An open question to all believers

I ask this question in all sincerity, because I do actually want to understand each differing view point.

This post is not the place to attack or be derogatory towards any other belief system. I welcome all legitimate questions, but any attacks (at least in this post) will be censored.

—–

We can all agree that not everybody’s beliefs are compatible with everybody else’s beliefs.
For example, a young earth creationist who believes that the earth is between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago can not possibly be correct if scientology (which believes that the earth was populated by zenu some 75 million years ago. And both of these are incompatible with other creation myths, such as the mayan belief that the world is “wiped clean” every 25,000 years or so and starts over anew.

So they can not ALL be correct; in some (not all, but some) cases for one belief to be correct, some number of other beliefs must by definition be incorrect.

—–

Even among various groups that believe in the “same god” there are some massive divisions (sunnis and shi’ites, catholics vs protestants, etc…). Even among groups that have the same set of core beliefs (mohamed was a divine prophet and was given the word of allah which became the koran, jesus was the son of god and a virgin roughly 2000 years ago and died to save humanity from sin, etc) there are intense, even violent conflicts over who’s interpretation of the core belief is the correct one.

So even if one believe in the “correct” god, it’s quite possible to believe in the “wrong” way.

—–

A number of these belief systems have at their core a “holy book” (torah, bible, koran, book of mormon, dianetics, egyptian book of the dead, etc). In many cases these books disagree with each other (as stated above the creation myth varies from religion to religion). These books can not ALL be the works of one single “god” (unless of course “god” is playing a practical joke on humanity).

A second point to make with the “scriptures” is that these seemingly contradict each themselves. Since I am most familiar with the “christian god” and the bible, I will use this as my example, but from my various readings there are similar inconsistencies in many of the other major “holy books”. In the old testament “god” is a very “hands-on” type of deity. At various times “he” causes plagues, floods, and turns entire cities into salt. “He” tells one leader of his “chosen people” to encircle a town for a number of days and then to proceed into this town to kill every “man and woman, infant and suckling”. In the new testament jesus, who is god, tells his followers to “thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself”. Most christians will tell you that when jesus came to cleanse man from our sins that a new set of rules applied which superseded the old rules.

The third point about the holy books that I would like to point out is that even if one assumes that the original text was written by, or inspired by “god”, many of these texts have been translated and retranslated countless times over the centuries.A simple example is that when comparing the scrolls from Nag Hammadi, which are among the oldest surviving copies of the old testament, to a current copy of the bible, scholars are finding many passages which differ, and in some cases the meaning of many passages has been completely changed.

So with the number of “holy books” throughout history that contradict each other, other copies of themselves and even other passages in their own pages, to be certain that you have the “correct” book, and the “correct” translation is no easy feat.

—–

When you put all of these together, this to me becomes very reminiscent of the Drake Equation, which is used to determine the likelihood of life in the universe.

R
is the average rate of star formation in our galaxy
f
p is the fraction of those stars that have planets
n
e is the average number of planets that can potentially support life per star that has planets
f
is the fraction of the above that actually go on to develop life at some point
f
i is the fraction of the above that actually go on to develop intelligent life
f
c is the fraction of civilizations that develop a technology that releases detectable signs of their existence into space
L
is the length of time such civilizations release detectable signals into space.

The “belief” equivalent would be something along the lines of:
Chance of a person’s belief being the “correct one” = (1 ÷ (number of potential gods * number of potential holy books * number of potential translation of that holy book * number of potential interpretations of that translation)) * likelihood that god exists vs does not exist

—–

So my question to all true believers is this:

How certain are you that your version of the “truth” (truth of god, religion, the world, the universe, etc) is the correct one, and more importantly, how do you know what that “truth” is?

Update 3/28/2008:
For those just coming to the discussion, I suggest reading the first reply (my own answer to this question), and a reply that is in all bold around the 200 post mark (a good summary of the discussion up through that point) to get a brief intro to what we have discussed here so far. For those interested in an even more in depth idea, check out the many posts between “mootpoints” (just search for moot) and myself since January, as we’ve run the gambit of anything and everything you can imagine on the idea of god, religion, morality, science, history, spiritualism, etc…

And welcome to the discussion. 

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About Rodibidably

Jeff Randall is a frequent volunteer for free-thought organizations, including the Center For Inquiry – DC. Having been blogging since January 2008, he decided that a community of bloggers would be an interesting new experience (or at the very least a fun way to annoy his friends into reading his posts more frequently). Since finding out about about the existence of, and then joining, the atheist/skeptic community in 2007 he has been committed to community activism, critical thinking in all aspects of life, science, reason, and a fostering a secular society.
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640 Responses to An open question to all believers

  1. Rodibidably says:

    I will post my own personal reply first to start things off (part of this is taken from my reply to a post on another blog):

    I’m guessing that most people who reply here will be a christian, but I could be wrong. But for the sake of argument, let’s picture a typical United States fundamentalist christian, one of the 80 million (give or take) that does not believe in evolution, and does believe that the earth is, roughly, 6500 years old.

    They are absolutely convinced that buddist, hindus, muslims, scientologist, catholics, etc are all wrong. No “maybes”. Just wrong.
    They are also convinced that THEY are 100% correct.

    They believe that man walked with dinosaurs, that noah floated around the globe for 40 days with millions of animals sharing the boat, and some woman roughly 2000 years ago never had sex, but gave birth to a deity.

    They “know” these things as strongly as you or I “know” that tomorrow morning the sun WILL rise in the east and tomorrow evening it will set in the west. There is no doubt in their minds that they are wrong, just as there is no doubt in my mind (and I assume yours) that the sun will in fact be in the sky tomorrow throughout the day (and yes, I know it could be cloudy where ever you are at, but just because a cloud stops you from seeing the sun, does not mean that it is not there).

    In reality though there is a ridiculously small chance that the sun will not in fact rise tomorrow.
    There is the chance that tonight while I sleep a meteor could crash into the earth stopping its rotation on its axis. If this happened, the “other” side of the earth would be in constant day time, and “this” side would be in constant night.
    There is a chance that scientists have miscalculated the amount of nuclear fuel in the sun, and it could finish expending the last of its energy some time tonight. Once this happens, the nuclear reaction in its core will stop, it will cease to make any more light, and 8 minutes later the earth will get the last bit of sunlight ever.
    I’m sure if I wanted to spend more time, I could come up with a few other “examples” to show that the sun might not rise tomorrow, but you get the idea (I hope).

    Admittedly, the chances of these scenarios happening are infinitesimally small, but they do exist. There is no possible reason to expect them, to plan for them (at least not for another 5 billions years for the “running out of fuel” one), or to even take them seriously, even though they COULD happen.

    From the perspective of an atheist (or at least in my perspective and that of many other atheists I know, I won’t presume to speak for all atheists), the possibility that god exists, is so remote as to be completely irrelevant in daily life, and can therefore be treated as if it is a 0% chance.

    So in short, my answer to this question would be that my certainty is 99.999% (or more) and how I know is based on empirical data (or lack there of). I look around the world and the universe, and I am in awe of all that is there, but I see no evidence of a “god” or “designer”. I see the end results of 14 billion years of natural processes which while not all fully understood (yet) can all be explained by natural means.

  2. Jason says:

    Maybe the question is not “how do I determine what is truth” but how do I know the one who is truth . . .

  3. Rodibidably says:

    Jason,

    However you choose to rephrase the question, the end result is the same; HOW does a believer KNOW that their beliefs are in fact “true”?

    In general a “true believer” of any almost faith is 100% certain that their version of “god” of “faith” or “religion” is correct, and that all other versions are false. What I am interested in, is HOW does somebody “know” this with such certainty.

    And your answer to this question would be???

  4. mootpoints says:

    Let me start off by saying I vehemently do not buy into the assertion that a “blind leap” of faith is required to believe in God. I strongly disagree with the idea that we have to suspend our reason and rational in order to know God exists.

    However God doesn’t provide evidence so incontrovertible that people can’t ignore it. If God wants willing followers he must walk a fine line in providing evidence. If God were to reveal himself as to remove the potential for all doubt we would be compelled beyond our control to believe. I think it says a lot for God that he doesn’t force anyone to believe.

    That being said I also believe that I don’t understand God. This is an important one for me. I admit that many times I’m as skeptical and confused about God and the bible as anyone. But, at the end of the day, I still believe. I think that belief and doubt can co-exist in the life of a Christian.

    Let me talk about this philosophically for a moment.

    Belief is something that we all experience. We all have a process for developing the truth of something. The concept of “belief” should be no different when applied to a murder trial than it is when applied to God.

    The process for determining truth in a court room is imperfect but it provides a good model for understanding belief.

    A court system requires that a prosecutor or defense attorney present a case that convinces 12 people of different culture, gender and ethnicity to agree. A tall task my any standard yet it’s accomplished on a daily basis. We know that the burden of proof lies upon the one making the assertion (in court, the plaintiff) And the standard they must reach is “reasonable doubt”.

    Somehow this burden of proof is met often with little or no “hard” evidence but with “circumstantial” evidence. In other words, a prosecutor doesn’t have to produce a bloody knife or eye-witness but simply has to prove motive and opportunity.

    Now I believe there is “hard” evidence for God. Not that this proves anything but I have a hard time imagining that a person without preconception would walk through a beautiful forest and say, “Wow I’m so amazed that there is no God.” I, as our hypothetical juror, see creation and conclude it was designed. Or I see archaeological evidence supporting claims of scripture and conclude that it is likely a true account. I might see God where others assumed coincidence. So I think there is a wealth of “hard” evidence more than enough to assume that God exists.

    However it even goes beyond that. When we argue we prove that we believe in some larger moral standard upon which we agree. While there are differences they are fairly insubstantial, even for different countries and races. No country admires a man who runs away in battle or who double crosses those who are kind to him. Where does a universal moral standard come from? (By the way, I stole a lot of the above thought from C.S. Lewis)

    There’s other “circumstantial” evidence as well but the real question is do we actually examine these evidences without prejudice (from either side). Isn’t it more true that we’ve decided that then we bring our biases to bear on the facts?

    While I understand there are a lot of good reasons to not believe in God, at the end of the day there are more good reason to believe than to not.

  5. Rodibidably says:

    moot,

    First of all, if you’re going to use a court trial as a parallel to belief in god, you should be willing to admit the possibility that sometimes guilty people go free and innocent people are convicted.
    Which when this logic is passed on to belief in god, means that there is some likelihood that “your jury” made the wrong call and you could choose to believe in the “wrong god”. Or you could believe in god when none exists.

    The more pressing issue you raise though is that by your description, you make it seem that ANY “god” could be the correct one, as long as there is some god. Since “he” does not make it obvious, how do you know that “your god” is correct, and not allah, or krishna, or zeus, etc…?

    How is it that you came to believe in the one that you do (christian god I am guessing) above all of the other possible “gods”? As I read your post, you make the case that “a god” must exist, but you don’t seem to touch on the subject of why “your god” is the “right” one.

    While I disagree with your conclusions you draw from the “evidence”, I actually do understand the desire to believe in something “bigger”, some meaning for everything, something “higher” than this life.

    But I am less interested in how people come to their conclusions; I am much more interested in how people seemingly “know” that their conclusions are the “correct ones”.

    How does a person have such certainty in their belief that “their god” is the “correct god”?

    • j smith says:

      you write:
      ‘But I am less interested in how people come to their conclusions; I am much more interested in how people seemingly “know” that their conclusions are the “correct ones”.’
      but without evidence, you do the same thing as the other side. you’re both the same to me. the difference is that they sound ignorant and self righteous, and you sound … well i guess there’s no difference.

      • Jeff Randall says:

        Well one difference is that I acknowledge that my views could be wrong, and I am open to changing my views based on new evidence… This is one of the principals of the scientific method, upon which “skepticism” is founded…

        If somebody believes that an all power deity spoke to them, or wrote a specific book with rules, they are MUCH less willing to change their opinions as new evidence comes to light.


        I am also curious what conclusions you believe I have come to without evidence.

  6. brotherhank says:

    Rod-

    You bring up an interesting question (Although much of the rest of your post was merely opinion and conjecture that was unsubstantiated at best, and fallacious at worst). But its hard to take this question seriously when you are comparing Ron Hubbard’s science fiction to some of the world’s leading religions.

    But besides that, to answer your question:
    How certain are you that your version of the “truth” (truth of god, religion, the world, the universe, etc) is the correct one, and more importantly, how do you know what that “truth” is?

    Let me begin by stating something that may not be as obvious as it should be (seeings as we are now wallowing in the rotten fruit of postmodernism) — Your belief does not create truth, it merely acknowledges and leans upon it. Therefore, there are no “versions” of truth, only belief or disbelief of it.

    That being the case, the certainty our belief does not lie in our intellectual prowess or rhetorical defense of that truth, rather it resides in the object of truth itself. If that which we believe is really “true”, then no amount of debate can change that fact. Our response may change in relation to that truth, but the truth itself does not cease being true.

    Because of this, I can say with all that is ‘certain’ in the world that I have found that “truth”. But unlike any other philosophical system of thought or religion, my truth is not a “what”, but a “who”. That is why when Jesus Christ said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” he effectively put an end to all searches for the truth, for he himself was Truth incarnate.

    As I mentioned above, my certainty lies not in the fact that Christ has given us more proof of this truth than any other worldview (although he has), but that he is fact “the Truth” himself. That is why it is so easy for me to say that those who do not ‘know’ Christ, do not ‘know’ the truth either – for they are one and the same.

  7. alabaxterblog says:

    I am wondering why no one has mentioned that knowing Jesus is so real, so wonderful, so unimaginably awesome that it just doesn’t matter what others say.
    I searched for years. Through many of the same other religions you mention.
    Then I was found. My life changed dramatically and powerfully over night (no joke). Where I was 4 years I was addicted to opiates, I was no longer. I once smoked 2 -3 packs a day, no longer. The pint of Beam I drank every day, disappeared too. My obscene mouth was cleansed. And on and on. Without effort, without intervention by any human. God spoke to me and I knew it was GOD. It was almost 2 weeks before anyone could define my experience for me as I didn’t speak “Christian”. That was 37 years ago.
    The major difference between knowing Jesus and other religions is one is religion – and the other is relationship. Jesus talks to me. I talk to Him. He anticipates my needs before I can ask. I have seen tons of actual physical miracles.
    I’m no philosopher.
    But I know Jesus. And I love Him with all my heart.
    PS I am a degreed professional, a wife, a mom, and an ordained minister who ministers out of the box.

  8. Rodibidably says:

    Hank,

    You consider scientology to be science fiction, but a large number of people believe in it as strongly as you believe in your faith. I attempted to give due respect to all faiths.

    Also, you claim that my post was mostly opinion and false, yet give no example of where I was wrong. I mentioned a few of the main beleifs of some various world religions throughout history (creation myths mostly) to show that they are in some cases incompatible with each other.

    Your other comments are that you believe BECAUSE it is true, but you never state HOW you know this to be. Your start with the assumption that jesus is god, and you choose to believe this on faith.

    You claim that I say belief creates true, which is not at all what I said. What I said is that not all beliefs can be true, since some of them directly oppose others. What I asked is how is it that you believe you “know” what the “truth” is. You never actually answered this.

  9. Rodibidably says:

    ala,

    Unlike all of the others who have so far posted, you actually do attempt to answer the question that was asked. You believe because your life has changed since you began to believe.

    My question for you is:
    You say that jesus is the “true” god, and you know this because of how your life has changed since “god spoke to you”, yet many followers of allah or scientology or later day saints or (insert religion of your choice here) have had similar experiences. They feel that their life changed when they “found god”. Is their experience somehow less than yours, since according to your beliefs, the “god” they found is not the “true god”?

  10. Brad Raburn says:

    Rodibidably,

    I work as a youth minister at a protestant non-denominational church in Tempe, AZ. From where I stand everyone could get into a debate about what religion is the right, true, and viably correct but this will be a waste of time. Every religion has its scholars and can prove that it is correct, but when it comes down to it begins and ends with faith.

    However, I will answer some of your other inquiries, but understand that I will answer from my own personal convictions and from verses in the Bible. In doing so, I will begin with your second inquiry about “scriptures”.

    I know that there are many books that have been called “Holy” and “Divinely” written, however Christianity boasts the incomprehensible claim of salvation by grace through the sacrifice of God himself. To my knowledge, no other religion boasts this. Every other religion (including Judaism) is a salvation of works.
    In saying this I must point out that what people see in the Old Testament is only a God of vengeance; “A mean kid with a magnifying glass” to loosely quote from the movie Bruce Almighty. Where people don’t start is from Genesis chapter 3 and then 7 where the first sin and the flood is accounted for. Here we see a God interacting with man (the only species on earth with active thought) and they do the one thing God instructs them not to do. From this anyone can look around the world and see that humans are not acting graciously towards one another. By the time that it reached Noah’s lifetime, this sin had consumed everyone. In God’s eyes his design was broken. So here comes Noah, the Ark, and the Flood. Follow that pattern through history and God continually chooses individuals to be his chosen people and follow his original design. But additionally he was not fearful of wiping out sinful tribes to make way for his chosen tribe. Ultimately what happens, even that tribe forgets God, and then is exiled. This God presented 10 commandments to a tribe, later called the Jews, and they failed to follow the rules. They became self-centered, greedy, and murderous (not too much different than today).

    So if faith was not a factor in believing that the biblical account was somewhat accurate in the Old Testament, then faith has to be a factor in the New Testament. The New Testament begins with God coming down to earth in the form of a man (John 1:1-14). He was called Jesus, he lived a life dedicated to God, taught others, then died sinless as a wrongly convicted law breaker, and then rose again on the third day to later ascend to heaven.
    But let’s say someone accepts that there is a God, who holds everything together (this is something that scientist can’t explain). Let’s say that there is a true religion, why would you accept laws as the way to live your life? Jews, Muslims, Mormons, Taoism, etc. all have rules to live by.

    Following Christ is not about rules, but about conviction. If you believe that God, a divine being, cared enough about this creation to come live as one of us, die as one of us, and to share eternity with those that follow him; then be set free. Jesus gave two guidelines that can be summed up in one statement about holy living, it’s not about you (Matthew 22:36-40). This can only become reality when you believe in something greater than your-self is watching over you and you want to share that with others.

    Maybe this was not the answer that you were looking for but even the writers in the Bible point out that, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

    May God my Father bless you in your search.

  11. srcgchs says:

    Great question, and thoughtful discussion. Here’s my contribution: There is a One-ness to the entire Universe. Humans struggle to grasp the significance of that Unity, and in so doing each attempts to clarify her/his belief system through vocabulary, ritual, music, prayer, scripture, conversation.

    None of these trditions is “right” nor is any the whole and sole truth. All of them, however, speak to that Truth. We do the best we can, and we benefit most, I believe, when we can welcome the wisdom and insight of “the other”, whoever that may be.

    It would probably be useful if humans could adopt a “sit-lightly” attitude to all of our traditions; after all, if horses had gods, they would look a lot like horses.

    Humility, in nearly every religious tradition, is the basis for wisdom.

  12. mykeangelo says:

    No religion is the absolute truth or untruth.

    There are scriptures and holy texts that are made to guide our morality. And no matter how complicated or simple they are they lead to the same thing: Lead a life of good. Be good to your fellow human being, etc.

    I remember reading about a man who had sought after a Buddhist wanting to convert but the Buddhist told him “No, stay with your religion now. They are all the same. They all teach us to be better human beings.”

    Religion is people united and organized under the same belief. If they disagree with the current teachings they span out or seek another teacher or create a new ideal. But for the most part, the intentions are always to be better human beings.

    When it comes to knowing religion it comes down to a matter of upbringing, culture or later on preference.

    This funny video comes to mind:

    All in all, religion is a matter faith. You believe without questioning. Or you question, but you find the answers within yourself.

    ——————————————

    I also explored the teachings of Sai Baba. It was of universal religion. They taught that all religions are right and none wrong. There is one God. He has many names and people have different ways of worshipping him. — I remember in one service I attended, Indian mantra’s were chanted and then a song about Jesus was sung next.

  13. Rodibidably says:

    Brad,

    You state that the debate over WHICH faith is “correct” is a waste of time. While I whole heartedly wish I could agree with you, the violence that is rampant throughout history suggests otherwise.
    How many countless african people were enslaved by white colonialist in the history of the United States. As George Carlin points out, one of the ultimate hypocrisies of all time is that the US is a country founded by slave owners who wanted to be free.
    How many countless people were killed during the inquisition and the crusades by order of the catholic church?
    How many people have died in Israel and Palestine over the last 60 some odd years?
    How many people died in the attacks of 9/11 and other terrorist attacks in the last 20 years?

    The subject of religion and faith is not only an important subject to talk about, it may be THE MOST important subject to discuss, since the consequences for not discussing it and finding some common ground could, and almost certainly will, lead to millions more deaths in the “name of god”.

    You quote the bible as part of a rationalization that your faith is the “true” faith. But when a scientologist quotes dianetics or a muslim quotes the Koran are you “sold” on it’s words? I could quote a few lines from the script to star wars; that does not mean that anybody should live their life by those words (granted some people actually study the “religion of jedi”).

    Your main claim seems to be that since christianity (or at least your version of it, since there are many) offers salvation by grave and other religion force you to live by rules (or works), Christianity is somehow “better”. So by this logic, when christians say that to be homosexual is a sin they are mistaken. As I understand your point, “even gay people” are saved by the “sacrifice of God himself”.
    The same would be true of child molesters, murders, members of the current executive branch of the US government, and people of any and all religion. If you don’t have to do anything to be saved, then everybody is saved, including atheists, Hitler, Stalin, and mother Theresa.

    The easiest way I can ask about your next point is in the form of a question.
    As a rational human being, would you allow a known pedophile to be alone with your son or daughter?
    As a rational diety, why would “god” allow humans, who are “self-centered, greedy, and murderous” a choice to not eat from the tree, when he knew (at least according to the christian faith, god is all knowing) that they would fail the test?

    Yes, yes, I know your answer already; “he” gave us free will. But if I know in advance that somebody is going to commit murder, and I do nothing to stop them, I am as guilty of that crime as they are. If “god” knows that people were going to rape, enslave, and kill each other then either “his” morals do not match our own, or “he” is sadistic.

    You finish off your comments by going back to the idea that christianity is “correct” because it is not based on rules, and that science can’t explain some things, so “god must exist”. This is the “god of the gaps” logic, which means that as science explains more and more, “god’s place” in the universe becomes smaller and smaller. I’m not sure most “christians” would accept this version of a shrinking god.

    I do greatly appreciate your feedback (and the feedback of all who have posted), I just think that you have not really understood my question, or have chosen to ignored it and answer other related questions. While I feel that ALL questions about faith and religion are good (I’m a fan of avoiding global genocide) I have not really gotten an answer to my question yet.

  14. Rodibidably says:

    srcghs,

    I must say, from somebody whose avatar is a picture of a nun that is not the response I would have expected.
    I do actually like your ideas, and at one point in my life I actually believed something very similar.

    While I personally consider myself an atheist, your outlook on faith, god, and religion is one that I can completely respect, even without agreeing. I wish more people had your outlook on faith, I believe the world would be a better and much safer place to raise children, knowing that others would not be willing to die in the “name of god”.

  15. Rodibidably says:

    myke,

    I appreciate your view as well, however I have one problem with your idea that “scripture” is made to “guide our morality”.
    In the bible, torah, koran, and many other “holy books”, there are teachings that are against everything we as a society believe is moral and “right”. Numerous passages in the bible “teach” people how to treat their slaves, and how to act as a good slave. If morality was the primary focus one would think there would be a simple statement along the lines of “though shall not kill” that would state something like “hey dumbasses, don’t enslave people, it’s the worst thing humanity can possible do to one another”. Perhaps throw the words “though shall not” to make it a tad holier, but the basic point should be made, “slavery = bad”.

    The rest of your points are similar in nature to those of srcghs, and while I don’t share your beliefs, I do respect them greatly. I wish there were many more people like the two of you, and less who were willing to lay down their life in defense of “their faith”.

    P.S. Kudos on the video link 🙂

  16. Evangelist says:

    Questions like these will no longer exist because Islam is growing at such an exponential rate that your children and their children and so on…will one day all be Moslem.

    Can you believe them Moslems say this is God’s way of showing the truth?

    How many of us would agree to that!?!

  17. Rodibidably says:

    evangelist,

    I’m not sure how muslims trying to convert people to islam is any different than evangelical christians trying to convert people to christianity. And, at least so far, muslims have not started killing untold tens of thousands (hundreds of thousands, millions?) for not converting to the “true” faith.

  18. aboulet says:

    Hey man,

    Thanks for the invite to post.

    First thing, before responding to your excellent and honest question, is that the documents found at Nag Hammadi were not Jewish documents, but Gnostic writings (here is an index of what was found). I believe you are thinking of the Dead Sea Scrolls. In that case, you would be correct in writing that these are among the earliest texts of the OT that we have access to (it’s also worth noting that the text type used at the Dead Sea validates the later dating texts of the OT…Jewish scribes, unlike their later Christian counterparts, were extremely careful in copying their Scriptures).

    Now to your question. You asked, “How certain are you that your version of the “truth” (truth of god, religion, the world, the universe, etc) is the correct one, and more importantly, how do you know what that “truth” is?

    I would say that I am extremely certain that the Christian Scriptures (the Hebrew Scriptures plus the New Testament) are true in what they claim as truth.

    The italicized statement is what is very important. Some Christians over step the bounds of what Scripture claims as truth and use to on subjects to which Scripture is not seeking to make claims upon. For instance, the creation narrative is written in the same form as other ancient Near Eastern creation narratives. Its purpose is to present a monotheistic creation narrative that focuses on the God of Israel. It is not written to refute Darwin nor to give us the age of the earth. When Christians read the creation narrative in those ways, they actually seek to apply Scripture in areas to which it should not be applied.

    That is an important distinction to make when we talk about truth and how truth is conveyed through Scripture.

    I put my faith in Scripture not because I was taught it and accepted it by blind faith. Rather, I was an agnostic for 20 years of my life before I came to believe in Scripture and believe in Scripture today because of the truth that is revealed to us through its words. There is enough verifiable truth in Scripture for me to believe in the supernatural aspect of Scripture, for which there is no corresponding way to validate.

    To be honest, it all came down to the Resurrection of Christ for me. I cannot understand how Christianity ever grew to become what it became unless the Resurrection of Christ was true. Because I believe in the Resurrected Christ, I believe in Scripture.

    The best book I can recommend on the subject is The Resurrection of the Son of God by N.T. Wright, who is the current Bishop of Durham. This is the book that brought the famous novelist Anne Rice back to her faith.

  19. Rodibidably says:

    aboulet,

    You are correct; I did switch the Nag Hammadi and Dead Sea Scrolls in my post. Just goes to show I should read over my posts one last time before hitting “post”.
    My point about the mistranslations over time still stands, but I most certainly thank you for your correction.

    As for your take on creation, I have heard this view many times, and I think it is the only intellectually honest way to look at this subject. Even the last pope said that Genesis does not exclude evolution by “Darwinian means”, and one would assume he has spent a good amount of time studying the bible.

    My only issue with this view of the bible (or this type of view of any “holy book”) is that it leaves it up to the reader to “know” which parts are to be taken as fact, and which parts are to be taken as allegory. If the bible is the “word of god” then I, and I assume others, would expect a bit more consistency. In some cases “god” states what he means, “though shall not kill” is fairly self explanatory, while other times “he” says things which are not be scientifically possible, the globe being covered in water in 40 days.
    How is somebody to know which to take as a story, and which to take as fact?

    I do have one last question for you if you don’t mind. You state that you “cannot understand how Christianity ever grew to become what it became unless the Resurrection of Christ was true”. Perhaps I am misreading your statement, but I take this to mean that because christianity is a large religion with a lot of followers, you think it must be based on something valid. Islam and Hinduism both have well over 1 billion followers each, so your logic would tend to lead towards them ALSO being “true” despite many major incompatibilities (such as the Koran stating that jesus did NOT die on the cross).

  20. Rodibidably,

    Good question. Because it is all the way at the top, I’m going to quote it here and try to give my answer.

    How certain are you that your version of the “truth” (truth of god, religion, the world, the universe, etc) is the correct one, and more importantly, how do you know what that “truth” is?

    I am quite certain that my faith is true. The main points of Christianity are absolutely sure, and on some of the secondary questions about Scripture, I do admit I am less certain (baptizing babies vs. believing adults, for instance).

    Now the real question is how I know I’m right and everyone else is wrong. And that is a fair question.

    Let me start at the beginning here. And I think the content of the world-view truth claim that one holds to will affect this question. So since I hold to a Christian world-view, let me address it from within my perspective.

    If God created the world (and by the way, I admit with aboulet above that the creation account allows a more literary interpretation. I just still think Scripture ultimately claims that God made the world), then he is infinitely above it. Such a God would not have to interact with his creatures, he could merely function as the Divine watchmaker, if you will. And if we grant such a global God exists (again the question of evolution or direct creation doesn’t matter here), it seems to me that we are dependent on him to reveal truth about himself to us.

    The Bible claims to be such a revelation from God. It claims to be the final word on truth, at least when it comes to God.

    We are left as individuals to follow our minds and consciences as we may. As you indicate there are competing truth claims. So we can compare them. If you do compare them, you find many things which sets Christianity apart. The Book of Mormon, for instance, makes great assertions about people who lived in the Western Hemisphere for which there is no archaeological attestation. The Bible, again and again, has stood the test of archaeological and historical scrutiny. The Bible may have some apparent contradictions, but overall it is remarkably harmonious in its message. There are answers, and part of the answer is in understanding the storyline of the Bible. Some of the texts you mention, like the Buddhist and hindu texts, do not really claim to be the word of God. Rather they seem to be a collection of religious poetry. They don’t present as unified of a philosophical framework as the Bible.

    The Bible’s message harmonizes with the universal tendency to believe in God, a remarkable worldwide tradition of an ancient flood story, it harmonizes with the incredible complexity of nature which seems to demand an intelligent Designer. An absolute truths, a moral standard, is a universal given, and that jives with Scripture. The improbable rise of Christianity, too supports the Bible’s claims to exclusivity.

    But ultimately it is Jesus Christ and his message of grace which is so radically different than other messages. And his resurrection vindicates His message. The miracles recorded in Scripture were given to convince the people then and there of the truth of his story. And they are recorded for our benefit. And if you read the saints, or read about how the gospel is being spread in the far corners of the world even today, miracles continually affirm the message of the Gospel.

    Christianity will stand up to intellectual scrutiny. And while some may not explain our beliefs well, it does not depend on a bunch of ignoramuses for its continued existence. The story of Christianity best explains and answers the many questions of life. And the invitation is open to all to come and believe, and be given a wonderful abundant life of joy.

    Thanks for the invite to post. I hope this helps.

    Bob Hayton

  21. I just saw your reply to aboulet. Let me respond to your last question to him, since I make a similar claim above.

    Islam’s first 100 years are a story of conquest. Mohammed and his followers conquered, and eventually they conquered most of the known world. Christianity’s first 200 years were a story of constant persecution. Rome did all it could to stamp out Christianity in a succession of 10 different global “crusades” if you will, against Christians. They were hounded, tortured, killed, and Scriptures were destroyed. That is not the best background from which to see growth.

    Hinduism is largely an ethnic religion, yet Christianity has ever been a multi-ethnic phenomenon. India is largely Hindu, and its population alone is 1 billion. Christianity is worldwide in multiple cultures and languages. And I’m not even counting Catholicism.

    Sure, you can’t count noses and thereby determine truth. But at the very start of Christianity the chief witnesses of the resurrection had ample opportunities to drop the myth and thereby escape death or suffering. They didn’t. Such a beginning does testify to the veracity of the story that propelled thousands to lay down their lives.

    By the way Jesus said his church would not be advanced by the sword. The Catholic crusades were wrong. Generally, Christians have been the ones being killed, not those killing others. There’s a difference. We believe strongly enough that we are ready to die for our faith, but we won’t be taking others with us.

  22. Rodibidably says:

    fundy,

    Your comments are actually a bit hard to follow. While I admire your honesty, there are a few things that I don’t seem to be following.

    You are certain of your faith, and that your beliefs are the “correct” ones. But you claim that some aspects of your “holy scripture” are open for interpretation. I mentioned a few comments on this in my previous reply to “aboulet” in the comment directly above yours that seemingly apply to your comments as well. Essentially it boils down to the fact that it leaves it up to the reader to “know” which parts are to be taken as fact, and which parts are to be taken as allegory. If “god” is going to write a book, or “inspire” the writers of a book to put down the “truth”, I would expect profound statements that could not be misinterpreted (such as many people in United States history using the bible to justify slavery, while others use different passages to condemn slavery).

    You state that “we are dependent on him to reveal truth about himself to us”, and yet he chooses to have contradictions in “his revelation”. Even a believer such as you can see that a book that is supposed to be the work of an infallible diety, has “some apparent contradictions”. You state that “overall it is remarkably harmonious in its message”, but if it truly is the “word of god”, should it be 100% consistent? Did god make mistakes, or were those mistakes made during the various translations and retranslations? Either way (god messed up or the transcribers messed up), how is somebody to know what the “truth” is if you can not be sure of the original text or which contradictory statement to believe?

    You make a valid point that some of the boos I mentioned do not claim to be the actual word of god, but some of them do (book of mormon, torah, koran, etc) so your argument against the others (buddhist and hindu texts) don’t really hold across the board.

    While you and I can agree that the book of mormon states obvious historical errors as being fact, I can agree with a muslim that the bible’s account of jesus’s resurrection is an obvious historical error (the muslim will believe that jesus never died on the cross because the koran tells him so, and I will believe that jesus did not come back to life after 3 days because it violates everything we know about human physiology.

    While I don’t see eye to eye with you on many aspects up to now, I can at least understand your point of view (at least mostly); however, your next paragraph (“The Bible’s message…”) really sticks out at me as a host of logical and historical fallacies.
    “universal tendency to believe in God” / “remarkable worldwide tradition of an ancient flood story” – There are also a worldwide tradition of dragons, vampires, bigfoot, and aliens. I am actually fairly amazed at how consistent various cultures around the world are in their views on dragons, the undead, yeti, and alien visitations. There are obviously some discrepancies which can be ascribed to cultural differences, but all of the basic concepts are quite universal across the world. To say that “god” is true because a lot of people believe would lead one to say that Dracula is real because cultures all over the planet have some type of vampire myth (weird coincidence is that right now I am watching a show from the History Channel about vampire folklore around the world, which helps set up a good rebuttal to this point).
    “nature which seems to demand an intelligent Designer” – While I could spend a long time on this subject, I’d prefer to concede to somebody much smarter and more knowledgeable on the subject than myself, check out “The Blind Watchmaker” by Richard Dawkins for a very good series of rebuttals for the ID concept.
    “a moral standard, is a universal given” – As I have pointed out a few times, “scripture” allows for slavery. How many people do you know in your life that would follow a moral standard that accepts slavery as part of society?
    “improbable rise of Christianity” – How improbably was it’s rise actually? Judaism, Islam, Mormonism, Scientology, Hindu, Buddhism, and many other religions have all “risen” throughout history. One of your earlier points is that “god” is universal, so how is the rise of any specific religion “special” if we are predisposed to believe?

    You are seemingly a moderate thoughtful believer, and I appreciate your reply greatly. The more posts I am getting the “better” people are answering my question, and I enjoy reading the perspective of others. I think that open and honest discussions between those who disagree are much more valuable than those that see eye to eye on these issues. By opening up a dialog, hopefully people can better find common ground with each other.

  23. Rodibidably says:

    fundy,

    I agree that Christianity did not have an “easy start”, but many religions have faced persecution and survived. Having fanatical believers may mean that your “religion” has something that “connects” with those followers, but it says nothing for the “truthfulness” of those beliefs. Not to offend, but the followers of charles manson were willing to kill for Charlie, and the branch davidians were willing to die in support of their belief that david koresh was the second coming of jesus. Fanaticism, may say something about the beliefs, but it most certainly does not speak towards the “validity” of those beliefs.

    I really wish I could believe your last line, “we are ready to die for our faith, but we won’t be taking others with us”, was true of all believers. I am sure that you are moderate enough that you would not kill “in the name of god”, but even today, christians bomb abortion clinics killing those inside in many cases.

