, for a moment, that God exists. Why must He create everything perfect? Why do you feel this is a requirement? If you know anything about religion at all, then you know that a significant aspect of religion is humanity's struggle to overcome its imperfections. The fact that such an "imperfect" universe can be in such a state of harmony as it is, to me that's beautiful.

    But isn't that more or less what religion demands?(ie: blind faith)

    It demands that one accepts a few presuppositions, but so do atheism and agnostisism. If you work your way to the baseline of my beliefs, you will find assumptions and presuppositions. If I work my way to the baseline of yours, I will find the same thing.

    As far as "blind faith" is concerned, it's not for me. I am a skeptic and I do not like for a religious concept to do violence to my intellect. I believe God gave me my intellect so that I could recognize Truth. I do not believe, as some people do, that I should somehow suppress my God-given urge to analyze, and possibly understand something before I accept it as True.

    Yes, there are some things I accept as true for no reason you would consider valid. From our conversation thus far, the same is true in the reverse case. But in my faith, the number of presuppositions is limitted. The rest makes sense in context.

    You're willing to admit that Magic Elves could exist, simply because they can't be disproven?

    Are you telling me that you are not? I thought you were firmly rooted in science? The scientific method is very clear on what you should believe. You need to disprove before you can deny. You can state your BELIEF that Magic Elves are "so unlikely that the possibility of their existance is beyond serious consideration", but that's all you can say. And even then you need to produce some numbers to corroborate your assertion of the odds.

    Don't fall into the trap that so many before you have fallen into. Science's assertions are most often VERY temporary. People who have built a cosmology based on prevailing scientific thought have had the rug swept out from under them MANY times in history.

    This is not to say that science is worthless. Science, in fact, is crucial. It it humanity's endeavor to explore and describe the massive and infinitely amazing and complex Universe which it had nothing to do with creating and has nothing to do with sustaining. Praise be to God, there is so much for us to learn and discover.

    at the very least, admit that one cannot know, and pronounce himself agnostic.

    How very Cartesian of you. Are you agnostic on every issue you on which you are not certain? I do not "know". You are right. I believe. At least I can admit that I believe. Can you? Can you admit that you only "believe" many of the things you commonly asert you "know" ? Sometimes, a belief can be so strong that it approaches knowledge.

    Can you offer some examples of events in history that make sense only if one assumes God had a hand in them?

    Yes, I can: you and I. Our capacity for introspection. Our capacity to ask ourselves the kind of questions we have been asking ourselves. What purpose does this serve? Why do we have this capacity when so many other creatures all around us are very successful without it?

    But I don't even need to get that complicated. How about gravity. Wouldn't it be much more difficult if gravity was trying to push us away from the Earth instead of pull us toward it? Isn't it great that a pond freezes from the surface down rather than the other way around? (Where would the fish go?) Stem cells: Microscopic, single-celled organizms that can specialize themselves into any other kind of cell. The human skin: semi-permeable, flexible, strong, durable and SELF-REPAIRING!!! And you thought Nylon was impressive!

    Go ahead and describe how all these things work, and I will listen with interest and fascination at the simple yet intricate design of creation.

    Welcome to agnosticism: "I don't know, and cannot know, so I refuse to say one way or the other."

    "Hey, I'll talk to ya later ok?"
    "Maybe you will, maybe you won't."
    "What? Err.. ok. Anyway, see ya at 5."
    "Maybe"
    "What do you mean, maybe? I thought we agreed!"
    "We did"
    "So what's the problem?"
    "I dunno."
    "You don't know what?"
    "I don't know anything."
    "Ummm. ok. You'll be at home, right?"
    "Maybe. Who knows where I'll end up."
    "Umm.. riiight. ok. See ya later."
    "Maybe so."

    You apply this technicality of "knowing" very selectively, don't you think? Be honest with yourself and you will realize that one does not have to know a thing beyond a shadow of a doubt to live life in relative certainty that it is true. I may not KNOW that God exists, but I am certain enough to bet my life on it. The evidence may not be conclusive, but it is overwhelmingly there despite some people's insistance on turning a blind eye to it. Look around you.

    Would you care to dispel some of this "overwhelming evidence"?

    Behold! in the creation of the heavens and the earth; in the alternation of the night and the day; in the sailing of the ships through the ocean for the profit of mankind; in the rain which God Sends down from the skies, and the life which He gives therewith to an earth that is dead; in the beasts of all kinds that He scatters through the earth; in the change of the winds, and the clouds which they Trail like their slaves between the sky and the earth;- (Here) indeed are Signs for a people that are wise.

    Anyway, it's been real. We are accomplishing nothing.. I just wanted to raise my hand and say "Hey! I'm a geek, and I'm religious." I'm clearly in the minority, but I am used to it.

    Cheers!

    [ Parent ]

    You've beamed up one too many times. (none / 0) (#533)
    by kitten on Thu Aug 23, 2001 at 05:22:10 PM EST

    If a working description of something is sufficient to you, then I am happy for you. You are basically saying that "This table is red" should be good enough for me, and there's no need to go and as you say it "invent wild tales" about where the table comes from and why it is red.

    You're simplifying matters a bit, I should think.
    But you're damn close: It is sufficient for me to say, "The universe behaves in this way, and because we know that, we can predict events."
    WHY does it work that way? Quite honestly: Who cares? It does. You're like a two-year-old asking "why why why" all the time to things that don't need to be answered, and then inventing your own answers for them.
    Why do things fall down?
    Because gravity pulls them down.
    Why does it do that?
    Because matter bends space according to inverse squares.
    Why does it do that?
    Who CARES? There is no "why".

    This is the second time you say this without backing it up whatsoever. What are these properties you talk about?

    I backed it up with an example. Go back and read.
    But if you want to attack the wristwatch again: It has alloys, for example. Perhaps it has a battery, a combination of chemicals that are not naturally occuring. It ticks off numbers in a linear manner - no natural phenomenon does this. If it's a quartz watch, it has precisely wound electromagnets - something not found in nature.
    I could go on, but enough: These things are not to be found in nature, and therefore I can conclude that there was an artifex at some point who designed and manufactured this item.
    I really shouldn't have to explain this, because you're being deliberately obtuse: You are well aware of what "physical properties" I am alluding to when I say that "manmade items exhibit properties not found in nature", even if you can't articulate them. If you're not aware, then my friend, you must have serious problems living in this world if you need to be told what is artificial and what is natural, because you can't tell the difference yourself?

    ? Because "nature" doesn't spontaenously assemble screws and hinges and gearings and quartz timers and NiCad battery systems? Why not?

    You're asking "why" to a question that is inherintly "how", but the reason is this: Because it doesn't. As frusterating as that might sound, it's all there is. Nature simply does not function that way. It functions in very predictable ways, and when I come across an object that defies the normal functioning of nature, I suspect it is manmade.

    It demands that one accepts a few presuppositions, but so do atheism and agnostisism. If you work your way to the baseline of my beliefs, you will find assumptions and presuppositions. If I work my way to the baseline of yours, I will find the same thing.

    Yes, and the baseline assumption of my belief system would be something akin to: "Things are predictable. Events can be observed. By combining these two assumptions, conclusions can be made."
    Whereas yours would be more like: "I make conclusions before I observe, and if the outcome disagrees with my conclusion, I ignore it."

    I challenged you on that statement, and I am challenging you again. What does the imperfection of creation have to do with God's existance?

    I didn't say that "imperfection belies God", I said that you shouldn't point to poorly designed biological entities and tout them as proof of your God. Your God - if he designed things like the human eye - is a very sloppy god indeed.
    All I'm saying is, you'd best find something else to point to.

    How very Cartesian of you. Are you agnostic on every issue you on which you are not certain?

    I'm an atheist, not an agonistic, and when I say "atheist" or "agnostic" I am speaking theologically, not as a matter of everyday life, so don't bother trying to extrapolate my beliefs about theology into more mundane things.
    You question is meaningless.

    . Our capacity for introspection. Our capacity to ask ourselves the kind of questions we have been asking ourselves. What purpose does this serve? Why do we have this capacity when so many other creatures all around us are very successful without it?

    Our capactity for introspection comes from the fact that we are intelligent beings. Why are we intelligent? Considering that humans make very poor hunters otherwise (we aren't that fast or strong, we don't have any natural weapons like claws or teeth, etc), I'd say that intelligence was a very important thing for us to have in order to hunt effectively.

    I thought you were firmly rooted in science? The scientific method is very clear on what you should believe. You need to disprove before you can deny.

    The scientific method tells me to discard anything that doesn't work or is not needed for explanation - magic elves, Weather Gnomes, whatever. It does not ask for "disproof" per se, as very little can be "disproven". You can't "disprove" the existence of magic elves, but you can still be certain they don't exist, because factoring them into explanations doesn't work and they are unnecessary.

    You can state your BELIEF that Magic Elves are "so unlikely that the possibility of their existance is beyond serious consideration", but that's all you can say. And even then you need to produce some numbers to corroborate your assertion of the odds.

    Here's the numbers for you: Zero.
    There have been zero factual records of magic elves in human history. There have been zero reliable accounts of magic elves. There have been zero magic elves observed, directly or indirectly. There have been zero events that occured that could not have occured without magic elves.
    Need I go on?

    I do not "know". You are right. I believe.

    It still amazes me that people say this sort of thing and are proud of it. "I have no evidence, no proof, etc, but I believe anyway!"
    Your parents may have some bad news for you about the tooth fairy.

    But I don't even need to get that complicated. How about gravity. Wouldn't it be much more difficult if gravity was trying to push us away from the Earth instead of pull us toward it?

    Woah there. You're trying to take laws of physics and attribute them to God simply because those laws are "less difficult" or "wonderful"? If things didn't function the way they did, you wouldn't be here asking the question, so come off it.

    Isn't it great that a pond freezes from the surface down rather than the other way around? (Where would the fish go?)

    The fish wouldn't be here.

    The human skin: semi-permeable, flexible, strong, durable and SELF-REPAIRING!!!

    The human appendix: A useless, toxic waste dump that is prone to bursting and KILLING THE HUMAN!!! And you thought the human body was well-designed!


    While your dialogue was mildly amusing, I once again ask that you do not take theological beliefs and apply them to everyday life. Simply because one is agnostic about god, does not mean one is agnostic about everything, so don't be naive.

    Behold! in the creation of the heavens and the earth;

    Error: Preassuming divine creation.

    in the alternation of the night and the day;

    Which has more rational explanations than "God did it that way".

    in the rain which God Sends down from the skies,

    Or the Magic Weather Gnomes, take your pick. Either one is equally valid, because obviously there's an intelligence at work when rain falls, and obviously it isn't the result of atmospheric conditions.

    in the sailing of the ships through the ocean for the profit of mankind

    God taught us how to build ships?

    and the life which He gives therewith to an earth that is dead;

    Conclusion: God made life.
    Proof: There is life here.

    That's akin to saying:
    Conclusion: Weather Gnomes cause rain.
    Proof: It rains.

    All of your "overwhelming evidence" rests on the preassumption of god. You assume God exists, and THEN you look for proof of his existence. I could just as easily assume Magic Elves exist and then point to life on Earth, rain in the sky, and all the other pretty things you mentioned as proof of my Magic Elves.
    Don't make your conclusions before you gather your data: Don't put your cart in front of your horse.

    Can you admit that you only "believe" many of the things you commonly asert you "know" ?

    Like what?

    Sometimes, a belief can be so strong that it approaches knowledge.

    And more often, that belief is totally wrong. For a long time, many people were utterly, absolutely certain that the world was flat. The fact that they believed this, without question, didn't change the facts, did it.

    Science's assertions are most often VERY temporary. People who have built a cosmology based on prevailing scientific thought have had the rug swept out from under them MANY times in history.

    Isn't that good? Science is self-correcting!
    When something is discovered that stands at odds with what was previously believed, science immediately discards the old beliefs as worthless.
    You didn't hear anyone complaining when Einstein demonstrated that Newton's ideas about gravity were incorrect.
    Newton was great for a while, and we could predict say, the orbits of planets pretty well with his ideas, but Einstein's ideas were better, and have been shown to be more accurate in their predictions.
    Science cares not a whit what the belief is, as long as the belief is the most accurate with the available data.
    Try getting the same check/balance, quality-control out of Religion.

    And now, my favorite:

    I'm sorry, but the irony in this statement made me chuckle. Do you realize that you give "nature" all the power you deny God?

    You got it!
    I know "nature" (that is to say, the universe, et al) exists.
    Make the same assertion about your god.

    Everything created is created by God, and God is also responsible for sustaining the mechanisms whereby creation repeats itself.

    Which is as valid as saying,
    Everything created is created by Magic Elves, and Magic Elves are also responsible for sustaining the mechanisms whereby creation repeats itself.

    I say: Put up or shut up.
    Prove it.
    mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
    [ Parent ]
    Live long and prosper. (none / 0) (#636)
    by generaltao on Wed Sep 05, 2001 at 12:45:58 PM EST

    Who CARES? There is no "why".

    OK, so we have isolated a basic difference between us that can, to some extent, explain our vastly different approaches to the cosmos. The question "why" is obviously much more important to me than it is to you.

    The reason it is important is that "why" is the only question that can associate "meaning" or "purpose" to a thing or an event.

    example: The difference between murder and self-defence is the answer to the question "why?". The difference between bravery and foolishness is "why". The difference between commerce and charity is "why". A life without "why" is a life devoid of meaning.