  24. aboulet says:

    Again, you ask some great questions.

    You wrote: My only issue with this view of the bible (or this type of view of any “holy book”) is that it leaves it up to the reader to “know” which parts are to be taken as fact, and which parts are to be taken as allegory. If the bible is the “word of god” then I, and I assume others, would expect a bit more consistency. In some cases “god” states what he means, “though shall not kill” is fairly self explanatory, while other times “he” says things which are not be scientifically possible, the globe being covered in water in 40 days.
    How is somebody to know which to take as a story, and which to take as fact?

    I would argue (and I mean argue in the logical sense, not in the normal “Christians-yelling-at-people” sense) that the reader does not so much “know” how parts of Scripture are to be read, but “learns” how to read each part as they become more familiar with the text through careful study. For instance, reading the creation accounts in Hebrew and then reading other ancient Near Eastern accounts in Akkadian, Ugaritic, and other Northwest Semitic languages, one can understand that the genre of the Biblical creation account mirrors other culture’s more poetic creation account. By comparing the Hebrew in the creation account with other documents within its context, one comes to a better understanding of how to read the creation account.

    It’s definitely not second nature and it does take some hard work and study. But that should be expected for studying any ancient text.

    As for the Flood narrative, there are theories within scholarly circles of a ‘regional flood’ which some follow. Another view is that it is, in fact, a mere story told for theological reasons. Scholars have come to this conclusion, again, based on reading other texts in the ancient Near East and seeing that the flood narrative is not unique to the Hebrew Scriptures. The point would be that the Noahic flood account is written for the purpose of conveying historical truth (which some believe), but theological truth (that God will preserve humankind and animals because of his grace). This is why I made the key distinction in my first comment that “the Christian Scriptures (the Hebrew Scriptures plus the New Testament) are true in what they claim as truth. Much too often the problem does not lie with Scripture, but with our (mis)understanding of Scripture based on reading it as a 21st century, post-enlightenment, individualistic Westerner and not based on its original context.

    You said: “I do have one last question for you if you don’t mind. You state that you “cannot understand how Christianity ever grew to become what it became unless the Resurrection of Christ was true”. Perhaps I am misreading your statement, but I take this to mean that because christianity is a large religion with a lot of followers, you think it must be based on something valid. Islam and Hinduism both have well over 1 billion followers each, so your logic would tend to lead towards them ALSO being “true” despite many major incompatibilities (such as the Koran stating that jesus did NOT die on the cross).

    I’m glad you pointed this out because I see how my wording would lead you to interpret my comment this way. I was not arguing that because Christianity is large then it must be true (I think it was Stephen Colbert who asked Richard Dawkins, “Over 80% of Americans believe there is a God; so do you believe there is a God or do you not believe in Democracy?!?”).

    My argument was that there is, in my mind, no other explanation for why a large group of Jews started worshipping a man. This would violate the first two commandments in Judaism as well as be a violation of the Shema, which is a Jewish prayer said every morning and evening. I understand that people can believe crazy things and there are some nut jobs out there. But, you would be hard pressed to make the argument that thousands of strict Jews (Paul was among the strictest sect) would knowingly violate their greatest commandments all because they “think” some revolutionary was raised from the dead. The only thing that makes sense of this, in my mind, is that they knew he rose from the dead as Israel’s Messiah because many of them witnessed his resurrected body and his ascension.

    I pointed you to the Wright book because he says it so much better than I could ever hope to explain it.

  25. Rodibidably,

    I agree my comments were somewhat disjointed. Sorry about that. But your question is quite broad. On one hand you want to have me tell you why I’m certain that my view is correct. On the other hand, you have all these points where you are disputing with the Christian view, and so I have to defend myself on those points.

    Perhaps the best way to proceed it to just try to give an answer to your various points here in the last two posts. To make the conversation easier to follow, let me number my points.

    1) Interpretation is inescapable. But just as with other documents, when the Bible uses poetry we should interpret and understand it poetically. Now the creation account in Genesis has certain poetical structures to it (days 1 and 4, 2 and 5, and 3 and 6 are connected). It says creation was in 6 days, but the idea of “day” can be interpreted as long periods of time. Gen. 1:2 indicates that the assertion that God created in vs. 1 is separated by a possible gap in time from the ordering and structuring of creation in the rest of chapter one. All of this is to say that Scripture doesn’t necessitate a young-earth view. Also, historically, Christians didn’t interpret Gen. 1 in such a scientific way until the last hundred years or so. But however one understand Gen. 1, it is clear that Scripture claims God is the creator of the world and of man. And there are other places which confirm the idea that Adam was the first man. How one views Gen. 1 is not necessarily connected to the main tenets of the Christian faith.

    But just because in certain places various interpretations are possible, does not mean Scripture is unknowable. The central tenets of Christianity are quite clear and easy to interpret. There are plenty of “profound statements” in Scripture which set the basic story in quite an unmistakably clear way.

    2) About contradictions, here is what I meant. Overall, there really aren’t any big contradictions. And at some smaller levels, there are answers to the contradiction. It really doesn’t contradict itself. People miss the remarkable unity of Scripture (which was written over a period of 1600 years on 2 or 3 continents, by 40 different men — all orchestrated by God who inspired these men) by focusing on a few details they think contradict when in fact they don’t.

    3) On copies and texts, the Bible is remarkably accurate. There is only 1% of the text over which there is still some disagreement as to which words were original. And these are most often minor instances, none of which affect the overall doctrinal message of the book. The attestation we have for the NT in particular is unparalleled in ancient literature. We have portions of the NT that are dated to the 200s, and even an entire NT copy from the 300s. We have thousands of manuscripts in many languages, and the idea that somehow the Bible was corrupted and changed is just false. We have the proof that it wasn’t. The manuscript evidence for the Bible is amazing when compared to other old books, some of which we have only a dozen or fewer copies, but no one suggests those books were tampered with and altered. Just because we may be uncertain of a few words here and there, in no way means we are completely uncertain of the original text. In those places we are unsure of we have 2 or 3 options from which to choose. And again the overall message, and main points of Christianity are in no way affected by this.

    4) Re: resurrection, I agree it must be received by faith. But we have eyewitnesses. People claim miracles can’t happen, but again there were eyewitnesses. We can’t explain everything in our world even now by means of rationalism and science. If God exists, and if the supernatural exists, how hard is it to believe that miracles could happen.

    5) Let me try to explain myself on this paragraph where I kind of go through a litany of various arguments supporting scripture.

    universal tendency to believe in God — sure if there is a universal belief in bigfoot that doesn’t make it true. But then again, such a universal belief would add credence and support such a belief. If in 10 years from now an undisputable yeti/bigfoot is discovered, then the universal testimoney would corroborate that. (Not saying it will happen, by the way).

    worldwide flood story — let me explain. There are hundreds and thousands of cultures with a flood story. Why? One explanation could be they all stem from a real flood that happened before our ancient history begins. It doesn’t have to prove my point, but it adds credence to the Bible’s story of a flood. Sure, they aren’t all the same, and the details don’t match, but the mere fact of cultures from both hemispheres and six continents having flood myths seems like an interesting evidence which may support the Bible’s claims.

    Oh and on the above two points, these are not my only evidence. I see these and other things, coupled with other things and my case gets stronger. I hope you know what I’m trying to say here.

    intelligent design — you’ve got Dawkins, and I’ve got the ID guys. Really it is interesting that there is such a global propensity of symmetry and other similar design constructs used across species. And DNA is so complex even at the level of a single-celled organism, it’s just amazing that so much detail and specificity is required. In fact there have been mathemeticians who have tried to figure out the probability for life emerging from the primordial soup. Also, today 99.9% of all mutations are damaging to the organism. Anyway, let’s not get into a discussion of the likelihood of evolution, etc.

    moral standards — atheists have to ask where universal morality comes from. Is there any universally true point from which we can say definitively that some action is wrong? If so, why can this be? Isn’t morality just a social construct and anything can go as long as we humans allow it? So why should we condemn the Nazis again?

    slavery — this seems to be a big point with you. Slavery in Bible days and times was different than the chattel slavery practiced in the 16-1800s. Some of the slavery was voluntary. And some of it was a fact of life, that the Bible gave advice as to how to live with it.

    6) Christianity’s rise, on this I’ll answer your 2nd reply to me and the end of your first post. I agree that the fact Christianity arose, and that it has many followers doesn’t prove it is correct. But it is perhaps more improbable than other religions, in that a peasant who died sparked a global movement. And the movement was persecuted by one of the world’s great empires, and yet it went on to become a major world religion.

    One of the points about this I was trying to highlight is this: if the story of Christianity (that Jesus rose again) is a fabrication, then the steady persecution should have ended it. Who would die for a known fabrication? Yet history tells us the disciples and early followers of Jesus, did indeed die for their faith, and that faith did claim that Christ rose again. This point doesn’t seal the deal, but it is consequential.

    Finally, you seem to be saying that believing Christians and believers in Islam or other religions are all basically equally capable of killing and hurting others. We have to be honest here. One would be hard pressed to come up with much proof of Christians killing others in the name of Christ in the last 200 years, other than an occasional wacko like an abortion bomber (by the way this is totally repudiated by Christian leaders and always has been). Yet for other religions, Islam particularly, there are thousands of examples of extremists killing others. Part of that is the content of the religion. Mohammed spread his religion by the sword, and the Quran talks about it a lot. Christianity explicitly is not to be spread by the sword, Jesus said. This is not to say that the fanaticists are true in their Muslim interpretations. And it is not to say that Roman Catholicism did not politicize the faith with ill consequences (think crusades).

    That ends my answers. I want you to know there are others who defend the faith better than I. There are answers to atheistic arguments available. And Christians aren’t averse to people legitimately questioning their faith. I do hope you come to an understanding and acceptance of the Christian faith. I have enjoyed the exchange and hope that I have represented my faith fairly and accurately.

    Blessings to you,

    Bob Hayton

  26. By the way, I don’t really disagree with anything aboulet is saying, and I’d guess he and I come from different spheres within Christianity.

  27. A true Malaysian says:

    I am neither ‘for’ nor ‘against’ any religion. I consider myself a Buddhist and I am open to the views of other religions, especially on the topic of God.

    For Christian and Islam, believe in God / Allah is the foundation for their beliefs. That is to say, if there is no God / Allah, there will be no Christian and Islam. So, if I express my view that ‘God doesn’t exist’ and ‘whether there exist a God / Allah is not important’ then they will refer me to the Bible and Koran to prove to me that God is actual fact, exist.

    It is fine for me that Christian & Islam believes in God / Allah and their belief in those written in Bible & Koran. I am not even disputing whether is there any truth in what written in the holy books.

    So, my point is that, it is our universal rights to have faith in whatever beliefs or religions. It is also our rights to preach to each other on what we believe to others in good faith, and not with the intention of ‘converting’ he / she into whatever that we believe at. Whether he / she chooses to convert is his / hers rights.

    I have high regards to those works of Christian missionaries that helping out the unfortunates. In fact, such noble works should be encouraged and emulate by others, as these are for the good of mankind. For me, such actions are in fact, good for the respective Karma that what Buddhist believe.

    Important point here is that, have faith on what you believe at. It does not matter, ultimately, he / she decides to convert(after you preach), so long as you have faith on what you believe.

    But, I still believe that Law of Karma is applicable to you and me, no matter what are yours religions.

  28. Rodibidably says:

    aboulet,

    I believe that your basic idea for understanding the bible is that it must be taken in context, context not only of when it was written and by whom, but in the point which it is trying to make at each juncture. And I wholeheartedly agree with this. While I may seemingly “bash” the bible, even I can see some tremendous passages and some very good underlying themes.

    My problem with the bible, and any “holy book”, stems from accepting it as the “word of god”. Perhaps I am wrong, but I would assume that a book that was written by, or inspired by an all powerful diety would never be ambiguous. It would lay down certain ground rules for civilization (such as slavery = bad). I would expect, and perhaps this is a flaw in my own personal view, that if “god” was going to lay out specific rules and also use allegory to make a point, that “he” would make it obvious which ones to take as “true word” and which to take as a good moral. Obviously we have as a society have had trouble reconciling the two, and this has caused much suffering throughout history.

    DISCLAIMER: Now this next point I am going to make is going to potentially cause some anger (not in you necessarily, but in some people), so please take it as a very specific comparison on one very narrow aspect, I am not saying that these two people have anything else in common.

    First of all, I commend you on the Colbert quote. I am an avid member of the Colbert Nation, and I am happy to see that you “get” his humor. There are a large number of people who don’t seem to “get” him, and are actually offended by his shtick or take it seriously. But now to the controversial part; you claim that one of the reasons you believe in jesus is that he was able to get a large group of jewish people to follow him despite their convictions in their previous faith. Not to say that they are comparable historical figures in any sense other than their ability to inspire others to follow them, but adolf hitler was able to get millions of people to follow his ideals and do many horrific acts in the name of their Führer. I would say that being charismatic is not really a good indicator of being “right”.

    Why do I have a feeling that right now about 10,000 screaming christians are cursing my name for that last paragraph?

    I will check out your book recommendation this weekend, thanks.

  29. Rodibidably says:

    fundy,

    I am sorry if I come across as “attacking” in my responses. I am in all honesty just trying to better understand your point of view, and questioning you (and obviously your answers) helps me to better understand you.

    I totally agree with your assertion that the bible makes plenty of “profound statement” which if followed would help to make the world a much more caring and peaceful world. But where we differ is that I think that the bible can say many good things without being the “word of god”. I think that the writers of the bible had some very good ideas (also a few not so good ones, but I’ve already been beating that horse to death the last 24 hours), but I don’t think that it means those ideas came from “god”.

    The one thing that I find that most (not all, but at least in the United States) “true believers” spout is that if you do not follow their rules, their book, their “god” that you are “wrong” and will be damned for all eternity. I think that if people were willing to admit that their belief may not be the “best” belief for everybody and were willing to “live and let live” instead of trying to convert everybody else to their way of thinking then we could have a more harmonious world.

    Your point #3 where you state that only 1% of the text differs between the oldest copies and the newest is one where we may have to agree to disagree. There is a very good book I have at home “Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why” by Bart D Ehrman, that goes into a very detailed analysis of the some of the various current copies of the bible along with some of the oldest known copies that still exist. He goes into great detail showing in many cases actually when, and in some cases who made the mistranslation or misinterpretation and how the bible has changed throughout the years to what we know now.

    Point #4 that you make is one that to me takes the biggest leap of faith, as you acknowledge. Your premise is that IF “god” exists, then miracles are possible. My premise would be that he does not exist, but EVEN IF god exists, then why would “he” create the rules of physics as they are, just to break them when it suits “him”? Eyewitnesses are a very shaky ground to stand on for a claim such as something outside the laws of nature. If eyewitnesses can be wrong on things as simple as the identity of a criminal in a court case, then when something seemingly supernatural happens, the odds of their being infallible in their testimony would be even shakier.

    The rest of your points are mostly ones that you and others have already mentioned on earlier posts, so I won’t rehash my view on them yet again, but I do believe that in the end it comes down to differing interpretations of the same raw facts. You look at a human and see design; I look at a human and see the work of millions of years of gradual evolution. This debate is not going away any time soon, but I do believe that the overwhelming majority of the scientific evidence is on my side.

    Your assertion that, at least in recent history, christians have not been responsible for as much violence as other groups, such as muslims is a valid point. However I would argue that the ones currently in “power” are less likely to strike out in violence than those that feel themselves to be persecuted. For quite a while, christianity has been the prevailing “faith”, and thus has less of a “reason” to act out violently, while muslims, rightly or wrongly, feel themselves to be taken advantage of, and have unfortunately in many cases resorted to acts of terrorism. And as you mentioned Christianity, and despite what many fundamentalist protestants will claim catholicism is a form of Christianity, has had it’s eras of violence, so in this regards, nobody’s “hands are clean”.

    Atheist morality is the last point I want to touch on, since I think you are the first to bring it up in this post. While it is a bit of a copout to quote somebody else on this as my only point, I feel that Richard Dawkins very eloquently summarized my feelings on this:
    “Religious people do not derive their morality from religion. I disagree (with the interviewer) on this point. Almost all of us do agree on moral grounds where religion had no effect. For example we all hate slavery, we want emancipation of women – they are all our moral grounds. These moral grounds started building only a few centuries ago and long after all major religions were established. We derive our morality from the environment we live in, Talk shows, Novels, Newspaper editorials and of course by the guidance of parents. Religion might only have a minor role to play in it. An atheist derives his morality from the same source as a religious people do.”

    Again, I would like to thank you for your input. I hope I have not offended you (or anybody else), but I do like the fact that even though we disagree, we can find some common ground, and have an open discussion on something so “controversial”.

  30. Rodibidably says:

    a true malaysian,

    I very much respect your views on faith. A few of the other posters have said similar ideas (most notably coming to mind was srcghs).

    I have been very much in a read and question mode with my responses to this post, and yet with your post I really am not finding anything to question. My only disagreement really is that you seem to be much more accepting of people preaching to people with the intent to convert them. While we both agree that christian missionaries do much good work, I would find their act to be somehow more “selfless” if they did all of the good works without the preaching about “god”. I find this to be a bit of “string attached” thing (i.e. I’ll help you build a school and dill a well, but then you have to listen to me tell you about my god). This is not to take away from the good works that missionaries have done across the world and obviously my personal biases are involved in my view but I somehow find it slightly lessened by the attempt to convert those they are helping.

    Other than this one point though, I do like your outlook on faith as I understand it, even without being a believer in karma myself.

  31. Cruv says:

    Good discussion! Very gracious in interaction. If I may, I’d like to share my point of view.

    In essence, what you’re really asking is, “what is truth and how can I know it?”

    This question is the crux of the matter and Christianity answers in a unique way. Have you noticed that every other religion is based on sayings and teachings- in so far as even when the founder is removed from the equation, the religion still stands? But not so with Christianity.

    When Jesus is taken out of the equation, Christianity falls. Completely. Without Christ, you have a moral dictate rather than a relational foundation. This is the Gospel in a nutshell. The Gospel of Christianity is good news not so far as it is giving us a new law, but in so far as it announces that under this new law the poor in spirit are blessed, the meek will inherit the earth, those who hunger for righteousness will be satisfied, etc…

    This is what sets Christianity apart from other religions. The Gospel is news not advice or command. Every other religion will tell you what you need to do to gain salvation. The Gospel of Jesus says, “This is what I have done.”

    Every other religion has some form of the Golden Rule (Do unto others as you would have someone do unto you.) But only Christ has demonstrated this Golden Rule BEFORE he commands us to do it as well. He gave his life to save people.

    You want proof of which religion is really, really true? Look unto Jesus the Author and Finisher of our faith. It is not faith that saves. It is Jesus who saves us through faith. If you’re resting in how much faith you have or how certain your faith is, you are inevitably trusting in your ability to save yourself.

    This is why I am a Christian. The Gospel of Jesus is Good News- that Jesus fulfilled the law in every respect for us! Christianity is not relegated to merely doing (like every other religion- do this or that and gain salvation) but it is by faith, believing in Jesus because he has gained and provided salvation for us.

    Every other religion is “Go and do to gain it.” or “Do good because good will come back to you.” or some variation of that theme.

    Christianity is, “Go and do because I have done it!”

    Christianity is true because Jesus is who he says he is.

  32. Rodibidably says:

    cruv,

    You claim that christianity is not based on the sayings and teachings of jesus? I’m not sure exactly how you come to that conclusion.

    The one point you “sort of” make that I agree with is that if you take jesus away, christianity falls on it’s face. Where we differ, is you see this as “proof” that this is the “true” faith, I see this as a consequence of jesus being one of the few “founders” of a religion to claim to actually be “god”. Among some of the larder main religions I have mentioned in various replies here, abraham, joseph smith, l ron hubbard, buddha, and mohammed who all “founded” their religions never claimed to BE “god”, they all claimed to have been given knowledge by god. In this respect jesus was different because he actually claimed to be “god”, so of course if you take him out of the picture there is no possible way for christianity to survive.

    You also claim that the gospel is not advice or commands on how to live your life. While it’s been a while since I went to church, I certainly seem to recall that we HAD to go to church, we HAD to follow the ten commandments, we HAD to confess our sins (I was “raised catholic” for a large part of my childhood before I began studying other religious philosophies). I see no difference in the idea of following the word of jesus than I see in the idea of following the words of buddha or mohammed. Your next point that every “other” religion has a version of the golden rule really perplexes me, since in both the catholic school and presbyterian school I went to espoused this on a regular basis. That you claim the christian church does not gives rules, this one among them, is hard to understand, at least based on my experiences.

    I do appreciate your reply, despite not really grasping all of the points you are trying to make. I can “sort of” see what you are saying in some cases, but I’m frankly at a loss for much of it as well.

    From what I understand, and I’m probably not correct, your points are that
    jesus is the foundation of his religion while the other religions are just based on “god’s word” being given through a person.
    You state that christianity does not give rules to live by, and that we should live our lives as jesus lived his because he showed by example.
    And finally that because jesus is god, you believe that jesus is god.

    Please let me know if I have completely misunderstood your post, because I feel that I must have missed something here.

  33. Cruv says:

    Thanks for the reply. I am sure that I was not as clear as I could have been. So, let me try to clarify.

    Christianity does have commands. NO question about it. “Do not steal.” “Do not lie.” “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

    The issue is, what motivates us to do them? To gain salvation? Or to do them in thanksgiving because salvation has already been attained for us?

    In John 6:28ff, “Then they said to him, ‘What must we do, to be doing the works of God?’ 29 Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him (that is Jesus) whom he has sent.'”

    The core of Christianity is believing in Jesus as Savior. Nothing more. Nothing less. And then our doing of good works flows out of what Jesus has already done. We do good works, not to gain salvation but because we already POSSESS salvation by faith in Jesus, the Son of God.

    Later in John 14:6, “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

    There is no life in doing commands (the law) (Romans 5:20). But there is life in Jesus through faith. As Ephesians explains, “for by grace are you saved, through faith, not of works lest any one should boast.” Salvation is of the Lord and salvation is only through Jesus who saves us by our faith.

    This is the issue. It comes down to what you believe about Jesus. Is Jesus the Savior of the world or is He not? Is he who he says he is or is he not? Jesus is more than a great prophet (although he is a great prophet), but he is also the Great High Priest, the Bread of Life, The Living Water, The Door of Salvation, the Chief Cornerstone.

    Without Jesus, you heap unto yourselves condemnation (Romans 5:20). It is only looking unto Jesus through faith that we are saved to eternal life.

    And please, I say all this with all due respect. You can get hung up on what every religion teaches, but it all comes down to what you believe about Jesus himself.

    Ask yourself, does it matter what I believe about Buddha himself even if I follow his directives? Does it matter what I believe about Joseph Smith even though I follow what he wrote? Does it matter what I think about Hubbard even though I follow what he wrote?

    It is a matter of life and death when it comes to what you believe about Jesus. If you deny Jesus, you have rejected Christianity. But if you believe in Jesus (not just believe him but believe IN him) you have eternal life.

    If there was one book I would have you read, I would have you read the book of John in the Bible. Compare the book of John with any other book in other religious writings. I can not persuade you. I can only point you to what Jesus (and what others have) said about himself.

    Keep searching! Keep looking for the answer! I will only suggest that the answer is Jesus Himself.

    Thanks for the interaction. I must bow out of this discussion…

  34. moondance30 says:

    Excellent Question!! Think about losing weight and maintaining the weight loss. Put 100 overweight people in a room and you can get up to 100 different opinions on how to do it. Now put a person in the room (with before pictures) that weighed 300lbs and now weighs 160lbs and maintaining, now his opinion everyone wants to hear – what did you do to accomplish this? All real testimonies I have encounted the people say it involves a life change.

    I am NOT religeous person, I attend church but do not follow a religon, I listen to men (preachers), but do idolize them, I read and follow the Bible and other historical manuscripts. I have read excerpts of of the Koran and the Torah is basically a part of todays Bible.
    Simply put, I follow Christ!! He is the one who changed my life! When I was younger I spent a lot of time drinking (hard liquor), doing drugs (lsd,ludes, pcp, minwhites…), cursing, berating people, had bitterness, hatred… thought I was on top of the world and having a great time and could not see the effect (toll) it was taking on my life as well as those around me. At some point in time the walls began to crumble and tumble down. A freind told me about a person who could change my life – just like he was changed. Why not give it a try.

    It has been almost 30 years since I asked Christ to forgive me. I no longer need drugs to feel good or to alchol to drown my sorrows, don’t need to curse and rant to get my point across, I love people and enjoy life. People aroud me actually respect my thoughts and opinions. I grow in Grace and Love every day. Those who remember me from 30yrs ago would tell you my life has permanently changed… a life changing event that only Christ could perform.
    On the antagonistic side, If all of this is false (and it’s not), then what have I lost? I would not change my life now for anything!!

    Thank-you for your original post – it is an excellent question.

  35. Rodibidably says:

    cruv,

    Thank you for your clarification, I think I have a better understanding this time around. I’m sorry you must bow out of the discussion now, but I will still make a few comments for others who are following this post.

    Motivation I think is a hard thing to clarify. As an atheist I am not motivated by “god” or “faith”, I am motivated by my own feelings of what is “right” and “wrong”. The general philosophy I live my life by is to not do harm to others, and when possible, do my best to help others. I don’t do this because “god” or some “holy book” said so, or because I am trying to emulate jesus or buddha or some other historical figure. I do them because I have based my morality on societal norms. My environment tells me that certain things are “wrong”, and from this I have taken what seems reasonable and good and built upon that.

    The Richard Dawkins quote I mentioned above in a reply to fundy does a good job of explaining how somebody inside of a society derives their morality. The main point that is relevant here is the following line:
    “We derive our morality from the environment we live in, Talk shows, Novels, Newspaper editorials and of course by the guidance of parents.”

    The idea of “due unto others as you would have them do unto you” is a good summary of my philosophy. I would not want somebody else to steal from me, so why would it be ok for me to steal from somebody else?
    While religion may teach these same ideals as well, I don’t see a need for religion to live a moral life.

    If the only reason one does good is to avoid an eternity in hell, I would have a hard time thinking of them as a moral person. If somebody does good works because they feel “god” wants them to, I see that in much the same light.
    However if somebody does good because they believe that helping others is the best way to a fair, just, and kind society, and they have no selfish motives (and I know that it is impossible to tell another person’s motives, each person would have to judge them self).

    Your point about doing good works “flowing” out of a belief in jesus is a tricky one from my view. I think that each person that fits this criteria (of being “saved”) would have to look in the mirror to decide why they are truly doing good. Are they doing it because they think they should as part of being Christian, or because they think jesus wants them to, or because they are selflessly thinking of the betterment of society?

    The biggest point where I think we diverge is when you state “Without Jesus, you heap unto yourselves condemnation”. This way of thinking means you believe a child born into a land that has no understanding of a specific religion is automatically condemned to an eternity of damnation. I find it hard to believe that if the Christian version of “god” is loving and kind, he” would be vindictive enough to “punish” a child for something over which he had no control. The biggest flaw I find in many major religions is this “us vs. them” mentality. If you’re not part of the in group, then you are automatically an outsider and you will ‘burn in hell”. This divides us and is one of the causes of many wars, bigotry, and violence in the world.

  36. Rodibidably says:

    moondance,

    Thank you for your view. I had never thought of the weight loss analogy before, but it seemingly fits pretty well. The one difference is that there are “faiths” and “beliefs” which are genuinely harmful. Not to say that all aspects of religion are harmful, or all aspects of any specific religion are harmful, but there are certainly many instances of religion used to justify horrific acts (a few of my replies have already gone into detail on this, so I won’t rehash it again right now).

    Use the weight loss analogy, I would say that take your 100 people that want to lose weight. Now add in 20 people that all have opposing views on how they lost weight.
    One person’s solution is that you eat extremely healthy, but take a minute amount of poison daily, which will cause you to lose weight rapidly.
    Another says to exercise daily, eat right, don’t smoke, but you must spend 1 hour a day picking fist fights with gay and lesbian people.
    Yet another says to spend your time with others losing weight under this method, and cut off communication with your old friends and family. You must pay exorbitant amounts of money to belong to this group, but they will ensure you lose all the weight in a flash.
    Each of the 20 people has their own way to help lose weight, and maybe some or even all of them actually work, but there is some small sinister detail in them that causes harm to the person using that system or to others around them.
    Or you could listen to the person who is happy in their current body, even if they are overweight that says “be happy as you are, and live your life”.

    While your story seems to have had a good conclusion, I’m not sure that it helps to understand HOW you know. Your life changed, which is great, but is it because you changed it, or because some divine being actually took steps to make your life different for you. I would argue that if you look back, you will find many changes that you made in your own life (quit hanging around people who you previously used drugs with, stop going to bars/liquor stores, etc) and no evidence of divine intervention.

    Your final thought is one I have thought about before as well:
    “On the antagonistic side, If all of this is false (and it’s not), then what have I lost?”
    My response would be that if I live a good life, but do not honestly believe in “god” then what would pretending to believe accomplish?

  37. servant says:

    While we’re sitting here chasing our tails…I was wondering, Rodibidably, what do you want the truth to be?

  38. Puritan Lad says:

    I would suggest that “truth” depends on how one views human knowledge. As a Christian, I hold that human knowledge is revelational, given to us by God Himself (Colossians 2:3). Truth begins there.

    For the unbeliever (particularly the atheist), this is a delimna. He ultimately sees the human brain as a great cosmological accident, a bunch of stardust that got together and started firing off electrical impulses, which they call “knowledge, logic, and reason”. Let him then explain how the “logic” of one accidental brain should have any connection at all to the “logic” of another. Both are different brains with different neurons, and thus should have different laws of logic, which means that the laws of logic are not laws, but merely opinions, and random accidental opinions at that.

    Therefore, I would hold that God is the precondition for all intelligible experience, therefore He must exist. Without Him, we are merely stardust accidentally tossed together in random, undesigned world, with no basis for believing that our accidental human brains can know or understand anything.

  39. Rodibidably says:

    servant,

    What do I want the truth to be? I don’t think my preference is really important. I guess I would say that I want mankind to be able to better understand others and the world around us. I want an end to religious differences that cause pain, suffering, war, and bigotry. I want for people to be accepting of each other, and not attempt to enforce their own beliefs on others.
    In short, I want the impossible.

  40. Puritan Lad says:

    Rodibidably,

    What you have described above (cause pain, suffering, war, and bigotry) sounds like sin to me. What would you offer as a solution?

    Do you really believe that “better understand others and the world around us” will cause us to “be accepting of each other”? Apparently not, since you acknowledge that it is impossible.

    In short, your desires are plausible, but universalism is not the answer.

  41. servant says:

    Ah, but I think your preference is important! 🙂

  42. Rodibidably says:

    puritan,

    I don’t think you truly understand the typical atheist’s beliefs, since you are using a straw man argument in your post. We do not see the “human brain as a great cosmological accident”. We see it as the end result of millions of years of evolution, which followed billions of years of formation of the universe, galaxies, solar systems, stars, and planets.

    The laws of logic are not only inside the head of each individual, they are learned from one another in a society, this is people can expect others to have a connection to one another.

    From your second post, my question would be, is it a sin to own a slave? Can you show me where the bible states this? During a large portion of American history many “christians” used the bible to condone slavery. While you may not agree with their interpretation, you must at least acknowledge that no clear condemnation of the practice exists in the bible.
    For those who do not rely on a specific book written thousands of years ago, morality is societal norm of accepted behavior. For those who follow a specific book, how do you make choices on issues that your book does not cover?

    You ask if I really believe that better understanding will help us to accept each other. I really do believe this with every fiber of my being. I believe that in my lifetime and foreseeable future this will not happen. I believe that religion and dogmatism have too strong a hold on people currently, and until that hold is released to some degree, people will continue in an “us vs. them” mentality, which will hinder our progress towards a better society.

  43. Rodibidably says:

    servant,

    My personal choice for myself is atheism but my preference would be for all people to believe in whatever they choose, as long as it does not have a negative effect on themselves and on society around them. This ideal would also require for everybody to be accepting of everybody else’s beliefs, which we are dfar from that point today.

  44. Puritan Lad says:

    “We do not see the “human brain as a great cosmological accident”. We see it as the end result of millions of years of evolution, which followed billions of years of formation of the universe, galaxies, solar systems, stars, and planets.”

    I fail to see the difference. In any case, why will you merely assume that your human brain has any connection with reality.

    With regards to slavery, that would take quite a lot of explaining, but is not really a relevant subject as this point. However, since you mentioned it, on what basis does an atheist oppose slavery?

  45. Rodibidably says:

    puritan,

    Why would the human mind, which is created in reality, not have a connection with that reality?

    As for why we oppose slavery, I quoted Richard Dawkins earlier:
    “Religious people do not derive their morality from religion. Almost all of us do agree on moral grounds where religion had no effect. For example we all hate slavery, we want emancipation of women – they are all our moral grounds. These moral grounds started building only a few centuries ago and long after all major religions were established. We derive our morality from the environment we live in, Talk shows, Novels, Newspaper editorials and of course by the guidance of parents. Religion might only have a minor role to play in it. An atheist derives his morality from the same source as a religious people do.”

  46. Puritan Lad says:

    “Why would the human mind, which is created in reality, not have a connection with that reality?”

    I’m not denying that it does. I’m only pointing out that, given the atheist view of the human brain, it’s a pretty big assumption. If knowledge isn’t revelational from God, then it is abstract.

    As for Dawkin’s view of morality, I have to say that I’m not at all impressed. It is basically an admission that no moral standard really exists. Instead, it is derived from “environment we live in”, which is odd considering your view of religion and the alleged harm that it causes. Was slavery “immoral” 300 years ago? Why or why not? Is not “war” the product of our current environment? Yet you oppose it.

    Good discussion, but I need to run. Will check up on this soon.

    PL

  47. Rodibidably says:

    puritan,

    The problem you have with reconciling the atheist view of the brain and reality has to do with your misunderstanding of the atheist position. For an informed atheist there is no contradiction.

    I fail to see how Dawkins view of morality differs from your own. 2000 years ago jesus himself viewed slavery as acceptable because it was part of the prevailing culture of the time. Even 150 years ago christians believed that the bible gave them the “right” to own slaves.
    It was not until relatively recently, historically speaking, that people “learned” that slavery was immoral. We look at it now and wander how our forefathers could condone such a thing, but if the bible is the “word of god”, and the ultimate authority on morality, why did it not state in no uncertain terms “slavery is bad”.

    Based on our current understanding slavery has always been one of the most horrible things than one man can do to another.

    Yes, war is a product of our environment, and I oppose all violence, suffering, and hatred. And yet there is no contradiction in this, since I believe that our environment is flawed. You can be the product of a flawed system, and want still to fix that system.

  48. servant says:

    I agree, those are wonderful things to hope for. 🙂

  49. One quick rejoinder. I understand we won’t see eye-to-eye.

    Bart Ehrman’s book MisQuoting Jesus, is quite loose with the evidence. He bends it to make his case. There are myriads of scholars who don’t even uphold inerrancy of the Bible yet from a purely academic standpoint would dispute Ehrman’s claims. There is no evidence of a widespread altering of Scripture.

    The facts are that in 93% of the text all major text types agree. In the other 7% based on the science of textual criticism and the multitude of textual witnesses we have, of various ages and in various languages/locales, we can shore up 6% and be fairly confident that the evidence settles the matter. There is a final 1% about which some disagreement remains, but again we have the options to chose from in almost every case, and no major doctrine is affected.

    Ehrman uses 1 John 5:7 as an example and nothing could be crazier than that point. If he thinks that the fact that this verse made its way into the text by means of a copyist error in the Latin, and that this changed the theology of the NT (since that verse is very Trinitarian in wording), he’s crazy. There is no proof the verse existed prior to the 8th century. The Trinitarian controversy was in the 5th century. We have the records of that controversy and we can read the pro and con arguments and no one mentions this verse at all. The Church clarified its position on the Trinity without the help of this accidental corruption of the text. In the advent of the modern era, post-Renaissance, people studied Greek again and found that this verse is not in the Greek (only in 4 copies out of thousands). And so Martin Luther kept it out of his Bible, and Erasmus at first excluded it from his Greek Text (only including it because of a rash claim he had made, and if you check his notes and footnotes, he did not believe it was original).

    So if Ehrman points to this example, it proves he is using the evidence to stack his case. It just doesn’t prove his point.