    These things are not to be found in nature, and therefore I can conclude that there was an artifex at some point who designed and manufactured this item.

    You used the statues at Easter Island as an example. I actually like it much better than the wristwatch example because it does less violence to common-sense to use it than the wristwatch. (Yes, you are right that I am being deliberately obtuse about the wristwatch example. I am trying to make a point which you are desperately trying to avoid seeing.)

    The carvings of human heads on Easter Island are man-made, you say, because they exhibit properties unlike anything found in nature. First: what about the man on the moon? Or the face on Mars? Man-made? Naturally occuring? Secondly, what is the definition of something "found in nature" ? Weren't the Easter Island status found in nature? I mean, they are sitting there in the middle of a field, aren't they?

    I am not trying to convince you that the statues on Easter Island are not man-made. It is obvious to anyone that they were designed, carved and placed there by someone with intelligence. My point is that the same process of "common sense" should lead anyone to conclude that a honey bee, for example, which even the intelligence responsible for the Easter Island statues cannot begin to recreate, must necessarily also be the result of some intelligent and deliberate design, regardless of the mechanisms employed in its assembly.

    Nature simply does not function that way. It functions in very predictable ways, and when I come across an object that defies the normal functioning of nature, I suspect it is manmade.

    You are contradicting your own beliefs. By your own beliefs, nature operates randomly. By definition, a random process can not be predicted. The best you can do is approximate a probability. And even the probability model fails to explain the world as it is today, because the number of random permutations it takes to explain the world today could not have occured in the amount of time the world has existed, so now the theories are moving to a paradigm-shift model which drives chaos-theorists batty.

    I'd say that intelligence was a very important thing for us to have in order to hunt effectively.

    Once again, a flawed argument because it pre-supposes that we existed in nature, defenseless and dumb, and that intelligence evolved to protect us. Even according to your own model this does not work. According to evolutionairy biology, we lost our natural defenses because our intelligence made them unnecessary, not the other way around.

    It still amazes me that people say this sort of thing and are proud of it. "I have no evidence, no proof, etc, but I believe anyway!"

    I didn't say I had no evidence, I said I had no proof. Please consult your favorite dictionairy if you have trouble distinguishing between the two.

    While your dialogue was mildly amusing, I once again ask that you do not take theological beliefs and apply them to everyday life. Simply because one is agnostic about god, does not mean one is agnostic about everything, so don't be naive.

    So now who is being irrational? At least I have a consistent cosmology. Yours appears to change on a whim. Why doesn't your model work all the time? If being "agnostic" in theology seems good to you, why does it seem completely ludicrous in other areas? If you go with what "works" as you claim, why don't you pick a world-view that "works" whether you are talking about theology, phylosophy, mathematics or chemistry?

    I could just as easily assume Magic Elves exist and then point to life on Earth, rain in the sky, and all the other pretty things you mentioned as proof of my Magic Elves.

    I've been avoiding your references to Magic Elves because you are trying to engage me in a totally different debate. ie: Why is a single Creator more likely than Magic Elves? This issue can be debated at length, but you are not equiped to do so since you question the foundation on which such a debate would rest. Within the scope of the current debate, therefore, I'll stipulate that Magic Elves have not been shown to be either more or less likely than God. Fair nuff?

    For a long time, many people were utterly, absolutely certain that the world was flat. The fact that they believed this, without question, didn't change the facts, did it.

    Interesting that you should bring up that example. :) The believed the Earth was flat because there was no observed evidence at the time to lead them to any other conclusion. The belief was based on empirical data. And now, you believe, without question, that the world is round. How do you know? Have you been in space? (Yes, more deliberate obtuseness) You believe it's round because you've been told by sources you trust that it's round, and these sources have explained things to your satisfaction, is that not so? Hmm. Food for thought.

    You didn't hear anyone complaining when Einstein demonstrated that Newton's ideas about gravity were incorrect.

    Pardon? Might want to check your history on that. There was quite alot of complaining as there is whenever "prevailing thought" is invalidated/challenged by new data.

    In any case, the juxtaposition of religion and science is a case of apples and oranges. I am a firm believer in science, its processes, its methods, its goals and its benefits. The difference between you and me is that I am also concious of its limitations. Science is not my god. God is my god.

    Peace!

    [ Parent ]

    Woah. (none / 0) (#642)
    by kitten on Sun Sep 09, 2001 at 04:39:28 PM EST

    OK, so we have isolated a basic difference between us that can, to some extent, explain our vastly different approaches to the cosmos. The question "why" is obviously much more important to me than it is to you. The reason it is important is that "why" is the only question that can associate "meaning" or "purpose" to a thing or an event.

    So, "why" does your God do things?
    You have no idea, do you?
    You believe in an unknowable (this is different from "unknown") being, who displays unknowable characteristsics, and who, by using unknowable means, does unknowable things for unknowable reasons.
    And then you posit this as an explanation? What the HELL does that explain?

    The carvings of human heads on Easter Island are man-made, you say, because they exhibit properties unlike anything found in nature. First: what about the man on the moon? Or the face on Mars? Man-made? Naturally occuring? Secondly, what is the definition of something "found in nature" ? Weren't the Easter Island status found in nature? I mean, they are sitting there in the middle of a field, aren't they?

    Evidence of regular markings, for starters. Evidence of tool use. Those peculaliar markings left my chipping or flaking at stone by tools, not by weathering. You're being obtuse, deliberately so.

    You can argue your honeybees all day long, but you're asking the wrong question. You are asking "What is responsible for the design of a honeybee?"
    What you should ask is, "Does the honeybee exhibit design at all?" And in order to answer that, you must first demonstrate that it DOES exhibit design.. your opinion that a honeybee is remarkable does not count.
    After you have demonstrated that a honeybee exhibits design (good luck), you must then posit an explanation.. and an unknowable god that "caused" it, (if causal relations have any meaning to God, which they can't and don't), using unknowable means for unknowable reasons, is not an explanation.
    The natural universe sets the framework by which causal explanations are coherent. To posit a being that rests outside this natural framework (e.g., a being that is somehow "above" or "beyond" the rules of nature) explains nothing. You're going to have to do better.

    You are contradicting your own beliefs. By your own beliefs, nature operates randomly.

    I just finished saying that nature operates very predictably. It is by causal relations inherent in nature that we can make sense of it at all.
    Given a specific set of circumstances, things will act as they do. This is the law of identity, and it's corollary: "A thing is what it is, and not something else. It will act according to what it is."

    I didn't say I had no evidence, I said I had no proof.

    You don't even have an coherent picture of what it is you supposedly believe in. You say "god" but without some information regarding this being, the word is a meaningless sound.

    Why doesn't your model work all the time? If being "agnostic" in theology seems good to you, why does it seem completely ludicrous in other areas?

    Because I have evidence in other areas. For example, I could argue that nothing could be known (which would be universal agnosticism as you're suggesting), but then again, the fact that I am using language to explain that, is proof against that. The fact that I can state "Nothing can be known" is a statement of knowledge in the first place. So once again, I'll ask you to not be naive.

    Why is a single Creator more likely than Magic Elves?

    That's the question you should be asking yourself. What evidence do you have that a single god is responsible, and not a group of gods, or magic elves?

    , I'll stipulate that Magic Elves have not been shown to be either more or less likely than God. Fair nuff?

    Excellent.. now explain why you choose God instead of magic elves.

    And now, you believe, without question, that the world is round. How do you know? Have you been in space? (Yes, more deliberate obtuseness) You believe it's round because you've been told by sources you trust that it's round, and these sources have explained things to your satisfaction, is that not so?

    But that doesn't mean I'm taking them on "faith". Appealing to authority is not 'faith' if used correctly, because the authority is not the source of the information, merely the person who has knowledge of such things.
    The authority must be capable of demonstrating his beliefs for his word to mean anything, and furthermore, his beliefs must be verifiable in principle by anyone who wishes to take the time to examine them.
    These may apply to scientists, but not to theologists.

    In any case, the juxtaposition of religion and science is a case of apples and oranges.

    I'm really getting sick of this argument. "Reason is fine as far as it goes, but it has limits, and when reason is not sufficient, we must use faith instead."

    In order for you to justify that statement, you must first demonstrate that reason is insufficient for some things, or has limits. (Since you'll be doing this within a rational framework, that's impossible).
    After that, you will have to demonstrate that faith is a valid cognitive procedure, that is to say, a valid way of gaining knowledge.

    I submit that you can do neither of these things and therefore have no justification in calling "faith" in to explain what you believe.
    mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
    [ Parent ]
    Didn't mean to upset you. (none / 0) (#643)
    by generaltao on Mon Sep 10, 2001 at 04:17:43 PM EST

    With each reply, I feel your tone getting more and more tense. If you feel that reading another post from me will put you over the edge, please hit the back button now. ;)

    So, "why" does your God do things?

    "A thing is what it is, and not something else. It will act according to what it is." - I can use that line too, right? The difference, of course, is that I contend that God is the Originator and Source of all things, and that even existence itself is subject to Him. eg: It's wrong to say God cannot lie. It is actually Truth which is incapable of differing from God's Word.

    You're being obtuse, deliberately so.

    Umm.. yes, I am. I thought we had cleared that up already.

    "Does the honeybee exhibit design at all?"

    Well, let's see. It has wings that are shaped and positioned to allow flight. It has eyes that face in the direction of motion (ie: forward) and these eyes are tuned to detect the spectrum most suitable to polen-hunting. It has a dart with which to protect its hive. (It would suck if the bee tried to sting someone/something only to find it had no dart). The head tilts, it has little pockets on its legs to store pollen.. need I go on? I don't see much difference between that and "4-wheel drive, tilt steering, 5.1 Litra V8 and a bicycle rack". Except, of course, that a bee is much more fuel efficient.

    This is the law of identity, and it's corollary:

    This is the part that gets me. LAW this, LAW that. Essentially, you have no trouble with the fact that the universe operates according to a set of rules. I asked this of someone else in another thread: When you play Monopoly, do you assume that the rules wrote themselves?

    All these laws of physics, chemistry, quantum mechanics, whatever, these rules were in effect LONG before someone was smart enough to deduce them. They were not invented by science, they weres simply discovered and described. So who wrote them?

    You don't even have an coherent picture of what it is you supposedly believe in. You say "god" but without some information regarding this being, the word is a meaningless sound.

    You are wrong about that. I have a pretty darned coherent picture of what I believe in. I don't claim to have all the answers, nor do I even claim to be a world authority on my faith. I don't know everything there is to know about God, but I know enough to have a "coherent picture". You can't deduce otherwise based on the fact that I have kept this conversation centered around the very basic issue of God's existence. I'm sure even you will understand that before someone can hope to believe in the God, one has to believe that there is a god.

    I could argue that nothing could be known (which would be universal agnosticism as you're suggesting), but then again, the fact that I am using language to explain that, is proof against that.

    You deliberately sidestep the issue by making it one of Cartesian-style agnosticism. I kept my example to something very concrete which can NOT be deduced. You do NOT know whether or not you will be alive tomorrow, and there is no way you can deduce that you will be, and yet you still make plans and operate under the assumption that everything will be business as usual tomorrow.

    That's the question you should be asking yourself. What evidence do you have that a single god is responsible, and not a group of gods, or magic elves?

    I've asked myself that question and I have answered it to my satisfaction. But if you will re-read what I wrote (the paragraph you are responding to) I think I made it pretty clear why I have chosen not to discuss these things in this debate. I do this as a courtessy to you. I am trying to have this debate with you without bringing into it too many of my "pre-suppositions". I doubt that given your basic disagreement with the notion that God exists, that scripture and things like that would bare very much weight at all with you.

    So first things first.. does God exist? That is the topic of the conversation. The NEXT conversation, IF we agreed that the answer to the first one was YES would be: Given that God exists, what would the nature of God be? (And THEN we could discuss elves, if you'd like.)

    Excellent.. now explain why you choose God instead of magic elves.

    See above. Must walk before we run.

    Appealing to authority is not 'faith' if used correctly, because the authority is not the source of the information, merely the person who has knowledge of such things.

    That depends on two things: 1) Your definition of "appealing to authority" and 2) Your definition of "faith". Wouldn't you say?

    I'm really getting sick of this argument. "Reason is fine as far as it goes, but it has limits, and when reason is not sufficient, we must use faith instead."

    That's an interesting tactic. You put words in my mouth and then spend some time refuting them. :) If you read what I actually did say, you'll see that I never implied that faith picked up where reason left off. I said that their basic goal was different. Science seeks to describe and predict. Faith seeks to explain and provide meaning. One can earnestly pursue both goals without ever seeing a conflict between the two.

    Having faith no more makes science a futile endeavor than the other way around. Your disdain of all things faith-related proves nothing other than the fact that you do not consider faith a worthwhile endeavor. So be it. That's entirely up to you.

    Anyway. I'm going to let you have the last word in this argument. I won't respond to your next post. I think it's fair to say that at this point, all the religious people who have been reading this thread think I'm right, and all the atheists reading this thread thing you are right. I'm no sucker for punishment and I know a dead-lock when I see one. I hope that at the very least this conversation has given you the opportunity to discover that it's possible for a mildly intelligent person with a critical mind to believe in God and religion.

    No hard feelings eh? :) It was a stimulating experience.

    Peace.

    [ Parent ]

    You avoid the issue. (none / 0) (#644)
    by kitten on Tue Sep 11, 2001 at 03:58:48 AM EST

    This turned out to be quite long. But, enjoy:

    "A thing is what it is, and not something else. It will act according to what it is." - I can use that line too, right? The difference, of course, is that I contend that God is the Originator and Source of all things, and that even existence itself is subject to Him.

    Bear with me on this: When you make the claim that something exists, you must present an intelligible description of what you are claiming. I ask, "What is it for which you are claiming existence?" Unless you can provide some information regarding the entity you posulate, the word "god" is cognitively empty and utterly devoid of meaning; you might as well say "A blark exists" and then not know what a "blark" is.
    Once again, the universe provides the framework in which existence can even be discussed. To postulate some manner of existence that rests "outside" or "beyond" or "above" the framework of natural existence, is absurd.

    It's wrong to say God cannot lie. It is actually Truth which is incapable of differing from God's Word.

    And just where did you happen upon that bit of knowledge?
    There are two qualities that are essential to knowledge as we understand it: Aquisition, and verification. Knowledge must come from somewhere, and it must be verified by some means.
    You may have "aquired" this bit of information somewhere, but you have not verified it, and therefore are in no position to defend it.

    This is the part that gets me. LAW this, LAW that. Essentially, you have no trouble with the fact that the universe operates according to a set of rules.

    Laws of logic are not abitrary rules that have been made up, or even discovered: They are necessary parts of existence, and are self-evident. The fact that things act because of what they are is not anything to express shock over, nor is it any reason to say "God did it".
    To exist is to exist as something, and to possess specific, determinate qualities. "A = A, a thing is what it is." To have qualities is to restrict its possible range of actions, which is the corollary to that law: "A thing will act according to what it is."

    All these laws of physics, chemistry, quantum mechanics, whatever, these rules were in effect LONG before someone was smart enough to deduce them. They were not invented by science, they weres simply discovered and described. So who wrote them?

    It's interesting to note that when something appears to be contrary to natural laws of the universe, the theist is the first to leap up and say that a natural law has been violated and therefore a supernatural miracle has taken place. But at the same time, (as you are doing here) the theist points to the fact that the universe does have order is as also being evidence of god.
    If nature is not predictable, this means there's god, and if nature is predictable, this means there's god?


    On to your "design" argument (in this case, you use a honeybee as a designed object).
    Here's where I get a bit long-winded, so you're going to have to bear with me:
    Your argument can be attacked in several different ways. I could object that your argument that a honeybee exhibits design does not establish only one designer: It could be used with equal force to argue for polytheism.
    Even if your argument is valid, it merely shows the product of a master designer, not an omnipotent deity.
    Your argument does not establish the present existence of a designer: A machine may continue to function long after the inventor has died.
    In order for your "design" arguments to be self-consistent, you must accept the undesireable aspects of existence along with the desired ones. Your God, therefore, is also responsible for including an appendix in humans - a useless waste dump of toxins which is notorious for rupturing and killing the victim. Your God is also responsible for plane crashes which kill hundreds, and natural disasters such as tidal waves and earthquakes. How do you justify a God which purposefully inflicts suffering upon man? Moreover, how did you establish that God is benevolent? One could easily use your design arguments in favor of an all-powerful demon-like entity.
    There's more. You confuse "design" with "order". I acknowledge that in order for there to be a design, there must be a designer, but the same is not true of order. Order does not presuppose an orderer; it is a necessary function of existing. "A thing is what it is, and will behave thus."

    But here's your most serious problem: A design argument is useless for arguing the existence of a designer, even in principle: How can you determine that the natural universe was, in some way, manufactured or designed? Only one way - by first demonstrating the existence of a designer. It is only then that you can assert that the universe is a result of that designer.
    The reason we are able to distinguist natural objects from artificial ones (a rock from a stone axe, for example), is by comparing the object to nature. If the object displays characteristics not usually found in nature (markings at regular intervals, evidence of tool use, etc) we might (emphasis on "might") conclude that the object was designed by an intelligent being.
    The characteristics of artificial design are only evident when compared to nature. Now consider the idea that nature itself is the result of design (as theists would have it). How would this be demonstrated? Nature itself provides the basis by which comparisions can be made between designed objects and natural objects. We can deduce the presence of design only to the extent that the qualities of the designed object differ from the qualities of a natural object.
    To claim that nature as a whole is designed is to destroy the framework by which we distinguish artifacts from natural objects: Evidences of design are, quite simple, those characterstics not found in nature, so it is impossible to establish the presence of design within the context of nature itself..
    ..unless one first steps "outside" nature and establishes the existence of a supernatural designer.
    To repeat: unless you can first prove the existence of a supernatural designer, there is no way even in principle to to demonstrate that nature itself exhibits design.

    I've asked myself that question [why not many gods, or elves, or whatever] and I have answered it to my satisfaction. But if you will re-read what I wrote (the paragraph you are responding to) I think I made it pretty clear why I have chosen not to discuss these things in this debate. I do this as a courtessy to you.

    I'm not at all clear why you have chosen not to discuss such things as elves and polytheism. All your arguments apply equally well to either of these concepts. It should not be a courtsey to me, but to yourself. So again: Why do you employ these arguments and then assume only one God? Could these arguments not also be used to establish many gods?

    I doubt that given your basic disagreement with the notion that God exists, that scripture and things like that would bare very much weight at all with you.

    You assume correctly, as it happens. I am not interested in the Christian notion of God particularly, but the overall concept of any god at all.
    Furthermore, arguing scripture would be pointless. In order for one to accept scripture, one must already believe in the Christian God. One may only believe in the Christian God if one accepts scripture. Repeat.

    So first things first.. does God exist? That is the topic of the conversation. The NEXT conversation, IF we agreed that the answer to the first one was YES would be: Given that God exists, what would the nature of God be?

    You're very close, but I must take umbrage.
    Your two questions are one and the same. One cannot establish or say that something exists without some knowledge of the entity's nature. To exist is to have a nature; it is nonsense to discuss the existence of something without knowing what that thing is.
    You cannot speak of the existence of god (or anything else) without defining what it is you claim existence for, otherwise you'd be stuck with this:
    "I believe God exists."
    "What is 'God'?"
    "I don't know."
    "Then what are you claiming you believe in?"
    "I don't know."
    "Then how does your belief differ from no belief at all?"
    You deliberately sidestep the issue by making it one of Cartesian-style agnosticism.

    No, I answered your question very concisely. You asked why I accept agnostism as being valid for theology and not valid for other anything else.
    Let me first say that I do not accept agnosticism, even for theology: I am an atheist.
    That aside, my original answer still stands: It is idiotic to say that things within the universe cannot be known - the statement alone would be a statement of knowledge, which would contradict the statement itself.
    But you posit a God which somehow resides "outside" or "beyond" or "above" or whatever, the natural universe (hence, "supernatural"). I can understand how an agnostic would say "How am I supposed to make a determination on something that is outside the framework of natural existence?" But if the issue in question is in or of the universe, it is - once again - idiotic to assert that nothing can be known about it.

    That depends on two things: 1) Your definition of "appealing to authority" and 2) Your definition of "faith". Wouldn't you say?

    "Authority" is not a subjective term that I can define differently than you. When we speak of "appealing" to authority, we mean that we are asking someone who supposedly has firsthand knowledge of the issue.
    Authority is never the primary source of information. An authority must be able to rationally demonstrate and argue for his beleifs; indeed this is what qualifies him as an "authority" in the first place. An authority's word must be verifible - in principle - by anyone who wishes to do so.
    I've already given my dissertation on why "faith" is an empty word in another post to this article entitled "From a Biblical perspective". But briefly: Not even the Bible provides a definition of 'faith'. We are told we must have faith, we are told (in gruesome detail) the horrible consequences of not having faith, but nowhere are we told exactly what faith is.
    However, 'faith' is not a valid congnitive procedure. It is not a valid way of gaining knowledge, because it lacks any method of verification. That alone dismisses any 'faith'-based claims to knowing anything.

    If you read what I actually did say, you'll see that I never implied that faith picked up where reason left off. I said that their basic goal was different. Science seeks to describe and predict. Faith seeks to explain and provide meaning. One can earnestly pursue both goals without ever seeing a conflict between the two.

    Nobody is talking about "science" except you. I didn't say "science", I said "reason". Of course, science is dependant on reason.
    But I'm afraid that my argument stands. Reason is fully capable of explaining the "why" if a "why" is necessary. But in order for a "why" question to be asked, one must first establish that an explanation is needed. I accept the universe itself as a metaphysical primary, and do not see why the universe itself needs "explanation".
    Even assuming it did, positing God doesn't help. All that tells us is that an unknowable being, using unknowable means for unknowable reasons, "caused" it. This is not an explanation. You may as well say "it's magic".

    mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
    [ Parent ]
    Ok, ok, I couldn't resist. (none / 0) (#645)
    by generaltao on Wed Sep 12, 2001 at 12:10:27 PM EST

    Your latest response was very good, and I just couldn't help posting a reply.

    Unless you can provide some information regarding the entity you posulate, the word "god" is cognitively empty and utterly devoid of meaning;

    For the purposes of this discussion, you may substitute "the creator(s) and sustainer(s) of life, the universe, and everthing (R.I.P. Douglas Adams)" for the word "God". This description is far less specific than the one I live by, but it is sufficient for this discussion.

    Knowledge must come from somewhere, and it must be verified by some means.

    And neither matter or energy are created, they simply change states. Yes, this is true so long as you never ask "but where did all this matter and energy come from in the first place?".

    They [Laws of Nature] are necessary parts of existence, and are self-evident.

    They are necessary, but they are not self-evident. They require generation upon generation of the best minds humanity has to offer to discover and describe. And even then, these best minds usually take several cracks at it before they get it (apparently) right. It takes Newtons and Einsteins and Hawkings to read the rule to the Universal Monopoly game, and still the full set of rules escapes them. But the rules.. they're just there.. nobody wrote them. *cof*

    It's interesting to note that when something appears to be contrary to natural laws of the universe, the theist is the first to leap up and say that a natural law has been violated and therefore a supernatural miracle has taken place.

    Thou dost generalize too much, my friend! :) In my believe system, the so-called "law of nature" is this: "Nature is subject to God's Will at all times." So it does not phase me in the least if a "miracle" can be explained. If it couldn't be explained, I'd think that it was simply because we haven't figured it out yet.

    But you have to understand that I believe science to be the means by which man seeks to understand God's work. "Miracle" is simply a term we apply to a situation where God's work seems particularly extraordinary to us.

    Now on to the whole design/designer thing:

    I could object that your argument that a honeybee exhibits design does not establish only one designer: It could be used with equal force to argue for polytheism.

    Agreed.

    Even if your argument is valid, it merely shows the product of a master designer, not an omnipotent deity.

    Agreed.

    Your argument does not establish the present existence of a designer: A machine may continue to function long after the inventor has died.

    Again, I agree. It should be clear at this point, therefore, that I am not trying to argue for my team, but I am arguing against your team. Once atheism is ruled out and we can all admit that someone or something or a group of someones or a group of somethings created the universe and made things "the way they are" and keeps them that way, THEN we can try to narrow down the field. But atheism has the effect (as you have so keenly observed) of denying the entire field, which makes it unnecessary for me to come at you from one particulare theic position. I happen to believe in a single unique Creator. But in this argument that you and I are having, the cult-of-the-holy-comet-bearing-alien-creator-elves and I are on the same side. Once THIS argument is settled, the alien-elf lovers and I are on opposite sides of the next issue.

    It's a case of "my enemy's enemy is my friend". Once my enemy has been vanquished, it's time to reassess.

    Y Your God, therefore, is also responsible for including an appendix in humans

    Yes.

    a useless waste dump of toxins which is notorious for rupturing and killing the victim.

    Yes, it does have a tendency to rupture. (I had mine taken out). But your assertion that it is useless is based your knowledge of this organ. Let me feed you some of your own medicine: Do you know for sure and beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is useless?? Do you have proof?? All you can show me is that it is not necessary for survival. Neither is your index finger. That don't make it useless, and the fact that we have as of yet not figured out what it's for doesn't make it useless either.

    How do you justify a God which purposefully inflicts suffering upon man?

    Now THAT is the best question you have asked so far. It is at the root of most atheism. But unfortunately until you can at least accept the possibility that God exists, it is also completely irrelevant.

    Phase II:

    I acknowledge that in order for there to be a design, there must be a designer.

    And later you say:

    A design argument is useless for arguing the existence of a designer

    So which is it? :) The answer is that the design-designer relationship is an "if and only if" scenario. A bidirectional implication. If there is a design, then it must have a designer. Conversely, if there is a designer, there must be a design. In both cases I can use the implication with no problems to my argument.

    The characteristics of artificial design are only evident when compared to nature.

    I agree.

    Nature itself provides the basis by which comparisions can be made between designed objects and natural objects.

    Not exactly. You made a verbal jump. You should have said "Nature itself provides the basis by which comparisons can be made between artificially designed objects and naturally desgined objects.

    In a museum filled with Picasso paintings, except for 5 fakes, one can find the forgeries by comparing them to the bulk of the other paintings. Identifying the forgeries as "having been painted by Joe Shmoe" does not in any way shape or form imply that the rest of the paintings painted themselves randomly. They are still very much Picassos. Establishing something as "artificially designed" only establishes that this something was designed by someone other than the designer of naturally designed things.

    To claim that nature as a whole is designed is to destroy the framework by which we distinguish artifacts from natural objects

    Not necessarily so, as I have just demonstrated.

    Could these arguments not also be used to establish many gods?