    Check the evidence yourself, check neutral, non-Christian scholars on this point — unbiased scholars not those writing popular books discrediting Christianity.

    Anyways, I won’t respond on the other points as it looks like you have your hands full with other commenters, and like you I don’t want this debate to drone on forever!

    Bob Hayton

  50. Rodibidably says:

    fundy,

    I will look into the critical reviews of Ehrem’s work. I know that when I read his book, I found I was skeptical of a few of his claims, but in the few claims that I spent the time to research myself I found evidence that his points were correct, even if his conclusions were debatable.

    Even with Dawkins and Harris, who I think make great cases against theism, have points that I do not agree with, so I see no reason why a critical look at Ehrem’s work would be any different. But with Dawkins and Harris, where I has issue with some aspects, the main point they make I still believe is valid. I’ll have to look into the scholarship of Ehrem’s work to see how much of it is invalididated, and if it affects the overall point of his book.

  51. Todd Dobson says:

    Hello Rodibidably,

    Thank you for reading this post and leaving me a comment. There was no real question within this comment, so I can only assume that you wish to find out how as a gay man I can consider myself a Christian and thereby how do I define my faith?

    The majority of Christians don’t understand the enormity of the situation you (yes…you as a Bible Thumping, Black – N – White deciding, and Judgment wielding Christians) place gay men and lesbian women in. The world and God was never meant to be Black & White and God never meant us to see things in that manner. I believe he wants us to loving, caring and compassionate people who endure because of one another, not despite one another.

    I know all of the verses that are used to denounce homosexuality. I’ve read them probably more times than all of you put together. The hypocrisy of most Christians is the ability to pick and choose what verses you feel God deals with us using a heavy hand and which ones you feel he softly brushes aside. The many verses used by Bible slinging Christians to demonize homosexuals can be debated, but for the sake of argument, lets not right now. Let us agree, merely for the sake of argument that they are right (and I don’t believe that personally); who placed all Christians as the GAY POLICE? Who gave you the job to chase after, beat physically and verbally all gay people? Who told all Christians to take it amongst yourselves to identify and burn at the stake the gay people of America, because if I’m right, God and Jesus both told us not to JUDGE our brothers and sisters! Am I to believe that it is OK for a Christian to cast judgments on all FAGS, because a book gives you that right! Again we go back to that Black & White part of my statement where you can’t use the Bible as a ridged instrument or a club when it suits your purpose and then use it as a scalpel other times when it also suits your purposes.

    In the Black & White Christian world we use “God’s Word” as the instrument of Hate. We teach our children that one it is OK to hate, as long as you justify your hatred based on verses within the Bible. So, how does a mother explain to her daughter that it is OK to hate FAGS because the Bible says so, but when a man uses some of the same chapters and just different verses to denounce women who according to the Bible should be benevolent to their husbands, fathers and all men? What makes Men the sacred vessel of all God’s knowledge? How does this woman explain the differences of hate to her daughter who just learned that if it is written in the Bible it must be true and therefore the Word of God could never be misconstrued, misunderstood or misinterpreted. But the Black & White interpretations of the Bible cannot be adhered too now and not then. So if we hate FAGS, we must also hate Women!

    I’m on a role, so lets finish this one out with a bang…the Black & White interpretations from the Christian Right must also redirect all of our efforts on Slavery and thereby Black Men, Women and Children should be considered a commodity and not human beings based on verses in the Bible that identify slavery as a given and accepted practice. Even Jesus accepted Slavery in the pages of our Bible and according to this holy book it is a generally accepted occurrence to own another human being. That would indicated that Hitler was justified in his condemnation of Jewish people and the South should ride again because Confederate Families were justified in their loathing, hatred and often times abusive relationships with the Black People they owned. Slaves were not people, they were not human beings, they were merely property and the owner could do as he so pleased (rape, kill, maim, abuse or anything else), they were his property and no laws governed their existence unless it addressed them simply as a commodity. If my words don’t make your blood boil, then please keep moving to the right…the far right, because you feel those hallow words give meaning to your hatred.

    Back to how your hate and loathing cause harm to the children of our great nation. Because of all that I typed above, Christianity thinks their loathing and hatred for homosexuality is justified and somehow God gave you the Christians the right and ability to act upon those intense feelings. The verbal abuse and physical abuse demanded justification that our children bare witness too long before they ever know if they are heterosexual or homosexual laments as they mature and age. When they finally enter into puberty and their hormones are in over-load normally, most become so over-rot with fear when they initially receive their first inclinations that they may be different from all other people. Then when they understand why they are different (I did not say choose), the shock and enormity hits them like a ton of Bibles crushing them because that is exactly what happens. The lessons taught by our parents that loathing and hatred of all FAGS is OK because the Bible says it’s so. Good Job Mom and Dad! You are the exact reason your child pulled completely away from you, couldn’t talk with you anymore and was scared to death to utter another syllable, because they are fearful of what else within them deems you hatred too. This one reason can be attributed to more than 50% of all teen suicides because beautiful little boy learned he was gay, but how can that be when Mom and Dad will hate me; so instead of learning how to deal with the injustices of Christian society, they kill themselves and Wow, we’ve done a good job because there is one less Fag in the world! Yea!!

    Is that what God really intended for us to do? Where in the Bible does it direct every Christian to denounce homosexuality and throw away all gays and lesbians? When did Jesus give a badge to all Christian’s and swear them in as the FAG Cops with the purpose to harass, torment, deprive and eliminate all homosexuals? Believe it or not…that is exactly what is being done on a daily basis. Every Matthew Sheppard and Harvey Milk is slain by people claiming the Bible justified their actions. Every teenager in a High School that shouts Fag, Queer, Gay, Homo, Lesi or any other derogatory comment learns to do so from their parents and Mom and Dad justified their hate with a book…the Bible!

    Honestly, is there what God meant when he gave us a book to guide our lives on earth?

    I’ve written this many times now and it needs to be understood; I believe in God. I believe that he sent us his only son to teach us what we could not achieve on our own with the Old Testament. I believe I am made just as he says, in his likeness, just like you and everybody else. What we need to do first is to determine what role the Bible plays in our faith. I’m not questioning Faith. I’m not questioning God, but since God is not talking, whose to know that my beliefs are not right! The Bible was guided by God, we can all agree with this premise. But even the men who were tasks with interpreting the Bible explained of the extremely arduous job they were given and how at times they could not properly interpret the Word of God. So what were they to do? They did as anyone would do and they used their own values, their own beliefs and the laws governing them at the time to dictate how they would interpret the Word of God. There is no cover-up here. There is not explosion of faith by this recognition and it was not a mistake for them to do so. They were men…fallible sinners just like you and me who did the best they could and were divinely inspired to complete their works.

    The Old Testament stands the test of time during its first inception, but there was great deliberation on what was meant, what was taught and how it should be delivered even back then. So if during the time of its origins, the religious leaders of the time could not agree on the book they were given, how do we accept that it is carved in stone by God and should be followed to the letter even to this day. If that were true, then millions of people will burn in Hell because they ate shrimp last night. Millions more will already be on their way to Hell before that group because they ate pork (the other white meat) and yet; if we can look beyond these statement in the very book that is cast in stone, why can’t we look past in the same chapter of that book when it is said that “man should not lie with man as with woman; it is an abomination”. Same chapter and we are led to believe that God was joking when he said we could not eat shrimp or pork, but we must absolutely believe when it refers to homosexuality? That is the absolute definition of HYPOCRITE and defiles the Black & White designs of Christianity.

    That book I was referencing was once again given to the hands of men to determine its destination. Three centuries after Jesus was crucified by the very religious leaders he tried to teach us were not good leaders, Constantine, the Emperor of Rome gathered three hundred religious leaders with a purpose to define and organize one religion, one faith and that was the foundations of Christianity. The Bible was one of the first tasks they argued vehemently over. There were many books in circulation by different religious groups that were all decided on which books were to be considered scripture and which ones did they want burned out of existence. It was thanks to these 300 religious leaders who decided on what doctrine was and dissension, intolerance was persecuted as bigotry.

    A great ruler brought three hundred men together and told them they would combine all of their religious beliefs into one and the only thing that was not negotiable was their acceptance. Jesus was not born on the 25th of December that was replacing the Pagan Celebration of the Winter Solstice. Again I look to you to help me decide…do I believe in a book that was decided upon by men forced to do so and the foundation of which has too many different origins for us to even know about. So Constantine and three hundred religious leaders (men exactly like the ones who pushed a King into crucifying a man that never once threatened them – he only showed another way) redirected the Old Testament; deciding what was valid and what was not. There were chapters that were edited and there were chapters removed. How are we to know what the “Word of God” really was and what were the words of three hundred?

    The Council of Nicea was just getting warmed up and the Old Testament was easy, but what took far more planning and agreement was picking and choosing from the hundreds of books, chapters and verses that were being used by hundreds of religious organizations as their definitive reference book for their religion. So the New Testament was organized by three hundred men with differing beliefs, but more important, we cannot track back from anything more than these three hundred religious leaders what was actually written by the Apostles and what was given as the words from the Apostles. Do we really know and can we ever really know? How can we tell, the text that was given as authoritative documentation was never submitted by the men themselves, this was over three decades later; so all we can do is believe a religious leader in a council that was stripping away anything they did not like or did not want to reference the religion they were creating as an amalgam of all of the other faiths of the time. Not to mention that the New Testament was again written by fallible men with their own beliefs and their own interpretations of what they saw in the presence of Jesus.

    At this point I believe I have given enough thought on the matter as to the authentication of the book we use as the “Word of God” to have great questions in our minds as to is it actually what it is referenced as? There is so much more that can be defined and shown and we haven’t even gotten to the interpretation from the language it was given to us in or our current views of those people who interpreted this great book.

    I personally believe that this is a book that contains some of what God wanted to teach us. It is supposed to be used as a guide and was never meant to be our sword, but merely our shield. Just as any really good book, we should read it and understand it. I mean really understand it. Not listen to our religious leaders tell us what it means. Listen to these men and women who most have devoted their lives to a greater cause, but take from them, add to their lessons what we read and interpret for ourselves and know that when you have questions, you always have God…right there…right then. Ask for your guidance and listen with your heart. Not once did Jesus use the Word of God as a sword to beat his followers in to submission. Not once did Jesus use the Old Testament to chastise or judge any one who he encountered. Jesus only ever showed each and every person the Love and Respect they deserved no matter their station in life. Everybody was treated the same and everybody was Honored for the person they were. Not once did Jesus denounce homosexuality – so what makes anyone else think they can do so in his absence.

    My faith tells me to ask “What Would Jesus Do”, and follow my heart just as he would have done. Remember that Jesus did say that the followers would be the last to leave on judgment day. Are you a follower?

    May we all live with Love, Honor and Respect for ourselves, but most importantly for all of those around us…even the ones you think are undeserving like the Fags!

    Your Humble Servant – Todd M. Dobson

  52. Pingback: VOX POPULI NEWS and OPINION - A Question for True Believers

  53. Rodibidably says:

    todd,

    I’m guessing you did not read my actual question or my own response to my question, since based on your answer you seem to believe that I am a homophobic christian conservative.

    I have stated many times in various replies here that I am an atheist. I would no more question the link between your sexuality and faith than I would question the link between somebody’s height and their preference between dogs and cats (btw, dogs much better, but that is for another post).

    While I understand that somebody’s sexuality is a major factor in their worldview, I do not think that is necessarily drives a person’s faith. One of my best friends is a lesbian, and while we don’t actually discuss faith much, from what we have discussed, she considers herself a lapsed christian. She has belief in a “god”, but in a much more generic sense than any “religion” that I know of. I don’t believe that her sexuality has been the deciding factor in her belief, but perhaps it was a factor in her pulling away from her upbringing.

    Your assumption of my viewpoint seems to have guided your response in a completely random direction. While the points you make are quite valid, they are not really relevant to this specific discussion.

    I am MUCH more interested in your faith than your sexuality. I don’t believe that sexuality is a choice, and therefore I don’t feel that anybody has to “defend” them self as a gay man or a lesbian. I have a bit of a thing for slightly nerdy/sexy women and British/Australian accents. If Lisa Loeb spoke cockney I would have to consider changing my shorts any time her songs came on the radio 😉 . You have a thing for people of the same sex, that’s no different or weird than my thing for Nicole Kidman or Liz Phair.

    Having read your reply, while it is not exactly on topic, I think you do a VERY good job of ripping apart the “typical” right wing, conservative, christian arguments against homosexuality. Obviously this is a topic you feel strongly about, and it is one that I plan to get into at some later date, so I will certainly be coming back to your points at that time.

    You actually make a few of the same points I make on the validity of the bible, all be it for different reasons. But having not really responded to the original intent of my post, I would like to hear your thoughts on my question of how do you know your beliefs are “correct” and how certain are you of that belief.

    I look forward to your response.

  54. pablo says:

    rodibidably, i will answer your question but first i want to ask you a question… i am an evangelical pentecostal christian… now this is my question to you… what are the top ten reasons for my “religion” not to be true? once you answer my question i will answers those questions you asked, how i know my “religion” is true, and nothing more

  55. pablo says:

    forgot to put the and and answer before the how i know my religion question

  56. Rodibidably says:

    pablo,

    Wow a top ten list, I feel so “David Lettermanesque”.

    First let me state off the top, I fully admit that I may be wrong in my beliefs. I have looked at much of the evidence (anybody who says they have looked at ALL of the evidence is fooling them self or lying, there is too much for one person to have thoroughly studied it all), and come to the conclusion that there is no “designer”, there is no “invisible hand guiding”, there is in short, no “god”.
    Even Richard Dawkins who is one of the most famous atheists in the world says that he is “only” 95% sure there is no god. He leaves open a 5% chance that “god” exists in some form and is controlling the destiny of the world and all those in it.

    With that said, if there is a chance that I am wrong, then there is a chance that any given belief system is correct. It could be catholicism, judaism, buddhism, islam, hinduism, scientology, mormonism, or any of a variety of other religions. Or it could be that no religion has yet “gotten it right”.

    In the text of the original post, I state:
    “We can all agree that not everybody’s beliefs are compatible with everybody else’s beliefs.”

    There are many differing religions that conflict with each other. Even within one “religion” there are vast differences (sunnis vs shi’ites is one I mentioned). There are many differing “holy books” across those religions, and many differing translations of those books. If you go into typical catholic church, a typical mormon temple(?) and a typical pentacostal church(?) and grab a bible from each, you would be able to find many serious differences between the text of each of the three. While the main story line is going to be the same there are entire sections that were stripped out by martin luther from the old catholic bible when the protestant reformation took place.

    Even within a single translation, there are many possible interpretations of the same passages. As I have mentioned a few times already during the civil war both the North and South used biblical passages to justify their own beliefs towards slavery. Many atrocities have been committed in the name of “god” based on differing readings of the bible and Koran (as well as other “holy books”, don’t think I am only picking on those two, I just happen to know them a bit better than I know hinduism, buddhism, etc).

    So this means for any specific theistic “faith” to be the correct faith, that a few things must be true:
    1) “God” must exist
    2) They must have picked the “correct” god
    3) They must have picked the “correct” version of that god
    4) They must have picked the “correct” “holy book” to go along with that god
    5) They must have picked the “correct” translation of that holy book
    6) They must have picked the “correct” interpretation of that translation

    I know this is not a full top 10, but really I think that these 6 suffice, and make the point which I wish to convey. Sam Harris, and Richard Dawkins, as well as others, do a much more eloquent and thorough evaluation of the case against “god”.

    However, we are off topic at this point. My entire point of this post is not “who’s right” and “who’s wrong”. The point of this topic is “how do you know that you are right”. While I am most likely not going to agree with your views, I do like to try to understand differing viewpoints when I can.

    I hope that this satisfies your “requirement”, and I look forward to your response.

  57. bluelikeelvis says:

    Can I throw the Wesleyan Quadrilateral into the discussion:

    Scripture – the Bible (Old and New Testaments)
    Tradition – the two millennia history of the Christian Church
    Reason – rational thinking and sensible interpretation
    Experience – a Christian’s personal and communal journey in Christ

  58. Rodibidably says:

    On another blog where I had attempted to ask a few members to come and debate here I was unable to find anybody willing to. However, I did get s few responses back and forth there, which I think may add at least a small something to this discussion.

    —–

    From blogReader:

    Rodibidably…..first you identify your self….what is your religion…..and what is your real purpose…to debate on one true God or whatever.or to find out which is which.
    Please also confirm you have studied comparative religions….and give me some proof of it.
    I guarantee the blog owner Dr. Hsu will not stoop so low to response to your invitation. Why should he?
    He put out a message sincerely …as according to his beliefs and feelings..for us to debate for or against….not for us to expose him…this or that.
    He has been very open minded and democratic …to his visitors.
    But me….as a commentator…. will take up your challenge….but first I am trying to find out….are you a worthy opponent.
    No one will believe you are inviting all of us to your blog for differences in opinions ..so that you will learn. It’s more like advertising your blog……get more visitors to talk in your blog…more than anything else.
    And if you want to debate….do it here.
    I wait your reply.

    My reply:

    Identify myself, ok that is easy enough.
    I consider myself to be an atheist, however I enjoy studying different religions. I am very interested in the similarities and differences between different faiths.
    I’m not sure how you would want me to give you proof that I have studied multiple religions. Online I could claim that I had a vision of jesus tell me to go out and commit some act or say something. That does not mean it is true. I was raised in a somewhat religious atmosphere but came to believe long ago that I could not reconcile the faiths that I knew of at the time with morality and scientific discoveries. The further I delved into studying I saw more and more, that the religions I was exposed to were essentially “god of the gaps” philosophies.

    I’m not sure why you believe that it would be “stooping so low” for somebody to reply to a simple question, but if that it your opinion, so be it. The primary reason I choose to have the discussion on one blog instead of multiple blogs, is so that those who are participating in the discussion can see all the responses, and hopefully come to better understand multiple view points on the same issue.

    I find it quite funny that you are trying to determine if I am a “worthy opponent”. You take a very adversarial position from the beginning, when I am inviting people to share their differences openly. I am of the opinion that people can differ in their views openly and honestly without it causing conflict. From your response it seems that you do not share this belief.

    From blogOwner:

    blogReader, I will not answer that question because no one has the answer. That is the simple truth.
    I thank you for your brave stand and comment.
    🙂
    But I went tothe link , I think his (Rodibidably’s) intention is sincere in wanting a debate on this question.

    From blogReader:

    Rodibidably….Firstly my nick is *****.not ***.
    My advise to you is choose a religion and have full faith in it.
    Put all your heart and soul with passion to that one religion you choose…….as the world is full of spirits….good and evil ones…..and one need to have a strong mind to avoid taken over by the ‘naughty’ spirit.
    Whether you are are weak or strong human being….believing strongly to one religion does strengthen your mind and soul…..but not to the extend to be a fanatic…and believe other humans are stupid fools to believe in other faiths. Those who talk and behave like that..are infact the lost souls…or feeling so guilty in life…afraid to go to hell when they die….as they are programmed to be that way.
    Read what “A True Malaysian” wrote and understand.
    You have a confused and weak mind.
    On the matter of debate on religion..you are not ready yet…..period!
    And try to respect others …as you want others to respect you…starting by calling me *****.and not show your childish character from the first word…….insulting me.

    My reply:

    blogOwner,
    Nobody has the answer to WHY they believe in their given religion? Really, that sounds liek you are saying faith is like a blind man throwing darts, whichever one you hit is as good as any other one…
    You are correct that I want a sincere debate, and I felt that you, or some of your readers might be able to give a unique perspective. I do appreciate your taking the time to read my post. I hope you will reconsider and share your thoughts, but I respect your decision decline.

    blogReader,
    Sorry about shortening your nic. I tend to do that at times, and did not mean to offend.
    You advise me to “choose a religion and have full faith in it”. This would assume that all religions are equal. Since there are many instances where various religions come in conflict with each other over very basic teachings I fail to see how randomly picking one can be of any value. If all religions are equally valid, then no religion would also be equally valid, so why should somebody “choose a religion”. I tend to not believe in things which can not be verified (santa claus, easter bunny, bigfoot, vampires, alien visitation, etc), and yet you seem to be saying that I should blindly accept a religion, any religion as “truth” despite the possibility that whatever I choose has a very real chance of doing more harm than good (branch davidians, manson family, jim jones’ group, etc).
    I fail to see how I did not show you respect or insulted you in my post. I suppose that some can see a light when none was ever there.

    From blogReader:

    No one who understands religions…will identify himself/herself…. an atheist….a word coined by the US government…to identify how god fearing their are…..which we know is not true also. just because others believe in many gods and not one god are wrong.
    And you have infact hinted you like ‘the way of life” doctrines…thus either Hindhusim or Buddhism should suits you fine. They are free and easy ..teaches you to do good and not do bad and control your monkey mind….that easy.
    So choose one….THEN…make sure you study and read the good books on that religion….and depend only on people to give you explainations on what you know understand .
    On Hindhusim…..’Bhagavad-Gita As It Is”….is the book to give you best foundation.
    And on Buddhism…get to know how Sihatta Guatama…Sakya prince… became the Buddha and then read “The Words of Buddha” or sayings of the Buddha…not easy to understand…get a reputable knowledgable monk to teach and explain to you..but books written by the late Chief Reverend of Malaysia….Dr.Dhammananda is the best for you to understand ….as he writes well and easy to understand.
    But should you change your mind..and even want to seek the truths trough the Bahai Faith…Islam..or Christianity……then seek it with full interest.
    And when you have found the religion to give medicine to your “monkey” mind…don’t shout to the whole world…how great your religion is….when you have not study comparative religions….for if you do….then you will never brag about how great your religion or faith is. Any god never ask anyone to advertise for him/her. It is the cunning humans doing that for selfish reasons to control people..for profitable business..and those shouting are the weak deciples……ALWAYS!!
    You are what we call….the lost sheep in the Bible.
    But first….you need to have manners…..as the way you write…shows an intelligent young man…with a troubled mind.
    See how much I care for you?
    Rodibidably…The way you write….you are insulting all humans believing in a faith or a religions. They are all bloody fools and you are the smartest.
    I recall you putting out the same old shit long long ago.
    Yes…..some highly intelligent and very wise well educated and knowledgable humans …do not believe in any religion at all…..especially the scientists and few special strong minded people. They depended on truths …..from their sixth sense and commonsense.
    But you don’t fit in this group at all….although you tend to project you are one of them.
    This will be my last message to you.
    Get real!!!

    My reply:

    How can you claim that nobody who understands religion will identify themselves as an atheist? And why is that, because you personally can not understand how somebody could deny the existence of god? Can you deny the existence of bigfoot, or ghosts or vampires or alien abductions? How is denying any of those different than denying another form of the supernatural, “god”?

    You also claim that the word atheist was coined by the US govement? Really, that is interesting…
    “In early Ancient Greek, the adjective atheos (ἄθεος, from the privative ἀ- + θεός “god”) meant “godless”. The word began to indicate more-intentional, active godlessness in the 5th century BCE, acquiring definitions of “severing relations with the gods” or “denying the gods, ungodly” instead of the earlier meaning of ἀσεβής (asebēs) or “impious”. Modern translations of classical texts sometimes render atheos as “atheistic”. As an abstract noun, there was also ἀθεότης (atheotēs), “atheism”. Cicero transliterated the Greek word into the Latin atheos. The term found frequent use in the debate between early Christians and Hellenists, with each side attributing it, in the pejorative sense, to the other.[8]
    In English, the term atheism was derived from the French athéisme in about 1587.[10] The term atheist (from Fr. athée), in the sense of “one who denies or disbelieves the existence of God”,[11] predates atheism in English, being first attested in about 1571.[12]”

    You MAY want to actually do some research before you make claims like that in the future. Not to offend, but when you make claims that are so obviously historically wrong it makes many of the other things you say seem less authoritative.

    I have studied christianity (catholicism, and presbyterianism), judaism, islam, buddhism, and VERY briefly some of the tenants of hinduism. While I found I agree with some aspects of all of these faiths, I found that I could not personally accept the claims of the supernatural that come along with religion.

    Your assumption that somebody must “choose a religion” seems odd to me. If you truly believe that your version of “god” is correct, then telling somebody to worship a “different” god would seem sacrilegious. If you believe that any “god” is as valid as any other “god”, then you should be willing to acknowledge that no god is also just as valid. Yet you seem to insist that one MUST believe in some “god”, even if it is the “wrong” one.

    Again you accuse me of being rude and not having manners, but I fail to see what I have said that is so offense to you. Is having your beliefs questioned out of curiosity offensive to you? If so, you may want to look at your own convictions, and to at those asking the questions.

    Please tell me how exactly I have offended you. I have asked you some very basic questions, and tried to correct you when you have made false statements about me and my beliefs, and almost everything you have said has been false about me or my beliefs.

    I am trying to understand WHY you believe that people “need” to have a “god” in their life, and you keep saying over and over that there is no such thing as an atheist who has studied religion. This is an obviously false statement as there have been many scholarly books on the subject of faith and religion by noted atheists (Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and of course Richard Dawkins).

    For a “christian” you seem to resort to name calling and insults rather quickly in what I had hoped would be an open friendly discussion on faith and beliefs. I am sorry that you were not able to add anything substantive to the debate.

    —–

    Since this post may get deleted from that blog, I wanted to save it here for posterity and to show yet another view on the topic at hand.

  59. A true Malaysian says:

    Thanks for your reply, Rodibidably. If you read again my earlier comment, I have exactly the same view about Christian missionaries works with no string attached.

    My view is that there must be some truths in all religions or else there will be no follower of the respective religions. But, which of these religions have more ‘truth’ than the other is dependent on ‘how open’ or ‘how receptive’ of ourselves to the view of others. That make thing more complex here, agree? There will be no end to your question here. Important thing here is that we must have faith on what we believe.

    To me, the word ‘GOD’ has resulted in many disagreements among followers of religions, in particular Christianity and Islam, even though they believe at the same GOD. Their holy books have common references of prophets, and yet, both religions were in loggerhead for as long as history can remember.

    So, hypothetically, wouldn’t it be wonderful if there is no God at all?

    Buddhism, on the other hand, believe in no creator God. This is what I found, in simple term, about Buddha’s teachings :-

    “Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.” – Buddha

    So, whether is there any truth about the teaching of Buddha, one need to find it ourselves, Buddha did not impose anything on us. This is why I consider myself as a Buddhist.

  60. Rodibidably says:

    a true malaysian,

    Perhaps I did not understand you fully. It seems we are in closer agreement than I had thought 🙂 .

    I also really enjoy the quote from Buddha, thanks.
    I wish more people felt the way you do, and were willing to be more accepting of others.

  61. starsight says:

    Robididably,

    You invited me to make a comment here. I have not had time to review all 60+ comments you have collected, so my reply will be untarnished by responses to them.

    I am a Numenist, a deliberately created religion in response to the horrors of World War II; the founders were soldiers and their families and friends. We’ve spent 62 years refining and evolving our beliefs, so we are a new religion. It is far from a fully developed religion and it allows a great deal of autonomy to its Celebrants.

    That said, I will answer your question according to our religious dogma:

    “How certain are you that your version of the “truth” (truth of god, religion, the world, the universe, etc) is the correct one, and more importantly, how do you know what that “truth” is?”

    We are individuated corporeal beings with limited sensory input and a very vivid imagination. Truth for us is subjective and relative. Whatever “Truth” there may be may only be vouchsafed to us in small doses. Consider it like the metaphor of the blind people examining an elephant – they all have the truth, but not all of the truth.

    This is how we view truth: in pieces, layered according to our level of understanding.

    As we gain knowledge, maturity, wisdom, more of the Truth comes to us. What we think we know is therefore subject to revision according to new knowledge and new levels of understanding. We discuss new additions to our body of knowledge, our “Truth”, pondering how it fits, and if it doesn’t if we should or must change to allow the new information to fit, or if the information needs to be tabled until we learn more. We rarely discard information because it may simply be that we don’t yet know enough or understand enough. We don’t incorporate or use the information if we can’t find where it belongs.

    Our religion is structured to help us in our explorations, to provide us with forums of learning and sharing, to bring us together to celebrate what we have learned, and what we think we know. Whereever two or more of us gather, we are a church.

    I believe all religions are designed to help their adherents to seek and find as much of the Truth as they can bear – whatever that Truth may be. I also believe that what we perceive as “truth” can and must change to accommodate what we learn as we continue to grow and seek.

  62. A true Malaysian says:

    Robididably,

    I can understand you more after reading your feedback to cruv’s opinion. I must point out here that, to the best of my knowledge and believe, Buddha’s teachings were not transient from GOD. This is why in actual fact, Buddhism is not a ‘religion’. You may refer to this youtube video clip http://youtube.com/watch?v=P2NLQGrbf5U for a better understanding on this.

    Also, you can go Jewel Heart http://www.jewelheart.org/ for more detailed understanding of Buddhism.

    In essence, Buddhism is not a religion, you can find your answer about ‘truth’ from Buddha’s teachings.

    Cheers

  63. Todd Dobson says:

    How certain are you that your version of the “truth” (truth of god, religion, the world, the universe, etc) is the correct one, and more importantly, how do you know what that “truth” is?
    Hello Rodibidably,

    I actually read your full post this time and have attempted to answer the question, so lets see if I like this answer enough that I will post it to both your site and my own.

    As a man that is continuing to ask the very same question you are asking many people, I can honestly answer that I have believed in God from my earliest days. I was never pushed into religion by my parents because both sides of my family come from deeply devout ancestors that were integral to their religious organizations. From a very early age I took myself to the church of the road and was in search of the reason my devotion to a entity that made no sense to me or others. I have read the Christian holy book, the “Bible” while listening to countless religious leaders insight their congregation to one frenzied point or another, but in each and every case, I never found a Christian Religious Organization that spoke to me or explained the Bible in a way that I knew in my heart and in my soul was correct.

    It is such an issue that for years I thought I lost my religion and my faith in God, but deep within my soul I never gave up on God, just on modern day religious organizations that taught their followers that the Bible means X or it absolutely tells us that Y is not to be believed. When Christian leaders stand on a pulpit and strongly demand Z, I started questioning their motives, but then I saw their motives as if a light from heaven shown true guidance on the motivation behind teaching anything but love, honor and respect to their congregations….money. While in almost every country religious organizations are kept from public scrutiny by not demanding they open their financial books for all who wish to see what they do and how they do it. Regardless of the political freedoms religious organizations have, organized religion is the greatest money maker in the world. Religious leaders have also taken marketing 101 classes and through centuries of scientifically proven results, fear does the best job at increasing the number of followers and in sighting those followers to give more money than anything.

    Because of these and many other reasons, I’ve yet to find a Christian organization that I go too to confirm or define my beliefs. I too have been asking this very question and because, I am researching all other religious beliefs in hopes that I can find just one religious organization or structure that teach Love, Honor & Respect to everyone from everyone, always.

    You might think with everything I’ve written, how can I say I believe in God? Well, he created me in his image and I know that with every ounce of my being. While I question many things in my life, my faith in God is not one of them. Faith is believing in that which does not make sense.

    It answers your question and yet it does not. I have faith in God and that is not under question. Everything else may be, but not that!

    Your Humble Servant – Todd M. Dobson

  64. LRF says:

    Your question stabs at the nerve ending of all who choose to believe.
    I don’t have a true belief as such other then the belief that all who believe are mislead.
    I have, however, studied belief systems for over 30 years and the above statement has been my conclusion thus far.
    I find all beliefs need a giant leap of faith and it’s the faith that is the belief.
    When asked to proove their faith (belief), many rest soley on a shacky footing. Better to say it is so,so it is without question.
    I do however believe that the universe and all that is in it is like a planted seed and as such will not grow to maturity without care.

    Hopefully someone with a little simple insight may answer your question.

    Enjoyed all the comments……LRF

  65. monsterball says:

    All of you can talk religions…till kingdom come!’It’s the never ending battle between the Christian and the Muslims…who is God..bla bla bla.
    I have battled many fanatics from both sides…because each side is trying to prove they are really worshiping …the one true GOD.
    Robididably….have pasted my messages … put out at Dr.Hsu Forum blog into his blog. Due to respect to the good hearted Doctor..I refrained to response to him…..and there he goes with his sickening personality….trying to prove he is the smart ones…believing in no god….like the great scientists…..and discoveries of earth’s formations….and humans existences.
    He is not qualified to join that group…as he can blare out this or that…with no experiences as a father or live long enough to have the wisdoms.
    He is trying to brag with no substances or quality in life..except to prove all of us wrong. He will never admit this and saying he is out to learn. Don’t be fooled by that.
    He is just a book maniac .trying to show off how much he knows about religions. Since he knows so much of Buddhism…..which I am one..and he said I am a Christian…….clearly shows how much he knows about other people…and calling me a ‘monster’ purposely….then apologize…is showing he is childish no manners or respect to others. Howe can a person talk religions…with no respect to the elders..who eat more salt than he eat rice.?
    This guy loves to battle in religion….and he knows next to nothing…..but by text book standard only.
    If he really understands Buddhism….he should not be the first to irritate or calling for a battle on religions….but defend the rights against fanatics from Christian and Muslim writers…yes…to keep practizing… the way of life to the many doors of TRUTHS.
    I am going to end here by advising all of you….be faithful to all your beliefs…and the truths of it all..is the the label…you are attached to……but the heart brain and eyes you have….from your own faiths….the outcome of you being a noble human being or a hypocrite….that’s the bottom line……plus poor souls…..afraid to go to hell…that is another group not worth talking about.

  66. mootpoints says:

    Holy Cow! I was gone for the weekend and this discussion really took off. I can’t address the last three hundred posts but I can answer the one that you raised in response to my last post.

    My point was not to throw reams of evidence at you but to open up the possibility that God (any God)exists. Once we’ve established that then we move on to which God. But for me to jump to a specific God would be to skip a specific step.

    As to my illustration of a jury – the fact that jurist’s can come to different conclusion with the same evidence fits very well into general concept of a Christian God. People often see what they want to see. You would argue that I see God where there is only chance or science. I would argue that you see nothing where there is God. Inevitably we both bring our own biases to the conclusions. The real question is how to we take an objective look at the facts – is it possible to examine this issue without bias?

  67. LRF says:

    To mootpoints:

    The only way an objective view can be made is if you are totally disconected from any affiliation to religions. Religion is so ingrained in cultures that this would be nearly impossible. When one is born into a religion then the programming starts at birth.
    Very few question this, if at all, until adulthood.
    To break the shackles of programming and look at the evidence objectivly takes time and deep thought.
    Born again christians have life changing experiences and this they believe to be devine.
    I, personally have a very full, happy life with no God as such. Seems that most people need to believe in something.
    It’s just a shame that different religions with their different gods have cost thousands of lives.

  68. Rodibidably says:

    Sorry I have not replied recently, I’ve been swamped with work, and away at a conference… I will try my best to reply to all of the comments ASAP (some time between tonight and Monday night).

  69. Rodibidably says:

    starsight,

    I can’t say that I know much about your religion, but from the quick searches I have done (don’t you just love google), it seems fairly benign. However it seems a tad odd to me to create a religion seemingly out of nothing.

    Based on the sites I have come across, and granted these may not be the best examples of your beliefs, I would be lead to believe that this “religion” is a hoax perpetrated by a very small number (1-8) young guys (ages 12-20). This may be just a reflection of the sites I stumbled across, but for now, we’ll take the position that this is a real religion, and that thee sites at least somewhat accurately describe the “beliefs”.

    From what I gather, there was no divine inspiration, it was just a group of people decided to create a new religion. There are many aspects which seem to be “borrowed” from other world religions, and many aspects which seem impossible to actually “know” although the websites I have come across do claim to have this knowledge. The one that sticks out the most in my mind is the after death beliefs. From the sites I have found, your beliefs claim to have an understanding of what happens after death, in a spiritual sense. This seems like it would be a difficult thing to “know” without some sort of evidence.

    With that said, I do like a number of the concepts you mentioned about trying to learn and understand, I just hope that you try to use rational scientific methods to learn, and not a “spiritual journey” type of “learning”, since inevitably that seemingly leads towards concepts which are incompatible with the laws of the universe, since the typical human’s understanding of the physical laws of the universe are severely lacking.

  70. Rodibidably says:

    a true malaysian,

    I have a very good friend that is Buddhist, and from my understanding, there are essentially two “types” of Buddhism, there is the philosophical teachings and the spiritual teachings. Philosophically, I agree with much of Buddhism (and to a much greater degree Taoism, since I have studied Tao much more, and follow many of its practices in my own life). However, spiritually I have a hard time with their beliefs in reincarnation (it is a fact that there are more living beings on the planet today than there were early in the earth’s history, so where do the additional “souls” or “spirits” come from. Why is it that the Dalai Lama has been reincarnated into a living child each time one has died; why not into an animal, or plant, or on another planet outside our own solar system?

    While I am far from an expert on Buddhism, I have found that some of the spiritual aspects of it are on par with some of the “magic” of other religion, such as the flood, 72 virgins, and dropping souls into volcanoes. This does not take away from the great works that many Buddhist have done, and does not diminish the philosophy of Buddhism, but it does show that like many other religions, Buddhism has it’s (at least in my view) nonsensical superstitions.

  71. Rodibidably says:

    todd dobson,

    To steal (and slightly butcher) a quote a horrible line, from an even more horrible movie, spoken by an even more horrible human being:
    You had me until “he created me in his image”.

    Many years ago I felt the same as you (at least the first 4 paragraphs of your post), that I believed that there was a “god” but that all of the “religions” I had studied were corrupt and just plain wrong in many respects. I felt then, and still feel now, that there is a massive disconnect between the “churches” to be these grand buildings, and for the priests, pastors, clergy, etc to spend the kind of money they did, and live the lives they did, while others around the world, and in our own country were homeless and starving to death daily. If you want to do the most good for humanity, then serve those most in need. This is one of the foundations of the teachings of most “faiths”, and yet it is almost completely ignored by those in power of these religions.

    I believe essentially the same about religious leaders that I do of politicians, that there are some genuinely good people trying to do their best to make the world a better place, but that there are far more that are out for their own self interests, and that the institution itself has become corrupt. Even the best intentions eventually will fall to this onslaught of bureaucracy eventually.

    I respect your final answer, although I don’t agree with you. I do question however how it is that you “know”. Your response is obviously heart felt and thought out, and you do a good job of explaining your point, but as I read it, it boils down to ‘religion is flawed, but I believe despite that’; and you don’t really say HOW you know that your faith in god and your understanding of god is the truth.

  72. Rodibidably says:

    lrf,

    I agree that this question stabs at the nerve endings of all true believers. While the point of this post was to get an understanding of why people have their own specific beliefs, by its very nature, the post calls into question the beliefs themselves. Religion and faith are touchy subjects, but based on the impact that they have on the world, and the potential for massive amount of violence in the name of various “gods”, and “beliefs” it is a subject that should be brought up at every possible opportunity.

    As an atheist, I believe that which can be shown scientifically, and anything else is either wrong, or does not yet enough evidence to support it. I fully admit that there are many things that science can not yet answer. However, the difference between science and religion, is that religion generally just places “god” in the gaps of human knowledge (and in some extreme cases such as creationism/ID places god in direct contrast to human knowledge) while science instead states that it does not know something, but we are constantly striving to learn.

    I do believe that a number of the replies so far have been very insightful, even if I have not agreed with all of them. My ideal goal is not for everybody to agree with each other, but for everybody to agree that some truths (germ theory, evolution, gravity, quantum mechanics, etc) are universal, and anything beyond that may help you live your life in a better way, but nobody should expect another person to conform to their own beliefs.

    If somebody wants to live their life believing that zenu dropped them off in a volcano 75 million years ago and that we evolved from clams, or that some guy 2000 years ago was born of a virgin, and that belief somehow helps them to live a life that helps the world around them, then so be it. But they should NEVER attempt to push those beliefs on another person.

  73. Rodibidably says:

    monsterball,

    I’m a tad surprised to see you post here, but I do welcome all view points into the discussion. I am a bit disheartened to see that you continue to spew bile at those who ask questions and do not conform to your own world view, but I can’t say that I am surprised.

    Yes, I did post our “conversation” from the other blog, as I thought that it was relevant, but since you did not want to be part of the discussion I refrained from using any names to protect your privacy. Since you have now joined in the discussion and mentioned this, I assume you no longer want to be anonymous on my own blog.

    Again, you are claiming things with no basis in fact. According to you (this particular time, I won’t bother going over your past accusations again), I am trying to prove I am smart. So does this mean that anybody who asks a question and begins a discussion is trying to prove their superiority to you? How did you first get into your faith, were you born into parents of your own faith and you followed blindly, or did you begin to search, trying to find what you believed in? This would be a form of questioning, much in the same way that my post here is a question, where I am looking for input from others with differing opinions from my own.

    The quote which is currently at the top of my blog is from Albert Einstein, and I think it is a very appropriate one for the attitude which you are displaying with your obvious distain for questions.
    “He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, science for him the spinal cord would fully suffice. This disgrace to civilization should be done away with at once. Heroism at command, senseless brutality, deplorable love-of-country stance, how violently I hate all this, how despicable an ignoreable war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be a part of so base an action! It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder.”

    You claim I am not qualified to join the ranks of scientists, who question the world around them and try to better understand it. I think that what I am doing in my own small way is exactly that. I am trying to get a better understanding of a subject (in this case faith) by asking those who have faith about their own personal faith. It would make as little sense to ask an atheist about faith, and it would be to ask a fish about flying. I am asking those who have faith, since as an atheist myself, I do not have any faith or belief in the supernatural aspects of religion.

    Your next “comment”, and I use that word liberally in your case, since much of your posts consists of semi-coherent ranting, basically states that somebody must be a father, and have reached a certain age before they can have wisdom. Albert Einstein (and I am not really comparing myself to him, just using him as an example of brilliance in youth to counter your point about age being required) was 26 years old when he published 4 of his papers, including one on special relativity, and the one that coined perhaps the most well known, and influential equation of all time (E=MC^2).

    While I am not exactly certain what your next “point” is trying to say, I am curious exactly where and how have I “tried to brag” or tried to “prove all of you wrong”. If somebody answers a question, and you don’t understand them completely, I would thing that you should ask a follow up question to get further insight.

    I never claimed to know much of Buddhism, I have learned some of the absolute basics from reading various books, and from a good friend of mine who is a Buddhist, but I would never claim to know much about it beyond the basics. I have personally spent much more time over my life studying various versions of christianity, judaism, and islam, since I was raised by “christians”, and all three are built on the same foundation.

    Some of your final points are actually valid (to all the other readers: I know I was shocked too), I do enjoy debates on religions, since I believe that religion, or more specifically faith, is one of the most important subjects of our time, since it has so much potential for massive destruction. I believe that by understanding others better, we can hopefully come to accept each other and cease fighting over petty differences, but to understand each other, we must be willing to question our own “beliefs”, and the “beliefs” of others.

    Your final thoughts though are half idiotic and half almost intelligible. You are telling people to be blindly faithful to their own beliefs, which I think is one of the worst things that we as a civilization can do. We MUST learn to question everything, even that which we hold most dear, or else we will continue to have violence in the “name of god” because of our differences in “holy books”. The REASON that christians and muslims are attacking each other, and other religions, is because they blindly believe that their “god” tells them to. By you telling people to blindly follow their faiths, you are inviting this kind of blindly ignorant violence which you claimed in the previous paragraph to be against.

  74. Rodibidably says:

    moot,

    Obviously we interpret the evidence differently on the “proof of god”, and I won’t argue that point at this time (that is for another more specific post I think). While I don’t agree with your conclusions, I do respect those that look at the awe and wonder of the universe and question. Your questions seem to lead you to the path of a “creator”, while mine lead me to the path of evolution (the universe evolving from the big bang, and then eventually life evolving from the building blocks). While much could be said on the points for and against both of these views, it is far too time-consuming and too big of a sidetrack I think for this current discussion. For now I think we can just agree that looking at mankind, the world and the universe we are both struck by the awesomeness (really, that’s a great word that just doesn’t get used enough, because it sounds kind of childish I think, but it really is a great descriptor) of what we see.

    But on topic, you state that from all of the available evidence that it is possible for multiple (seemingly rational) people to come to vastly differing conclusions. Your conclusions have lead you to believe in “god”, while mine have lead me to a more scientific view of the world. But I am curious how it is that you “concluded” that the belief that you ended with was the “correct” belief. How is it that you do not believe in zeus or allah or zenu or buddah, but you do believe in jesus; and how certain are you that you came to the “correct” conclusion?

  75. Rodibidably says:

    lrf,

    This essentially echoes many of my own sentiments. I think it is much harder for somebody to break away from a belief system than it is to accept one anew. When one is born into a family that does things a certain way, you tend not to question it, you tend to just follow along.

    I was raised by “catholic” parents. Some years after their divorce my father became a “born again christian”, and his belief in his faith was unshakable. He was the very essence of the stereotypical right-wing, conservative christian, who denied evolution, believed the earth and the universe were roughly 6500 years old, homosexuality was a sin, abortion was murder, spoke in tongues at services, etc… When his youngest son (my half-brother) was born, he and his wife believed for a number of years that this son (it took a long time before they could get pregnant, and it was his 7th child, as if that had some significance) was the second coming of jesus himself. Some years later when this son was maybe 3 or 4 years old they caught him in a flat out lie that even in their delusion they could not ignore or explain away, so they “decided” that he was not in fact “god”, but that he was a prophet (a new john the baptist type I suppose).
    Long before this half-brother was born, I had already begun to question my parents and their “faith”, and had by the time I was in 2nd or 3rd grade already come to believe that they were wrong. At that time I became agnostic in a sense; I believed that there must be something bigger, but I was certain that humanity was not capable of understanding, and that “god” or whatever this something was, had created the universe (by means of the big bang) and then essentially stepped back and let nature take its course.
    By the time I was mostly on my own (15 years old) I had become a “closet atheist”. I no longer believed that a supernatural being had any impact in the universe, but I was so unsure of myself that I rarely would discuss religion, “faith”, or “god”. The little that I would say then was along the lines of my former agnostic beliefs, as not to offend others, or get into a discussion defending my own beliefs, which I did not even understand at the time.
    Eventually through much study, I became more acutely aware of the fallacies of many of the worlds major religions, and I became much more outspoken on my own atheism. Throughout this time I had spent much time reading “holy books” and studying religion and “faith”, but I had not yet studied atheism as I wrongly felt at that time there was nothing to study about non-belief.
    Much later on I found others who shared my convictions, and through some of these friends was turned on to Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and others. Finally having read books and papers that not only describe the religions of the world, but describe the alternative, I became even hungrier for more knowledge.
    I have done much studying, and while I am not now, nor will I ever be, on the level of a Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, etc I have finally come to a firm understanding of my own set of “beliefs”, and my own ideals for mankind; which leads to where I am now at this point in my life, trying now, not to understand the religions themselves any more, but to understand the motivations and faith of those that follow them.

  76. Pingback: As good a way as any other to choose a religion? « Rodibidably

  77. A true Malaysian says:

    Rodibidably,

    I am not a Buddhism expert either, that was why I put the link to a Buddhist center just in case you would like to know more about Buddhism.

    Your points on reincarnation of Dalai Lama and additional “souls” or “spirits” are more appropriate to be referred to Buddhism scholars as I have the same ‘doubts’ unanswered.

    Your open question to all believers here which attracts so many responses is actually in line with what Gautama Buddha’s teachings, ie basically, don’t accept his teachings without thinking. Unlike Christianity and Islam, ‘God’ element is always there which somehow restrict thinking and open discussion. Do you agree with me on this?

  78. Rodibidably says:

    a true malaysian,

    I think you and I agree on the point of this question pretty much.

    I may reject the supernatural aspects of all religions out of hand without evidence for them (including reincarnation), but I do think that most religions have good aspects and good philosophies at their core.

    I even follow the basic philosophies of Taoism, without believing in the Qi, Jing, and Shen “supernatural” aspects.

    From your posts, it seems you follow Buddhism in much the same way, so I do think we agree on quite a bit.

  79. mootpoints says:

    (I’m leaving these comments here as well as in the comment section on my own blog. I didn’t know where it would be best to post them. Also I haven’t read through all of the above posts, so sorry if my response is a little outdated.)

    Well, let me re-hash the discussion up to this point. if I understand the definition of atheism correctly it means one knows that there is no God. It can’t quite mean that we’re pretty sure there is no God, we already have a word for that – Agnostic.

    So – my point is – the standard of definition one must meet to become an atheist is too high. One must know there is no God. That’s a standard that can’t be reached. No one can know something doesn’t exist. (i.e. – you can’t prove a negative.)

    So what I’m saying is that, using the definition of the word athiest, no one really can be one. At best one can be a “strong” agnostic.

    Now this is where we diverged before. The point is made that we can be reasonably sure fairies don’t come to life in our refrigerator when we close the door. We can be be reasonably sure that doesn’t happen but we can’t know.

    That’s true. But fairies in my fridge isn’t a position I’m required to think about and come to an intellectual conclusion. The subject of the existence of God evidently is in that we’ve invented a word to describe non-belief.

    So my point is ultimately that we can, at best, be agnostics.

    So far I’m simply re-hashing my earlier posts.

    Now we have the issue of, from the atheist’s perspective, that the chance God exists is so small that it is irrelevant.

    I said earlier that the evidence can sometimes lead us to different conclusions. What is the evidence that has lead you to the conclusion you’ve reached?

    My question is (and I’m more or less thinking as I go) why do you think the possibility that God exists is so small? What definition of God are you using and what criteria is the concept of God not living up to?

    I have to say I really appreciate this discussion. It seems that arguments about God or atheism tends to be more more angry and vitriolic than it needs to be. I think humans can discuss polarizing issues and even disagree in a respectful manner. I really appreciate the tone of this dialogue. Thanks.

  80. humbleforest says:

    The search for the Universal Truth can never be found
    in the material World.
    To succeed in this journey, one must search inwards
    for one’s true-self, also known as the true heart.
    The first step is to discover the false-self. You
    will see the False more clearly once you understand
    your reactions, feelings and thoughts to surrounding
    situations.
    Man and his relationships with others are important as, if he observes his behaviour, he will begin to understand himself.
    Relationships when viewed properly, is a true mirror.

  81. humbleforest says:

    The mind, the false-self, the ego can never realise
    the Universal Truth.
    The limited can never expound the Unlimited.
    The mind and its highest thought and idea can never describe nor imagine the Nature’s Truth
    A thought or idea is based on what is known.
    The known cannot describe nor know the Unknown.
    TRUTH can only be realised by taking the inward journey of calmness meditation and moral cultivation.
    TRUTH is realised through understanding; and through
    understanding only will there be Freedom.
    The heart must be filled with true Love
    Without true Love there will not be true realisation.
    TRUTH is not the word truth, they are words which
    are only forms of expression. Discover the essence or meaning of the words.

  82. humbleforest says:

    When Morality is sincerely practised, good habits
    are cultivated; Wisdom grows and the original soul
    strengthens.
    The mind and heart of the cultivator becomes purer.
    In this state the power of understanding grows and helps one to understand one-self and one’s
    surroundings.
    Once one understands, there is Freedom.
    There is Freedom as the mind no longer struggles
    to understand.
    The mind is at peace.
    There is calmness followed by stillness,
    And TRUTH is experienced.

  83. humbleforest says:

    The way of Nature, Natural Law, or Dao can never be fully described.
    Cultivate yourself sincerely in moral values to become
    a perfect pureness. Knowing and memorising the holy scriptures or texts is never enough. Practise and practise the virtues or moral values until they are
    your nature . When Morality is your nature, Love that is Universal and pure you become. Self-less you become. You become the Great Dao, and the Great Dao is you. Some term it as finding the True-self, Home,
    Enlightenment, Heaven, and so on and so on. Thus one’s
    body, mind and soul balance as a Pure Light and
    merge with the Pure Great Universe.
    Before this can happen,one must go together with the
    practise of calmness meditation. Calmness meditation
    is an integral part of moral cultivation and moral
    cultivation is an integral part of calmness meditation. They are inseparable, same as Dao and De.

    Life is short. Use it well. Whether one is truly cultivated or not, only the challenges of life and time will tell. The true and final judgement is not during your life time but when it ends.
    Sow the good seeds and the good merits you receive.
    Believe it or not lies in your action is your reaction.
    Believe what is right to believe but not to be deluded.

  84. Rodibidably says:

    moot,

    Would you consider yourself agnostic about the existence of zeus, zenu, thor, ra, vishnu or any of the countless other “gods” that have belonged to “other religions” throughout human history? How about the flying spaghetti monster, unicorns, vampires, santa, or the easter bunny?

    Or would you concider yourself an atheist with regards to these?

    By your logic, atheism being intellectually dishonest, you must either be lying to yourself if you claim to not believe in any claim no matter how fantastical, or you do actually believe in any and every claim ever brought forth, including ones like aliens, the flying spaghetti monster, santa, etc which contradict many of the basic tenants of your religion (based on a quick scan of other posts on your site I am guessing you’re christian, so I have a good understanding of the basics of your faith).

    If you believe in jesus then you should NOT believe in santa. However you claim that to not believe in something you must know everything. If you know everything, then by your definition you are god, in which case, seriously what the fuck is up with allowing priests to rape little boys, not having hitler die as a child, the spanish inquisition, witch burning, the crusades, racism, slavery, 9/11, etc all in YOUR name? (ok, that may be a bit over the top, but it does sort of drive the point home)

    However, with that said, you never really touched on the overall gist of my original criticism of your blog post, which can be boiled down to “even the most hard core, staunch, scientifically minded atheist would be willing, if irrefutable evidence were given to acknowledge that something supernatural exists (such as god); HOWEVER the burden of proof is on the believers; Occam’s razor states ‘All other things being equal, the simplest solution is the best’, meaning that when given a choice between a natural explanation and a supernatural one, pick the natural explanation”.

    People of faith generally have blind faith and see that blind faith in the light of contrary evidence as a trait to be cherished. For most of the “faithful” there is no evidence that could persuade them that they are wrong. For most scientists if shown the correct evidence they would be obligated to change their position, however there is no evidence which is unquestionably evidence of “god” (despite what the discovery institute might try to claim).

    Your next point that you try to make in your original thread, that God’s existence (or lack thereof) affects our choices” is easily the quickest to dismiss. In my view, even the most cursory thought into this proves that an even seemingly religious “choice” is in no way based on the “truth” of that religion.

    As I previously posted, which you seem to have overlooked:
    Why exactly must the existence of a “god” affect our choices?
    Even something as seemingly religious as why people go to church (or synagogue, temple, buddist shrine, pray towards mecca a number of times a day, etc) really has absolutely nothing to do with whether god exists or not. They go because they believe “he” exists. They do not go because “he” actually does exist. If “his” existence dictated whether people will go to church or not, then EITHER everybody in the world would go (i.e. god exists) or NOBODY would go (i.e. atheists are correct).
    If something that is SEEMINGLY 100% religious in nature has nothing to do with the actual existence of (or lack thereof) god, then why would ANY other choice we make be based on this.
    Your choices may be based on YOUR PERSONAL belief in “god” or “allah” or “l ron hubbard” or whatever it may be, but the TRUTH of that belief is completely irrelevant.
    As well, by your logic, Charles Manson, Ted Bundy, Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Dahmer, etc all committed horrendous acts of violence against their fellow man BECAUSE of “God’s existence (or lack thereof)”. So either god exists, and caused the holocaust, or he does not and you can throw your belief system out the window.

    As for you question of what evidence am I basing my conclusions on. I base my conclusions, on the constant scientific discovery through history. Originally “god” was used to explain the rising and setting of the sun and moon. Then later he created them on the 3rd day (quite impressive, in that it claims the earth existed 48 hours before the sun, pretty cool huh). Later the catholic church claimed that “god” did not really do these things in 6 days, roughly 6500 years ago, this story is just an allegory (although try to tell the 80 million evangelicals in the US that the universe is 14 billions years old, they’ll refuse to listen to any reasoned evidence).

    There are many other examples of how “god” has diminished as our knowledge has increased. This is the very definition of the “god of the gaps”, which attempts to place “god” into the holes in our current understanding of the world instead of trying to learn the science behind those holes. Again, I refer you to Occam’s Razor that the simplest solution is the best unless there is evidence to support some other position.

  85. Rodibidably says:

    humbleforest,

    As with the writings of many eastern philosophies, your comments can be taken in a spiritual or non-spiritual way.

    If you take these as ways to improve your own outlook on things, then I’d say that I agree, at least conceptually as far as I understand your comments.

    If you take these in a spiritual sense where there is a “god” of some sort (be it the typical abrahamic god or a more “benign” concept of karma then I would have to respectfully disagree.

    As somebody who follows many aspects of Taoism myself, I agree with much of what you said in theory, but I want to stress that I disagree with the implied spiritual aspects of this just as strongly as I disagree with the supernatural aspects of Christianity, scientology, islam, or any other religion.

  86. humbleforest says:

    All Religions have a common aim and concept of good
    virtues and high morality for all human beings to learn and share with indiscriminate love among one another as a One Big Family in a One Harmonious and
    Peaceful Community.
    The Religious teachings is a pure teaching to remind
    all humans to self-realise and cultivate one’s bad habits inorder to live happily and peacefully on this Earth, without spoiling her environment, the Space and destroying mankind.

  87. humbleforest says:

    There is no true progress spiritually if one has no
    Love, Compassion and Morality for fellow men.
    There is no true harmony if harmony is only achieved
    with like-minded people.
    True harmony is achieved when man accepts all.

    The Love of GOD cannot be experienced if one’s heart
    is closed and has no love for others. Serve GOD by
    serving others. Expect no results. Expectations
    reflect greed and ego.
    GOD does not expect one to too attach or too rely on HIM.
    HE loves to see everyone to have a mutual help and
    respect without any differences whatsoever.

  88. humbleforest says:

    When one is right it does not mean the other is wrong.
    When one is wrong it does not mean the other is right.
    Each situation must be looked carefully and fairly on
    its own facts.
    However it is best not to judge others if you don’t
    have to.
    Do not be too preoccupied in judging others until one
    is able to see one’s own faults and willing to correct
    them. This a real Gentleman.

  89. humbleforest says:

    Speak the language of Love, not filty or vulgar language.i.e. Morality

    Speak no evil.
    Hear no evil.
    See no evil.
    Think no evil.
    Act no evil,
    In to-day’s society many are unable to differentiate
    evil and good, shame and shameless.

  90. Rodibidably says:

    humbleforest,

    “All Religions have a common aim and concept of good
    virtues and high morality”
    Would this include Jim Jones group? I think you’re being too kind/naive.

    “The Love of GOD cannot be experienced if one’s heart
    is closed and has no love for others”
    I have love for others (friends, family, etc), but I do not believe in any “god”. I can find no reason why one would waste time and energy believing in a supernatural entity that has no relevance to ones daily life?

    “Speak no evil. Hear no evil. See no evil. Think no evil. Act no evil”
    Two small points; who’s concept of evil, and those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.

  91. mootpoints says:

    For the sake of clarity I’d like to include a couple of definitions to make sure we’re on the same page.

    Columbia Encyclopedia – Atheism, denial of the existence of God or gods and of any supernatural existence, to be distinguished from agnosticism, which holds that the existence cannot be proved.

    So, in light of that definition I would be an agnostic about those other claims just like I would be about things like aliens or the Loch Ness monster. However, for the sake of honesty, because I am a Christian and have the added source of the scriptures with which to form my opinion, I do not believe in other gods. I don’t expect others to take the bible into account if they don’t already believe in God. So, I am an atheist in regards to other gods but only because I can use the bible to form my beliefs. Like you stated, “If you believe in Jesus, then you should NOT believe in Santa.” That’s an over-simplified but otherwise fair summation of my position.

    Where we diverged in thought was when you said, “…you claim that to not believe in something you must know everything.” I said essentially to be an atheist you are positively claiming to know God doesn’t exist, which is a burden of proof one cannot meet. Again you can’t prove a negative.

    However it does remain incumbent on me (if I want you to believe) to prove that He does exist, Occam’s Razor or no. By the way have you ever heard of Pascal’s Wager? It’s certainly not proof but it is an interesting intellectual exercise.

    You also said that, “People of faith generally have blind faith and see that blind faith in light of contrary evidence as a trait to be cherished.” I don’t hold that position at all. I don’t think faith has anything to do with making a blind leap of assumption in the face of evidence to the contrary. I stated as much in an earlier comment.

    I did make an ill-advised point about “God affecting our choices” and therefore requiring our thought. I humbly retract that statement.
    It’s certainly not your job to defend a lack of belief as I stated earlier, the burden of proof is on my side of the fence. However I didn’t quite follow your explanation for not believing. You said that “god was used to explain the setting of the sun and moon” and the Catholic church claiming it was an allegory and how 80 million evangelicals dismiss that claim. I’m not sure I saw a reason there. I don’t dismiss your position because of atheists who might have done bad things because of their atheistic beliefs.

    You’re probably right about the “God of the Gaps”. Even as a Christian I get frustrated by other Christians inserting God into situations that they don’t have any other explanation for.

    I think that to answer your original questions – I as a Christian that believes in the bible can use the bible as additional evidence to support my conclusions regarding other supernatural phenomena, gods or “the flying spaghetti monster.”

    What I’m curious about is the reason you’re an atheist. What specifically is it that proves to you that there is no God? (I realize that you don’t have to answer that. Again the burden of proof is on me I was just wondering if you could humor me.) You claim to positively deny God rather than be indifferent and I’m curious as to why?

    I tried to answer you post let me know if I missed something again. I’d really like to think about the claims you bring up.

    Thanks.

  92. Rodibidably says:

    moot,

    I do know of Pascual’s wager, however it is a bit of a joke IMO… If “god” is real, and the ONLY reason that you claim to believe is “just in case” then I would think that “god” would know your true thoughts and think you a liar for claiming to believe just to get out of hell on the off chance “he” exists. On the other hand, if I am wrong, and “god” does exist, and “he” is humanish (as the bible claims) then I would suspect that he would prefer an honest atheist to a lying one.

    As for the difference between an atheist and an agnostic, agnostics don’t put a probability on the existance of god, they just say “I don’t know”; while atheists claim that “yes there is a chance god exists since a negative can not be proven, but that chance is so small as to be insignificant in any aspect of my life”. Even Richard Dawkins, who is about as “hard core” as atheists get claims that he is “only” 95% certain of the non-existence of all “gods”.

    You can be an atheists with regards to every religion in history except the one you believe because the bible tells you those are false.
    I am an atheist in regards to ONE more religion than you are (specifically, your religion).

    As for non-religious, supernatural issues, such as bigfoot, unicorns, aliens, etc, you claim to be agnostic towards them. I claim to be atheistic towards them until good scientific evidence comes to light that shows the likelihood of them being real is high enough to make an impact in my life.

    While it is true that I can not “prove” that aliens are not visiting this planet, mutilating cattle, abducting rednecks and probing them, I can state with certainty that this is not happening. I can state this just as certainly as I can state that the sun will rise in the east tomorrow.

    As I mentioned previously: In reality though there is a ridiculously small chance that the sun will not in fact rise tomorrow.
    There is the chance that tonight while I sleep a meteor could crash into the earth stopping it’s rotation on it’s axis. If this happened, the “other” side of the earth would be in constant day time, and “this” side would be in constant night.
    There is a chance that scientists have miscalculated the amount of nuclear fuel in the sun, and it could finish expending the last of it’s energy some time tonight. Once this happens, the nuclear reaction in it’s core will stop, it will cease to make any more light, and 8 minutes later the earth will get the last bit of sunlight ever.

    Admittedly, the chances of these scenarios happening are infinitesimally small, but they do exist. There is no possible reason to expect them, to plan for them (at least not for another 5 billions years for the “running out of fuel” one), or to even take them seriously, even though they COULD happen.

    To me, the odds of this happening are roughly the same as the odds of aliens landing on the white house lawn and taking credit for Roswell, and all the other cases of sightings and abductions over the last 60-70 years. This is also the same likelihood that bigfoot will wander into my backyard tonight or that when I die I will be standing in front of a “pearly gate waiting for saint peter to tell me where I’m headed”.

    My mentioning of the “shrinking” of god was used to show that “god” as most people see “him” is really a perfect “god of the gaps” in that “he” is used to fill in the gaps in human knowledge. Before we understood the earth rotating around then sun, it was “god” who lifted the sun up each day. Then we learned a bit about cosmology and then “god” created then sun. Then we learned how stars were created and that our sun is just an ordinary star, and “god” created the universe. Now we understand the beginning of the universe (at least to a degree) and people are relegating “god” to having set up the laws of the universe and setting the big bang in motion.

    The more we learn about the world and the universe around us, the smaller “god’s” role becomes. In my opinion it is only a matter of time before the role of “god” shrinks to the point where “he” is no longer needed (it won’t be in my lifetime or my children’s lifetime, but for the sake of humanity, I hope it happens before religious zealots kill us all.

    I deny the existence of any god for many reasons, but the first one in my own life was seeing the corruption of religion.

    You can read a bit about my coming to my beliefs above in a reply to lrf if you’re interested (not that it goes intro great detail, but it does highlight a few of the points in my “de-conversion”).

    I look around at christian churches, and I see the catholic church spending millions upon millions to keep kids quite who were sexually abused. Or look at Ted Haggard sleeping with male prostitutes and doing meth. Yes these could be isolated examples, but they are not, they are only the tip of the iceberg.

    If “christ” was really “god” and people are doing this kind of shit in “his” name, “he” must wonder how badly he fucked up getting “his message” across. If people want to believe in something bigger than themselves and do good works in the name of that, more power to them (personally I think it’s an unnecessary step, but in some cases the ends may actually justify the means). However if those same people then attempt to justify their bigotry, hatred, violence, genocide, slavery, murder, and wars because that “something higher” told them to, I think we have a massive problem.

    Whether “god” exists or not, a ton of really bad shit has happened, and continues to happen in “his name”, and we MUST find a way to stop it before it destroys civilization. We are at a point in history where one person can theoretically start a war that ends all human life on this planet.

    “God” is an unnecessary delusion that we are all too happy to accept because it takes away our own responsibility for our thoughts and our actions.

    I’m pretty sure we’ll never convince each other, but I do hope that you are at least coming to understand a bit the view of somebody who completely disagrees with such a fundamental aspect of your own beliefs. I spent many years trying to understand religion and faith, and now and trying to understand the people who have faith (although I admit, it’s very hard to come to any understanding with some of the people).

    I may not agree with you, but I can at least, to a degree, see your point of view, which is hopefully one small step towards more people understanding each other.

  93. mootpoints says:

    I really appreciate your comments. I think the real point of contention was when I used “intellectual dishonesty” as a description. I don’t know if you remember an earlier post – but I retracted that wording. It’s not fair to say that something is intellectually dishonest when it an issues of definitions.

    That Richard Dawkins is 95% sure no gods exist is fascinating. Like you said he seems to “hard core”.
    But that goes to my point about definitions. Essentially isn’t Dawkins a “strong agnostic” and not an atheist in the strictest sense of the word? If that’s not true then what am I missing?

    I’m totally with you about the terrible and ridiculous things that have been done in the name of the Christian God. I think you and I completely agree that horrible things have happened and continue to happen in the name of religion. However that brings up a really good question for me. I believe those things are awful because of what I believe about God (despite the fact that other people use the bible to justify the bad things they do.) So, upon what basis do you say things like the the holocaust were bad? What moral standard would you appeal to? Just curious

    There’s a couple of other questions I had but I don’t want to lose the central question of this post.

    Thanks again for the conversation. I’m really enjoying it and it’s really helpful to actually talk to someone. Sometimes Christians get together and try to talk about atheism as if we know anything about it.
    By the way I’ll be watching the video on atheism.

  94. Rodibidably says:

    moot,

    The primary difference between your idea of “strong agnosticism” and “atheism” is that even though an atheist admits the chance that “god” exists is there, that chance is small enough to be irrelevant, so it is treated as zero.

    As for where I get my moral standards, I’ll refer again to a quote by Dawkins I have previously mentioned:
    “Religious people do not derive their morality from religion. I disagree (with the interviewer) on this point. Almost all of us do agree on moral grounds where religion had no effect. For example we all hate slavery, we want emancipation of women – they are all our moral grounds. These moral grounds started building only a few centuries ago and long after all major religions were established. We derive our morality from the environment we live in, Talk shows, Novels, Newspaper editorials and of course by the guidance of parents. Religion might only have a minor role to play in it. An atheist derives his morality from the same source as a religious people do.”

    I think we understand each other better now than when this discussion began, so hopefully this post is helping a bit. I think our last real stumbling block seems to be the semantics of language.

  95. humbleforest says:

    An infant takes sometime to realise his senses and emotions for he is not attuned to this material world yet.
    A man is not yet truly cultivated until he masters his
    senses and emotions.
    In within a person is a pure light whose shine is covered by sins, selfishness, greed and conceit.This
    pure light can only shine brightly when karma or retribution is repaid ; the self diminishes and good deeds become you, motivated by unselfish Love.
    Meditation in itself does not strengthen the pure light. Meditation performed correctly brings calmness and helps the body.
    In moral cultivation, one’s senses may be sharpened and expanded. One’s consciousness grows. One may be said to have ” extra sensory perception. ” One should not cultivate with the objective of attaining these qualities but rather they are merely incidental effects of cultivation. Do not be too attached to them or one will stray from the true path of De or called Morality.

    In this life as a human being all one needs is to live
    the right way, do the right things.
    All knowledge is yours upon reaching HOME. Live in the human realm fully when human. The mysteries of the Universe that don’t help in cultivation should be left aside for the moment for your time is limited.

    The Supreme Almighty has sent many messengers. Their
    messages are sufficient to guide one to return HOME.
    Those who are skeptical and ignorant are left to seek
    for their ownselves. They are given a choice to choose.
    The mind of man is unstable and limited.
    The limited cannot understand the Unlimited. So let it be.

  96. mootpoints says:

    Rodibidably,

    It was definitely an issue of language. I will take the blame for being a stickler on the definitions bit. But I think we have a working idea on that front.

    I disagree with Dawkins premise. Even if you don’t believe the bible is true we’d have to admit that even if moral standards exist outside scripture, the bible is the primary source from which we’ve access those moral standards. So rather than a minor role, religion (specifically Judeo-Christianity) played a major role in at least coalescing most western moral thought.

    Interestingly even much of our vernacular comes from the Bible. Case in Point – You mentioned, “our last real stumblingblock…” the concept of stumblingblock is a biblical one or at least one popularized by the bible.

    I don’t believe that our morality comes from religion. I believe what was reflected in the Declaration of Independence that “we are endowed by our Creator certain unalienable rights” While the rights they spoke of were not a full reflection of morality I do believe that morality to some degree is instilled in us by God. Unfortunately people have used many means (including religion) to suppress or even alter those moral standards. It is an interesting phenomenon that many unique cultures have similar moral standards. No country or culture respects a man who runs from battle or who treats his family with disrespect. While those things are not in themselves proof of a supernatural moral standard I think that it is an indication of one as opposed to an indication that there is no supernatural moral standard.

    I’ve been giving a lot of thought to this discussion and learning what terms like “ontological” mean. I think I’m working up some stuff that helps me better articulate what I believe in a respectful way. If nothing else ever came out of the discussion, that would be benefit enough.

    I still have to address your question of how I would judge my religious system true over other religious systems. I’m working on that. Thanks for being patient with me.

  97. Rodibidably says:

    moot,

    One other point to bring up to differentiate atheists from agnostics. True agnostics say in essence “we can’t know, so we should not form an opinion” while true atheists says “while it is true nobody can ever prove a negative, we can make certain judgments based on the evidence”.

  98. humbleforest says:

    From the earliest times messengers from the Almighty have walked among, teaching, guiding, sacrificing
    for men with the hpoe that will walk the path of the
    Almighty.
    Man has often strayed or forgotten the moral teachings
    and sometimes choose to disbelieve.
    But always then and now with HIS compassion and
    Universal Love, the Truth is revealed again and again to those who seek sincerely and faithfully.
    The Almighty Loves all but HIS Love is turned away
    by those impure hearts and sceptics.

  99. humbleforest says:

    Correction.
    Sorry to miss out the word men
    …………walked among men, teaching….
    ………..with the hope that men will walk….

  100. Rodibidably says:

    moot,

    Yes we get much language from the bible. We also get MUCH language from Shakespeare, does this mean he is divine? Just because something historical is often quoted does not mean it is true or “the word of god”.