    Again, yes, they could. But as I have said, although the arguments do not establish my beliefs as supreme among theic beliefs, they all work to show that atheism is in error, or that the VERY LEAST, they show that atheism is no more or less likely to be "right" than any other belief, in which case a rational person would have to give other belief systems a fair shot before swearing the whole thing off.

    I am not interested in the Christian notion of God particularly, but the overall concept of any god at all.

    See? The above is why I use arguments that could apply to "the overall concept of god". Though I should mention, as I have before, that I am not and have never been a Christian.

    One cannot establish or say that something exists without some knowledge of the entity's nature.

    I disagree. A grim example: an FBI investigator can establish the existance of a serial killer before a profile of this killer is done. "The evidence points to a serial killer. If this is the work of a serial killer, what is he likely to be like?"

    Anyway, kitten, (if that is your real name ;), while I was writing this post I heard the news about the WTC and Pentagon bombings. The horrifying and tragic news has taken the wind out of my sails and I just don't feel like responding to your other good points.

    I'll be praying for the victims, their families and indeed for everyone around the world who will likely suffer as a result of what happened today.

    Peace.

    [ Parent ]

    HTML formatted for your pleasure. (none / 0) (#647)
    by kitten on Sun Sep 16, 2001 at 10:31:26 AM EST

    For the purposes of this discussion, you may substitute "the creator(s) and sustainer(s) of life, the universe, and everthing (R.I.P. Douglas Adams)" for the word "God". This description is far less specific than the one I live by, but it is sufficient for this discussion.

    I don't think that's sufficient for anything. All you've done is expand the word, not actually provided information. You might as well say "A blark is that which does stuff" and not explain what a blark is, nor the means by which it does "stuff", nor the stuff it actually does.

    One must provide attributes to an entity in order for one's claim to that entity's existence to be intelligible. Otherwise one quite literally has no idea what one is talking about.

    Furthermore those attributes must be positive statements, not negative ones. (I speak of the linguistics, not the ethics, of course). In this context, a "positive statement" describes what something IS ("that book is blue"). A negative statement describes what it is NOT ("that book is not red").
    Most attributes commonly ascribed to God are negative in nature: eternal (not subject to temporal succession), ineffable (not able to be described..), invisible (not visible), limitless (without limits), etc.
    A description of nothing but negative statements is useless as a description: God is eternal, so is nonexistence. God is invisible, so is nonexistence. God is limitless, so is nonexistence. God does not change, neither does nonexistence. And so on.
    Even things like "omnipotent" and "omniscient" are partially negative - they describe capacities without limit.
    Therefore it becomes obvious that you must supply some positive statments about God - you must describe what he is. Otherwise the question "What is god?" remains unanswered.
    Consider the positive attributes commonly ascribed to God. Love, wisdom, etc. These are well and good, but do they mean the same thing when applied to God as they do when applied to man? For example: When God is said to have knowledge, is this the conceptual knowledge that we understand? If so, then God must be capable of error, and has aquired his knowledge only through mental effort.
    Surely you'll agree that the word "knowledge" doesn't mean the same thing applied to God as to man. God's "knowledge" isn't some sort of super-knowledge, or even "knowing everything".. therefore it must be some sort of knowledge that is totally different from anything man comphrehends, so we really don't know what it means to say god has "knowledge".
    What I'm getting at here, is that in order for these attributes to even make sense, one must reduce God to a manlike level. If one does not wish to do that, then the attributes take on some unknown, mysterious meaning, which means that all you've (collective "you", not you personally) done is assign some unknown attribute to an unknown being. This is not helpful.

    And neither matter or energy are created, they simply change states. Yes, this is true so long as you never ask "but where did all this matter and energy come from in the first place?".

    This is very interesting. You are reluctant to accept an eternal universe, but easily accept an eternal god.
    This is a common tactic of theists; when confronted with an atheist, they often exclaim "But if there's no God, then what caused the universe?", as you just have. Flagrant question begging. Only if we accept that the universe requires causal explanation can we start talking about God, but we haven't done that. Rather than asking "what caused the universe", you should be asking "does the universe require causal explanation?" If you wish to posit a God as the explanation, you must first demonstrate that the universe does in fact require such an explanation.
    Many times in scientific or rational inquiries, one might stop to ponder "why?" When this occurs, sometimes the best answer is "It simply is." The speed of light is what it is. The law of gravitation is what it is. The number of protons and electrons in an atom are what they are. There is no "why".
    This is obviously my atheist view - there is no "why". The universe does not exist for a reason at all - it simply is.
    But the theistic view doesn't work that way. The theist insists on saying "the universe requires an explanation", and then posits the supernatural as an explanation. "Supernatural" by definition is beyond man's ability to understand - not something presently unknown that can be understood with more information, but totally unknowable. The theist digs his own hole by demanding an explanation for the universe, and then "explaining" it in terms of the unknowable. That is not an explanation, and God's usefulness as an explanatory concept is invalid.

    They [the laws of identity and corollaries] are necessary, but they are not self-evident. They require generation upon generation of the best minds humanity has to offer to discover and describe

    Careful. I didn't mean "self-evident" as in "blatantly obvious". "Self-evident" in this context means that it cannot be any other way. "A = A, a thing is what it is", is a self-evident statement.

    It takes Newtons and Einsteins and Hawkings to read the rule to the Universal Monopoly game, and still the full set of rules escapes them. But the rules.. they're just there.. nobody wrote them.

    Again, the laws are not "blatantly obvious" although we think they are once we've been exposed to them. The rules are there because they HAVE to be. For a thing to exist, it must exist as something and have characteristics. "A thing is what it is and will behave thus."
    As I said, this is a necessary part of existence. "existence" could not be without it. There is no need to posit a God to explain this.
    Are you seriously suggesting that without God, things wouldn't work that way?

    It should be clear at this point, therefore, that I am not trying to argue for my team, but I am arguing against your team. Once atheism is ruled out and we can all admit that someone or something or a group of someones or a group of somethings created the universe

    You got it totally backwards. Atheism can exist only as the "ruling out" of theism. The only question here is "Should theism be accepted as true?" If the answer is no, then atheism is the only choice.
    Atheism is not on the defense here: You cannot set to destroy it by questioning it. The burden of proof is entirely on the theist, for it is he who is making the claims.

    Do you know for sure and beyond a shadow of a doubt that [the appendix] is useless?? Do you have proof?? All you can show me is that it is not necessary for survival.

    No, I can demonstrate that the functions of the human are in no way altered by the removal of the appendix. From this, I conclude that it plays no part in the functions of the human, and is therefore useless.
    Removing the index finger, as you suggest, may not kill a man - but it definitely alters the man's function. Therefore it can be concluded that the index finger is not "useless"; that it does play a part in the function of the man.

    How do you justify a God which purposefully inflicts suffering upon man?
    Now THAT is the best question you have asked so far. It is at the root of most atheism.


    No. I cannot stress this enough. Atheism is not some knee-jerk reaction to human suffering. The root of atheism is - as I have stated - "Is theism true?" All other considerations are secondary.

    The answer is that the design-designer relationship is an "if and only if" scenario. A bidirectional implication. If there is a design, then it must have a designer. Conversely, if there is a designer, there must be a design. In both cases I can use the implication with no problems to my argument.

    Again, if there is a design, there must be a designer. But you have not demonstrated - nobody in history has rationally demonstrated - that there is any design to the universe. Order, yes. Not design. And "order" is part of the law of identity, which does not require a God to support itself.
    You quite correctly state that if there is a designer, there must be a design - but that's what I was saying. The theist goes about this "desinger entails design" bit completely backwards - he preassumes a designer, and THEN he looks for evidences of his design. The flaw in this tactic should be apparent.

    In a museum filled with Picasso paintings, except for 5 fakes, one can find the forgeries by comparing them to the bulk of the other paintings.

    Which is what I said, isn't it? You can only conclude that X is different from Y if you have Y to compare it to.
    How do you know the fake paintings are forgeries? Because you have real paintings to compare them to.

    How do you know the wristwatch isn't a part of nature? Because you have all of nature to compare it to.

    Establishing something as "artificially designed" only establishes that this something was designed by someone other than the designer of naturally designed things.

    You know the wristwatch is manmade because you can compare it with things that aren't manmade. So tell me - what are you comparing the entirety of nature to? You have nature - your "X" in this case - but what "Y" will you compare it to?
    Speaking strictly in terms of manmade vs non-manmade things here: Nature itself provides the framework, the basis, by which comparisions of artificial and natural objects can be made.
    Now speaking from a theistic standpoint: How will you demonstrate that nature itself is a design? What framework will you be using to compare it to?

    Could these arguments not also be used to establish many gods?
    Again, yes, they could. But as I have said, although the arguments do not establish my beliefs as supreme among theic belief ... The above is why I use arguments that could apply to "the overall concept of god".


    Then you sir, are somewhat more sophisticated than other religious folk I have dealt with. :)
    I laud you for at least understanding that you must prove theism in general.
    Not knowing that, I submitted that argument in order to demonstrate that most theistic arguments are useless for proving a particular theology; since this is not your goal at this moment, that argument of mine is not important to this discussion.

    One cannot establish or say that something exists without some knowledge of the entity's nature.
    I disagree. A grim example: an FBI investigator can establish the existance of a serial killer before a profile of this killer is done.


    The FBI agent has some knowledge of the nature of the entity in question, though. He knows that the entity is human, for example, and everything that goes along with being human. And he can state something definitive about what the entity does: the entity kills people. That qualifies as "some knowledge" of the entity's existence.
    The FBI agent in this case is claiming the existence of a human (a knowable entity with known attributes) that kills (a known action accomplished by knowable means).
    The theist - unless he has information regarding the nature of God - is claiming the existence of a God (some unknown thing with unknown attributes) that "does stuff" (using some unknown means, the being does unknown things).
    So again I ask: What are you claiming existence for? An unknown being with unknown attributes that does unknown things using unknown means? Unless the theist can provide more information regarding this being, that's what the claim amounts to.
    The theist demands a rational explanation for the universe and then fails to provide it. To say that a supernatural ("not in the realm of the knowable) god caused the universe is to say that man can never comprehend the existence of the universe. This is an explanation?
    Even if a supernatural god did exist, the theist's question of "what caused the universe" would be as puzzling as it was before. How did this god create existence from nonexistence? "Somehow" isn't an explanation, and "through incomphrensible/unknowable means" isn't an explanation.
    Once again: The atheist is content to say "The universe is," and leave it at that. The theist, on the other hand, demands an explanation for why the universe exists, and then utterly fails to provide it.
    Anyway, kitten, (if that is your real name ;),

    It is. Just ask harb.

    while I was writing this post I heard the news about the WTC and Pentagon bombings. The horrifying and tragic news has taken the wind out of my sails and I just don't feel like responding to your other good points.

    This is completely understandable.
    Someday - perhaps years and years from now - it may be permissible for someone like me to use this event as an argument, but now, I cannot and will not. But many theists already are using this event as support for their claims, which I find to be distasteful at best and inexcusable at worst: "My husband survived (even though ten thousand others didn't), it's a miracle, God was with him."
    Disgusting.
    In no way do I mean to belittle or take advantage of the horrible and tragic events of Sep 11. The loss of life is staggering and dismaying - I may be atheist, but that doesn't mean I have no heart. Truth be told I'm still in a bit of shock over the entire thing, that I'm not sure the cold reality of it has totally set itself into me yet. But it will.
    However, it's worth pointing out that certain religious zealots like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell are shamelessly using this tragedy as an excuse to preach; how secular things in America helped this to happen, how gays and abortionists and pagans helped this to happen, how anybody who is opposed to a state-sponsered religion helped this to happen..
    We've got lunatics like Ann Coulter telling us that we need to invade these countries and kill the leaders and anybody who stands in our way, all in the name of Christ.
    Point being, these people and others like them use the event as an excuse to push their own religion, while ignoring the fact that the attack was caused in part by religion (dying for Allah and all that).
    While they point to the attacks and use it to pump religion, I point to the attacks and say "this is what often happens when people take religion too seriously". (And Christians are just as guilty of crimes against humanity as Muslims are, I should note).
    Religion offers very little positive, and is far too often used as justification for atrocities (holy wars, jihads, Crusades, Inquistions, witch-burnings, etc). And when religious-sponsered tragedies occur, what do people do? They run to their own religion for comfort.

    At any rate, this argument of ours is surely secondary to other things right now, so I'll understand if you don't reply right away (or at all). But I hope this will at least get read.

    From Atlanta, good evening.
    mirrorshades radio - darkwave, synthpop, industrial, futurepop.
    [ Parent ]
    Thank you (none / 0) (#648)
    by generaltao on Mon Sep 17, 2001 at 11:01:28 AM EST

    Just a quick note to say yes, I did read your response and it was very well thought out as all your responses have been.

    I appreciate the irony in your statement that people run to their own religions for comfort from religion-sponsored attrocities. All I can say is that although religion is often a rallying cry, it is very rarely the cause of such acts.

    You and I will probably run into each other again on this wonderful web site. Perhaps we'll be arguing the same side of an issue for a change.:)

    Peace

    [ Parent ]

    Creator = Christian God? (5.00 / 2) (#270)
    by mech9t8 on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 09:29:57 PM EST

    To me, the existence of God Almighty, the Creator, is completely self-evident. I can't understand why someone could look at something like a wrist-watch and find it self-evident that it was degined and built, and yet look at the Universe, or even just the anatomy of an ant and somehow convince him or herself that it assembled itself at random, without design or intelligence to guide it. THAT, to me, is a leap of faith. ... I simply don't understand how one jumps to the totally irrational conclusion that just because the Universe can be described by science it necessarily was not created by God.