    As well, if you are going to state that the source of our morality is the bible, how would you explain a “moral” person from some part of Africa or India who has never been exposed to the bible? If the bible is the source of morality, then should anybody who has never been exposed to it be running around raping women, killing men, and enslaving children?

    We get our morality from society. And while some of that can be traced back to the bible, I’m certain that it can be traced back even further to the sources the bible come from (and by this I mean the oral traditions passed down for generations that were eventually written into the torah not “god” writing the bible or inspiring men to write it).

    You do make a very good point when you state “No country or culture respects a man who runs from battle”, and I wish you would read Richard Dawkin’s book The Selfish Gene (don’t worry, it’s not a religion bashing book at all, it is a look at the gene as the means of selection and replication). In this book he does a very good job of explaining how supposed acts of altruism (which fighting in a battle or giving your life up for another would be, since there is no direct benefit to yourself) are actually designed to help spread your own genes by virtue of your relatives being more likely reproduce based on your actions.

    Dawkins does a much more thorough job of explaining this than I can in a brief post, but the bottom line is that all acts of morality and altruism are easily explained by means of natural selection.

    The last point i would like to make in reply to your most recent comments is about your statement “It is an interesting phenomenon that many unique cultures have similar moral standards”. Would you ever consider killing your wife, mother, sister, or daughter because “she allowed herself to be raped”? Would you sacrifice an animal to appease the gods? Would you have multiple wives that you routinely abuse, including sex with minors who you make your “wives”? Would you shun modern medicine because “god does not condone it” and allow your children to die? Would you enslave people based on the color of their skin? Would you fly a passenger plane into a building killing thousands of innocent people?

    Many billions of people throughout history have done all of these things in the name of being moral to their “god”.

  101. humbleforest says:

    Modern man seems to apply his selfishness, egoism, greed, power and fame to anything he handles.
    One man cannot trust another although they live together. They live with suspicious, doubts and
    fantasies.
    Even in this world today, it is difficult to see what is in a man’s mind. He pretends to be cultured,
    civilised, educated, noble and religious.
    A man of true moral-cultivated, without pretence
    fears not. He sees all in brotherhood.
    ________________________________________________

    Life is beautiful and peaceful if one knows how,
    Life is dirty, gloomy and ugly if one knows not.
    _____________________________________________

    The weak earthlings of this planet Earth are…

    * There are people who are power greedy.
    * There are people who are position crazy.
    * There are people who are wealth hungry.
    * There are pretenders who are holding the majority.
    * There are perverters who are fact-twisting.
    * There are instigators who are causing segregation.
    * There are puppets on a string.
    These people are possessive and pathetic and who
    practise partiality and prejudices.

    ————————————————-

    Discard away superstitious belief that hinders one’s
    moral cultivation as oneself is the greatest enemy.

  102. humbleforest says:

    Mr. Rodibidably.

    Please cool down and do not be too hasty to give judgement.
    Kindly go through the article a few times and
    comtemplate for a while.
    Please do not attach to the word ” GOD ” and get frustrated. GOD is not like what you see HIM as an ugly person, enemy or a devil.
    If GOD is a good person with respect, honest and without speaking dirty or firty language, don’t you
    love HIM ?
    What is wrong if HE teaches humans to love one another not to discriminate, not to involve in immoral acitivities, not to be greedy, proud, cheat, pretend, corrupt and many sinful acts ?
    Is HE not right to guide us in this moral path ?

    Always loathe the sin and not the sinner.
    One cannot guarantee oneself that one is so perfect
    that one does not commit any sin. If one can correct one’s faults without any excuses ,and not to repeat them then one has walked the moral path.

    What is important is the present moment of cultivation. What is in the past or to be in the future is to be put aside for a while. Now is the time to uplift and upgrade one’s attitude through
    right action. Lead a moral example through action,not
    through too much words.

    Sorry, Humbleforest is just sharing with you.
    Any hurting remarks made, kindly forgive Humbleforest.

  103. Rodibidably says:

    humbleforest,

    Excuse me? When was I not calm exactly? When did I say something judgmental?

    I have asked questions of people in response to their comments in hopes to understand their views better. I have commented on historical atrocities done in the name of “god” to make various points about morality and blind faith.

    I don’t view “god” as a devil, I view “him” more like I view santa claus, or any other superstitious fairy tail; I view them as a now unnecessary construct of our evolution.

    As for “him” teaching us morality, you mean the morality of killing a woman for allowing herself to be raped as in islam? Or do you mean teaching us how to act if we are slaves or how to treat our slaves as in judaism and christianity? Or perhaps you mean allowing children to die because “he” forgot to mention that medicines are good like the jehovah’s witnesses? How about hatred of others who “dare” to beleive in the “wrong god” as taught in many of the world’s religions throughout history, should we follow this morality and kill all non-believers in “our god”? Exactly which of these VILE DISGUSTING moralities that “he” taught us, should we listen to?

    Religion has unleashed some of the most inhumane, unmoral aspects of humanity ever. For every good teaching of religion there are equal numbers of, if not more, examples of absolutely horrendous acts that have been justified as being done “in god’s name”.

    THIS is what I object to; people trying to justify their own bigotries, their own racist tendencies, their own hatred, their own violent actions, their own “evil” actions, because some “book” or some “holy person” told them it was “god’s will”.

    Slavery was not “god’s will”, it was man’s will. 19 people flying 4 planes into 3 buildings and a field in PA was not “god’s will”, it was the insane ranting will of a few pissed off people in the middle east. Jehovah’s witnesses allowing their children to die instead of giving them proper medical treatment is not “god’s will” it is their own fucking ignorance.

    —–
    Edit: Ok, I’ll admit, now I lost my calm

  104. mootpoints says:

    You have a lot of irons in the fire when it comes to this discussion. I don’t want you to feel attacked on multiple fronts .

    I wasn’t trying to prove the bible is divine because of it’s impact on culture. I was just making the point that it has contributed largely to shaping, if not generating, most western moral boundaries.

    I also didn’t make the claim that the Bible should be the basis of our morality. To be clear, I believe that it should because I believe it’s a fair representation of God’s standards, but I certainly don’t intend to expect to hold a non-believer to that standard.

    We agree that religion (whether intentionally or unintentionally) can be twisted and used compel people to commit atrocities. However the same holds true for atheism. Hitler formed his beliefs on Nietzsche’s teaching, Stalin certainly represented atheism as a philosophy. Those two alone are responsible for the deaths of over 20 million people.

    You said that religion has released some of the most inhumane, immoral acts ever. Both camps have their hands dirty on this issue. I think there’s more to this particular topic but suffice it to say, atheism is certainly not superior on that front.

    I’m still working on your original question of how I know my religion is true. Don’t mistake my tardiness for not having an answer I just want to make sure I give a careful and articulate answer.

  105. Rodibidably says:

    moot,

    The Hitler being an atheist thing has been refuted many times over the years. He was raised a catholic and one of the first things he did was to get one of the many supposed “spear of destiny” from a museum in Austria. If he did not believe in “god”, and did not believe that jesus specifically was “god” then why waste any time and effort on getting this “artifact”. I know they are just mindless movies, but the idea in the Indiana Jones movies that the Nazi’s were obsessed with the occult is based on reality. There are many papers written on Hitler’s religiosity which can show in great detail how he not only believed in “god”, he felt that he was “chosen by god” to lead Germany at that time (and some have even shown examples of how he may have felt that he was in fact the “second coming”.

    (I already know this next paragraph is gonna piss some people off, but here goes anyways)
    As for the death’s of millions, I’ll see your “stalin” and raise you “mother theresa”. She singlehandedly has caused the suffering and death of more people than any single person in history. By going to the poorest nation on the planet that was already suffering from famine and “teaching” them that any form of birth control was “evil”, she did more to help cause the spread of diseases (like hepatitis and hiv/aids) and the overpopulation (and then as one would expect in a nation already with a massive shortage of food and an even greater population, death by starvation) of people than ANY SINGLE PERSON IN HISTORY.

    Yes, Stalin was a evil despicable bastard, but so was “mother theresa” (feel free to change “evil despicable bastard” to “cold heartless bitch” if you prefer due to the difference in gender.
    (those wishing to rant about me “daring” to defile the memory of mother theresa, please try to spend more than 15 seconds finding actual data to disprove my point, don’t just state “she helped poor people”, there would not have been as much suffering if not for her misguided attempts to “help” them)

    We both agree that religion has been twisted to cause horrendous acts of violence. We can also agree that people have committed horrible acts under the guise of atheistic doctrines as well. The primary difference is that religion teaches people not to question the “mind of god”, where atheism teaches rational scientific skepticism.

    I do believe that atheism is “superior on that front” in that any atheistic regime that causes atrocities will be brought down from within (stalin’s regime for instance) much faster than a religious regime (the catholic church as an example) since one that one overpowering leader dies or shows some sort of weakness, the people will openly question the direction they are headed, where in a religious organization there is no ability to ever question “god”.

    I apologize if some of my recent posts are coming off as a bit “ranting”, but something about humbleforest making me answer the same question yet again seems to have put me in a “mood” today, I promise, I’ll be a tad more understanding tomorrow.

  106. mootpoints says:

    No problem. Bizarrely enough I more or less agree with you about Mother Theresa. Let me explain.

    I believe abortion is wrong. I believe that based on the concept that human life is valuable. However if I also believe that babies, because of their innocence, if they die they go to heaven. While an abortionist is morally wrong (the ends do not justify the means) in a twisted sense he is doing Christians a favor by sending millions of people straight to heaven.

    Please don’t make to much of this. I just say that in order to give you an idea that while I think abortion is morally wrong, it serves a purpose. I understand there’s a moral conflict to be worked out there.

  107. Rodibidably says:

    moot,

    Personally I support a woman’s right to choose. But I think that if possible, adoption is a better alternative than abortion, since there are many people who are unable to have children, but due to the legal process, or the finances, can not currently adopt a child.

    I personally feel that abortion should be the LAST resort, but I think it does need to be available as an option for people.

    My bigger point with “mother theresa” is her stance against condoms or other ways to avoid pregnancy to start off with. If more people had safe sex then the spread of diseases and the number of unwanted pregnancies would plummet, as would the need for abortions.

  108. mootpoints says:

    I think I understood your point. She had a very strict interpretation of some biblical ideas (An incorrect interpretation I believe) because of her Catholicism. When you combine that with her zeal to help and thus impose her ideas on others, you end up with this huge negative side effect.

    A note on Hitler. I never said he or the Nazi Party weren’t religious. If I remember correctly they wore belts with a leather tab that said, “Gott mit uns” which you can probably guess means “God with us”.

    I did say Hitler’s ideas were directly taken from Nietzsche who was an atheist.

    There probably could be a discussion on the inevitable results of the ideas were talking about.

  109. humbleforest says:

    Most huaman beings possess the rational mind, that is being able to more than merely to sense things and surroundings with their senses. They are able to perceive the things and surroundings which are sensed
    by their basic sense organs.
    Some are even able to conceptualise what they have
    perceived. But not so common are those who may possess intuition, that is, the ability to
    ” foresee ” what has yet to happen and to ” apprehend ” without the reasoning of the mind.
    All these depends on one’s consciousness.
    The highest form of consciousness may be termed as Cosmic Consciousnes; where all knowledge and awareness is obtained.
    Even among humans,the level of consciousness differs
    from one individual to another. However most possess only the ability to perceive and conceptualise.

    What is Reality ?
    To answer this, it depends on one’s consciousness, that is, the ability of each to perceive and understand.
    In this material realm of humans this is your “reality”. It is often taught that your World is an illusion, but until you progress and become matured, it is your “reality”, for this is only most of you can understand and perceive.
    More importantly, how you conduct yourself in this World affects your future and true-self. So isn’t
    this illusion to be taken seriously at your present
    state ?
    Even at this human realm in this same “reality”
    not all “see” and “understand” the same.
    So when the Deities speak of other “REALITIES” with their higher consciousness, humans struggle to understand, for their (humans’) limited mind try
    to grasp what is beyond their mental capabilities,
    using the limited human language. That is the reason why one should try to grasp the ” essence or gist ”
    and not the material form or the superficial surface of the text or article.

    What cannot be fathomed, intangible and not useful are to be set aside.
    Learn practise and perfect what you can at this very moment. “Now” is urgent as one has a limited time to
    self-cultivate.
    Do not be distracted by the mysteries or supernatural of the other worlds.
    Practise De or Moral values in one’s daily life. Have a indiscriminate Love and Compassion for all, and always be calm. In time the pure light will shine brightly and your Consciousness shall expand.
    Believe it or not depends on the degree of one’s
    sincere cultivation.

  110. humbleforest says:

    The Dynamic equilibrium of the Universe is sustained by what may be termed as Cosmic Consciousness. Some
    term it as the Great Dao or simply as GOD.

    The human body like a little Universe itself is in constant flux. Countless cells are degenerating and
    regenerating all the time. But the general form and
    composition remains the same. The energy that sustains this little Universe is the consciousness.

    The human consciousness may be classified into two
    broad categories.

    * The first is the ” human soul “, which is the
    disembodied self. This soul is a discarnate state
    of the personal self or consciousness.

    * The second part is the ” human mind “, which is the embodied self of the personal self or consciousness.
    The human mind is the incarnate state of the
    personal self or consciousness, or simply the
    material manifestation of the consciousness.

    As the consciousness consists of not only the
    ” physical aspect “, it survives the death of the
    physical body.

    Consciousness may exist in both ” energy ” or
    ” matter “, or in the subtle, or gross form.

    Thereby, Morality is used to cultivate the mind,
    body and soul. They are practised to harmonise or
    in balance and become the pure true light where
    it will reach the Great Dao or merge with the
    Cosmic Consciousness.

  111. humbleforest says:

    Mr. Rodibidably,

    If you don’t mind, Humbleforest needs to share some
    of the pointers with you…..

    Please be advised that you may help those who really
    need help, then only comment what is necessary and
    make a direct to the point. Be simple and precise.
    Sometimes you may learn from them as well. Do not have an inferiority complex.

    Be polite and prudent but not be arrogant and hasty in answering.

    As you have already know, the Morality of our World
    has declined tremendously. Many people are confused and deluded to differentiate what is right and wrong,
    or shame and shameless.
    It is because many religious teachings have created
    misconceptions and fear in the minds of the people.
    It may due to the people’s ignorance or the egoistic
    or selfish and unqualified religious cliques or leaders who preach on segregation and discrimination.
    These religious ” cliques or leaders ” may manipulate
    or attach to words to frighten their innocent followers for their personal interests in the name
    of the Almighty. They may abuse or misuse their power.

    Whether you can answer you answer. If it is beyond
    your means to answer, it is better not to, as you
    won’t make a mockery of yourself. This is a humble
    way of not to be ashamed of.

    By the way, Humbleforest feels sorry to interfere
    in your intelligence of affairs with some of the pointers. Kindly accept my apology.

  112. Rodibidably says:

    humbleforest,

    “the Morality of our World has declined tremendously”
    Really, I thought that not having slavery and apartheid now when it had been rampant throughout human history up until very recently was a good step towards better morality.

    The majority of people who think that morality is declining are those who attempt to grab their morality from their own selective interpretation of their “scripture”. Those who are generally prudish when it comes to human sexuality and use the bible or other “holy books” to justify their own prejudices.

    Those who objectively look at how we treat our fellow man now vs throughout history see that we are more “civilized” and “understanding” of others today than we have ever been in the past.

  113. mootpoints says:

    Rodibidably,

    I thought I’d give you a brief update on what I’m thinking in regards to your original “open question”. Your question was essentially – “how do we know what we believe is true?”

    The questions that need to be examined are two-fold.

    First – What makes a certain belief system unique or distinct?

    For example, there’s not a lot of point in simply examine the existence of God to prove my belief system in that all religious world views share a belief in God.

    Second – Are the unique claims of that belief system valid?

    This is sort of working backward. Up till this point we’ve been dealing with the basic point at which we diverge – the existence of God. While definitively answering that question would make or break any religion, it doesn’t really address you original question.

    So what I’d like to do is start my argument by asking the question, are the unique claims of Christianity valid?

    Does that sound fair?

  114. Rodibidably says:

    moot,

    That does sound like a valid starting point. You as a christian believe that jesus, was the son of god (and if you believe in the trinity as well, he also is god). You don’t believe, as islam claims, that he “faked” his death on the cross, and that he was “just a prophet” while mohamed was given allah’s true intentions which became the koran. Part of your belief system must involve some number of “reasons” why not only your views on jesus are correct, but why muslims are incorrect (we could use scientology, judaism, hinduism, or any other religion as the example as well).

    This would, at least in part, answer the “how do you know what that “truth” is” part of my original question.

  115. mootpoints says:

    You hit the nail right on the head concerning Christ being unique to Christianity. I suppose it should have been obvious in that we call it Christ-ianity but…

    Can I ask what you believe about Jesus as an historical figure? I’m not trying to get you to make my argument it’s just that our discussion to this point has been about a more abstract concept of God. You essentially know my views concerning Christ, if not how I’ve come to conclude they’re true. I would really like to hear what you as an atheist believes about Jesus.

  116. Rodibidably says:

    moot,

    As a historical figure I am fairly well convinced that he was at least in part based on one actual person, however (and this is a fairly BIG however) if you look at many of the “details” of his life (virgin birth, rising from dead, walking on water, etc) there are “historical accounts” of many deities from other religions that were popular in the world at that time that exhibited the same “miracles”.

    From much of my research on this time in history, and especially in that part of the world in that specific community there were many different people who were claiming to be the “messiah” or “divine”. There are accounts of at least 3 other historical figures from the same time that had believers who followed them and had faith that they were “god” or “divine”, etc…

    My personal guess (and this is only a guess) is that jesus was one of a number of people trying to “lead his people” and perhaps he was claiming to be the messiah (although there is a good chance that he himself never actually claimed divinity during his lifetime). He was probably a very charismatic leader, but most likely after his death the story of his “life” was exaggerated to include many current myths of the time.

    I do wish there were more unbiased accounts of that time period to allow the historical record to be more accurate, but the catholic church did do a very good job of eliminating most records that disagreed with their point of view.

  117. humbleforest says:

    Mr. Rodibidably,

    Humbleforest would like to point out that you have
    misinterpreted the word Morality.
    It seems that you are a person full of knowledge and
    words and a simple word like Morality has been
    misconstrued.

    What is Morality ???

    Morality is the key to open our heart and mind to
    differentiate what is right and wrong, good and evil
    or bad, illusion and reality.
    Only with moral key one is able to open one’s heart,
    that is the ability to self-realise and correct
    one’s sinful acts.

    * With Morality or moral value, one knows how to show a respect and gratitude to others. Not only to others
    but to one’s parents, relatives, brothers and sisters
    friends and elderly people.

    * With Morality or moral value, it teaches one to be honest and sincere in our speech and action.

    * With Morality or moral value, whatever one does
    one should be fair to all. There must not be
    partiality in one’s heart.

    * With Morality or moral value, one should have
    full responsibility in oneself, one’s family,
    one’s profession and one’s loved ones without
    pretence or any excuses.

    * With Morality or moral value, one must not
    commit adultery or any sexual misconduct.
    One should understand what is lust and
    married life. They are two different issues.
    True and sincere love will make a couple lasts
    until death.

    * With Morality or moral value, one should be of
    low profile, polite and have a courtesy for others.
    A person of humbleness fears no fall.
    Pride goes before the fall.

    * With Morality or moral value, one should not
    commit any crime, immoral activities and other
    dishonest means.

    * With Morality or moral value, one should help
    those in dire needs. Help with right
    understanding and happiness of one’s heart
    without expecting anything in return.

    * With Morality or moral value, one should
    restraint from greediness. What is enough is
    enough. Do not succumb to glamorous temptations.

    * With Morality or moral value, one should avoid
    committing evil deeds like, smoking or selling illegal drugs, forcing or luring women or their partners into prostitution, encouraging prostitution, pornographies screening, selling and
    distributing them,
    committing sex on underaged children and even
    animals, abuse of children and exploiting and
    trading them, even adults are being
    exploited and used as human trade, murder
    for someone’s payment, carry out kidnapping
    and ransom, smuggling illegal firearms and
    many other things, legal officers abusing
    and misusing their power on the innocent
    public, invading other territories claiming
    as to protect other’s territories, bombing
    the innocents, hospitals and worshipping
    places, claiming that it is a mistake,
    pushing the blame on others, manipulating
    the stock market, imposing heavy taxes
    every now and then on unnecessary
    spending, exploiting the land, sea and
    even the space. The cause of this has been
    seen by the effect of global warming,
    melting of the icebergs, and many natural
    disasters. This is the natural Law of
    Retribution. What one sows,
    sow shall one receive.

    Mr. Rodibidably,

    Are you guiding many bloggers in your blog with the
    idea of your word ” Morality ” in the right direction ?

    Does Humbleforest’s word of ” Morality ” of the above-said hurt you or give you and your bloggers a
    misconstrued meaning ?
    Do you need people to move in the moral path or
    to get out of the moral path ?

    Always study the whole passage calmly and cautiouly
    otherwise you may be the one who will misguide your bloggers. Look out for the essence, and do not
    attach too strongly to the word or the
    phrase.

    For example, the paradox of this phrase,

    ” Crime does not pay, sooner or later you have to
    pay your crime. ”

    Humbleforest hope you may understand what
    Humbleforest means. No hard emotion to be
    resting in your mind and heart.
    Thank you.

  118. Rodibidably says:

    humbleforest,

    Dictionary.com defines Morality to be:
    1. conformity to the rules of right conduct; moral or virtuous conduct
    2. moral quality or character
    3. virtue in sexual matters; chastity
    4. a doctrine or system of morals
    5. moral instruction; a moral lesson, precept, discourse, or utterance
    6. The quality of being in accord with standards of right or good conduct
    7. A system of ideas of right and wrong conduct: religious morality
    8. Virtuous conduct
    9. A rule or lesson in moral conduct

    Up until very recently in human history, slavery was in “conformity to the rules of right conduct; moral or virtuous conduct”.
    Slave owners were considered to have good “moral quality or character”.
    The bible, which according to a large portion of the people on this planet is the ‘true word of god’ gave “rule(s) or lesson(s) in moral conduct” related to how to treat slaves.

    Where is your condemnation of slavery? A couple of hundred years from now there may be yet another topic that we NOW view as acceptable, but in the future will be viewed as barbaric. If you live your life by a static written set of guidelines then your moral standards can not change with the times, but if you get your morality from society (which in my view we all truly do, even if we claim it’s from a “holy book”, then as society changes, so does our morality with it.

    My point on morality is that if people get their morality unquestioningly from a book (ANY book) written hundreds or thousands of years ago, then there are many aspects which will be ignored and there are many aspects which will no longer agree with the morality of current times.

  119. humbleforest says:

    The Universal Truth on Morality never changes. It
    is human’s attitude that changes. The Morality is like a pure water, when it comes in contact and mixes with dirty water it becomes dirty.
    So when moral teachings contact with those impure thoughts the true meaning of it will be misconstrued or misinterpreted. Some use Morality to misinterprete or twisted its meaning for their personal gain or pride.
    So you are been caught in its web.

    Mr. Rodibidably,

    You have complicated yourself with the
    true meaning of morality
    You do not know whether the word “slavery” with morality interpreted by you or someone else is correct. You just jump to the conclusion to
    brush aside that morality is not something to do
    good in the present or future.
    So in this case are you encouraging
    more people to do bad or evil things ?

    What you are mentioning may be that of another
    issue of good and evil, which they co-exist. That is part of the translation of Dao.
    If you go deeper into its essence, which few people
    are unable to understand and accept, is actually there is no good or evil in the Great Dao. But in this planet Earth there is good and evil. The
    law of dualism exists on this Earth same as the binary code which keeps on multipling in this computer age.
    Therefore moral teaching guides one to walk the
    middle path, be fair, moderate, unbias and not to
    be out of track or be too extreme.
    If one does not build one’s true character
    or attitude properly through moral values then the
    next generation will follow suit taking moral
    as immoral to become a culture.
    For example, kissing in public for a couple
    may be a moral to one culture and immoral to another. This situation should be taken into consideration to see whether it is done too extreme.

    Another case, for example if one were to
    follow the time of uncivilised age,
    where people did not know how to make and wear
    clothes, were totally naked. If this culture were to continue until today, what do you think ?
    Moral or immoral ???

    Please do not misguide others with too many
    reasons and excuses. It may make a mockery of
    yourself.
    Self-realise with moral values and do not
    feel ashame to admit one’s mistake.
    Please do not let the word, ” Morality”
    disturbs your mind and dim your inner light,

  120. humbleforest says:

    Sorry, for technical error.

    Correction in the middle of 3rd paragraph.

    ” If one does not build one’s true character or attitude properly through moral values then the
    next generation will follow suit taking into
    consideration of ” immoral ” to be moral as a
    culture.

    Sorry for the mistake made.

  121. Rodibidably says:

    humble,

    You state: “Universal Truth on Morality never changes”.
    Are you actually serious? Up until very recently in the United States women were not allowed basic rights, such as voting, owning land, etc… Even today in some muslim countries a woman is killed for allowing herself to be raped.

    Read that again before you comment.
    Even today in some muslim countries a woman is killed for allowing herself to be raped.

    By my standards of morality, this is absolutely insane. By the standards of most Western countries, this is insane. But by the laws, customs, and “morality” of such countries as Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Iran, Syria, etc this is accepted as being justifiable and “moral”.

    If any “holy book” is going to claim to be the authority on morality, it ought to state fairly unambiguously that “slavery is bad” and that “all men, women, and children should be treated equally (regardless of race, etc”. Does the bible make any claims like this? Does the Koran? Does your “holy book”?

    None of the ancient “holy books” state this, because at the time they were written certain things were accepted in their society.

    You stated: “So in this case are you encouraging more people to do bad or evil things”.
    When did I encourage anybody to do anything other than to question their own beliefs? Is questioning “bad or evil” in your view? How do you think that we have managed to accomplish so much as a society; we questioned things, and that lead us to discoveries. Just as children learn by questioning their parents about the world, we as society learn by questioning the status quo.

    To not question is to be complacent. It is to allow the superstitions of the past to run our lives today.

    While I welcome all views, you have yet to make one comment that even resembles a well thought out commentary on anything relevant. You are obviously happy in quoting something blindly (a book, person, website, etc) without seemingly comprehending the meaning of the words you are copying. It seems almost as if a young child without a real grasp of the discussion keeps trying to make a point which is completely irrelevant to the discussion at hand.

    You have yet to respond intelligently to even one point that has been made, you have just continues to parrot these ideas which either you don’t understand, or have misinterpreted to try to force into the conversation despite their irrelevance.

    I welcome all input, but I would hope that you at least TRY to respond intelligently to some of the messages directed at you across the various comments. If you are unable or unwilling to do this, so be it, but I can not keep wasting my time talking AT a person who has very little hope of ever “getting it”.

  122. humbleforest says:

    Mr. Rodibidably,

    You do not know about your past or to be in the
    future, so do Humbleforest.
    We are talking and discussing on the present
    moment on Morality which can help us in our
    character building to be a better humble human
    being.
    We are inculcating moral values in our ownself
    so that we can lead or comment on others.
    Whatever is good to us in ridding our bad
    habits through moral values should be used
    and encourage others at this present moment.
    Those that are in the past and future that
    do not help in our moral cultivation should
    be set aside.
    Whether you want to accept the right way of
    morality is up to you. You can reason
    whatever you want.
    You can say morality is incorrect, that depends
    on the degree of your cultivation. Please check whether your “enemy” called Egoism,
    Arrogance, Self-centered still stays
    in your heart. Get rid of it before it is too late.

  123. humbleforest says:

    Sorry, Mr Rodibidably,
    You feel very upset about the word Morality,
    because you are so engrossed in it.
    From your article mentioned, it is human who
    manipulates and twists its true meaning, that I
    have already mentioned in my article
    which you have overlooked.

    Please don’t be too upset about it.
    You can’t change their custom or culture
    overnight. Even the super-powers of World leaders
    cannot change them.
    If you want to know the answer of who miscontrue
    its true meaning, then you have to dig deeply into
    its root. Whatever out of your reach to help, just
    leave for a moment. Help those who really need help,
    then only you are not wasting your time.

    Remember have patience to read the text clearly.

    Humbleforest once again wish to apologise for
    the sharp and hurting remarks made on you.
    Kindly accept my apology.

  124. Rodibidably says:

    humble,

    Seriously, do you even read my comments to you? I mean the ENTIRE comment, not just one or two sentences. Either you are just too dense to comprehend the concepts being discussed here, or you choose not to read the entire content of each comment, but either way I have yet to see anything valid you have added to the discussion.

    Half of your “comments” are completely off topic, and the other half are nonsensical.

    You have yet to make even one comment related to the original purpose of this post:
    “How certain are you that your version of the “truth” (truth of god, religion, the world, the universe, etc) is the correct one, and more importantly, how do you know what that “truth” is?”

    You have yet to respond intelligently to any of the comments directed at you, or defend any of your “comments” that I have brought into question.

    As for your “input” on the side discussions of morality, you have yet to make an intelligent, rational post on the source of morality that was more than just a parrot of some other source that you seemingly do not even comprehend yourself.

    What EXACTLY is the point you’re trying to make? What is it that you think you’re adding to the discussion?

    I am diametrically opposed to the position that hank, moot, ala, other “christians”, and people of other religions take; but even with that opposition I can respect the points they make, since they do make actual points that make sense. While in my view they are wrong in their conclusions, they actually do have (mostly) intelligent points to make.

    Your inane ramblings come across as those of somebody who really fails to understand not only the discussion going on at the time, but even basics of the language (metaphorically speaking) that the discussion is going on in.

    I personally would not have guessed that in a forum with myself, people who believe in a 6500 year old universe, and somebody who (seemingly) follows eastern philosophy that the one quoting Tao would come off as the least intelligent participant.

  125. Stefan says:

    First of all, I would like to thank you for putting in so much time and effort into developing this masterpiece.

    To avoid being stereotyped, please read

    http://pressthat.wordpress.com/statement-of-belief/

    In my search for God journey, I was told that most religious writings describe very obvious interactions between man and the supernatural via angels, so I had to search for the writings themselves to be able to solve the mystery.

    I had to study the Abraham’s Triangle, Judaism,Christianity and Islam.Differences and similarities was the theme of my study, I used different sources to represent different thoughts,beliefs and points of view regarding mismatched concepts or ideologies and I found out that each side is totally rejecting the other fundamentally based on a man made religious text, the reason is due to political issues related to the religious state at any era.

    The Quran claims that the essentials of the message it brings to humanity are the same as those perceived and transmitted by earlier messengers over the course of human history, including the “revelations” on which the major religions were based. Unfortunately, these essentials have to a large degree been lost or distorted under layers of later constructions and elaborations.

    This is the essence of what God has to say to us, according to the Quran. This is what he has said to human beings through all the prophets and seers who have perceived his message, enshrined now in the many religions that have held the allegiance of countless millions over the centuries, in spite of this message being largely concealed under the later additions and interpretations of men.

    It’s clearly natural to find in these religious writings contradicting opinions due to human interference with God through traditions and false attributed sayings.

    Fortunately, God is uninterested in the titles and divisions that people choose for them such as Muslims, Jews, Christians and Sabiens.

    For this reason, God confirms in two verses that those who believe in God alone as the only God, believe in the Day of Judgment as the divine day of absolute justice and maintain peace and perform righteous deeds as a proof of their belief in the last day, they are the allies of God whether they are the followers of the Quran or the Old and New Testament (2:62, 5:69).

    These two verses confirm the other two verses: “The religion before God is Islam” and “Whoever desires a religion other than Islam, never will be accepted of him” (3:19 &85).

    These verses imply that he who believes in God, the last day and performs righteous deeds in this world will be considered a Muslim in the sight of God on the Last Day regardless of the title he/she had in this world. It is up to God alone- not to us – on the Day of Judgment – not now- to judge the faith. Any one that claims this right to him/her is claiming divinity upon himself.

    Two elements that makes the Quran a unique religious text, the message and the structure, the balance of word repetitions in relation to their meanings and the mathematical structure based on the number 19 (Over it are Nineteen 74:30 ), is a proof that the choice of words is uniquely chosen and distributed throughout the verses, which are defined from the book as signs (Ayat).

    You can find God through signs that are considered as evidences and proofs only by yourself for the true existence of God.Finally, I would like to invite anyone interested in understanding more about my sect to visit the following link:

    http://pressthat.wordpress.com/2008/02/22/truthbooth-top-200-articles-10-months/

    Peace 😀

    Stefan Rosty

  126. Rodibidably says:

    stefan,

    Thank you for your praise. I think this thread has taken on a life of it’s own due to the number of honest intelligent, yet differing opinions.

    I do have a few questions, to clarify your beliefs based on your statement “These verses imply that he who believes in God, the last day and performs righteous deeds in this world will be considered a Muslim in the sight of God on the Last Day regardless of the title he/she had in this world”:
    1) What of children who die before they are old enough to have a “belief” of god, how are they treated on the “Last Day”?
    2) What of those who “claim” to be christian, or jewish or muslim but live their lives doing only for themselves. They may live their life “by the rules”, but their motives are fully and knowingly selfish, how are they treated on the “Last Day?
    3) What of those who are brought up in a hindu, buddhist, etc culture their entire lives and have no knowledge of “god” or “allah”, how are they treated on the “Last Day?
    4) What of those who are brought up in a hindu, buddhist, etc culture their entire lives and activly rejct the concept of one single “god” in favor of their own belief system, how are they treated on the “Last Day?
    5) And finally, what of those who are by choice Atheist or Agnostic and actively reject the concept of any “god”, how are they treated on the “Last Day?

    I know these points MAY seem trivial, but I think your answer will shed a bit of light (for me) on your belief system.

  127. Stefan says:

    God is definitely on the good side of all aspects of life and the individual is responsible for his actions and his perception of God but in the end he will be judged by the limits given in the Quran ( Which are few in comparison with the Torah and the Sunni Shariah laws).

    Children will be judged as children, each case will have a fair judgment considering every single detail affecting their personality and decisions in their lives, to sum up, you will be punished in the afterlife a punishment equivalent to the harm you caused based on your age and historical/religious background.

    Concerning those who “claim” to be Christian, or Jewish or Muslim but live their lives doing only for themselves. They may live their life “by the rules”, but their motives are fully and knowingly selfish are selfish people who will be punished because they have accepted using force on others based on their false dogmatic beliefs, therefore they are not living by the rules and they are setting partners with God.

    Atheists have different fundamental beliefs and they have different backgrounds, In most cases they will reject living within the limits or “by the rules” of God and unfortunately they will be punished for exceeding their limits like any other.

    Buddhist, Hindus, Jews, Christian and Muslims are to search for the truth, but in most cases they will submit to the laws they have inherited from their fathers and their fathers are blindly following their forefathers without questioning or reasoning with them, so they will be punished for every action that causes harm they cause under God’s name.

    To be more clear, the truth will be revealed on the “Last Day” and the messengers of God will stand as witnesses for their nation and the text is the criterion, my job is to let you know the text and your job is to search for it even if your people are claiming that they know it and they deeply believe in it and they are misguided.

    So a good Buddhist with rightly weighted balanced will not be punished and even harmless atheists will be rewarded for their positive outcome but i guess their spiritual outcome will be less in life and the afterlife.

    Harmful atheists, apostates and extremist killers will be punished badly, false prophets and people who wrote the book with their own hands and claimed that its from God will suffer in the “Last Day” for what they have caused.

    Peace

  128. Rodibidably says:

    Stefan,

    Perhaps I am reading too much into your comments, but it seems that you say that any believer (no matter their faith) can live a good life, but that all atheists are by definition sinners.

    I find it quite interesting that you group together “atheists, apostates and extremist killers”.

    I am an atheist myself. I live my life by the general principal of “do unto others, as you would have them do unto you”. My view is that not only should people do nothing to harm others, but that they should, when possible try to make a positive difference in the lives of others. As an atheist, with no belief of an afterlife, I feel that we must do all we can while we are alive to make a lasting impression upon others and upon the world, because (in the view of any atheist) this is the ONLY life we get, and we get no “second chances”.

    Does my “rejecting” god automatically make me a “sinner”? (not that I claim to NOT be a sinner 😉 , but I am curious if my atheism is an automatic sin which much be punished by god)

    And back to the original question of this post, HOW is it that you “know” that the Quran is correct and that your belief in god is the “truth”?

  129. Stefan says:

    I find it quite interesting that you group together “atheists, apostates and extremist killers”.

    “harmful atheists, apostates or extremist” I meant harmful as disobeying the orders and exceeding the limits in murder, rape, prostitution etc..because they reject the existence of God and his laws because it could be an obstacle in their lifestyle or financial income.

    Rejecting God doesn’t make an atheist/apostate a sinner, its a choice and I think that you have a load of reasonable answers to answer when you will be asked why did you lose your religion ? with Michael Stipe.

    If you listen to different point of views you will not find a single belief system free from man made errors, the misconception about God makes the rejection an ideal solution for the clash of religious ideologies and after all its a positive action as long as you are a peaceful person.

  130. Rodibidably says:

    stefan,

    “I meant harmful as disobeying the orders and exceeding the limits in murder, rape, prostitution etc”
    What I don’t get is why you grouped atheists with extremist killers? This seems odd to me that you would group these two types of people. To me this seems like grouping rapists and people who are left handed (i.e. there is absolutely no correlation between the two groups).

    “they reject the existence of God and his laws because it could be an obstacle in their lifestyle or financial income”
    So as an atheist, I’m more likely to break the law and be poor? If you look at the population as a whole and compare it to the prison system population the statistics show that atheists are SIGNIFICANTLY less likely to be in prison than they are representative of the overall population.

    As well, a letter published in Nature in 1998 reported a survey suggesting that belief in a personal god or afterlife was at an all-time low among the members of the U.S. National Academy of Science, only 7.0% of whom believed in a personal god as compared with more than 85% of the general U.S. population.[93] In the same year Frank Sulloway of MIT and Michael Shermer of California State University conducted a study which found in their polling sample of “credentialed” U.S. adults (12% had Ph.Ds and 62% were college graduates) 64% believed in God, and there was a correlation indicating that religious conviction diminished with education level. Such an inverse correlation between religiosity and intelligence has been found by 39 studies carried out between 1927 and 2002, according to an article in Mensa Magazine.

    Since at least in US society education is equated with financial security I would find your comment about financial income to be a bit confusing. I personally know of no studies that have looked at income and atheism, but there have been dozens that show a direct correlation between education and atheism, and many that have shown links between education and financial security.

    I am not trying to “attack” you, I promise, but comments like these seem to be far to common with no real evidence behind them (not just from you, but in general).

  131. Stefan says:

    HOW is it that you “know” that the Quran is correct and that your belief in god is the “truth”?

    I tried asking myself many questions

    Who wrote it ?

    1-Mohamed alone
    2-Mohamed and the Ten wise Jews
    3-Some people before or after Mohamed

    if Mohamed wrote it I’ll thank him and I’ll live in his delusion,I don’t believe that it is possible to synchronize the commands and stories in a rhymed sound fitting into a mathematical structure, plus the explanation of human behavior and different mentalities made me feel for the first time that the author has an ideal vision of human beings and earth.

    Basically, its the code or theory of 19 that I used as a proof that the text is not man made.

    “This is nothing but the words of a human.” 74:25

    http://www.openburhan.net/ob.php?sid=74&vid=25

    Over it are Nineteen. 74:30

    http://www.openburhan.net/ob.php?sid=74&vid=30

    And We have made the guardians of the Fire to be Angels; and We did not make their number except as a test for those who have rejected, so that those who were given the Scripture would understand, and those who have faith would be increased in faith, and so that those who have been given the Scripture and the believers do not have doubt, and so that those who have a sickness in their hearts and the rejecters would Say: “What did God mean with an example such as this?” It is such that God misguides whom He wishes, and He guides whom He wishes. And none know your Lord’s soldiers except Him. And it is but a reminder for mankind. 74:31

    http://www.openburhan.net/ob.php?sid=74&vid=31

    No, by the moon, And by the night when it withdraws, And by the morning when it brightens, It is one of the great ones. 74:32-35

    http://www.openburhan.net/ob.php?sid=74&vid=35

    What is that “it”in “it is but a reminder for mankind”
    and “It is one of the great ones”

    What will happen so that those who were given the Scripture would understand and those who have faith would be increased in faith, and so that those who have been given the Scripture and the believers do not have doubt, and so that those who have a sickness in their hearts and the rejectors would Say: “What did God mean with an example such as this?”

    “What did God mean with an example such as this?”

    The answer is the code 19 that was discovered in 1974 (1406 Islamic calendar) based on chapter 74 ” The Hidden”. The other thing is that 19 * 74 = 1406

    So I think that its a kind of perfection

  132. Stefan says:

    What I don’t get is why you grouped atheists with extremist killers?

    “they reject the existence of God and his laws because it could be an obstacle in their lifestyle or financial income”

    Again its only the few minority of dangerous “harmful atheists” today and in the previous centuries and in the future too when atheist will attack the believers because of their beliefs, thats why I grouped “harmful atheists” and “extremist” only when they kill others because of their beliefs anytime because they share the misconception of God’s laws either by forcing addition or erasing, the grouping is for the shared harm they can cause for misunderstanding and as for you and all the peaceful atheists, its wrong to group you with killers and I didn’t mean that.

    Peace and see you tomorrow

    Thanks for listening

  133. mootpoints says:

    I think we have to start with questioning the authenticity of the sources from which we get information about Christ. While we do have a handful of extra-biblical references to verify the historicity of Christ, they don’t help do much else.

    Fortunately, authenticating a manuscript is not so much a religious issue as it is an academic one. We can apply the same techniques to the gospels that we would to Aesop or Homer.

    The first thing we have to ask is – do we have the same documents after centuries of translation or have they been corrupted through the centuries.

    That question seems insurmountable. How could errors not creep in when copies were hand-written? However I think the difficult dissolves when we clear up a couple of misconceptions.

    I think a good example of the misconception is the telephone game. People assume that, like the game, the Gospels were transmitted orally and linearly. In other words, the gospels were told from one person then to another then another, until one person finally decided to write it down, start a televised program and rake in the big bucks. In the “Telephone game” model of the Gospels the message would be completely corrupted but the third or fourth person.

    However the gospels were written and we’re transferred geometrically (one letter became fifty copies. Not one letter became one copy.)

    I’m certainly not an expert concerning textual criticism but I do now a couple of the basics and I know that it’s applied to all ancient texts not just religious documents. (A lot of my confirmation comes form Wikipedia, which isn’t saying much but I hope it will suffice for the current discussion.)

    While there are a variety of methods they all essentially need to answer the question of how many different copies and how early those copies date.
    If the copies are few and the earliest copy was hundreds, if not thousands, of years after the original then the authentication becomes more difficult. The more copies and the more they date close to the original the job becomes easier.

    Thucydides’ History survives in eight copies. There are 10 copies of Caesar’s Gallic Wars, eight copies of Herodotus’ History, and seven copies of Plato, all dated over a millennium from the original. Homer’s Iliad has the most impressive manuscript evidence for any secular work with 647 existing copies.

    So, at best, most ancient documents that have only a few manuscripts and have a time gap of 800-2000 years. However scholars feel confident that they can reconstruct the originals with pretty significant accuracy. To a large degree our knowledge of ancient history depends on these documents.

    Here’s what’s really amazing. The New Testament has almost 25,000 copies! And in some cases partial documents date back to about 117-138 A.D.

    That’ doesn’t include reconstructions of quotes from other ancient documents like catechism and quotes from religious leaders. Bruce Metzger says that the “patristic quotes alone are enough to practically reconstruct the New Testament.”

    Now in all fairness, Daniel Wallace says there are about 300,000 individual variations within the text of the New Testament. While that sounds like a lot, it’s a little misleading. Most of the differences are relatively minor, things like spelling. Wallace still concludes that the texts are in agreement 98% percent of the time.

    I couldn’t find too much serious contention to most of the stuff I’m writing. Objections to Scripture are generally more about content than historical accuracy.

    Overall, it seems that if we reject the Gospels we have to reject pretty much every other ancient document as well because the Gospels have that much more information in their favor.

    I realize that this doesn’t deal with the issue of the content being accurate but we can be fairly certain that what was written down then is what we have now.

    I’ll try to deal with the second half of dealing the scriptures soon. Sorry if this is overkill. It’s late so excuse the copious amounts of spelling and grammar errors. Let me know how this sounds or if there’s any traction with what I’m saying.

  134. humbleforest says:

    Mr.Rodibidably,

    Since you have admitted that you are an atheist, Humbleforest hope that you should be the 4th
    type of Atheist. Please do not feel insulted.

    There is a message submitted by one of your
    past bloggers.
    In it there is a 4th type of Atheist who had gained his enlightenment in receiving his Universal wisdom
    of ” spiritual knowledge ” which supersedes human
    knowledge of comprehension.
    He also needed a basic condition to fulfill his
    attainment of this Cosmic Consciousness.
    That is what he called in his term the ” Sila ”
    and the ” Dharma, what is equivalent to the word
    “Morality” and its Natural Way.

    After attaining his “spiritual” knowledge he
    revealed to those who had the affinity with him
    and also those who were willing to listen and sincerely cultivate.
    He did not reveal to the stubborn ones as they
    were curious in asking only without seriously in
    cultivating.

    Humbleforest apologies not to answer your questions
    in your comments because most of the answers are
    already in my sixteen messages. It may help you to
    be a 4th type of Atheist.
    Please use your patience and wisdom to get your answers. If you feel that my messages are nonsense
    it’s alright. You have the freedom to comment and
    criticise or take them as garbages.

    It is a blessing to meet an atheist like you
    and hope that you may attain the enlightenment
    like the 4th type of Atheist.
    Inorder to attain this spiritual knowlege you
    need to fulfill the conditions of self purification,
    that is to have moral values.
    Do not be like a frog in a well.

  135. Rodibidably says:

    Stefan,

    Your description of the code or theory of 19 sounds a LOT like the “bible code” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bible_code).

    I know that “bible code” has been debunked by running the same “algorithms” that “bible scholars” have run against the bible, and scientists running them against other long books such as Moby Dick and coming up with similar types of “predictions” from obvious works of fiction. (http://cs.anu.edu.au/~bdm/dilugim/torah.html)

    With regards to the “code of 19” I would need to spend some time finding more detailed information before I can really speak intelligently on that subject. From my brief scanning so far (I love Google) the only thing I would say is that on one site they state the code of 19 is an “intricate mathematical code, far beyond the ability of human intelligence”. If it is that far beyond our understanding I find it hard to believe we could have “found” or “cracked” the code; I also think that this website has underestimated human ingenuity.

    It does seem to be that there are a number of coincidences related to the number 19, although if you take any large enough group of information you can make all kinds of fantastical mathematical calculations around a wide variety of number. that said, I would like to see a good independent scientific study on this before I comment further on this particular phenomena.

    You clarified your remarks on atheist, but I still have one last issue with your comments: “few minority of dangerous “harmful atheists” today and in the previous centuries and in the future too when atheist will attack the believers because of their beliefs”.
    If you look at human history, religious fervor and faith have caused much more violence and killing than atheism. As a muslim, you should be able to look at the crusades as a simple example, or look at the attacks of 9/11, or look at the violence in Palestine (from both sides). I still think that your “linking” atheists with killers was misguided, whether intentionally or not. I think if you had said “harmful people” I’d have had no issue, but that you specifically mentioned atheist, shows that at least in some small part you look at the best of atheists are starting off below the worst of religious people by default.

  136. Rodibidably says:

    moot,

    Since the finding and studying of the Dead Sea Scrolls there has been shown many examples of differences between those scrolls and various current translations.
    Bart D Ehrman’s book “Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why” goes into a very detailed analysis of the some of the various current copies of the bible along with some of the oldest known copies that still exist. He goes into great detail showing in many cases actually when, and in some cases who made the mistranslation or misinterpretation and how the bible has changed throughout the years to what we know now.

    Even if one assumes that only 2% of the text has changes over time (and from my understanding the percentage is much higher than that) then you would still need to do a VERY detailed study of EXACTLY what that 2% is, since if the original is supposedly the “word of god” then ANY change, no matter how minor can alter the original intent.
    However if one assumes the view that Ehrman takes that “there are between 200,000 and 400,000 errors, some deliberate, some accidental, in the New Testament. That is more errors than there are words”, then you have a massive dilemma on the validity of anything in the bible.
    While the truth is likely somewhere in between the two extremes, it is enough to make one pause and question some of their assumptions.

    Regarding the “extra-biblical references” you refer to, I hope you do not mean Josephus’s account. These have been shown to likely have been a later addition by the catholic church and almost certainly not part of the original text of his writings. “Its authenticity has been disputed since the 17th century, and by the mid 18th century the consensus view was that it was a forgery.”

  137. Pingback: Christopher Hitchens and Rabbi Shmuley Boteach Debate « Rodibidably

  138. mjtilley says:

    Jeff —

    I’m answering your question at your request on my site.

    First, I have to admit only reading your post here (I’ve not taken the time to review much more of your site … although I am intrigued, so likely will) and I have read none of the extensive replies (man, that’s a lot of comments!).

    Second, I am going to directly answer the question that you ask (“How certain are you that your version of the “truth” (truth of god, religion, the world, the universe, etc) is the correct one, and more importantly, how do you know what that “truth” is?”) and try to avoid the temptation to answer what *I think* you may be *really* asking … if that makes sense?

    Enough caveats … here goes:

    I am certain enough of my “version” of truth to entrust my eternal future to it. I’m not hedging my bets, I’m not spinning the wheel and saying “what the heck …,” I’m not simply living my life the best I can. I’m putting my trust completely, wholly and unreservedly in the perfect, propitiatory sacrifice of Jesus Christ (God in the flesh) which was offered for my sins to satisfy a holy, righteous God who demands perfection from His creation (which He has every right to demand). Since I’m doing nothing (and I do mean nothing) more than resting in Jesus for “redemption” and “eternal reward” I’m likely in the most danger, should I be wrong. I say that to underscore the active, thoughtful and fully committed choice I’m making on this matter. I’m giving up on everything in favor of His work on my behalf.

    I know this is the truth because God Himself revealed it all humanity — first through the Jewish people and the Old Testament prophets, second and most fully and completely through Jesus Christ, the fulfillment of every promise offered in the Old Testament.

    I also find Jesus Christ to be a superior savior to all other pretenders since He is the only one that died for me. All others require me to die for them. Jesus Christ did all of the work while all others require me to do things that NO ONE (and I mean NO ONE) can perfectly fulfill.

    I suppose you can (and many folks do) deconstruct that to the point of questioning whether or not I’m even “really” here or not. But the truth remains that God has revealed His mind in His Scriptures (much in the same way that I, in good faith believe you requested me to post my thoughts here).

    The only question is whether or not I (and you) will accept them as truth and act accordingly.

  139. Rodibidably says:

    mjtilly,

    Thank you for the reply, always good to an another voice to the discussion.

    Yes, this post has been hands down the most commented on my blog, at least partially because I have tried to invite people to post who I think will have a perspective different then my own.

    The longest comments tend to be from me trying to better understand different replies because, one I can tend to blather on a tad at time, and two I have tried to ensure that I phrase my question in such a way that they are not easily misunderstood. If you do want to spend the time (and it would take a LOT of time) to check out all the replies, I do suggest you start with the beginning for a few reasons. First of all, I give my own answer to this question as the first reply here, and second because as I had to answer a few questions repeatedly, near the end I may have perhaps lost my temper with one of the commenters and not been quite as nice as I could have been.

    I really appreciate your answering my question, and not trying to “interpret” a hidden meaning behind it (at least not yet). I make no secret of the fact that I am an atheist, but my purpose for this question is not to argue (although I do love a good debate) but to try to come to some type of understanding with people who have a drastically different view point than my own.

    The one question that I have from reading your reply is that you seem to take the bible at its word, but why is it that you believe so strongly that the bible (and not the koran, dianetics, book of mormon, or some other book) is the “word of god”? I can look at a science book from the 1500’s and compare it to a science book written by Carl Sagan or Steven Hawkins and say with certainty that in those cases one in clearly superior based on its ability to describe more accurately the universe. But in my study of the bible, torah, and koran, I really never found any compelling reason to take one as more or less “true” than any other.

    Your final point on the whole concept of existence being subjective is one that I have ongoing, partially as a joke, with a colleague (in our discussions we take the premise that all of reality is all in her head, so when we have the discussion is she just arguing with herself, since I’m nothing more than a figment of her imagination), but it’s actually one I tend not to think about too much as I’m not sure I am capable of answering it satisfactorily, and I’ve just accepted the fact that whether I actually exist or not, I perceive things in a certain way, and that is just how it is.
    I used to ponder over many different theoretical possibilities for “existence” and finally came to the conclusion that I didn’t really care if this is just a dream or construct or real, it would not change how I perceived or reacted to things, so until some evidence comes along to push in a certain direction, I’ll just go with the assumption that it’s real.

  140. mjtilley says:

    Answering your question about why I believe the Bible is the Word of God vs. other so-called “holy texts”:

    To my knowledge, the Bible is the only text that claims to be written by the one true God.

    The only other books that rival that claim are either from a god that I do not recognize (the koran is from allah who says that Jesus Christ is a good prophet, therefore, cannot be my God and the book of mormon is from a god who creates other gods on distant planets .. also not my God) or only half of the story(the Jewish Scriptures, which I recognize as the “Old Testament”).

    I don’t claim exhaustive knowledge of holy texts, but of those I’m aware of, they usually don’t claim to be the “word of God,” only the somber words of a holy man/prophet/etc.

  141. Rodibidably says:

    mjtilley,

    If the bible claims to be written by “god” then be definition then the torah would as well (since it is the first “half” of the bible.

    The koran claims to be allah’s direct words written down through the hand of mohamed.

    The book of mormon is supposedly a direct translation of two golden tablet written by god, given to joseph smith and directly translated.

    Your comment as to why you don’t believe the koran takes as an assumption that you DO believe that jesus is more than just a prophet, that he is in fact god.
    That is the type of leap of faith I have never been able to make no matter how much I studied various religions, actually I’d say even MORE so because I studied various religions.

    In your comments you state that you view jesus as superior to other gods, but you don’t really say how you KNOW that he is in fact the “true” god.

  142. mjtilley says:

    Allah is not the God of the Old and New Testament. So I suppose one has to honestly say that in that scenario (koran vs. the Bible), it is a choice of one god over the other. Not a real answer of “why.”

    The book of mormon claims to be the same god as the Bible and claims to be the “rest of the story” in much the same way that the New Testament “finishes” the Old Testament. However, it’s “new” revelations actually undermine Bible, making at least one of them obsolete if not patently false. Therefore, to take either of them seriously is to essentially deny the other. In that way, I believe it to be spiritually and intellectualy inconsistent to believe the book of mormon and the Bible. Therefore, I reject the book of mormon since belief in it supposes belief in the Bible as well … essentially, I end up chasing my tail; no thank you.

    I suppose a similar argument could be had over the Jewish Scriptures, however, I believe that Jesus Christ is the “key” that makes the Jewish Scriptures and the New Testament a unified book. I don’t think either nullifies the other (although, I recognize my Jewish friends would disagree strongly); in fact, they both strengthen each other, building on each other without undermining any of the essential doctrines of the other. So I don’t chose Judaism and the Jewish Scriptures, not because it’s wrong (in fact, I find it very right), but merely incomplete (albeit in a very significant way).

    So thinking through things in that way, I think the one thing I’d have to explain is why I’d choose the Bible over the Koran.

    My reasons include:
    * The Bible has a longer, richer heritage over the relatively newer Koran.
    * The Koran has left no positive cultural, spiritual, philosophical marks on history in stark contrast to the Bible. Admittedly there have been negative contributions (all perverse interpretations of the Bible). But we owe the Bible an enormous debt for things like: human rights, women’s rights, democratic government, property rights, liberty, governmental assistance for poor and elderly, consent to be governed,and others
    * Both books claim the respective deity to be holy, perfect, righteous, etc in a very absolute sense and that mankind is sinful in an absolute sense. Only the Bible offers a rational way for the diety to maintain his character AND offer attainable redemption for humanity. The Koran (like most religious texts) puts unattainable demands on man to live by an impossible standard, yet strongly suggests that some men will somehow find redemption by abiding by that standard. The only acceptable alternative to the Bible for my mind would be a religion that says that the holy god damns all humanity to an eternity of damnation without any hope of redemption … but I’ve yet to find a religion (atheism included) with a serious following that holds to that.

    I should also mention — although it likely isn’t terribly convincing, since I’m speaking of subjective experience — I am convinced that Jesus is God because He has saved me and provided me the spiritual benefits that offers.

    Finally, since I believe the Bible at face value (a leap of some faith, to be sure …), I believe that Jesus is God because He claims it, His followers claim it and the Bible claims it. He is the true God because the Bible says so. And I believe that the Bible is to be believed because God was given it to us.

  143. Rodibidably says:

    mjtilley,

    A few random notes, not necessarily questions:

    “Allah is not the God of the Old and New Testament”
    Um, actually yes he is, ask any islamic scholar. Islam claims to be directly descended from both of the other earlier abrahamic religions.

    “book of mormon claims to be the same god as the Bible and claims to be the “rest of the story” … it’s “new” revelations actually undermine Bible, making at least one of them obsolete if not patently false”
    As a christian, you eat pork and other foods not blessed by a rabbi. You do this because the new testament makes certain claims of the old testament “obsolete if not patently false”.

    “The Bible has a longer, richer heritage over the relatively newer Koran.”
    Couldn’t one say that: The torah has a longer, richer heritage over the relatively newer bible.

    “The Koran has left no positive cultural, spiritual, philosophical marks on history in stark contrast to the Bible”
    Such as the positive cultural, spiritual, philosophical mark that the bible has left regarding killing those who refuse to convert, or invading lands that other are living in peacefully to “retake the holy land”, or did you mean slavery, racism, sexism, and genocide?

    “we owe the Bible an enormous debt for things like: … women’s rights”
    On this one I don’t even know where to begin, other than to say ‘Are You Serious’?

    “The Koran (like most religious texts) puts unattainable demands on man to live by an impossible standard, yet strongly suggests that some men will somehow find redemption by abiding by that standard”
    You mean like the demands of the old testament. The demands that existed before god changed his mind and allowed his son/himself to die in place of our own sins. Well as long as those sins don’t involve having a consensual loving relationship with the “wrong” person, or trying to advance science and help humanity in the “wrong” way (stem cells), or any of a list of other things that christians today from upon.

    “but I’ve yet to find a religion (atheism included) with a serious following that holds to that (that being ‘holy god damns all humanity to an eternity of damnation’)”
    I found that kind of funny. How exactly would atheism make any claims about damnation or god other than not existing?

    You have some well thought out comments, however it seems that some of your reasons contradict others or are only applied under circumstances where they lead to your end conclusion. If you applied all of your criteria evenly, I’m not sure exactly where you would end up, but I’m fairly certain that it would not be any of the three abrahamic religions, since all of them would be excluded, even christianity.

  144. mootpoints says:

    After reading your response I’m restating something I already said. I don’t want to sound redundant, It just seems that in reading your response you may have skimmed over one of the main points I made.

    I did say that general consensus seems to be that there are about 300,000 errors in the scripture. (You said 200,000 to 400,000, so I’m splitting the difference) Ehrman’s quote is a little misleading. There are about 25,000 different texts, even if you grant the 400,000 word error that’s about 16 errors per text. 16 is a much more manageable number.

    Now when you consider that all 25,000 sources don’t have the same mistakes you can compare and contrast to get a very reasonable idea of what was originally written.

    Interestingly Ehrman himself unintentionally provides a good example of the point I’m making. If you happen to have a copy of “Misquoting Jesus” turn to page 13. On that page right near the top, you can read the line about the “Left Behind” series. I quote, “Timothy LeHaye and Philip Jenkins series Left Behind”
    You can probably tell it’s LaHaye not LeHaye and Jerry Jenkins no Phillip Jenkins.” Now we both still know exactly what Ehrman means despite the mistakes. I know, I know, Ehrman doesn’t claim his work is inspired but he doesn’t intend to be a textual critic – so there blatant errors are a little ironic.

    reading past page 13, for what may seem to some

    And no, I don’t mean Josephus’s Testimonium. If you remember there are two quotes one that is disputed and one that isn’t. Even though it’s likely that the Testimonium is a much later insertion it still represents an expansion on a preexisting reference to Christ. But that’s all beside the point.

    To sum up – given that there are no more than a maximum of 400,000 variants in the texts, that the variants represent, to a large degree, thing that don’t change it’s meaning and the fact that we can compare and contrast to eliminate most of the mistakes, it’s very likely that we have a text that is nearly identical to the original.

  145. mootpoints says:

    Oops (case in point) I meant to write “there are no more than a maximum of an average of 16 variants per text.”

  146. Rodibidably says:

    moot,

    The biggest difference is that if you’re reading the bible as if it is the inerrant word of god and it is the unquestioning guidebook for how to live one’s life, then ANY mistake, no matter how small, has the possibility to induce people towards genocide, war, slavery, bigotry, sexism, homophobia, etc…

    Nobody is going to see a typo in a copy of Moby Dick, or Hamlet, or Misquoting Jesus and interpret it to mean that they should enslave a population based on the color of their skin, or invade a country to “reclaim the holy land”, or stone somebody to death for falling in love with the wrong person.
    With the bible (and not to pick on the bible, the same is true of any book that claims to be the word of god, including the koran, the book of mormon, etc) these kinds of misinterpretations and atrocious acts of violence have happened, and continue to happen to this day.

    Personally in my mind the errors are insignificant in relation to the whole concept of living your life based on a book written by people (and yes, as an atheist, I believe it was written by people, not god) some 1300-3000 years ago (different parts written at different times), but the errors should, I would hope, at least give a slight bit of pause to those who do believe that the original had a supernatural author.

    Finally, I would like to give one small example of a minor error in translation causing a massive difference in meaning (and yes, I know it’s a childish example, but it’s simple, and it does seem to work).

    Kill for a slice of beth’s pie.
    Kill beth for a slice of pie.
    Kill pie eaters and slice up beth.

    Now imagine if I claimed this was written by god, but you had no way to know which was the original and which was the mistranslation. In this example it’s simple enough, but when you start talking about subjects that people may already be predisposed to have strong feelings towards (like race, gender, sexuality, etc) very bad things can happen, and history shows have happened.

  147. mjtilley says:

    Rod … the benefit of atheism is that it makes so much sense to human reasoning and the very nature of spiritual (as oppose to strictly ration) religion (by any name) makes it open to debate. Add to that the fact that the Bible itself (and I would assume other religious text do something similar) indicate that it (while not irrational) will be called “foolish” (I Corinthians 1) by most.

    Further, I have a difficult time arguing something where we don’t agree on the basic premise of the discussion. Its actually hard to even come to an “agree to disagree” outcome.

    It would be like me trying to prove that my wife is the love of my life all the while your still insisting I prove that I actually exist on this planet and not the mind of a robotic creature.

    That’s not to say that your arguments don’t hold water … only that I don’t have the ability to answer every objection even that one might throw up.

    I say that to say I’m likely going to be of minimal assistance to the discussion going forward … but will attempt to answer some of the objections — both for my own benefit and in the spirit of good, hearty discussion. Here goes:

    On the “women’s rights” comment: God (the One True God of the Bible) is the original feminist:
    * He created woman to actually complete man (woman is a fully-functioning creature on her own … its man that can’t live without a woman, God created us that way)
    * He created the male-female relationship to be one in which the man is expected to reflect Jesus Christ and the woman is reflect the church. While that certainly involves what some in this ultra-modern culture would see as a “pecking order” of authority, it is very feministic in that God quite literally expects men to give up their very lives for the woman, if need be and to find all of their satisfaction in the woman’s happiness.
    * Some of the New Testament references to various roles for men and women in worship and the life of the church actually suggest the scandalous (for the day) practices of allowing women to learn, to participate in the life of the church, to publically pray and to publically participate in worship.
    * The woman is actually very revered in the Bible as a special creature to be honored, loved, protected and cared for … any anti-woman abuse, bigotry, etc. (esp when Scripture is used to support this behavior) is the worst sort of perversion.

    On God being related to allah: I’m sure that islamic scholars would say that. But until they recognize the entire Trinitarian Godhead (Father, Son and Holy Ghost), they can call allah what they want to call him, but he is not my God which means he is not the God of the Bible … how’s that for an “are to/am not” argument?!

    On the New Testament making the Old Testament “obsolete”: Jesus Christ came to fulfill “the Law” (Jewish Scripture), not to destroy it (His words). So anything that is “done away with” between the two parts of the Bible has everything to do with finding its fulfuillment in Christ, not because the two are disconnected, discontiguous religious texts that some zealots somewhere fused together. Now, I have to admit that my argument is likely similar to the one used by Mormons. However, I’d argue that our differences (Mormons vs. Christians) are not simply over dietary laws, but actually over the very nature and character of God. In that way, I and a Jew will be very similar, if not identical. Our chief difference would be: they’re still looking for the “one” promised that would fulfill all of the Old Testament prophecies while I believe that He has come and His name is Jesus Christ.

    On cultural heritage comments: Two things:
    1) I think its probably clear that I would quickly agree to the fact that the Jewish Scriptures are an older text with a longer heritage … but I would with the same breath say that it is a significant (actually larger by volume!) part of the Bible.
    2) I grant you that all religion has a spotted record of pain and suffering. However, I would argue that is less of a religion problem and more of a human problem. The Bible actually explains this as a nature of sin that is in-born in all men. Religion, unfortunately, just “churches” up our sin at times, making us feel superior when we abuse women, enslave people for their race, or attack others.

    On the demands of the Bible: Three things:
    1) Yes, I mean exactly like the demands of the Bible. But those demands were met by Jesus Christ. I can and will never meet those demands. I will find grace in the eyes of God only because His son Jesus Christ has gone before me with His own blood offered as payment in my place.
    2) However, that plan (called “the Gospel” or “the Redemptive Plan”) was not God’s “plan B” … it was God’s pre-ordained plan from before time began. So it is a mis-characterization to claim that God “changed His mind”
    3) The things you reference (homosexuality, the murder of the unborn) are certainly things that cause us, as humans, to fall short of the demands of the Bible. While that’s bad, that’s not irreparable: Jesus Christ was the propitiation for all of those things. Any Christian who claims that any sin makes one unworthy of redemption has completely missed the point of redemption.

    On atheism believing God would damn people: Your comment was exactly my point. Your faith in the non-existance of God is a safe faith: it doesn’t put you at risk. No one wants to beleive that “the end” (whatever that looks like) involves them on the end of a pointy stick roasting over an open flame. Most religions contrive ways for people to do good enough to merit the blessings of the divinity. Atheism is similar except the divinity in question is me and you … and we’re not going to give us a bad end; just lights out.

    On my evenly applying my logic: Heavens knows that my logic is likely faulty in spots. However, I hope my bigger point shines through: while “faith” is certainly at the root of my reliance on Jesus Christ, it’s not mindless, blind or stupid faith. Can I use the term “reasonable” faith? I like that.

    It’s kind of like when I chose my wife as my life’s mate. I’d like to think there was some logic in the choice: she’s attractive, we’re compatible, etc. But I certainly didn’t do a global casting call … heck, I barely did a county-wide casting call. There was a lot of instinct (call it faith, maybe?) in the decision.

  148. Rodibidably says:

    mjtilley,

    Atheism does make sense rationally, but if you read Daniel Dennett’s book, “Breaking The Spell”, he makes a very god case for religion / faith as a product of evolution, therefore it is fairly well ingrained in our being, which helps to explain the overwhelming majority of people in the world being religious in some fashion.

    While we may not be predetermined to be christian, we are predisposed towards religiosity and faith in some type of higher power (abrahamic god, hindu gods, l ron hubbard, whatever it may be).

    Personally I think that being religious is easier, since it takes away so much personal responsibility. As an atheist, if I hate gay people, it is because I’m homophobic. As a christian, if you hate gay people, it’s because god does. As well I believe that when I die, that’s it, end of story, game over. You believe that when you die you’ll go sit on a cloud, strumming a harp, playing bingo with saint peter or whatever heaven is for you. My beliefs lead me to want to do as much as I can now while I’m alive because that’s all the time I have. Yours allow room for something after this, so you’ll still see your friends, family, etc later on. I wish that I could have some way to spend eternity with my wife, but alas, I’ll have 50-70 years if I am exceedingly lucky.

    I think we do agree on more than you may believe. I too could never prove scientifically, or on a purely rational basis the love I feel for my wife, but I know it’s true.

    Your contributions are more meaningful than you seem to think. The love for one’s spouse argument is one that nobody has yet brought up, but it’s one of the stronger to use as an example of an unseen, unprovable, unexplainable force.

    As for the bible and sexism, I’ll only post a few examples to make the point, but there are many more if you’d like to get into this particular topic further:
    1 Corinthians 11:3 *
    3 But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman [is] the man; and the head of Christ [is] God.
    1 Corinthians 11:8 – 9*
    8 For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man.
    9 Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.
    1 Corinthians 14:34 – 35*
    34. Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but [they are commanded] to be under obedience, as also saith the law.
    35 And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.
    Ephesians 5:22 – 25*
    22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.
    23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.
    24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so [let] the wives [be] to their own husbands in every thing.
    Colossians 3:18 *
    18. Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.
    Romans 7:2
    2 For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to [her] husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of [her] husband.
    1 Peter 3:1 -3
    1. Likewise, ye wives, [be] in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives;
    2 While they behold your chaste conversation [coupled] with fear.
    3 Whose adorning let it not be that outward [adorning] of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel;
    1 Timothy 2:9 – 15*
    11 Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection.
    12 But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.
    13 For Adam was first formed, then Eve.
    14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.
    Leviticus 12:2 *
    2 Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a woman have conceived seed, and born a man child: then she shall be unclean seven days; according to the days of the separation for her infirmity shall she be unclean.
    Leviticus 12:5
    5 But if she bear a maid child, then she shall be unclean two weeks, as in her separation: and she shall continue in the blood of her purifying threescore and six days.

    That last two, in my view, show to a very good degree how the authors of the bible viewed women. A woman who gives birth to a baby boy is “unclean” for 7 days, yet if she gives birth to a girl that mother in unclean for 14-66 days.

  149. Tom says:

    Rodibidably,

    I am sorry that is has taken me so long to get here. I have read your post but not the responses. I am not sure if I will read them all or not.

    Your question is

    How certain are you that your version of the “truth” (truth of god, religion, the world, the universe, etc) is the correct one, and more importantly, how do you know what that “truth” is?

    Your questions really seem to be asking how can we know that the Bible is trustworthy and is really the word of God. As such, this is the way that I will answer them.

    First let me say that I am under no illusion that my interpretation of God’s word is perfect. I am a flawed being and my interpretations can also be flawed. My confidence does not lie with me. It lies with Him…the Creator of the Universe. He is not flawed.

    Along the same lines, I do not rely on my truth. I rely on God’s revealed truth…the Bible. I believe that the Bible, as God’s word, is infallible. Now, let me be clear…that does not mean that the translations we have today are infallible. The original versions, as given by God, are perfect. The modern translations were translated by fallible men and we see some textual variances today (I am not an expert on these…I just know that they exist). This does not mean that our translations today are useless. We have enough manuscript evidence to recreate the original with a high degree of certainty (again, I am not an expert in this area so I rely on people who are).

    Okay, so how do I know that the Bible is the true word of God. The simplest answer is that it says that it is. I know that sounds circular and to a point it is. The thing we must do then is examine the claims of the Bible. Does it do what it says it does? Are there contradictions or errors? Are there people and place in it that did not exist? Etc. I have done a great deal of personal study and listened to others who have do tons more study of the Bible and have found it to be true in every instance. I have found no reason to disbelieve any part of it. So, as such, I believe the claims it makes and seek to know the One it reveals to us more each day.

    I apologize if some of these points have been brought up before. As I said, I did not take time to read all 148 comments. Does my response answer your questions? If not, I will try again.

  150. Pingback: Jesus Camp « Rodibidably

  151. Rodibidably says:

    tom,

    Better late than never, although I had almost given up on you.