    I'm curious how you went from the self-evidence that there must be a creator to the conclusion that the creator must be the Christian God - and not one of the multitude of other religions, or something that hasn't revealed itself to us. That, to me, seems to be the much greater step.

    Or do you consider the Christian faith as just one way of looking at the creator, and that the other faiths are equally valid perspectives?

    --
    IMHO
    [ Parent ]

    Who said I was Christian? (none / 0) (#368)
    by generaltao on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 12:18:05 PM EST

    I am most definately not a Christian. So the real question ought to be, why did YOU assume that the God I was talking about was the "Christian God" ?

    [ Parent ]
    Oops. (none / 0) (#417)
    by mech9t8 on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 03:20:09 PM EST

    I thought I read it... I guess between the phrase "God Almighty" (generally a phrase used to describe the Christian God) and the story about Adam. My apologies.

    --
    IMHO
    [ Parent ]
    No worries (none / 0) (#419)
    by generaltao on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 03:44:31 PM EST

    No apology necessary. Happens all the time. ;)

    [ Parent ]
    Anti-Atheism ~~ Atheism (none / 0) (#277)
    by prana on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 10:01:56 PM EST

    Science describes consensus reality only, it does not presuppose the unknown. It is therefore agnostic with respect to God, to the Fundamental Theory of Everything, to human consciousness, and to everything else we don't have answers for!

    If you want to communicate your reality to others, don't rely on circular reasoning and illogic. You need to start from a common ground, a place where people can understand your reality and fit it into theirs. This common ground is the impetus for--guess what--science.

    Anything less would require presupposition of the unknown (faith), and the same shaky footing of the atheist.


    [ Parent ]
    Presupposition (none / 0) (#407)
    by generaltao on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 02:12:32 PM EST

    Show me one scientific construct that is not rooted in some presupposition or another. I am not trying to invalidate science. I love science. But science describes, and sometimes predicts. It does not explain.

    [ Parent ]
    Fairy Tales (3.00 / 2) (#183)
    by DeadBaby on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 04:47:11 PM EST

    This of course creates something of a problem: Hyper-rationals have the same spiritual needs as anyone else; they need, in their hearts, to know that they are cherished, precious, and unique. They need to know that what they do with their life matters. They need to hold a moral and ethical code and better themselves though striving to remain true to it. In other words, they need religion, just like everyone else.

    I believe many of us have entered a post-religious period in the grand scheme of human kind. I for one, feel no need for a religion. My questions about life, the universe and everything can be answered by proven scientific facts or the potential for them. I don't feel any longing in my heart to make my life more important that it is. I'm one human out of billions and my actions mean almost nothing. Unless I am a great villain or a great hero, in 10,000 years no one will remember my name. That doesn't upset me either. The only thing I want is to enjoy life.

    Religion, to me, is the answer for people's inability to learn. It's easier to think there's a magic ole' fairy that lives on Neptune that will help you out through life and when finally you day comes; he'll send his magic space ship to earth to bring you to the glory land of HEAVEN than to admit that your time on the earth is short and unimportant. To human kind, you're a reproductive machine who can be shutoff once they have served their purpose to the species.

    The human centric style of thought has failed at virtually every turn in the recorded history of mankind. We started out with bold claims, OUR god created the earth and the universe and now we've come to a point where we KNOW the Earth is much younger than the rest of the universe (which god created the same day?) and we know, more so than ever, than humans aren't all that special. We share a tremendous number of genes with other primates, our minds and bodies work in similar fashion to other animals, we also can't forget that we are one of the most animalistic and brutal forms of life on our planet. We're nothing special. Maybe we've brought Earth based life to a new level but if some cosmic guck had smeared in the wrong places we'd still be throwing at scat at each other high a-top a tree somewhere right now.

    The point is, I disagree entirely with this proclamation that *I* need a god to have a good ethical mindset, to love myself, or to justify my position in the galaxy through falsehoods. I'm entirely agnostic and I pity people who need to use the crutch of religion instead of having the mental competence to see the universe for what it is and not a fairy tale.



    "Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity -- in all this vastness -- there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us." - Carl Sagan
    Who rated that a 1? (none / 0) (#426)
    by ghjm on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 04:30:05 PM EST

    <rant>
    I sure wish people would stop giving 1 ratings to well-written pieces they happen to disagree with.
    </rant>

    Certainly, one response to unfulfilled spiritual needs is to deny their existence. But does the proposition that you are nothing more than a few dozen kilograms of organic goo really explain things like consciousness? If all this is all there is, where do "you" come from?

    Also, I might add that fanaticism is alive and well in the agnostic/atheist crowd. Trust me, I personally am mentally competent, strongly opposed to "justifying my position in the galaxy through falsehoods" and not remotely interested in fairy tales except as literature. Yet at the same time I am unimpressed by the fanatical atheist's irrational denial of anything beyond the observable. To sell me on this, you'll have to explain why I am self-aware but a rock isn't.

    -Graham

    [ Parent ]

    Fairy Tales (4.12 / 8) (#184)
    by DeadBaby on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 04:48:00 PM EST

    This of course creates something of a problem: Hyper-rationals have the same spiritual needs as anyone else; they need, in their hearts, to know that they are cherished, precious, and unique. They need to know that what they do with their life matters. They need to hold a moral and ethical code and better themselves though striving to remain true to it. In other words, they need religion, just like everyone else.

    I believe many of us have entered a post-religious period in the grand scheme of human kind. I for one, feel no need for a religion. My questions about life, the universe and everything can be answered by proven scientific facts or the potential for them. I don't feel any longing in my heart to make my life more important that it is. I'm one human out of billions and my actions mean almost nothing. Unless I am a great villain or a great hero, in 10,000 years no one will remember my name. That doesn't upset me either. The only thing I want is to enjoy life.

    Religion, to me, is the answer for people's inability to learn. It's easier to think there's a magic ole' fairy that lives on Neptune that will help you out through life and when finally you day comes; he'll send his magic space ship to earth to bring you to the glory land of HEAVEN than to admit that your time on the earth is short and unimportant. To human kind, you're a reproductive machine who can be shutoff once they have served their purpose to the species.

    The human centric style of thought has failed at virtually every turn in the recorded history of mankind. We started out with bold claims, OUR god created the earth and the universe and now we've come to a point where we KNOW the Earth is much younger than the rest of the universe (which god created the same day?) and we know, more so than ever, than humans aren't all that special. We share a tremendous number of genes with other primates, our minds and bodies work in similar fashion to other animals, we also can't forget that we are one of the most animalistic and brutal forms of life on our planet. We're nothing special. Maybe we've brought Earth based life to a new level but if some cosmic guck had smeared in the wrong places we'd still be throwing at scat at each other high a-top a tree somewhere right now.

    The point is, I disagree entirely with this proclamation that *I* need a god to have a good ethical mindset, to love myself, or to justify my position in the galaxy through falsehoods. I'm entirely agnostic and I pity people who need to use the crutch of religion instead of having the mental competence to see the universe for what it is and not a fairy tale.



    "Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity -- in all this vastness -- there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us." - Carl Sagan
    Another two cents (4.50 / 2) (#187)
    by Irrumator on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 04:59:50 PM EST

    As the comments show, "rationality", "spirituality", and even "religion" mean different things to different people. For example, many posters equate religion with fanaticism and/or theism whereas others see religions as (in part) intellectual traditions trying to address certain kinds of questions.

    It's not obvious to me what ghjm means by those terms, or what Wicca, Bahai, and Taoism were lacking. Personally, I've been deeply influenced by What the Buddha Taught by Walpola Rahula. It seems to present a "stripped down" Buddhism that represents Buddhism's core but doesn't call for gods or ghosts or miracles. It may or may not resemble the traditional practices in many Buddhist countries.

    Buddhism without Beliefs is Stephen Batchelor's attempt at outlining a Western approach to Buddhism. It may also point you in the direction you're looking for.

    Heh. (4.66 / 6) (#189)
    by Zarniwoop on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 05:07:13 PM EST

    At the risk of sounding extreme, I will call these people hyper-rationals. The stereotypical "geek" falls squarely into this category.

    Did this make anyone else laugh hysterically?

    to me... (3.75 / 4) (#224)
    by rebelcool on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 06:36:44 PM EST

    the stereotypical geek has turned into the linux-loving-anything-else-is-crap kind of nerd. Which isnt exactly rational, much less hyper-rational.

    COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
    [ Parent ]

    Irrationality is everywhere. (none / 0) (#282)
    by SwingGeek on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 10:17:25 PM EST

    I think a lot of people, regardless of geekdom, tend to think the way that they do something is best and that anything else is crap.

    In the geek community, we see a lot of people like you mention flaming on slashdot, etc.

    There are always more open, rational people around though. And yes, I think that in the geek community, there may be a somewhat higher percentage. Even more so on K5 :)

    Of course, I may just be giving an ironic example of how I think my way is better.

    Oh well :)

    SwingGeek

    [ Parent ]
    You want to see a geeky religion? (5.00 / 1) (#635)
    by hotcurry on Tue Sep 04, 2001 at 08:09:16 AM EST

    Check out the Cult of the Monkey Boy



    [ Parent ]

    Best story ever on this subject (3.14 / 7) (#191)
    by CrazyJub on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 05:10:02 PM EST

    Before I post, I want to clarify that stating that an athiest beleives God does not exist is false. An athiest just does beleive in anything, which is very different. An athiest is not making any claims, that is the job of the beleiver

    And now the story of Hank.

    This morning there was a knock at my door. When I answered the door I found a well groomed, nicely dressed couple. The man spoke first:

    "Hi! I'm John, and this is Mary."

    Mary: "Hi! We're here to invite you to come kiss Hank's ass with us."

    Me: "Pardon me?! What are you talking about? Who's Hank, and why would I want to kiss his ass?"

    John: "If you kiss Hank's ass, he'll give you a million dollars; and if you don't, he'll kick the shit out of you."

    Me: "What? Is this some sort of bizarre mob shake-down?"

    John: "Hank is a billionaire philanthropists. Hank built this town. Hank owns this town. He can do what ever wants, and what he wants is to give you a million dollars, but he can't until you kiss his ass."

    Me: "That doesn't make any sense. Why..."

    Mary: "Who are you to question Hank's gift? Don't you want a million dollars? Isn't it worth a little kiss on the ass?"

    Me: "Well maybe, if it's legit, but..."

    John: "Then come kiss Hank's ass with us."

    Me: "Do you kiss Hank's ass often?"

    Mary: "Oh yes, all the time..."

    Me: "And has he given you a million dollars?"

    John: "Well no, you don't actually get the money until you leave town."

    Me: "So why don't you just leave town now?"

    Mary: "You can't leave until Hank tells you to, or you don't get the money and he kicks the shit out of you."

    Me: "Do you know anyone who kissed Hank's ass, left town, and got the million dollars?"

    John: "My mother kissed Hank's ass for years. She left town last year, and I'm sure she got the money."

    Me: "Haven't you talked to her since then?"

    John: "Of course not, Hank doesn't allow it."

    Me: "So what makes you think he'll actually give you the money if you've never talked to anyone who got the money?"

    Mary: "Well, he gives you a little bit before you leave. Maybe you'll get a raise, maybe you'll win a small lotto, maybe you'll just find a twenty dollar bill on the street."

    Me: "What's that got to do with Hank?"

    John: "Hank has certain 'connections.'"

    Me: "I'm sorry, but this sounds like some sort of bizarre con game."

    John: "But it's a million dollars, can you really take the chance? And remember, if you don't kiss Hank's ass he'll kick the shit of you."

    Me: "Maybe if I could see Hank, talk to him, get the details straight from him..."

    Mary: "No one sees Hank, no one talks to Hank."

    Me: "Then how do you kiss his ass?"

    John: "Sometimes we just blow him a kiss, and think of his ass. Other times we kiss Karl's ass, and he passes it on."

    Me: "Who's Karl?"

    Mary: "A friend of ours. He's the one who taught us all about kissing Hank's ass. All we had to do was take him out to dinner a few times."

    Me: "And you just took his word for it when he said there was a Hank, that Hank wanted you to kiss his ass, and that Hank would reward you?"

    John: "Oh no! Karl's got a letter Hank sent him years ago explaining the whole thing. Here's a copy; see for your self."

    John handed me a photocopy of a handwritten memo on "From the desk of Karl" letterhead. There were eleven items listed:

    From the desk of: KARL

    1.
    2.
    3.
    4.
    5.
    6.
    7.
    8.
    9.
    10.
    11. Kiss Hank's ass and he'll give you a million dollars when you leave town.
    Use alcohol in moderation.
    Kick the shit out of people who aren't like you.
    Eat right.
    Hank dictated this list himself.
    The moon is made of green cheese.
    Everything Hank says is right.
    Wash your hands after going to the bathroom.
    Don't drink.
    Eat your wieners on buns, no condiments.
    Kiss Hank's ass or he'll kick the shit out of you.

    Me: "This would appear to be written on Karl's Letterhead."

    Mary: "Hank didn't have any paper."

    Me: "I have a hunch that if we checked we'd find this is Karl's handwriting."

    John: "Of course, Hank dictated it."

    Me: "I thought you said no one gets to see Hank?"

    Mary: "Not now, but years ago he would talk to some people."

    Me: "I thought you said he was a philanthropist. What sort of philanthropist kicks the shit out of people just because they're different?"

    Mary: "It's what Hank wants, and Hank's always right."

    Me: "How do you figure that?"

    Mary: "Item 7 says 'Everything Hank says is right.' That's good enough for me!"

    Me: "Maybe your friend Karl just made the whole thing up."

    John: "No way! Item 5 says 'Hank dictated this list himself.' Besides, item 2 says 'Use alcohol in moderation,' Item 4 says 'Eat right,' and item 8 says 'Wash your hands after going to the bathroom.' Everyone knows those things are right, so the rest must be true too."

    Me: "But 9 says 'Don't Drink,' which doesn't quite go with item 2, and 6 says 'The moon is made of green cheese,' which is just plain wrong."

    John: "There's no contradiction between 9 and 2, 9 just clarifies 2. As far as 6 goes, you've never been to the moon, so you can't say for sure."

    Me: "Scientists have pretty firmly established that the moon is made of rock..."

    Mary: "But they don't know if the rock came from the Earth, or from outer of space, so it could just as easily be green cheese."

    Me: "I'm not really an expert, but I think the theory that the Moon came from the Earth has been discounted. Besides, not knowing where the rock came from doesn't make it cheese."

    John: "Aha! You just admitted that scientists make mistakes, but we know Hank is always right!"

    Me: "We do?"

    Mary: "Of course we do, Item 5 says so."

    Me: "You're saying Hank's always right because the list says so, the list is right because Hank dictated it, and we know that Hank dictated it because the list says so. That's circular logic. That's no different than saying 'Hank's right because he says he's right.'"

    John: "Now you're getting it! It's so rewarding to see someone come around to Hank's way of thinking!"

    Me: "But... oh, never mind. What's the deal with wieners?"

    Mary blushes. John says: "Wieners, in buns, no condiments. It's Hank's way. Anything else is wrong."

    Me: "What if I don't have a bun?"

    John: "No bun, no wiener. A wiener without a bun is wrong."

    Me: "No relish? No Mustard?"

    Mary looks positively stricken. John shouts: "There's no need for such language! Condiments of any kind are wrong!"

    Me: "So a big pile of sauerkraut with some wieners chopped up in it would be out of the question?"

    Mary sticks her fingers in her ears: "I am not listening to this. La la la la la la la la."

    John: "That's disgusting. Only some sort of evil deviant would eat that..."

    Me: "It's good! I eat it all the time."

    Mary faints. John catches her: "Well, if I'd known you where one of those, I wouldn't have wasted my time. When Hank kicks the shit out of you, I'll be there counting my money and laughing. I'll kiss Hank's ass for you, you bunless cut-wienered kraut-eater."

    With this, John dragged Mary to their waiting car, and sped off.

    Ketchup anyone? :)



    Best story ever on this subject (4.44 / 27) (#193)
    by CrazyJub on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 05:11:41 PM EST

    Before I post, I want to clarify that stating that an athiest beleives God does not exist is false. An athiest just does beleive in anything, which is very different. An athiest is not making any claims, that is the job of the beleiver

    And now the story of Hank.

    This morning there was a knock at my door. When I answered the door I found a well groomed, nicely dressed couple. The man spoke first:

    "Hi! I'm John, and this is Mary."

    Mary: "Hi! We're here to invite you to come kiss Hank's ass with us."

    Me: "Pardon me?! What are you talking about? Who's Hank, and why would I want to kiss his ass?"

    John: "If you kiss Hank's ass, he'll give you a million dollars; and if you don't, he'll kick the shit out of you."

    Me: "What? Is this some sort of bizarre mob shake-down?"

    John: "Hank is a billionaire philanthropists. Hank built this town. Hank owns this town. He can do what ever wants, and what he wants is to give you a million dollars, but he can't until you kiss his ass."

    Me: "That doesn't make any sense. Why..."

    Mary: "Who are you to question Hank's gift? Don't you want a million dollars? Isn't it worth a little kiss on the ass?"

    Me: "Well maybe, if it's legit, but..."

    John: "Then come kiss Hank's ass with us."

    Me: "Do you kiss Hank's ass often?"

    Mary: "Oh yes, all the time..."

    Me: "And has he given you a million dollars?"

    John: "Well no, you don't actually get the money until you leave town."

    Me: "So why don't you just leave town now?"

    Mary: "You can't leave until Hank tells you to, or you don't get the money and he kicks the shit out of you."

    Me: "Do you know anyone who kissed Hank's ass, left town, and got the million dollars?"

    John: "My mother kissed Hank's ass for years. She left town last year, and I'm sure she got the money."

    Me: "Haven't you talked to her since then?"

    John: "Of course not, Hank doesn't allow it."

    Me: "So what makes you think he'll actually give you the money if you've never talked to anyone who got the money?"

    Mary: "Well, he gives you a little bit before you leave. Maybe you'll get a raise, maybe you'll win a small lotto, maybe you'll just find a twenty dollar bill on the street."

    Me: "What's that got to do with Hank?"

    John: "Hank has certain 'connections.'"

    Me: "I'm sorry, but this sounds like some sort of bizarre con game."

    John: "But it's a million dollars, can you really take the chance? And remember, if you don't kiss Hank's ass he'll kick the shit of you."

    Me: "Maybe if I could see Hank, talk to him, get the details straight from him..."

    Mary: "No one sees Hank, no one talks to Hank."

    Me: "Then how do you kiss his ass?"

    John: "Sometimes we just blow him a kiss, and think of his ass. Other times we kiss Karl's ass, and he passes it on."

    Me: "Who's Karl?"

    Mary: "A friend of ours. He's the one who taught us all about kissing Hank's ass. All we had to do was take him out to dinner a few times."

    Me: "And you just took his word for it when he said there was a Hank, that Hank wanted you to kiss his ass, and that Hank would reward you?"

    John: "Oh no! Karl's got a letter Hank sent him years ago explaining the whole thing. Here's a copy; see for your self."

    John handed me a photocopy of a handwritten memo on "From the desk of Karl" letterhead. There were eleven items listed:

    From the desk of: KARL

    1.Kiss Hank's ass and he'll give you a million dollars when you leave town.
    2. Use alcohol in moderation.
    3. Kick the shit out of people who aren't like you.
    4. Eat right.
    5. Hank dictated this list himself.
    6. The moon is made of green cheese.
    7. Everything Hank says is right.
    8. Wash your hands after going to the bathroom.
    9. Don't drink.
    10. Eat your wieners on buns, no condiments.
    11. Kiss Hank's ass or he'll kick the shit out of you.

    Me: "This would appear to be written on Karl's Letterhead."

    Mary: "Hank didn't have any paper."

    Me: "I have a hunch that if we checked we'd find this is Karl's handwriting."

    John: "Of course, Hank dictated it."

    Me: "I thought you said no one gets to see Hank?"

    Mary: "Not now, but years ago he would talk to some people."

    Me: "I thought you said he was a philanthropist. What sort of philanthropist kicks the shit out of people just because they're different?"

    Mary: "It's what Hank wants, and Hank's always right."

    Me: "How do you figure that?"

    Mary: "Item 7 says 'Everything Hank says is right.' That's good enough for me!"

    Me: "Maybe your friend Karl just made the whole thing up."

    John: "No way! Item 5 says 'Hank dictated this list himself.' Besides, item 2 says 'Use alcohol in moderation,' Item 4 says 'Eat right,' and item 8 says 'Wash your hands after going to the bathroom.' Everyone knows those things are right, so the rest must be true too."

    Me: "But 9 says 'Don't Drink,' which doesn't quite go with item 2, and 6 says 'The moon is made of green cheese,' which is just plain wrong."

    John: "There's no contradiction between 9 and 2, 9 just clarifies 2. As far as 6 goes, you've never been to the moon, so you can't say for sure."

    Me: "Scientists have pretty firmly established that the moon is made of rock..."

    Mary: "But they don't know if the rock came from the Earth, or from outer of space, so it could just as easily be green cheese."

    Me: "I'm not really an expert, but I think the theory that the Moon came from the Earth has been discounted. Besides, not knowing where the rock came from doesn't make it cheese."

    John: "Aha! You just admitted that scientists make mistakes, but we know Hank is always right!"

    Me: "We do?"

    Mary: "Of course we do, Item 5 says so."

    Me: "You're saying Hank's always right because the list says so, the list is right because Hank dictated it, and we know that Hank dictated it because the list says so. That's circular logic. That's no different than saying 'Hank's right because he says he's right.'"

    John: "Now you're getting it! It's so rewarding to see someone come around to Hank's way of thinking!"

    Me: "But... oh, never mind. What's the deal with wieners?"

    Mary blushes. John says: "Wieners, in buns, no condiments. It's Hank's way. Anything else is wrong."

    Me: "What if I don't have a bun?"

    John: "No bun, no wiener. A wiener without a bun is wrong."

    Me: "No relish? No Mustard?"

    Mary looks positively stricken. John shouts: "There's no need for such language! Condiments of any kind are wrong!"

    Me: "So a big pile of sauerkraut with some wieners chopped up in it would be out of the question?"

    Mary sticks her fingers in her ears: "I am not listening to this. La la la la la la la la."

    John: "That's disgusting. Only some sort of evil deviant would eat that..."

    Me: "It's good! I eat it all the time."

    Mary faints. John catches her: "Well, if I'd known you where one of those, I wouldn't have wasted my time. When Hank kicks the shit out of you, I'll be there counting my money and laughing. I'll kiss Hank's ass for you, you bunless cut-wienered kraut-eater."

    With this, John dragged Mary to their waiting car, and sped off.

    Ketchup anyone? :)



    Atheism and your story (3.75 / 4) (#244)
    by wcdw on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 07:31:11 PM EST

    I couldn't force myself all the way through your story, so I just skimmed; sorry. However, I cannot help but note that it is useful when "correcting" people to ensure that the "new" information is itself correct. From Webster's (easily available on-line):

    Atheist (n.): One who disbelieves or denies the existence of God or gods.

    People who hold no beliefs one way or another are known as agnostics (http://www.dictionary.com/cgi-bin/dict.pl?term=agnostic)...

    [ Parent ]
    wow (2.25 / 4) (#275)
    by core10k on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 09:57:21 PM EST

    You're making that shit up.

    An atheist has no deity beliefs.

    An agnostic believes that whether there is a god or not is unknowable.

    And if Webster says " One who disbelieves or denies the existence of God or gods. ," well, then Webster is wrong. Period. No ifs, ands or buts. THIS IS NOT THE DEFINITION OF AN ATHEIST. I'll say it again, just in case you're getting ready to respond, in a whiny and superior tone, "But [WHAAAAA] the dictionary SAYEEEEEEED!!!!![I WANT MY PACIFIER!!!!]" : THIS IS NOT THE DEFINITION OF AN ATHEIST.

    [ Parent ]

    Language is flexable (4.50 / 2) (#280)
    by SwingGeek on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 10:10:28 PM EST

    We're all making shit up. Thats what language is, people made up words and if they catch on they become part of the standard language.

    Just because you say it's different certainly doesn't mean it does. Language is the way people communicate things. If people start using new words, then those words are, by definition, part of the language.

    A dictionary is just a collection of the most widely accepted words (they may not be widely used now, but if they're in the dictionary, they were probabaly widely used at some point).

    It's a generalisation, but much less so than yours. Why would we take your word for it if we wouldn't take the dictionaries?

    [ Parent ]
    Whatever.. (none / 0) (#295)
    by CrazyJub on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 11:00:21 PM EST

    The point is, the burden of proof falls on the BELIEVER, not the sceptic. As an Athiest, I am not claiming anything, I'm just not buying it.

    [ Parent ]
    wtf? (1.00 / 2) (#310)
    by core10k on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 12:26:36 AM EST

    Did you even read what I said? I find that unlikely, because of what you said here:

    Why would we take your word for it if we wouldn't take the dictionaries?

    I already knew that this was your instinctive response, and even after I pointed out not to bother saying it, you went ahead and did anyways.



    [ Parent ]
    define 'definition' (none / 0) (#367)
    by glenn3 on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 12:11:52 PM EST

    agnostic -- one who holds the view that any ultimate reality (as God) is unknown and probably unknowable.

    atheist -- one who denies the existence of God.

    definition -- (2) a statement of the meaning of a word or word group or sign or symbol, such as in a dictionary.

    [from Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, a 1988 version]

    Of course, making up new meanings for words could be the axiom for a new religion, or at least a personal belief system. But the attitude is more along the lines of dust and fundamentalists -- I doubt you'll find many converts, unless you are recruiting among the sort of person who is confused by what the definition of "is" is ...

    [ Parent ]
    oh geez (3.00 / 1) (#382)
    by dnuoforp on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 01:17:39 PM EST

    that was the funniest thing i've read all damn day

    [ Parent ]
    The best cure for religion is more rationality. (3.83 / 6) (#197)
    by Kasreyn on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 05:27:23 PM EST

    You make the claim that rationalists need religion, too. I disagree. I don't believe people "need" religion. Religion is an illusion, a drug that makes life sweeter and easier to swallow. I personally prefer to live with my eyes open.

    I'm as yet undecided on all religions. I'm what you might call an unbeliever - all my life, I've refused to take ANYthing on faith. As a child, I wouldn't even clean my room for my folks (as an example), unless they told me WHY it had to be done. This is why, today I call myself an agnostic, rather than an atheist. Atheism is the dedicated *belief* in something, a belief which is as much an act of faith as religion. That is, the belief that there are NO gods, and no angels, no demons and no hell. Atheism is the belief in nothing. Since these things are exactly as impossible to disprove as they are to prove, I find the only path available to my logic is total unbelief, thus agnosticism.