    I commend you for being the first to state unequivocally that you are “under no illusion that [your] interpretation of God’s word is perfect”. As I have mentioned previously, even if you assume the original bible was the actual “word of god”, with multiple “versions” floating around and multiple ways to interpret those versions, it’s hard to believe that any person can be so stubborn in their beliefs to have no doubt that perhaps a flaw (if not in “god”) could perhaps be in their view of “god” or “god’s word”.

    According to some people, the bible claims among other things that the earth and the universe were created 6500 years ago over the course of 6 days, that roughly 4000 years ago a global flood killed all life on the planet except that which could swim, and that which was one a single boat, and that a woman who had never had sex gave birth to a man who could walk on water. These would be among the points where somebody looking at the claims objectively would question the validity of the text. Where die the water come from for the flood, and where did it go afterwards? How many animals were on the ark and for how long did they survive drifting about? If the universe is so young (6500 years), why is there so much evidence for the age of it being closer to 2million times older than the bible claims?

    Perhaps you believe, as many do, that these stories are allegory and not meant to be taken literally. If that is so, then how is one to know which stories are meant to be taken at face value and which are just to teach a lesson?

    I appreciate your answer, and while I may not agree, it does seem that you have at least taken some time in your coming to your beliefs, which I admire. I am much more interested in those who have reasons, and have thought about their faith than those who accept it blindly because “that is how they were raised”.

  152. mootpoints says:

    I think there’s plenty of evidence to make an informed decision about the accuracy of the bible. There’s is more evidence that it is nearly exactly what was written then there is evidence that there is not.

    While we have agreed that in the manuscripts there may be (at a very high estimate) up to 16 errors per text we can dismiss many of them as spelling or grammar errors. You allege that even minor errors can produce drastic problems.

    If, for example, there were a verse that said – “to be saved you must kill pie eaters and slice up beth.” That concept is in contradiction to the rest of the New Testament.

    That is all part and parcel of taking the 25,000 texts and comparing and contrasting them and determining which is most accurate.

    Again, there’s more than enough evidence to make a well-informed decision about the accuracy of the New Testament.

  153. Rodibidably says:

    “accuracy of the New Testament”

    I know it’s an easy target, but:
    So what year was it exactly when the flood happened, and covered the entire planet with water?
    Where did that water come from?
    Where is all that water now?

    The bible states that all mountains were covered, until they were about twenty feet below water.
    The radius of the Earth is approx. 6370km
    The height of Everest above sea-level is approx. 8.8 km
    Therefore, the volume of the Earth is approx. 1,082,696,932,000km³, or 1,080 billion cubic kilometers.
    The volume of the earth to the height of Everest is 1,087,190,293,000km³
    Subtracting the first volume from the second gives approx. 4,493,361,000, or four thousand, five hundred million cubic kilometers of water!
    Also, this rain is supposed to have fallen within about 40 days. That means that there would have been about 220 metres of rainfall every day over the entire planet (8800/40 = 220)! A few centimetres in a day is considered to be extremely heavy rain.

    How many animals were on the ark, what did they eat, and how long were they on the ark?

    The volume required for even two of every species of beetle (there are over three hundred and fifty thousand species of beetle alone) would fill more than the Titanic, an aircraft carrier, or any other type of ship ever built by man.

    Feel free to check out this site for a few more issues with the story of the flood, if you’d like:
    http://www.abarnett.demon.co.uk/atheism/noahs_ark.html

    Or, as I said in a reply to somebody else, perhaps you believe, as many do, that these stories are allegory and not meant to be taken literally. If that is so, then how is one to know which stories are meant to be taken at face value and which are just to teach a lesson?

  154. mootpoints says:

    After rereading my post I realized I didn’t clarify.

    The bible, to some degree, can be used to interpret itself. If there’s a singular passage that stands in stark contrast to other scripture it should be interpreted in light of those scriptures.

    Secondly – History have shown that those who claim to be Christians and twist the scripture have done terrible things. Their actions weren’t a result of truly attempting to understand and obey the bible but of injected their own bias and prejudice into the scripture.

  155. Rodibidably says:

    I agree that misinterpreting the bible has been the cause of the majority (if not potentially all) of the violence based in “jesus’s name”, but ANY book that claims to be written by god lends into self to this type of problem, since by it’s very nature, a “holy scripture” should not be challenged or questioned.

  156. Tom says:

    Rodibidably,

    I believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible. But let me explain what I mean by literal. I think that we need to read the text exactly like the author intended it to be read. For something that was written to be a historical narrative then we need to read it as such. For something that was written as a parable then we should read it as a parable….etc.

    Genesis was written as a historical narrative. I read it as a historical narrative. As such I believe all the events detailed there happened just as they were written.

    You list several example of things taught in the Bible:

    According to some people, the bible claims among other things that the earth and the universe were created 6500 years ago over the course of 6 days, that roughly 4000 years ago a global flood killed all life on the planet except that which could swim, and that which was one a single boat, and that a woman who had never had sex gave birth to a man who could walk on water.

    I believe all of these things. I believe the earth is 6000-10000 years old. I believe that the was a global flood about 4400 years ago. I believe that Noah and his family and the animals on the Ark were the only survivors of the flood. I believe in the virgin birth and the many miracle that Jesus did during his lifetime. I believe that He will return one day.

    Perhaps you believe, as many do, that these stories are allegory and not meant to be taken literally. If that is so, then how is one to know which stories are meant to be taken at face value and which are just to teach a lesson?

    Context is everything. You must understand what the author was trying to say and what the readers would understand him to be saying. You have to understand the literary type of the writing. In some cases you need to know about the culture or the events that were occurring around the time the author was writing. Taking all these into account are necessary in your interpretation of the Scriptures.

    I appreciate your answer, and while I may not agree, it does seem that you have at least taken some time in your coming to your beliefs, which I admire.

    Thank you. Yes, I have invested a great deal of time and energy in coming to an understanding of my faith. I will do my best to answer any questions anyone has of me…as long as they are sincere questions.

  157. Tom says:

    Rodibidably said How many animals were on the ark, what did they eat, and how long were they on the ark?

    We are not told how many total animals were on the Ark. We are told there were at least two pairs of every kind (and seven pairs of some). From the time the Ark door was closed until they exited the Ark was just over 1 year. During the time it took Noah to build the Ark I am sure he was gathering provisions for the time they would be on the Ark…as for what these were, we are not told.

  158. Tom says:

    The volume required for even two of every species of beetle (there are over three hundred and fifty thousand species of beetle alone) would fill more than the Titanic, an aircraft carrier, or any other type of ship ever built by man.

    The Bible does not say “two of every species”. It says “two of every kind”. There is a big difference. Here is a link that will help explain it: http://www.answersingenesis.org/home/area/feedback/2006/0908.asp

  159. Tom says:

    As I have mentioned previously, even if you assume the original bible was the actual “word of god”, with multiple “versions” floating around and multiple ways to interpret those versions, it’s hard to believe that any person can be so stubborn in their beliefs to have no doubt that perhaps a flaw (if not in “god”) could perhaps be in their view of “god” or “god’s word”.

    A person,s confidence needs to be in God not in our own ability to interpret the Scriptures. My stubbornness is in the fact that I trust God. He is infallible….i am not. Anything God reveals to us in His word explicitly and directly we can stubbornly hold to and believe. Everything else is open to interpretation which can be flawed since we are flawed.

  160. mootpoints says:

    You seem to have jumped to a different argument.

    Because you believe that the Old Testament’s claims are unbelievable does not mean that New Testament is textually inaccurate.

    Disregarding the Bible’s claims does not mean we can disregard it’s accuracy.

  161. mootpoints says:

    By the way I appreciate your dedication. You’re obviously debating this vigorously on quite a few fronts with people of vastly different backgrounds. I’m glad you’re still willing to debate.

  162. Rodibidably says:

    tom,

    I’ve checked out answersingenesis before, and while it looks very scientific sounding, the number of fallacies in it are astounding.

    I also understand that to attempt to change the mind of a true believer is a fruitless task, I would just encourage you to look at some of the latest data on the subject from non-secular sources, if for no other reason than to understand what “the other side” truly believes.

  163. Rodibidably says:

    moot,

    I kind of knew all along that eventually the validity of the bible would become an issue, and I tried to avoid bringing it directly into question for a while, however the phrase “no reason to disbelieve any part of it” sort of made me want to examine a bit more thoroughly tom’s actual beliefs with relation to the bible, to have a better understanding of his point of view.

    I have tried to avoid any personal attacks (and other than a few comments towards humbleforest I think I have succeeded). I have tried to avoid disparaging any body’s beliefs, or faith (which I think I have accomplished). And I have tried to not call into question the actual beliefs, and only question for further clarity (which admittedly I have gone awfully close to the line, and perhaps crossed it a few times, but I did try my best).

    With that said, there are some things of religion in general, and of many specific religions which I have studied that conflict with known facts about the universe around us, that are hard to ignore, and hard to let go by with no comment to point people in the right direction.

    I hope that nobody (yourself and tom included) is offended by what I have said, however when people make claims that refute basic scientific knowledge and understanding then I believe somebody must at the very LEAST make some noise to allow others who come across this blog know that there are other ways of looking at the world that take a more scientific approach.

    I understand that nothing I say is likely to change the mind of a true believer, but perhaps something I say could cause somebody on the fence to look for more information, or could cause somebody who’s “angry” at us “heathen science types” (I was called that once by somebody, and I was actually very flattered by the comment to tell the truth) to stop for a moment to try and find out what it is we actually believe.

  164. mootpoints says:

    Your last post sounds a little like a closing statement. I hope that you’re not yet done with this discussion although I entirely understand if you are.

    I’m not offended in the least by anything you’ve said. The ideas we’ve been debating aren’t originally to me so I can’t imagine why I’d be offended if someone doesn’t agree with what I think.

    My line of reasoning right no is to strictly deal textual accuracy of the New Testament. That’s the foundation I think I can build on in regard to answering your original question.

  165. Rodibidably says:

    moot,

    Nope, not a closing statement, just an attempt to make sure that I keep myself at an even keel.

    I believe that one of the reasons I am a tad bitter the last couple of days was due to re-watching Jesus Camp as part of finding it in it’s entirety online. While I’m happy the movie was made, and while I think the MOVIE is a great one and obviously I believe strong that the subject matter should be discussed openly, actually watching it again, and seeing the parents and “spiritual leaders” indoctrinating young impressionable children kind of makes me a bit sick.

    While I believe that faith and religion are a personal choice which should be allowed (although I would put an even stronger separation of church and state, and I would add a caveat that any religion found to be harmful to its members of the public at large should be subject to prosecution) I think that with regards to pushing young children into it is, as Dawkins says, “It’s time to question the abuse of childhood innocence with superstitious ideas of hellfire and damnation”.

    I still want to continue this conversation, as I have learned a good bit from the comments of others, and I hope others have learned that not all atheists worship the devil, want to abort all babies, think religion should be banned, and want nothing more than to deny believers their right to believe. Only some of us fall into those categories.

    I am however smart enough to understand that no matter how much evidence I show that the earth is 4-5 billion years old, and the universe is 14.7 billions years old, and that it would be impossible for a flood to have covered the planet in the recent past (and yes, 4000-5000 years ago is very recent), that a true believer can explain it ll away as “well that is how god chose to do it”.

    The debate over the age of the universe and the planet, and even evolution is one that neither side can “win”, since whichever side is “wrong” (and while I’m sure it’s not MY side, I admit the possibly DOES exist that god created the word to look like evolution happened, and that billions of years have passed, I just think that particular hypothesis is not a scientific one, it’s a theological one) they will never admit it, because they feel the evidence supports their claims, and that the other side is misguided or blind to the facts.

    Some arguments, though at time fun, are unlikely to lead to a resolution, or even a meeting of the mind, so they are better left to people much smarter than myself. While there are times I’m perfectly willing to get into the evolution debate or the flood debate or the 6500 vs 14.7 billion year debate, I don’t want this particular blog post to turn into that, because those debates often turn ugly, and I am hoping to keep this particular post civil.

    I respect people’s right to follow the bible or koran or book of mormon or dianetics or whatever their holy book of choice may be, but sufficed to say, in my view (which is the view of the overwhelming majority of scientists much smarter than myself who study these things, many “facts” in these books are not reconcilable with the evidence around us.

    Personally I respect somebody more for saying “I know the evidence doesn’t support this, but god said blah, blah, blah” than I do for misrepresenting the evidence to support their claim.

    Now, back to the original discussion, were there any points which I overlooked in my fervor to question the bible’s validity?

  166. mootpoints says:

    You and I are on the same side when it comes to the some of the issues. Movies like Jesus Camp make me as mad as the make you. Maybe more so because people like that not only do incalculable damage to children and families but also cause further harm the cause of Christianity. When I want to explain or share my beliefs I have first distance myself from the loony fringe. Much as you and others may try to remain objective it’s nearly impossible when you have such inflammatory behavior coming from our side. I ask that you make a large distinction between people like myself and those represented in that documentary.

    As far as textual criticism goes… My most recent point was the fantastic claims of scripture don’t means that the texts themselves have been corrupted. Those are two separate arguments.

    If the texts are not corrupted then we can examine them on their own merits.

    My point was to take look at what the Gospels say about Christ to see if there’s any potential validity to the unique claim of Christianity.

  167. Rodibidably says:

    moot,

    Both sides have their lunatics, we just try to keep ours away from camera crews. 😉

    As for the textual discrepancies vs factual claims, let’s focus on that for a moment. You are right, that they are two very separate issues, and should be treated as such.

    You mentioned that if a mistranslation occurred that changed the meaning of a passage, it should be caught by comparing it to other parts of the bible, in to avoid “a singular passage that stands in stark contrast to other scripture”.

    A stated at http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/jim_meritt/bible-contradictions.html:
    “Genesis 1 and 2 disagree about the order in which things are created, and how satisfied God is about the results of his labors. The flood story is really two interwoven stories that contradict each other on how many of each kind of animal are to be brought into the Ark–is it one pair each or seven pairs each of the “clean” ones? The Gospel of John disagrees with the other three Gospels on the activities of Jesus Christ (how long had he stayed in Jerusalem–a couple of days or a whole year?) and all four Gospels contradict each other on the details of Jesus Christ’s last moments and resurrection. The Gospels of Matthew and Luke contradict each other on the genealogy of Jesus Christ’s father; though both agree that Joseph was not his real father.”

    Not bad for the first (real) paragraph in the first website returned when searching for “bible contradictions”.

    I won’t waste the space here with copying too much more of the direct contradictions, you can check out that page if you’d like.
    If you scroll down just a bit you’ll see many examples with the passage quoted directly side by side that contradict each other.
    Another good page that does much the same thing, on the same website is:
    http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/donald_morgan/contradictions.html

    So then either every one of the “16” per copy we’re talking about ended up causing these discrepancies, or the authors were human and contradicted themselves, or “god” changed his mind during the making of the bible, or …

    Let’s start off at least with the order of creation (and leave out for the time being the order according to scientists, while we just look at the order in 2 conflicting accounts from genesis.

    Here is the order in the first (Genesis 1), the Priestly tradition:
    Day 1: Sky, Earth, light
    Day 2: Water, both in ocean basins and above the sky(!)
    Day 3: Plants
    Day 4: Sun, Moon, stars (as calendrical and navigational aids)
    Day 5: Sea monsters (whales), fish, birds, land animals, creepy-crawlies (reptiles, insects, etc.)
    Day 6: Humans (apparently both sexes at the same time)
    Day 7: Nothing (the Gods took the first day off anyone ever did)
    Note that there are “days,” “evenings,” and “mornings” before the Sun was created. Here, the Deity is referred to as “Elohim,” which is a plural, thus the literal translation, “the Gods.” In this tale, the Gods seem satisfied with what they have done, saying after each step that “it was good.”

    The second one (Genesis 2), the Yahwist tradition, goes:
    Earth and heavens (misty)
    Adam, the first man (on a desolate Earth)
    Plants
    Animals
    Eve, the first woman (from Adam’s rib)

    How orderly were things created?
    #1: Step-by-step. The only discrepancy is that there is no Sun or Moon or stars on the first three “days.”
    #2: God fixes things up as he goes. The first man is lonely, and is not satisfied with animals. God finally creates a woman for him. (funny thing that an omniscient god would forget things)

    How satisfied with creation was he?
    #1: God says “it was good” after each of his labors, and rests on the seventh day, evidently very satisfied.
    #2: God has to fix up his creation as he goes, and he would certainly not be very satisfied with the disobedience of that primordial couple. (funny thing that an omniscient god would forget things)

  168. mootpoints says:

    There’s a couple of things that I would say to the contradictions point.

    -First, very little of what you pointed out changed how I interpret and respond to real life events. That’s doesn’t mean it’s not open to scrutiny it’s just that the examples you cited won’t cause someone to run off and kill people as a mistake of translation or interpretation. (That’s not to say you couldn’t produce more drastic examples to that point.)

    -Second, sometimes we frame a contradiction in either/or terms. That’s not always the case. While this wouldn’t explain every alleged contradiction away there is often a third (and more valid) way of explaining a seeming contradiction. For example, chapter 2 of Genesis deals with elements of creation directly relating to Adam. In a manner of speaking chapter one is the forest, chapter two are the trees.

    Finally, I don’t mind talking about Genesis but I would tend to avoid it, not because it’s indefensible but because it lends itself so readily to the evolution/creation debate. A debate I admittedly am fairly ignorant on. I have reserved the right to decide exactly what I think about it as some point in the future.

    -Thirdly, and you won’t like this much. Let’s say I have accepted as truth a certain proposition. If inherent to that proposition that a secondary proposition for which there is less evidence is also true, then I also accept as truth that second proposition.

    As a believer I’m not blindly wiping away all contradictions I’m just assuming there is a valid explanation within my belief system. This will seem frustrating to you but I would need empirical evidence that a secondary proposition is true (i.e. there is no possible valid explanation or reason for bible contradictions) before I would discard my primary proposition.

    I think you as an atheist would agree with that. Some faith healer can claim to have seem a miracle. This event may indeed look like a miracle. You may not be able to prove empirically it’s not, in fact, a miracle but your primary supposition (there is no God) would lead you to conclude that this miracle had a material cause.

    I lost myself in that last argument a little so let me know if it totally doesn’t make sense.

    I also think there’s a more philosophical argument to be had on the nature of truth and what it means to know something. I think that we may have two different standards for truth which will make the debate difficult. However I don’t want to diverge until we’ve seen this line of reasoning a bit further.

  169. Rodibidably says:

    moot,

    I understand the examples I used are not life and death examples, but they are among the most obvious glaring examples, and thus the easiest to debate, from both sides of the discussion. A very subtle contradiction may have a more profound impact on the meaning, but by virtue of being subtle, it’s easier to “explain away” and not as easy to come to a conclusion from the different sides. Something glaring and obvious, while not always “life and death” is easier to debate, since the two sides have more to work with.

    As for Gen 2 explaining them in relation to adam, that is one idea, but Gen 2 clearly states that adam was created before plants and animals, while Gen 1 clearly states the exact opposite. Gen 2 does not say god created adam, then adam noticed the plants and animals, it says god created them in that order. This is not a case of point of view; this is a case of what order did things happen. Either A came before or after B, but Gen 1 and Gen 2 differ over this order. For a book written by an all powerful all knowing deity, a simple thing like what happened first should be fairly simple to get correct, and non –contradictory, in 2 successive chapters.

    I do agree that I’d like to avoid the creation/evolution debate as much as possible, but again, I used this example to show internal inconsistencies, not to compare the bible to what science says. I do plan at a later date to do a while treatment on the origins of the universe and on evolutions vs. creationism, but this is not the place for that debate (yet).

    To comment on your third point, let’s say that I accepted some scientific fact, perhaps that the earth goes around the sun. And let’s say for the sake of argument that only one book ever written had this information and that there was no possible way to prove or disprove this assertion. Now let’s say that in chapter one of this book it states that the earth moves clockwise around the sun, and chapter 2 states that it moves counter clockwise around the sun. Now it is true that either one of these statements could be correct, and not change the fact that the earth does go around the sun. However, if the only source of information on this phenomena can’t keep its facts straight internally, that would have to call into question the entire premise of the book, that the earth goes around the sun. This is not to say that it proves the earth does NOT go around the sun, it just means that this particular book does not do a good job of making that case.

    Now obviously this was a simplistic example used to make a point, but replace “earth going around sun” with “god created universe”, and replace “clockwise” with plants then animals then man” and finally replace “counterclockwise” with “man then plants animals” and we have come to the exact contradiction that Gen 1 and 2 show us.

    This in no way proves the bible is wrong, and it does not prove that god did not create the universe or the earth or man. What it does show is that the bible is possibly not the best source of information, or an infallible source of information, on this subject. It’s absolutely possible that god created the universe, the earth, plants, animals, and man. It’s even possible he did it in just under a week roughly 6500 years ago. It’s just that if the bible can’t be relied on to the story accurately 100% of the time, that perhaps it’s time to find other sources of information to help us understand what happened (i.e. science).

    I think the point of your “faith healer” argument is essentially the idea that it’s impossible to PROVE a negative. Science can never disprove the existence of god, but it can show that god is not the only plausible explanation, and in every case we’ve come across so far as a species, he is not even a necessary explanation. This doesn’t prove “he” does not exist, it just proves “he” does not have to exist for the world around us to exist.

  170. mootpoints says:

    I appreciate your response. I think you’re right that contradictions should cause us to question the bible.

    This is not to say I disbelieve in the scriptures. My belief in God is not solely predicated on the scripture being free from contradiction. Thus I can factor God into the problem of contradictions and assume then that there are valid explanations that do not lead to the conclusion God does not exist. I realize this is not a fair argument to prove the validity of scripture or to convince anyone of the existence of God it’s simply the thought I apply to my own understanding of biblical contradiction. Sorry if that’s frustrating.

    I completely agree with your second point about science. I do think that science has offered alternative explanations for the existence of the universe. However, without turning this into a creation/evolution debate I don’t think science offers us a more plausible alternative.

    Concerning the existence of the universe, I think as Aristotle and Einstein thought – that there is a middle ground between between excess and deficiency in this debate of creation. Einstein said specifically – “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” I think, at times, both theism and atheism make things more simple than they can possibly be.

    I think we may be at a bit of an impasse concerning the validity of scripture. However, and I may be asking too much, concerning the validity of the New Testament, would you agree that what we currently posses is remarkably similar to what was originally written? I promise I’ll move on from this line of reasoning if need be.

  171. Rodibidably says:

    moot,

    I agree that what we have is “similar” to the original writings, however from what I have read of studies that did comparisons between the oldest known copies of the books of the old testament and the current old testament, there are many glaring differences.

    I can’t think of the exact passage right now off hand, but there is a passage in the old testament (isiah I think, but I could be wrong) talking about the coming of the messiah. In it it refers to the messiah being born of a young woman (according to the oldest known copies in existence). However by the time the new testament was written this had already been mistranslated from young woman to virgin. Many scholars point to this as being the “reason” that mary, jesus’s mother, is referred to as a virgin, so that jesus’s birth would fulfill prophecy.

    I also agree with the Einstein/Aristotle concept of taking the middle ground when it is a rational alternative. In the case of creation, I would submit that the closest to a “middle ground” would be that both sides are correct, that god created the universe and that the big bang occurred and life evolved (this is the stance the catholic church took under Pope John Paul II).

    Since science can not now, and perhaps may never be able to tell us about the state of anything before the Big Bang, it is a reasonable stance to take that “god” set up the laws of the universe and created the singularity which became everything through the big bang. As part of this “setting up the laws”, “he” created the mechanism by which evolution through natural selection happens, and 14.7 billions years later (give or take) we are here to argue the point.

    I personally see no reason to invoke god into this matter myself since i do not see “god’ as a necessary explanation for anything, but I do agree that it’s a reasonable middle ground between pure science and theology.

    I know this next bit is going into an entirely new direction, but I believe it is relevant to the discussion of the validity and contradicting nature of the bible. There is also the fact of the bible (new testament) being a relatively small collection of books from a much large pool at the time. The gospel of mary, the gospel of judas, the gospel of philip, etc all show that at the time the bible was collected into a cohesive book, there were alternative sources of information. The fact that some of these were used and others ignored shows that man (and you may say that Constantine was guided by god) had a hand at least in compiling the books. This means that man choose which ones were “written by god” and which were not. We will both agree that anything man does is potentially in error, so unless god not only “wrote” each of these books himself, but then collected only the correct ones himself (or by inspiring Constantine) then the question remains of how can we be sure that the ones collected were the ones “he” wrote himself.

    I know I got a bit off topic there, but I do think it’s another point which should be made when talking about the infallibility of the bible.

  172. pablo says:

    Rodibidably,

    i haven’t been able to the questions that you asked as i have been very busy… but here is my response to all of the questions you asked. everything with the parenthesis are you questions with my answers.

    (So this means for any specific theistic “faith” to be the correct faith, that a few things must be true:

    (1) “God” must exist

    My answer to that: I know that “God” exists because the Bible says that He exists

    2) They must have picked the “correct” god

    My answer to that: I have picked the “correct” god because the Bible says I have

    3) They must have picked the “correct” version of that god

    My answer to that: Same question as number two only in different terms so I give the same answer.

    4) They must have picked the “correct” “holy book” to go along with that god

    My answer to that: I have picked the correct book “the Bible” because God Himself gave us the Bible because He says through His Word that He has given us the Bible

    5) They must have picked the “correct” translation of that holy book

    My answer to that: There are many different versions of the Bible but the best correct translation is the KJV

    6) They must have picked the “correct” interpretation of that translation

    I don’t understand this question.

    However, we are off topic at this point. My entire point of this post is not “who’s right” and “who’s wrong”. The point of this topic is “how do you know that you are right”.
    2 answer to that question.
    1. I know I am right because the Bible says that God, Jesus Christ is the Only way.
    2. and Because of my personal experience with God, Jesus Christ.)

    now I have an additional question to you… you will probably ask me now… “how do you know that the Bible is true? since the answer for all of my questions is the Bible… how do you know is true?” My answer to you is this ask me an additional 10 questions about how i know the Bible is true and I will prove to you that the Bible is the right Book and the rightful evidence for my answers.

  173. Rodibidably says:

    pablo,

    In short, you know that god exists, your god is the correct one, and that your version of that god is the correct version because the bible tells you.

    And you know the bible is correct because god created it.

    A is true because B says so
    B is true because A told me so

    For just a moment, replace bible with koran and god with allah and tell me why they are wrong.
    Or replace bible with book of mormon.
    Or replace bible with diantics and god with l ron hubbard.

    In each case the book is claimed to be infallible by the authors, and the author’s claims are backed up because the book says so. In each case YOU as a christian think they are wrong.

    Moving on, you know that your version of the bible is the correct version because, well you don’t actually say, you just seemingly know it.

    As for the “interpretation” point, what I mean is that many people can read the same passage and come away with drastically different ideas on what it says. For example, many people claim that genesis is a literal account of history, and that the earth is 6500 years ago. Many other people (christians included) say that the account in genesis is an allegory, a story meant to make a point, not to tell the actual historical record. Whichever side of this debate you are on, you must think the other side is wrong. So for you know “KNOW” that your belief system is right, you must “KNOW” that you’re interpretation of the bible is right.

    Now I do not want to get into the whole evolution/creation debate at this time, so whichever side of that argument you are on is really irrelevant to this post for now, but you must have your reasons that you “KNOW” your side is the correct side.

    I’m not sure exactly what it is you want from me with the “10 question” at this point. I think one would suffice. Explain the contradictions in the bible. If you need examples of some of the contradictions, scroll up and check out the recent back and forth between myself and “mootpoint” on this subject, or check out the following links:
    http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/jim_meritt/bible-contradictions.html
    http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/donald_morgan/contradictions.html

    These are just the first two links on the first website returned when searching for “bible contradictions”, so they are by no means a definitive list of all the issues, they are just two people’s summary of some that they happened to find interesting enough to write about.

    One quick contradiction I can suggest would be to recite the order that things were created according to Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 (hint, they don’t match), and explain the difference, since the book you’re reading is supposed to be “infallible”.

  174. mjtilley says:

    Rod …

    I’m back. Will attempt to answer some of what you skillfully threw back at me. Here goes:

    On the notion that evolution created relgion: If there is no god, what’s wrong with that? And why are so many atheists so hellbent on proving that all of the people who believe in a god (who are simply acting in accordance with natural forces) are the crazy ones? I mean, really … what’s the harm? Or is there some notion that belief in a higher power is the root cause of evil in the world?

    Further, IF faith is a trait preserved by the evolutionary cycle, wouldn’t a faithless person be in danger of being “naturally selected” out of existance? I don’t know … just thinking aloud on that one. Even if “times have changed” so that faithlessness is to be desired, wouldn’t one need to be wary given that mother nature chose to give most humans that trait?

    On relgion taking away personal responsibility: I’d actually agree … in most cases it does. Most relgions (at least all of those I reject … yes, I see the ironic fortune there … but it’s true!) do give people cause to think they are somehow superior to other people. However, belief in Jesus Christ (and this is regardless of whether it is true or not … by the way) actually should produce a humility that recognizes that I am not only no better than anyone else, I’m likely much, much worse. Ultimately, my salvation/redemption comes not from how closely I follow the rules, but by how perfect my Savior (Jesus) met the demands of a holy and righteous God. Instead of going around hating people who aren’t like me (a sinful tendency found in us all) and definitely instead of killing people who fit my warped mold of whoever I percieve God to be telling me to kill (inside or outside of my chose religious text), that kind of unmerited grace from God should drive me to live out the redemption … essentially practice what’s been given to me.

    I disagree with your framing of the implications of hate for atheists versus me, as a (extremely literal) Bible-believing Christian. If I hate anyone (homosexuals included …), I am actually in direct disobedience to the words of Jesus Christ and, according to the writings of John, my hate is the spiritual equivilent (meaning it is worthy of the same punishment) as if I’d killed the target of my hate. Christ loved me when I was an enemy of God, working spitefully against Him. The least I can do is not hate someone … no matter how grevous I think their sin is.

    On my contributions to the conversation: Thank you … glad I’m offering at least one or two plausible ideas. I also appreciate you challenging my thinking like this.

    On the references about sexism in the Bible: I’ll rebutt most, if not all … but almost didn’t do this for fear that we’ll be getting in to an interpretation game. And we may yet. But one thing I take away is that if you come to the Bible looking for a fight or problems (or frankly an excuse for bad behavior), you’re going to find it. It’s just that kind of book. But if one takes it seriously, reads and interprets every passage in light of the bigger picture and other passages, I believe you’ll find it to be the basis of everything that most people would label as moral, upright living.

    1 Corinthians 11:3 — that passage actually points out the inherit equal value of men and women. The woman’s relationship to the man is actually equated in this passage with Christ’s relationship to the Father. The trinitarian doctrine explains that all three persons of the Godhead are one God, and all three persons are equal in power, glory and honor. Therefore, this passage isn’t pointing to a lower level woman, but a woman who (compare this to Philippians chapter 2) willingly submits to the function for which she was created. She knows that she is equal to a man in every respect, but instead of trying to “be” the man, is exactly the feminine creature, fulfilling all of those roles God gave to women with dignity and grace.

    1 Corinthians 11:8 – 9 — Again, a passage that shows the equality of woman to men. This is saying that neither sex has superiority because of their inter-dependance. Man cannot live without a woman (or at least not in the way God intended). However, woman would not have any existance on the planet if not for men (Eve was created from Adam’s side).

    1 Corinthians 14:34 – 35 — This passage specifically goes to roles in the church. A few verses away from this, there are also instructions that people ought not be talking over one another in the church too. Just because one person is told to do a certain set of tasks to fulfill her obligation while the other is told to do another set — that does not make either superior, only different. Actually, even if you believe in evolution, you have to admit there are things women are suited to do while men are suited to do others. Can both do all? Sure … examples abound. But we’re not talking about what’s possible, but what’s best. Further, is a woman somehow superior to a man becuase she can give birth or a man superior because he can pee standing up? Of course not … these are simply differences. Each sex deserves equal respect and this passage does not teach anything differently.

    Ephesians 5:22 – 25 — Admittedly this passage does indicate leadership role for a man. But I’ll tell you this … whoever wins the presidential election this fall, while certainly the leader of the USA will NOT be superior to any one person (and most assuredly not superior to the entire nation). Leadership means just that … leadership. Someone’s got to drive this thing.

    Also, if you keep reading that passage, you’ll notice that it DEMANDS that a husband be so in love with his wife that he’d give his own life for her quality of life. That he is to care for her above his own selfish need. Good luck doing that if you’re the male chauvinist jerk that you’d have to be to believe that this passage says men are somehow superior.

    Colossians 3:18 — Ditto what the Ephesians passage

    Romans 7:2 — This particular thing cuts both ways, to men and women. Basically its a rule that one shouldn’t divorce. Remarriage is only allowed if the spouse is dead. See I Corinthians 7 for more on this.

    1 Peter 3:1 -3 — This says a lot of what the Ephesians and Colossians passages say. But then, adds to it the idea of what a dignified woman should look and act like. Since when is it putting a woman down to say that what’s on the inside is way more important than what she looks like?

    1 Timothy 2:9 – 15 — What you’ve overlooked here is a key concept that was practically unheard of in the ancient world … “let the women learn.”

    Shoot, that was hardly even allowed in this country until the last century and is unheard of in most asian and african cultures.

    The part you focus on when reading it (that she must be silent and not usurp over men) has everything to to with the roles in the church as outlined above.

    Leviticus 12:2, Leviticus 12:5 — This was actually more of a protection for the woman that any sort of suggestion that women were inferior. In ancient cultures, male children were prized. But if a woman had one of those terrible girls (sarcasm!), she wasn’t much of a wife. So it would be tempting to get right back to the baby-making business quickly after having a baby girl. After a boy … not as much need.

    Therefore, this longer requirement for calling her unclean was a way to keep that lecherious dude off of her for a few days to let her body heal somewhat at least.

    Dude, God loves women … He made half of us that way and compares the highest achievement of His creation and Redemptive Plan (the church) to a woman (Ephesians 5). God’s got nothing against women. It’s a small, evil man who uses the Bible as an excuse to abuse women.

    Further, it’s no abuse for men and women to fulfill the natural, God-given roles in society and the family. It’s actually abuse to all of us to try to do otherwise.

    Here’s some more of my thinking on this specific subject:

    http://www.archive.org/download/SeptLessonUpdate/WS_10005.WMA

    http://www.archive.org/download/ICorinthians11Pt2/WS_10001.WMA

    http://mjtilley.wordpress.com/?s=headcovering

  175. Anonymous says:

    Rod … one clarification on the Leviticus interpretation.

    I did a little more digging on that and found that most scholars actually point to the circumscion rite as the cause for the variance in “impure” days.

    First, as any woman can attest, childbirth is a huge drain of physical resources. So a 60+ day sabbatical is actually probably a little short (what’s that, 8/10 weeks?) by today’s standards.

    Second, if God required the same time of separation for males, women would not be able to participate in the rite of circumscion for their boys on the 8th day. So if they’re declared “pure” at day 7, they can be part of the ceremony.

  176. Rodibidably says:

    mjtiley,

    It is not religion or faith that we object to, it is the people who use religion (ether intentionally or unintentionally) as a way to push forward their own agenda, hatred, bigotry, and actions under the cloak of region.

    If 19 atheists crash 4 planes into buildings an kill thousands of people, nobody is going to excuse their actions because they believed that god told them to do that. When 19 muslims do that many people around the world felt they were justified because they were following their interpretation of the Koran.

    If a group run by atheists was systematically raping little boys and then hiding the fact by moving the pedophiles to other parts of the country when allegations surfaced, it would not be excused by some as a sickness that god can help them overcome. When the catholic church does this, they write a few checks and the priests get little if any legal action taken against them.

    And I understand that you may think the catholic church has corrupted “god’s word” and you may think that muslims are deluded to follow mohammed, but from the atheists view point, all religions, and all religious people are starting off at the same point. Your version of Christianity may be better or worse than those, but no sect is blameless, just ask Ted Haggard if you need another example.