    As yet in my life, I've not been able to find anything that's sacred. Perhaps the human soul. Everything else can be corrupted and destroyed, but a person's character can't be destroyed unless he lets it happen (and usually, helps out a bit). Other good names for me would be a Freethinker, or maybe even a Humanist. I wouldn't mind horribly being counted among their number. Or, I recommend you read the novel "Cat's Cradle", by Kurt Vonnegut. Because I'm a Bokononist, you see, and I bet you are, too, without knowing it.

    Essentially, what I "believe", is that beliefs are not needed to life one's life. Claiming that you can't find happiness without some faith is incorrect. Claiming that religion is required for one to have morals, ethics, and a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment in life, is doubly incorrect. I have my morals, based on the fact that I rationally understand all humans to be equal, and thus I treat them as I treat myself. I do not need the commandment of a god to make me do this. I am capable of writing my own personal ethic, and sticking to it, in the absence of religion. And I am capable of determining that ethic without the aid of mysticism or society, merely on my own understanding of life.

    The true effect of religion on morals and ethics, you've missed. This is a normalizing effect. After all, when people have differing beliefs, values, ethics, there is confusion and failure to communicate. Religion serves a purpose by embodying a standardized set of morals and ethics for a community to follow. But when one is already largely nonstandard, and already outcast from that community, what good is it to continue to follow that religion?

    I was born to Roman Catholic parents, baptised, went to a private religious school, was confirmed, and all that stuff. I finally stopped being religious because I found I couldn't keep up the farce any longer of believing in something, when I don't truly believe in ANYthing. It was insulting to my intelligence, and if there is a god, I'm sure having an unbeliever pretending in his church was insulting to him as well. So I quit that, and tried to find my own way. Not always successfully. =P

    Find your own belief. No one needs a religion to tell them their ethics, all you need is to know yourself and exert some mental effort. Then, you need to be able to police yourself. Without a religion or community, there is no one watching to make sure you abide by your personal code. The only deterrant you might get is if you break some law along the way. All else is up to your own mental strength. It's a tough way to live, and I've not been altogether successful. But on the whole, I can't think of any other way I'd rather be.


    -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.
    Atheism is not a belief system. (4.00 / 1) (#231)
    by Simon Moon on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 06:55:35 PM EST

    Atheism is the dedicated *belief* in something, a belief which is as much an act of faith as religion.

    If atheism is a religion, then health is a disease.

    Atheism means without belief or acknowledgment of a god or other fundamental religious concept. Atheists do not believe in religious matters to the degree that they do not affect their lives' decisions. In a word, atheists do not believe in God (but see seebs's comment about strong vs. weak atheism).

    Agnosticism means without knowledge. In theory, agnostics feel that humans can never obtain the requisite knowledge to make a solid decision in the first place.

    Of course, the big problem is that no two people share a common definition for any of these terms, so it is hard to have discourse.


    Ants. (Two by two)
    [ Parent ]
    However, (none / 0) (#293)
    by Kasreyn on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 10:53:22 PM EST

    ...if an atheist is certain that there is no god, he is indulging in belief. The existence of god is not only unprovable, it is also unDISprovable (though many would argue this is merely the way religions are designed, and not some inherent property of so-called gods). An atheist, by feeling certain there is no god, is believing, is taking on faith as it were, something he cannot prove. An agnostic merely does what a totally rational, totally unbelieving person must do: He says, "I do not know", and leaves it at that.


    -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 ]
    Well done.. (none / 0) (#302)
    by reflective recursion on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 11:48:27 PM EST

    all my life, I've refused to take ANYthing on faith. As a child, I wouldn't even clean my room for my folks (as an example), unless they told me WHY it had to be done.
    Wow. I do the same thing almost. If something does not make complete sense, I just cannot do it. I remember being in school (k-12) and becoming completely bored because teachers tell you how something is, but not WHY that something is. Which is probably why I did poorly in a few classes. I need the whole reason as to why something is important and why I should know about it.
    This is why, today I call myself an agnostic, rather than an atheist. Atheism is the dedicated *belief* in something, a belief which is as much an act of faith as religion. That is, the belief that there are NO gods, and no angels, no demons and no hell. Atheism is the belief in nothing. Since these things are exactly as impossible to disprove as they are to prove, I find the only path available to my logic is total unbelief, thus agnosticism.
    Amazing. Just a little over maybe 4 months ago I can to this _exact_ same conclusion (I then took a religion class which goes into detail about how religion in America has been subdued and co-opted which confirms my belief that it is impossible to go either way. The only rational way to live is to profess ignorance of a god). I still have what you would call morals though. Probably more so than many "good church-going Christian" stereotypes. I think the reason is because I see what I do wrong and attempt to honestly change it. Whereas others live believing that they can simply pray to a god which "makes everything better." They have less self-control, I guess, with believing in a destiny. I believe everything I do can be controlled by myself and I make my own destiny.

    Great post!

    [ Parent ]
    Clarificatino about atheism... (3.66 / 3) (#199)
    by seebs on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 05:29:12 PM EST

    It's worth noting that there are two kinds of atheism, often called, for lack of better terminology, "weak atheism" and "strong atheism".

    Weak atheism is not believing in God.

    Strong atheism is believing there is no God.

    Note the subtle difference? Strong atheists frequently have strong attachments to their belief system, and respond to challenges to it with derision and hatred.

    It's a belief which cannot be proven or disproven by any means we know of, it's held strongly, and it is sometimes used as the basis for forming moral systems. Sounds like a religion to me.


    Agnosticism (none / 0) (#220)
    by fluffy grue on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 06:27:20 PM EST

    What you call "weak atheism" is typically called agnostic.
    --
    "Is not a quine" is not a quine.
    I have a master's degree in science!

    [ Hug Your Trikuare ]
    [ Parent ]

    except... (none / 0) (#223)
    by rebelcool on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 06:35:16 PM EST

    agnosticism is typically defined as "we cannot know whether there is a god or not". Still a pretty strong belief.

    I dont know of a word that describes apathy towards the existence of a god.

    COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
    [ Parent ]

    apathy (none / 0) (#228)
    by aaron on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 06:50:13 PM EST

    I dont know of a word that describes apathy towards the existence of a god.

    Actually, that's exactly the word I use. I describe myself as an apathetic agnostic atheist -- triple-a, if you will. I don't believe in any gods, because I don't see compelling evidence for them, and I don't really care that much.

    [ Parent ]

    Fair enough. (none / 0) (#230)
    by seebs on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 06:54:06 PM EST

    Some agnostics believe things such as "God exists, but is unknowable". But yeah, fair enough... but if we agree that "weak atheism" is agnosticism, then "atheism" really *is* a firm belief.


    [ Parent ]
    wide difference (5.00 / 1) (#247)
    by Simon Moon on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 07:41:16 PM EST

    I disagree.

    Atheism (any form) and theism are at ends of a spectrum. But one need not actually subscribe to this spectrum. Some people are Republicans. Some are Democrats. Most people feel that the Republican/Democratic spectrum is all there is; but K5ers will surely know that this is not the case. What about third parties or even anarchism? This is the same issue here. Agnostics reserve judgement.

    Of course mostly this is just semantics. Most agnostics and atheists would have much common ground.

    Furthermore, I would like to point out that even such a position as strong atheism does not preclude open-mindedness. In my case, for example, I believe that there is no God (i.e. strong). I feel that humanity is slowly stamping out all need for religion, and that it is showing that religion was a bad idea in the first place. But the day I see solid evidence is the day I become (Judeo-?)Christian. Presumably, somebody who can create a universe will know exactly which evidential presentation I require. Between you and me, I'm not holding my breath.

    Sure. Christ was great. Like Douglas Adams says, hey wouldn't we all have a better time if we were all nice to each other? Fine. But in general, mainstream Christianity and the concept of a loving God who rewards me later for being subservient now is shit. Christianity is just another real-world implementation of the Matrix. Its main purpose is to keep the ruled busy and happy while the rulers maintain power. If that's your bag, go for it. I say hell no. If I've got to burn in hell for an eternity because I want to exercise free will, so be it. I don't want to be a part of that God anyhow.


    Ants. (Two by two)
    [ Parent ]
    Agnostic atheist (none / 0) (#447)
    by mrBlond on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 07:18:11 PM EST

    > What you call "weak atheism" is typically called agnostic.

    I refer to myself as an agnostic atheist and a secular humanist.

    The way I see it:

    • an atheist is someone with a lack of belief in the existence of god(s)
    • a strong atheist is someone who insists that there are no god(s)
    • an agnostic is someone who doubts the truth of mysticism
    • a strong agnostic is someone who holds that knowledge of the truth of mystic things is imposible

    To me strong atheism is a belief in something which can not be proven to be correct, it can only be proved wrong. The same with strong agnosticism.

    I think it's extremely (1:googolplex) unlikely that god(s) exist, so eventho for practical purposes I'm a strong atheist, I can't call myself that because of the paragraph above.

    Some Robert Green Ingersoll quotes:

    • But honest men do not pretend to know; they are candid and sincere; they love the truth; they admit their ignorance, and they say, "we do not know".
    • In nature there are neither rewards nor punishments; there are consequences.
    • If [the Bible] and my brain are both the work of the same Infinite God, whose fault is it that the book and my brain do not agree?
    • Nothing could add to the horror of hell, except the presence of its creator, God.

    --
    Inoshiro for cabal leader.
    [ Parent ]
    I am a Taoist Elf with a Magic +3 shield. (4.50 / 8) (#200)
    by lucid on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 05:30:15 PM EST

    A friend of mine one time told me he was buying a Sun box off of eBay. I asked why and he said it was because everybody else had x86 boxes. Buying a non-x86 box was something called bragging rights. There was the experience, sure, but nobody else in the area could claim to be non-x86.

    There's an answer for you.

    The path, ignoring metaphysical questions (4.00 / 2) (#205)
    by mmarcos on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 05:45:49 PM EST

    The original teachings of the Buddha suggested learning more about oneself and one's presence than to answer "unanswerable" questions about the existence of a god and the purpose of the universe. Subsequent schools of thought of Buddhism incorporated rites, practices, beliefs, etc., around this core, and many people, I believe, are distracted by the colorful aspects of this. The core teachings remain the most valuable spiritual?/religious?/philosophical?/psychological? (all of the above?) teachings I have come to know.

    Are you spontaneously enthusiastic about everyone having everything you can have? - Buckminster Fuller
    Can religion and rationality coexist .. sure! (4.00 / 3) (#212)
    by briandunbar on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 06:15:06 PM EST

    Most mainstream religions require more in the way of faith-based belief than is comfortable for a rationalist geek. Can religion and rationality coexist.

    Sure they can. You take more than you might think "on faith". Atoms. You believe implicitly in atoms, but not many people outside of a lab have *seen* them. You take for granted that they (and all that depends from a belief in atoms) exist.

    So, my question to the Kuro5hin community is this: What have you tried? What works? Has anyone out there found a faith-efficient religion that satisfies one's spiritual needs?

    I've tried agnosticism, the Moravian church, and finally returned to my roots as an Episcopalian. I don't see a conflict between my faith and a belief in 'rationality'.

    Why? Frankly, when I came back to the church, my life ... changed in a way hard to explain. The color came back to a world that had become increasingly monochrome. I broke free from a fog of bleeh into the light. You can call it an opiate, if you like, but it feels like *life*. Youur mileage may vary.


    Feed the poor, eat the rich!

    The thing is... (5.00 / 1) (#311)
    by fluffy grue on Wed Aug 22, 2001 at 12:29:27 AM EST

    Technically, nobody has seen atoms (you can't see them directly; technically you don't see anything directly, but your eyes are ostensibly relaying to you the results of photoelectric reactions to the photons reflected off of things hitting your retinas), but many people - including you - have perceived the direct results of what can be attributed most simply to atoms.

    Vapors - such as the scent of bread which led Democritus to even consider the idea of atoms to begin with - are pretty strong evidence in and of itself. There are also a number of formalized experiments which show, repeatedly and verifiably, that the laws of physics hold incredibly consistently to what is predicted by atomic theory.

    That's the main thing which separates science from faith - repeatability and verifiability. Everything written in the <Bible|Torah|Koran|etc.> is basically second-hand information where you have to take the word of the author for granted. Not only does one have to take it on faith that Moses saw God in the burning bush and that God handed Moses the tablets with the ten commandments on it, but we have to take it on faith that Moses even said that it happened!

    However, scientific experiments can be repeated, and can be verified by hundreds of unconnected sources. On a similar note, creationism requires faith, while evolution has actual evidence of having happened, and there is actual evidence that it continues to happen today! The only "evidence" that evolution cannot be real is statements made based on faith - "the devil put the fossils there," "the Earth is only 4000 years old," etc.
    --
    "Is not a quine" is not a quine.
    I have a master's degree in science!

    [ Hug Your Trikuare ]
    [ Parent ]

    Interesting writer (3.00 / 1) (#217)
    by nanook on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 06:21:46 PM EST

    Here.

    To most of you he is probably indiscernible from every other self styled "New Age"-prophet, but I think his writings are really profound. As a geek the simple and elegant world- and life-view is very appealing. I may be emotionally drawn to it (the potential "religion" that he is advocating), but I feel (=)) that I've been convinced on a more intellectual plane.

    It's really the most "rational" thing in the world wondering about life and percieving the world as something with laws as opposed to some arbitrary heap of undefined "matter" that is ruled by chance alone. It's also very comfortable emotionally to have a firm belief in eg an afterlife and some personal theory of cause and effect (why things happen in the first place, and what my actions may result in).


    --
    "I am a charlatan, a liar, a thief and a fake altogether." -- James Randi

    Art of Living (4.25 / 4) (#229)
    by Steeltoe on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 06:53:25 PM EST

    I have faith. Faith in humans and our potential. Faith that we are much more than flesh and bone. That ultimately, we're good beings. We always strive to be good, to feel good and keep going. It's part of our nature, no matter how screwed up and unbalanced we sometimes become. That we always return to our true nature.

    Also, I have wonder. I wonder what are we really, where are we going and why are we here? I keep that wonder in the unknown. I don't destroy it by saying I know what we are, I know where we are going and I know why we are here. I never stop wondering, even when someone explains something profound to me. I feel there's always a bigger truth out there waiting for me. That contradicting truths can coexist, because they are always relative.

    This and much more, I've learned by living, and joining Art of Living. It's not a religion. Like hinduism, it's a way of living. It's an international, non-profit, and religously- and politically neutral organisation working for making everybodys lives better. Check out the contact list and call the nearest office to get information wether there's a center in your city or nearby. If there is, consider yourself very blessed and go, go, go there as soon as you can! ;-)

    I highly recommend taking the Art of Living course. What you learn there, is practical. You can use it in everyday life. There's no dogma, judgement or arrogance. Everyone, of every religion and atheists are welcome. So don't discard this because you already practice a religion or don't believe in God/Goddess/Higher beings/whatever. You don't have to believe in anything, neither do you have to become a believer or change your beliefs.

    Practical techniques can really supplement your current religion. Many who have taken the course have said they now feel like better Christians, Muslims, Humanitarian, etc. Not only that, I guarantee you that if you keep doing them, your life will change. The techniques range from extremely powerful breathing-excercises (pranayamas), yoga (asanas) and meditation, plus lots of extras ;). It's an all-in-one-package that doesn't exclude you doing whatever other activities you want to do, but is powerful enough to stand alone if one so wishes. All of it is based on thousands of year-old knowledge and wisdom.

    Remember. You can read so many books about a subject, but to grok it you have to stand up and do it. So call up one of the centers near you. Write down the contact info or bookmark the page so you don't forget/ignore the whole thing. You'll be amazed that something like this really exists.

    A few years ago, a notice like this would not be recommended practice. If you feel like time is running short, don't hesitate in apathy anymore. Now it's time to act and start living what you preach or think. It's not a burden, it's joyful because you get so much energy from the excercises and socializing.

    Here is a summary on medical studies done on "Sudarsan Kriya", one of the breathing excercises you'll learn.

    A white paper on a medical study for curing depression

    A slideshow showing medical benefits of Sudarsan Kriya by Dr Kochupillai

    Slide 22 w/pictures, EEG-study showing difference between meditation subject and normal subject (yes, I do feel colourful looking at the left picture ;)

    An article about the founder, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

    Another article, this time about Art of Living

    Art of Living in the news

    I'd like to conclude that I'm not an official spokesperson for Art of Living. I do this on my own because I have hopes it will help YOU. This is how Art of Living works anyways, so I guess there's no problem.

    - Steeltoe
    Explore the Art of Living

    Religion and code (2.50 / 2) (#235)
    by seebs on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 07:07:30 PM EST

    In the intro to one of his books, Orson Scott Card said that once a fan at a convention told him that it was obvious from reading his books that Card is a Mormon. In many cases, people's religious beliefs may affect the way they write, the way they think, and the way they view the world.

    Does this affect code, too? For instance, compare Larry Wall's coding style to Richard Stallman's. Do the differences reflect the differences in their basic worldview?

    I've always wondered. I'm not sure how you'd test, or what you'd test for, but I think it would be very interesting to learn more about the connections (if there are any) between what kinds of beliefs about the world seem to make sense to you, and how you go about your work.


    What a great idea! (none / 0) (#283)
    by Pseudonym on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 10:18:05 PM EST

    That's a really interesting idea. Compare code written by, say, those who follow a mainstream religion (e.g. Don Knuth and Larry Wall) with code written by professed Atheists (e.g. RMS) and perhaps as another group consider those who are not mainstream religious but certainly acknowledge a "spiritual" component to their lives (e.g. ESR) and see.

    I doubt you'll find anything, but it'd be truly interesting anyway.



    sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
    [ Parent ]
    An interesting question (3.00 / 1) (#237)
    by seebs on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 07:12:44 PM EST

    As to the actual question of faith, I think it's important to realize that faith and rationality are not necessarily part of the same picture. I am, in many ways, a rational being. I am not a purely rational being; I have instincts, desires, and beliefs which do not correlate to anything I observe. I decided long ago that this is an acceptable state; indeed, since it can't be changed, I *must* accept it. With that framework in mind, I have approached the question of faith, not in terms of logical proof, but in terms of elegance, consistency, and beauty. I have found that, to my aesthetic sense, a world with purpose is superior to a world without purpose, and that a world in which morality transcends human activity is superior to one in which all truths are relative. I remain agnostic on many points of faith; God, as I believe in Him, is much, much, too big for me to comprehend. I don't pretend to know the extent of what is or is not right; I just do my best. I have found that a certain amount of abstraction helps. When the Bible says that God created Man in His image, I don't think of this as meaning that he's a biped who has to get up in the middle of the night to pee. At that point in the story, we know that God does two things: He creates things, and he sees that they are good. We, too, create things, and we, too, judge things. In this way, we are "like" God. Faith provides me with a good explanation for *why* I am offended by ugly code, and *why* I enjoy programming; I am acting as I was made to act.

    Re: An interesting question (5.00 / 1) (#257)
    by electroniceric on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 08:16:11 PM EST

    First off, some congratulations.This sentence:

    I have found that, to my aesthetic sense, a world with purpose is superior to a world without purpose, and that a world in which morality transcends human activity is superior to one in which all truths are relative.
    is an exceptionally well spoken description of faith.
    The point where I may part from you is that they are separate activites. There's only one person who thinks thoughts and holds faith - one brain, intimately intertwined with a body and a personality. Rationalist discourse is a powerful way to tell the story of what you see, but it is only one among many ways that people can think. Faith is about the places where we can't tell the whole story, but we need it to get to the ending.

    [ Parent ]
    Not separate entities, no... (none / 0) (#473)
    by seebs on Thu Aug 23, 2001 at 01:14:15 AM EST

    But separate modes of being, sometimes. I am not always quite the same; I experience life differently when programming than I do when out to dinner with old friends. I change states, and with change in state comes change in method and perception. Some problems require one strategy more than another. Faith tells me how I should live - a question I simply cannot answer rationally. I can beg the question all I want, I can postpone questions all I want, but even something as simple as "is it desirable for people to be happy" requires me to punt and pick axioms; I can't *prove* anything like that until I have axioms.

    On the other hand, I am not generally inclined to use faith to debug. I am firmly in the "three boats and a helicopter" school on such issues.


    [ Parent ]
    Re: Not separate entities, no... (none / 0) (#646)
    by electroniceric on Wed Sep 12, 2001 at 04:43:12 PM EST

    Again, very wisely put.

    You're right, a person certainly is different ways at different times.

    Two ideas to ponder.

    1) If you inhabit a certain way of thinking a lot, the world starts to collapse into that perspective. To stay balanced means you have to keep these different views alive.

    2) I believe very interesting synthesis can be had by approaching a problem you normally use one view for (programming to use your examples, or science) from one of your other perspectives. It's often uncharted territory, where you don't have personal experience or the help of others' experience to guide you, but I believe (out of faith, not of particularly stunning successes), that you can find interesting insights there.



    [ Parent ]
    an interesting read (3.00 / 1) (#240)
    by gideong on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 07:23:58 PM EST

    Let me preface this with the statement, I am not a Buddhist. I would call myself a hyper-rationalist. I would like to recommend a book to those of you who feel spiritual needs. The book is called, Buddhism Without Beliefs, written by Stephen Batchelor. Here'e Amazon's take on it. Amazon.com As in all the major religions, there is a wisdom behind the theology of Buddhism that informs the believer in daily life. Stephen Batchelor would argue that the difference with Buddhism is that the wisdom is in fact independent of the theology and is not informative to believers only, but to everyone. In Buddhism Without Beliefs Batchelor lays out the major tenets of Buddhist wisdom, commenting on their relevance to modern life. The Buddha said that seekers must find the Truth for themselves, and Batchelor offers this book as a roadmap. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition. Book Description Those with an interest in Buddhism will welcome this new book by Stephen Batchelor, former monk and author of Alone With Others and The Awakening of the West. But those who are just discovering this increasingly popular practice will have much to gain as well-for Buddhism Without Beliefs serves as a solid, straightforward introduction that demystifies Buddhism and explains simply and plainly how its practice can enrich our lives. Avoiding jargon and theory, Batchelor concentrates on the... read more I have read this book and found it interesting and coherent. It makes a good argument that Buddhism is available to those of us who lack faith (I am rather proud of my lacking). Some of the people I have talked to about this book found it a little too existentialist (I think if existentialism bothers you though, you probably have some faith). Anyway, just my small contribution (I hope?) to the discussion.
    "I can do it too." -Gideon
    Religion is a way to share difficult ideas (3.50 / 4) (#243)
    by cnicolai on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 07:31:06 PM EST

    There is more to the world than what science has described. There is more than what language can straightforwardly describe. Religions use metaphores and personal challenges to hint at the rest.

    What is a soul? What is a hurricane? Forget the precise mechanics; we can still tell stories about how they act.

    Nine out of ten enlightened masters have found that daily prayer or reflection increases happiness and understanding. Will it take a peer-reviewed study for you to accept their advice?

    For me to benefit from "supernatural" ideas, I need to connect them to something real...even something inexact. I tried [angel == djinn == memeplex] and reinterpreted the story of Muhammad wrestling with the angel. Then I thought about what doesn't fit and improved my personal translation, until ordinary words couldn't hold it--now I'm back talking about angels. Intelligent people used these words to describe true experiences. Until you can connect a word with the truth of your experience, you misunderstand it.

    If it helps, think less about God and more about Good. (e.g. the 99 Names) Read a story and see how its characters worked for the Good. How would you in their situation? WWJD? Can you see Solomon's transgressions, and the way he was punished? Have you experienced karmic rewards? Scriptural authors used fiction to teach about actual reactions and attitudes. Until you can connect a story with a lesson, you miss the point.

    The conflict between strong atheists and xtian fundamentalists is so sad -- both sides think the Bible is supposed to be literal truth.

    interesting article indeed! (4.50 / 4) (#250)
    by taruntius on Tue Aug 21, 2001 at 07:55:00 PM EST

    As so many people have posted, this was indeed an interesting article. It had never occurred to me to propose a "faith efficiency" fitness test to religions. It's a neat idea. But beyond that, you wrote this, which I have to disagree with:

    This of course creates something of a problem: Hyper-rationals have the same spiritual needs as anyone else; they need, in their hearts, to know that they are cherished, precious, and unique. They need to know that what they do with their life matters. They need to hold a moral and ethical code and better themselves though striving to remain true to it. In other words, they need religion, just like everyone else.

    It's not the substance of the paragraph I disagree with, but the conclusion. Let's take the points one by one. You can know you're cherished, precious, and unique without religion: get a girlfriend/boyfriend. But seriously, that's nothing more than the (more or less universal) desire to be loved. Presumably most people get some of this from their parents, and more of it later on from their significant other.

    Worried about whether what you do in your life matters? This is another more or less universal desire for validation. But again, you don't need religion for this. You just need to a) actually try to do something with your life, and then from time to time step back to look at what you've achieved. Look at the lives you've touched. Think about how what you've done with your life has affected--for better or for worse--the world. This should be an easy one for a hyper-rational person to do on their own.

    Moral and ethical code: again, you don't need a religion for this. Religion is not the source of all morality or ethics; plenty of non-religious people have pretty strong ideas about what is right and wrong, and how an ethical person should conduct one's self. If you think hard about your own moral an ethical beliefs, and if you are indeed a hyper-rational person, you can probably trace your beliefs back to one or two fundamental axioms which support those beliefs. For me, my morality and ethics works out to be derivable from: "it is fundamentally good to treat others in ways that i would appreciate being treated." Or equivalently, "a society that maximizes happiness for all can be achieved by everyone being nice to one another." With a little work, you should be able to reduce your moral system to a faith-efficient set of axioms.

    So I agree that those are all things people need in order to be happy about life. I just don't agree that you need religion in order to get them. The addictive property of religion (particularly Christianity, or at least many forms of Christianity) is that it can promise you all three of those things without you really having to work very hard at them:

    • You get to feel cherished, precious, and unique because wow, God himself created you. How special is that!
    • You get to feel that a life lived according to the religion's rules is validated and useful because, so sayeth the holy book, doing so will get you into heaven. Eternal paradise is some pretty serious validation!
    • And religion gives you a ready-made moral and ethical code to live by, that you don't even have to think about.

    What Christianity tell you is this: just follow these here rules, and Jesus will love you and you'll get into heaven. What religion provides is a thought-efficient system for getting those basic psychological needs met, not a faith-efficient system.




    --Believing I had supernatural powers I slammed into a brick wall.