    As for your point of the faithless being selected out by evolutionary factors, I can make a few basic points, but obviously, I’m not an expert on this, so I’d need more time to come up with a complete explanation for why this is not applicable. Natural selection is based off of genetic mutations allowing the individual to have a better chance to survive in their environment. Humans have mostly conquered our environment through science, medicine, engineering, etc, and as such the evolutionary pressures on the typical person in a “western” country are negligible. If this was not the case then children with hereditary diseases would be significantly more likely to die than they currently are. While there are still some evolutionary pressures on people in the “western world” they are minor compared to our ancestors. According to Daniel Dennett, religion may have helped us deal with evolutionary pressures by giving us a sense of community and enabling us to work towards common goals which aided in the survival of the group. Dennett’s book explains this in much greater detail and much more eloquently than I can give it justice in this reply, but the short version is that we needed it during our evolution, but much like the ability to throw a spear or hunt wild game, it’s not really a necessary part of our daily life any more.

    The other point to make on this topic is that in evolutionary terms, we can outgrow the need for certain things. Sometimes those things disappear (we have much less hair than our ancient ancestors, etc), and sometimes those things hang around ,but are no longer used or used but no longer necessary for survival (appendix, tonsils, gall bladder, etc). Faith could very well be another of those things that “stuck around” but it no longer needed for survival.

    While I’m not saying either one of these examples is THE answer, they are both plausible explanations, and I’d guess is that THE answer is somewhere along those lines.

    I’d say that christianty does a pretty good job of taking away personal responsibility as well. When somebody blows up an abortion clinic, it is not because they are evil, it’s because jesus does not want babies to die. When somebody protests funerals of soldiers who died in Iraq saying that they died because the US is too “gay friendly” it’s not because they are a homophobic jackass, it’s because “god hates fags”. While you personally may not do these things, you MUST admit that there have been horrendous, despicable acts done in the name of jesus and your god over the centuries.

    You claim the bible is “the basis of everything that most people would label as moral, upright living”. Can you show me the passage that states in no uncertain terms that slavery is immoral? Can you show me the passage that says all people deserve the same rights no mater their race, gender, sexual orientation, and religion (or lack there of)?

    For any passage that you can come up with says “slavery is bad, don’t do it”, I’ll quote you 5 that gives rules for slaves and slave owners to abide by (hen really the ONLY rule should be “DON’T HAVE SLAVES, IT”S REALLY BAD”. For any passage that you come up with that says that ALL people should be respected and treated equally, I’ll give 5 examples of where god condemns, kills, or has somebody killed for being the “wrong” type of person.

    I’m not saying the bible (or religion) does not have anything positive to say. There are some great passages, some great rules, some great stories; but if an all powerful being is going to write up a book with rules for us to live by, you’d think that “slavery = bad” might be fairly high up on the list on no-no’s, perhaps before “don’t work on Sundays” (I think we can both agree that not owning a slave is a tad bit higher on the moral scale than going to church once a week).

    I believe that all religions have some good things to offer, but I that any time you have an institution where blind faith is prized above all that you have the potential for horrible acts of evil. It could be that jesus is god. It could be that the earth was created 6500 years ago. It could be that l ron hubbard was right for all I know. But any time you have an organization where horrible acts can be done under the cloak of “god’s will” there should be massive amounts of skepticism and questioning.

  177. I completely concur that slavery is evil and wrong. That’s important to note for general purposes, but also as context for this question:

    Why do you (from an atheistic perspective) believe slavery to be immoral/wrong/evil?

    Is it merely an evolutionary glitch? Or do you (as the only divinity in the universe … and I mean “you” in the universal sense, not Rod individually) just believe it to be so? Why — beyond self-preservation (I mean … dang, who wants to be a slave?) would you ever go so far as to label slavery wrong?

    I also believe that child molestation is evil and wrong. So then, compare the slavery issue with the situation of a child molester (who, for the sake of argument was born with this desire by some evolutionary glitch). For this situation, let’s say he’s an atheist … or at least one who doesn’t answer to some higher moral power outside of himself. Then, in his view of the world, he finds it ok (preferrable even) to have sexual relationships with little kids.

    If my own moral compass is my authority, who am I then, to say that he’s wrong? Particularly if the only reason I find it wrong is because I don’t like it or find it personally reprehensible? Am I not just be a molester-phobe?

    Ultimately, I believe you’ll have a reasonable rationalization for this — I don’t see this as some sort of huge “gotcha.” My bigger point is to question what your moral authority is as an atheist.

    Why are some things ok or even good (lollipops, homosexuality, monogamous relationships, abortion, public education, kindness to strangers for some examples) in your view, while others (fundamentalist religionists, abortion protesters, George Bush, child molesters, slavery, oppression of women, kicking dogs, cursing strangers for some examples) are positively evil and wrong?

    Is it just an evolutionary thing? If so, would you argue that it’s concievable that we all will be having sex with children (or some other currently “despicable” behavior) in a couple thousand years, thinking it’s morally ok?

    Or is a democratic rule thing? What if the mob goes awry (1940s German kind of went off the deep end like that)?

  178. Rodibidably says:

    mjtilley,

    I’ve quoted this passage from Richard Dawkins a couple of times already, but here goes again:
    “Religious people do not derive their morality from religion. I disagree (with the interviewer) on this point. Almost all of us do agree on moral grounds where religion had no effect. For example we all hate slavery, we want emancipation of women – they are all our moral grounds. These moral grounds started building only a few centuries ago and long after all major religions were established. We derive our morality from the environment we live in, Talk shows, Novels, Newspaper editorials and of course by the guidance of parents. Religion might only have a minor role to play in it. An atheist derives his morality from the same source as a religious people do.”

  179. So you’re saying that morals are not absolute?

    Could you really concieve of a world where children are raped and black people are enslaved as being an objectively moral world — as long as the talk shows, novels, newsapapers and parental guidance supported it?

    I’m sorry, but even if I were to concede that god is just a social construct, I can’t buy that. Slavery was just as wrong in 1800 B.C as it is in 1800, 2008 and 2800. No legislation or social mores made it good at at one time and immoral at another.

    I point to 1940s Germany and 1960s in the southern US as examples where this version of morality failed us miserably. It takes men and women of courage and absolute morality to stand against such tyranny of environmentally-influenced moralism.

    And then I ask again … where, oh, where will those people get their morality? I sure hope its not from their environment!

  180. mootpoints says:

    I appreciate your saying that God is a reasonable “first cause” stance. I did have a question – You said that you see no need to invoke God in the “first cause” scenario. What is your response to a the fact that the universe exists when it is more likely that nothing would exist?

    The issue of the canonization of scripture is an important one. I think it’s a perfectly valid line of reasoning to take against Christianity, so here’s my brief (and slightly ignorant defense.)

    With all apologies to Dan Brown and his hypothesis – It’s well documented that Constantine nor the Council of Nicea had anything to do with determining the content of the bible. It’s a myth that has been passed along the internet without evidence or repudiation. You can actually read the articles from the council and there is no reference to scripture content (or, for that matter, a close vote on Jesus’ divinity.)

    I can give you web links for the information below if you like. I just didn’t want to clutter the post up.

    It’s also pretty well documented that as early as 115 AD there was a clear concept of which gospels were valid and which were hoaxes. Given that you potentially had people that had met Christ and certainly had potentially met the authors of the gospels it would make it easier to invalidate the hoaxes.

    By the time of Irenaeus(about 180), a bishop in modern France, the idea of four Gospels was axiomatic.
    About the same time the Apostolos (the collection of Paul’s epistles) were also distinguished as scripture.

    Origen (185-254) mentions the four Gospels, the Acts, the thirteen epistles of Paul, 1 Peter, 1 John and Revelation as being universally acknowledged.

    I could bore you with other details but some of the gospels that are controversial today were simply disregarded in their day.

    It’s a little amusing that the passage of time is used to question the validity of the books accepted while at the same time used to legitimize the books that were rejected.

    By the way responding to some of the above arguments must be a bit like shooting fish in a barrel. I’m a little surprised at the circular reasoning that is being employed in people’s defense of their faith. Even as a believer that sort of flawed logic, if it represented the best we could do, would push me toward skepticism.

  181. Rodibidably says:

    mjtilley,

    “concieve of a world where children are raped”
    Do you mean by catholic priests, or by other people?

    “black people are enslaved as being an objectively moral world”
    Yes, look at the United states are recently as 200 years ago, it was considered perfectly moral and justified based on various interpretations of the bible.

    If slavery was so immoral and always has been, then WHY did the bible never condemn it? Why instead did it give rules on how to treat slaves and how to act if you are a slave. Nowhere in the bible does it come out and say plainly “don’t own slaves, it’s really wrong”.

    I agree slavery is horrible, but it was perfectly accepted in society up until very recently. And the bible did absolutely nothing to stop this practice, it was stopped by society changing gradually over many many years.

    If we got our morality from the bible, and the bible alone we would be stoning sinners, we would be massacring people who don’t agree with our religious views, we would still be owning slaves, and we would be going to hell for eating shellfish, or working on the wrong day of the week.

    I for one am GLAD we get our morality from society and not from a book written by people hundred or thousands of years ago.

  182. Rodibidably says:

    moot,

    Who says that it’s more likely that nothing would exists? Steven Hawkins and others have put forth many realistic scenarios that the universe is finite in space, but could have no beginning or end. This space is not enough to do their theory justice, but I suggest reading the Universe In A Nutshell and a the undated versions of A Brief History Of Time for more details.

    Others say that this universe is part of a multiverse and that not all of the universe in this multiverse can sustain life. We happen to be able to ask the questions about the beginning of time because we happen to live in one of the universe that can support intelligent life.

    Or the truth could be something vastly different than any of our current theories. In my view the important thing is that we don’t stop looking, don’t stop asking questions, and don’t stop wondering and just accept that “god” is the reason. Perhaps “god” did create us all, but if we just accept that as fact with no evidence, we may miss out on some other explanation.

    I realize that The Di Vinci Code is fiction, and no, I’m not basing my comments on Dan Brown’s work, to matter how fun a read the book was. However, there are documents from the catholic church’s archives showing that there was a directed campaign to squash out all dissenting opinions and writings on jesus’s life and ministry before, during and after Constantine’s reign. I have a few books at home that go into great detail on the subject, but unfortunately I don’t have access to them right now, so I’ll have to skim through them again this weekend to come up with a few good examples for you.

    I don’t think the passage of time is what gives something validity or takes away validity, but I can make a few brief points on the subject.
    Time can add validity (of a kind) in that if something is shown to be some a specific period, it is much less likely to romanticize the period (think king author stories written well after the events supposedly “happened” showing a purely romanticized version of the story) and more likely to show a historically accurate account.
    Time can remove validly (of a kind) in that if you live your life in accordance to the best medical practices of 150 years ago, you’re likely to die at a significantly younger age than somebody who lives their life in accordance to the most recent medical discoveries of today. It does not take away anything as a historical record from the older sources, but newer information can clear up misconceptions and falsehoods that were in the original volumes.

    This is not to say that time is the only factor to be used in determining the validity of something, but it can give you a framework with which to help build an opinion.

    As for the “fish in a barrel” comment, at times it’s kind of fun showing people such obvious flaws in logic, but other times it’s very disheartening to realize that some people no matter what evidence is placed before them will never consider an alternative to the beliefs they already hold. I can’t say exactly what it would take to prove to me that jesus is god, (which of course would also have to show that god exists) and that god is essentially the god of the bible, but I fully admit that the possibility exists that I could be swayed with the correct verifiable evidence. Many true believers could never be swayed by any amount of evidence, and to me, that’s sad that they are unwilling to budge from preconceived notions.

  183. Rodibidably says:

    Looking back at a few of my longer posts in here, I can be really long winded on some of my comments/questions/replies. I really need to try to spend more time to make my points more concisely, but it’s hard when you’re just typing as the thoughts come to you. Perhaps I should write up what I want to get across and then wait and edit it afterwards, but generally I am trying to make my point and move on to the next one, or get back to work that actually pays my mortgage. (If anybody here wants to volunteer to pay my mortgage I’ll try my best to shorten my replies for everybody’s benefit.)

  184. mjtilley says:

    On slavery … we both ought to be careful of our definitions. What may have been called slavery or servitude by the Bible, you and I may call a job. That said, the Bible is very clear (and the Mosaic law is no exception … in fact, is the rule) that we ought to treat all humans with dignity, regardless of socio-economic or demographic status. While the Bible doesn’t prohibit me from holding down a job and being a servant for another human being (my family is thankful for that …), it does prohibit that other person from being abusive to me.

    On the Bible not stopping slavery … Assuming we’re talking about slavery as you and I think of slavery, I’d argue that the Bible is what it is … never changing. It’s people who choose to ignore or apply what it tells us. People have also killed one another for centuries … and one could say the Bible’s doing nothing to stop that.

    As for the “warped” morality of the Bible … Yes, one would be stoning people and killing other religion and treating their fully-owned slaves well, IF you believed that the only Bible was the first couple books of the Bible. But if you apply the New Testament and see Jesus Christ as the fulfillment of the demands of the Old Testament, you understand that many of those laws served their purpose (like before people understood the concept of being “free” in Christ, among other things)and were no longer needed. I believe it was the prophet Jeremiah that prophesied that under the new covenant, God would “circumsize” our hearts … meaning change us on the inside without the need for draconian external regulations (which isn’t to pooh-pooh law and order .. but is to say that moral men will be moral).

    I continue to NOT be happy about the idea of getting morality from society (regardless of the truth of the matter). That only works as long as you don’t live under some dictatorship (think Cuba) or in a country (think USA circa 2002 or Germany circa 1940) where there’s some odd fever sweeping the nation. I don’t like the idea of other flawed human beings dictating (esp. doing so in an accidental way … simply by default of the way they live) what is supposed to be the moral center of right and wrong.

    That said, I think you’re right in that most claims of right and wrong are really based on this versus the revealed truth from God. God’s Word is most often used to “fact check” what we already believe … it’s the rare bird that literally gets his marching orders from Scripture, regardless of what he personally thinks. Hence religious texts of all sorts being used as backdrops for the most heinous of acts and (very unfortunately) being praised by duped followers.

  185. mootpoints says:

    I think that the question of the validity of the scriptures and that of first cause are similar in a way. We’ve come our respective beliefs by weighing the evidence and determining that what our conclusions are likely if not empirically verifiable. It’s fascinating that two people can look at the same evidence and come to opposing conclusions.

    However I’ve maintained for quite a while that belief and unbelief aren’t so much a matter of evidence but an interpretation of the evidence.

    Your most recent response to my post is a great segue into a more philosophical point I wanted to discuss.

    It seems that there are two types of knowledge or truth. There is empirical, unassailable and readily verifiable facts and there is the type of knowledge that we derive from those facts. You could maintain that both the facts and the conclusion from the facts are “truth”

    Maybe a good example is faithfulness in marriage. I know my wife is faithful, not because I’ve have empirical knowledge of every moment of her day but because of a conclusion I draw based on the verifiable knowledge I do posses.

    However I would maintain that an atheist uses the second type of knowledge to establish his own beliefs, all the while demanding the first type of knowledge from the believer.

    I realize that this leads to the concept of the null hypothesis and the burden of proof but I think it’s fair to point out that we’re both dealing in the second type of truth. In essence an atheist exacts a higher standard of knowledge from the believer than for himself.

    I think then that the debate is often derailed before it even really starts because the atheist is asking for the first type of knowledge concerning God and the believer is offering the second.

    I’m still giving a lot of thought to the null hypothesis, Occam’s Razor and the burden of proof but I think this concept of two types of truth is crucial to this conversation. I think making this distinction will give this dialogue more clarity.

  186. Rodibidably says:

    mjtilley,

    Please do me one favor, read the entire reply before beginnings to write your response. Most of my comments are merely meant as drastic overstated examples, and not meant as actual points for you to counter. I already know your answers to all of the “examples” in the beginning half of this post, so there is really no reason to go through them here, I’m only using them to make a point to the absurd extreme.

    So you’re saying that in the old testament we were ordered to stone people, and then the all-powerful, all-knowing, all-seeing god changed his mind about 2000 years. For an omniscient being that seems rather shortsighted to not set up the “correct” rules form the beginning, doesn’t it?

    If you don’t believe you get your morality from society, then by all means don’t eat shellfish (personally I love lobster), don’t ever say “god damn” (even if you stub your toe late at night), don’t ever want anything that another person has (how a person can stop this is beyond me), and for gods sake, don’t mow the lawn on a Sunday.
    Also feel free that if two angels come to your house and an angry mob wants to take them away, instead offer up your daughters to be raped by the crowd. Meanwhile I’ll be sneaking out the back door behind the angels and my daughters.
    Oh, and who could forget, that when you leave Sodom, or was it Gomorrah, and your wife turns into a pilar of salt, don’t fall asleep because your daughters might rape you to continue the human race.

    All lovely examples of morality from the bible.

    Ok, NOW you can start writing your reply as you read the rest, thanks for holding off till now 🙂

    Or let’s for just a second both take a drastic leap of faith. I’ll agree to assume that god exists. You agree to assume that it’s not “your” god, but it’s the hindu gods. I hope for your sake you’ve never eaten a steak or a hamburger, because you just ate a sacred animal. Geez, that’s not gonna look good in vishnu’s eyes.
    Perhaps god exists, but there is a chance that “god” in not the god that YOU believe, there is a chance that an entirely different god is the “real” god, and you are worshiping the wrong one, and following the rules layed out in a false book. In that instance, which is better, following a book blindly because you believe that “god” wrote it, or following the norms of society, which is what we all do anyways.

    By your logic, any society that does not believe in “your” god should be an evil immoral hedonistic place. Are children being raped and people enslaved in India on any more regular a basis than in the US? Are people in China running around killing each other randomly because they have never read the bible? No, they follow their accepted norms of society which are fairly universal (some countries are a bit behind others from my point of view, but we’re mostly universal).

  187. Rodibidably says:

    moot,

    Actually, even the staunchest atheist, including Richard Dawkins admits the possibility of a god (Dawkins himself puts his assuredness in his atheism at 95%, leaving 5% for god).

    Where your argument I think is flawed is that we don’t believe that god does not exists because we know everything and we have not seen him. We believe that based on the evidence there is no need to use “god” to explain things, and with no direct evidence FOR god the default position should be that there is no god.

    If I tell you that the light in your refrigerator is turned on when you open the door by an invisible elf who can not be seen, measured or detected by any means known to man, you’d rightly throw me out of your house and call me bat-shit-insane. You would put no stock in my claims, even though you could not “prove” it to be false.
    To atheists, god is just another elf in the refrigerator that has no evidence to support it.

    Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Proof

  188. mjtilley says:

    1) The story of Lot you give is an example of how NOT to live. When telling the Truth, sometimes it is necessary to give negative examples.

    2) I don’t need to play what if games since I am convinced that the God of the Bible is the one true and living God. I am, as I pointed out from your original question, so convinced of that that I am resting completely in the finished work of my savior, Jesus Christ … not in anything I did/will do or even think/feel/believe.

    3) God did not change His mind about anything. He does, however, offer mercy to whom He will show mercy. Fact is, we all deserve eternal torture in hell. The fact that you and I actually can, with cool and calm heads have this discussion questioning His very existance without fear of being swallowed into the pit of hell right now is a huge testament to that fact. The problem with some of the assumptions you’ve made about the Law of God is that you assume humans beings are basically good and deserve a fair handshake from the Ruler of the Universe. We don’t. We screwed that up. It is God’s grace that offers us the opportunity to only have a taste of hell now … and not be consumed with it.

    4) I don’t want you to take from anything I’ve said that I feel somehow morally superior to anyone — least of all you. The fact is, I know me … I know how I think, what I want to do (heck .. what I do!). And I know that I do not have moral high ground. All I have is the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit (not something I earned on my own … and definitely not done by me) that provides me with the faith to take God — the most important person in the universe — at His Word and to be able to trust wholly in The Truth found in God’s Word. I need to reiterate, this isn’t about me being better than anyone. The bad news though is that I can’t convince anyone of this truth … I’m not smart enough. This kind of faith can only be granted by God Himself. Call that a cop out — and to some extent it is … but this is what is talked about in I Corinthians 1 and 2.

  189. pablo says:

    rod,

    you said

    “In short, you know that god exists, your god is the correct one, and that your version of that god is the correct version because the bible tells you.

    And you know the bible is correct because god created it.

    A is true because B says so
    B is true because A told me so”

    You are right and i’m wrong. I apologize for the misunderstanding. that statement that I wrote contradicts itself. i wrote that without revising it at the end… what i meant to say was this… I know and I have proved that, without a shadow of a doubt, the Bible is true and infallible– therefore because of this then everything that is written in the Bible is correct. Well, on top of that, the Bible says that God gave us His word therefore since, in my point of view, the Bible is correct in what it says- then what it says about God giving us His word is correct and therefore it makes it the “right” book.

    i will give you my answer for the rest later.

  190. Rodibidably says:

    mjtilley,

    1) Lot and his family were saved from sodom and gomorrah by god because they were the only ones worth of living. Interesting that the VERY FIRST THING they did after being saves was the wife disobeyed god and was killed and the daughters raped their drunken passed out father. I’d hate to think what the OTHER people who were not “good enough” to be saved must have done to pissed off god.

    2) It was intended as a thought experiment, but if you’re unwilling/unable to even participate in that, I’m not sure what to say.; it’s not like I’m asking you to sacrifice your son to prove your faith in me, I mean god.

    Can you admit that even if you’re convinced of something with all your heart, with everything you know and every fiber of your being that there is even a small chance that you, as a fallible human being could perhaps, even potentially be mistaken?

    If you’re unable to do this, then I’m not sure there is any response I could ever make that would have any point.

    3) “The fact that you and I actually can, with cool and calm heads have this discussion questioning His very existance without fear of being swallowed into the pit of hell right now is a huge testament to that fact”
    OR PERHAPS, it’s a testament to the fact that either we don’t deserve to go to hell, or even that god doesn’t exist in the way that you think. Nah, you’re right, it must prove that he exists and we’re scum, of course, how could I have thought anything else. Praise Jesus!

    “We screwed that up”
    No, according to your believes adam and eve fucked up, not you and me. Holding the great great great great (I don’t know how many greats, but let’s just say it’s a lot) grandchildren should not be held responsible for the actions of people dead long before they were born.
    I’m not certain you live in the US, but I’m guessing you might. Should YOU PERSONALLY pay slave reparations because somebody in your family who died 100 years before you were born owned a slave? No that would be unfair and just plain idiotic to punish the innocent for the actions of their ancestors.

    4) I understand that you believe with every fiber of your being that you are correct. But so did the 19 hijackers who flew planes into buildings on 9/11. Just because you believe something strongly does NOT BY ITSELF mean that it is true. There are roughly 6.7 billion people on the earth, and roughly 2 billion of them call themselves some type of christian. The majority of those are catholic (somewhere around 1.2-1.3 billion i believe). As a christian you beleive that the other 4.7 billion people in the world are deluded, misguided, and wrong. And perhaps you think the catholics are too (I’m not going to assume you do, but I know many christians do).

    Just keep in mind that the “other” 4.7 – 6 BILLION PEOPLE on the earth believe that they are right, and that you are the one who is deluded, misguided, and wrong.

  191. pablo says:

    one more thing- i dont seemingly know that the Bible is correct… I have proved it to be correct. I will never believe something that contradicts itself

  192. Rodibidably says:

    pablo,

    It is not a question of “right and wrong”, it ‘s a question of coming to an understanding of each others view, and perhaps acceptance.

    Yes what you wrote was circular reasoning, and thus not a reasonable argument. But that does not mean by itself you are “wrong”, it means this particular point has no meaning for or against your argument.

    What gets me most of all in this reply however is “I know and I have proved that, without a shadow of a doubt, the Bible is true and infallible”
    Where is this proof that goes beyond a shadow of a doubt. Where is the evidence? How did you “prove” this when in all of human history nobody had been able to prove the existence or non-existence of god before you?

  193. Rodibidably says:

    pablo,

    Proof is a VERY hard thing to come by. We can’t yet PROVE that gravity exists, although we have a hell of a lot of evidence that nothing has ever “fallen upwards” yet. When you say something is “proven” this is a VERY DRASTIC statement, and generally should be backed up by quite a bit of evidence.

  194. pablo says:

    that is why i told you to ask me ten questions that would prove the Bible right… so that I can prove to you that it is right.

    one more quick thing though. i know you dont want to discuss this at the moment and I dont want to either. to me it seems that the interpretation point is irrelevant right now because once someone has proved that he has the right “religion” as you call it- then they can get into the interpretation of it; but, im going to throw this your way real quick. I believe in the literal account in Genesis as an account of history not as an allegory because if you read in Genesis 1:26-31 it says

    “26And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.

    27So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

    28And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

    29And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.

    30And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.

    31And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.” KJV

    If you notice, it says that God created man on the sixth day. Well, many Christians tend to say that creation really took 7000 years 1000 years for each “day”. They base their argument on this verse of the Bible:
    2 Peter 3:8
    “8 But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” KJV

    So, some Christians say that each day of creation took exactly 1000 years. Well, if you notice closely the verse says that one day is with the Lord AS a thousand years and a thousand years AS one day. In other words one day is with the Lord LIKE a thousand years and a thousand years LIKE one day. It doesnt say that- one day is with the Lord IS a thousand years and a thousand years IS one day.
    It is just like sometimes we feel that one day is going so slow that we feel like hours have passed by when in reality only one hour has passed. and when a year has passed by we feel like only yesterday passed when in reality only 365 days just passed.

    This thinking contradicts itself because the Bible says in Genesis 5:5
    that-
    “5 And all the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years: and he died.”

    Therefore if God created the earth in 7000 years then that means that from day 6 to day 7 there was a span of 1000 years and that means that Adam must have died before he even reached Day 7. that contradicts itself. how can God could have created Adam in day 6 without him reaching “Day” 7? No that is illogical… God created the earth in 7 literal days. Therefore the Genesis account is literal and not allegorical.

    Im sorry i wished i had more time to give you the proofs for the “contradictions”. I will have to do it later.

  195. mootpoints says:

    I’m afraid I must not have made myself clear. I essentially said the same thing you did.

    We come to the conclusions we’ve come to because we’ve assessed the facts and have determined that God does or doesn’t exist.

    Neither of us believe what we do because we have empirical proof supporting our opinion or against the opposite conclusion. We have weighed the evidence and determined that what we believe is the most likely conclusion.

    Therefore I’m saying that evidence you accept to support your beliefs is secondary to the facts. (It is a conclusion reasoned from, not specifically implied by, the facts. You are asking us (fairly I suppose) to provide primary facts to support beliefs that are also derived secondary to the facts.

    You’re asking us to take a naturalistic approach to a supernatural topic.

    Now listen, I’m not saying that’s bad or wrong. I’m still working through the philosophy that places the burden of proof on the Christian, I’m just saying this to help frame the debate.

    Christians, to support their beliefs, have historically have offered facts from which to derive a rational conclusion. However atheists (again fairly) want cold hard proof not facts that in their minds may or may not lead one to believe in God.

    In other words when we debate we’re often speaking two different languages. It’s what makes the debate difficult but not at all impossible.

  196. Rodibidably says:

    pablo,

    There are not 10 questions that you could ever answer that would “prove” the bible to be true, just as there are no 10 questions you could ask me to respond to that would “prove” god to be false. You’ve already stated that you beleive the earth is (roughly) 6500 years old which contradicts EVERYTHING that science tells us about this (and don’t quote answersingenesis.com, EVERYTHING they say has been refuted more times than I care to count).

    Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. To “prove” the bible to be correct you would need extraordinary evidence, and if such evidence existed, it would have hit the scientific community, the media, etc. The pope would be prank calling up Richard Dawkins and calling him a fool, and science would be disbanded since it would be proven to be false at it’s very nature.

    All reasonable historical scholars, even the religious ones concede that the bible’s creation story conflicts with scientific evidence. For you to claim that you can “prove” that the bible’s version is correct is deluded and/or irrational. The ONLY way the bible can be an actual historical account is if god created the universe to LOOK AS IF it was created 14.7 billion years ago and LOOK AS IF the earth formed 5 billion years ago and for life to LOOK AS IF evolution happened. This is not a hypothesis that can ever be tested, and thus can not be proven or disproven by any rational scientific means.

    It is possible that the bible is correct, but the scientific evidence is NOT THERE, and to claim otherwise is either a lie or a delusion.

    I’m not going to run down the rabbit hole and turn this into a evolution/creation debate, so for now we’ll have to agree to disagree. I’ll gladly debate you on evolution vs creationism at a later date on a separate post, but I’m trying to avoid that in here because that generally turns personal and offends one or both sides, and I hope to keep this thread friendly.

  197. Rodibidably says:

    moot,

    Science by it’s very definition can not study any phenomena that takes place outside of the natural world. I go into this a bit further on another post (don’t worry, nothing at all religious or anti-religious on this other post, it’s just a definition of science.
    https://potomac9499.wordpress.com/2008/01/29/defining-science/

    We as a society learn though studying and question things by scientific means. Is it possible that things exist which can not be seen, felt, touched, heard, or measured by any possible means, yes. But by their very nature they can not be studied scientifically.

    I personally take a skeptical but scientific approach to things in my life. I don’t beleive vampires are roaming around sucking out our blood because there is no scientific evidence for this. I don’t beleive that a fat guy in a red suit flies around the entire world in one night and puts presents under trees because there is no scientific evidence for this (and PLENTY of evidence against it). I don’t beleive l ron hubbard was sane and I don’t beleive that zenu dropped aliens into our volcanoes and they were later reborn out of clam shells because the scientific evidence does not support it (plus it’s a tad bit bat-shit-insane). And I don’t believe that an old man in a beard created the universe 6500 years ago and flooded it 4400 years ago and impregnated a virgin 2000 years ago and then disappeared for the rest of recorded history (so far) because the scientific evidence does not support this. I also don’t beleive little gray aliens are mutilating our cattle, and anally probing the dumbest rednecks in the country while the government helps to cover it up, because again, the evidence does not support this.

    Again, all of these are extraordinary claims, and they require extraordinary evidence.

    I’m going to go out on a limb here for a second, but I think these are fair claims of most people.
    You look at a sunset, or at pictures from the Hubble telescope or (if you have kids) into your children’s eyes and are in awe in the wonder of god.
    I look at those things and am in awe of the wonder of nature and evolution and science.

    In both cases these things are awe inspiring, but where you see the supernatural, I see nature at it’s finest.

  198. mootpoints says:

    You are correct is stating that science cannot study phenomena outside the natural realm. That’s the very reason that both you and I make some assumptions as to what is beyond what cannot, by definition, be quantified by science.

    I see the supernatural because the sunset came from some place. Nature itself teaches us that nothing exists without a cause. You can’t have an infinite series of causes therefore. Nature cannot be the result of an infinite series of causes. As soon as you explain one you bring up the problem of another. Multi-universes don’t solve this problem, if anything they exacerbating by requiring an infinite amount of causes.

    I see God not as the answer to the as of yet unexplained bits of the universe but as the final and irreducible complexity that exists to explain what science, by your own definition, will never be able to explain.

  199. Rodibidably says:

    moot,

    Then you get into the “who designed the designer” realm.

    If you use god as the ultimate source of who caused things to happen, I ask who caused god (to which you reply, he has always been).

    If I say god was not the cause of the universe, you ask what was the cause (to which I reply I don’t know yet).

    You assume god has always been and was not created.
    I assume that god does not exist, and I don’ claim to know what happened before the big bang (although some recent work by Steven Hawking claims that perhaps the universe is finite in space, but has no beginning and no end. I don’t claim to fully understand this theory well enough to defend it, but what little I do understand of it seems to be a reasonable hypothesis.

    By fitting god into the holes which we don’t yet understand, you are creating a “god of the gaps” scenario.

    Before we understood the earth rotating around then sun, it was “god” who lifted the sun up each day. Then we learned a bit about cosmology and then “god” created then sun which any pious individual could tell you without ANY doubt rotated around the earth which was of course the center of the universe. Then we learned how stars were created and that our sun is just an ordinary star, and “god” created the universe. Now we understand the beginning of the universe (at least to a degree) and people are relegating “god” to having set up the laws of the universe and setting the big bang in motion (or if you prefer, creating things 6500 years ago to LOOK AS IF the big bang happened 14.7 billion years ago).

    There are many things which we do not yet understand, but there is nothing we observe which can not be explained by any possible scientific means. If there was then I would say THAT is a place where one might assume “god” was a reasonable solution. But as long as science can explain things, I propose that we leave god out of the equation, since by definition, anything supernatural, god included, can not be studied by scientific methods.

    I refer you to Occam’s Razor, that the simplest solution is generally the best unless there is evidence to support some other position.

    Which is simpler, that an all powerful, all knowing supernatural deity created the universe 6500 years ago, but made sure to create light already in travel from distant stars (if a star i more than 6500 light years from us we’d not be able to see it since light moves at a fixed speed). He also made sure to create the earth in such a manner that it appears to have undergone continental drift and seems to be 4-5 billion years old. He also was kind enough to create a fossil record in such a manner that it would seem as if each species evolved from a common ancestor over the course of millions upon millions of years.

    Or is it simpler that what evidence we see, is an actual record of what happened, and not planted to fool us into a false understanding of the universe?

  200. mootpoints says:

    I understand the “God of the Gaps” dilemma. While belief in God can be the end all answer it doesn’t have to stunt the desire explore the natural world and learn more about it.

    Here me out about this next part before you respond – It terms of pure simplicity – God creating the earth is certainly more simple than a complex and extensive process of evolution. To say that God said, “Boom” and it was there is simple. That doesn’t mean that’s what happened. I think you’d argue that that explanation is actually too simplistic.

    The evolution evidence is not where we want to be arguing. The problem is that belief or atheism doesn’t hinge on this theory. If evolution were true it doesn’t presuppose God is not. If God is true it doesn’t presuppose evolution is not.

    However, evolution as a theory is not always as pat as you’d like it to sound in some of your responses. And it’s not universally agreed upon among reputable scientist (and I’m not talking about the Answers in Genesis crowd.)

    -As to the fossil record Stephen J. Gould wrote in his book, Natural History – He strongly supports the theory mind you –

    “The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology — we fancy ourselves as the only true students of life’s history, yet to preserve our favored account of evolution by natural selection we view our data as so bad that we never see the very process we profess to study.”

    In fact Nature magazine published in an article called “Primate Origins; plugging the gaps” that we have about 3% of the the fossil record filled in and that even the 3% represents fragments of fossils.

    These aren’t rabid creationist or intelligent designers. These are people who continue (well not in Gould’s case as he died) believe in a promote evolution.

    And the earth being aged seems a little self-explanatory. Obviously the earth had to have been created with an assumption of age. (I’m not defending the young earth theory) but if God created a redwood then we cut it down and counted the rings we’d assume the tree was 50 years old. This goes for the stars too.

    I’m not trying to argue the point about the age of the earth but that particular line of reasoning doesn’t seem to be very strong evidence to denounce other ideas.

    Evolution itself can be a “god of the gaps” in that if a person always assumes it’s true they can discard evidence that might seem to conflict with it.

    Anyway…

  201. Rodibidably says:

    moot,

    You make some very good points, there are many things we don’t yet understand and know. Hell, we can’t even PROVE gravity yet, but that doesn’t mean it’s in danger of being overturned any time soon.

    Personally I think the simpler solution is that things are as they appear. The alternative from a young earth view is that “god” created things in such a way to fool science into a mistaken view. Of course this does not disprove “god” or a young earth, but it’s certainly not the simpler explanation.

    Creating the universe, earth, fossil record, DNA, etc “boom” and it’s there would be a very simple explanation. Creating all those things “boom” in such a manner that it APPEARS as if things are not as they truly are (i.e. faking the big bang, faking evolution, etc) is not a simple solution. It assume that god intentionally is deceiving mankind for his own amusement or some other unfathomable reason.

    With that being the alternative to things having happened as they appear to have happened I’d say the simpler (and more logical) explanation is things are as they appear. If things appeared to be 6500 years old, I’d be much more inclined to believe they were 6500 years old.

    You are also right that evolution being right does not disprove god. Former Pope John Paul II said that the bible is not incompatible with evolution or the big bang or a 14.7 billion year old universe. Not I understand that most evangelicals believe the catholic church has corrupted god’s intended word, but I’d have to say that while he was alive, he probably knew the bible as well as anybody else around. You may disagree with his position, although it does support the point you make, evolution is NOT incompatible with god existing.

    However, evolution (as it is believed by Steven J Gould, and others) IS incompatible with a 6500 year old earth, since one of the primary tenets of it is that evolution happens gradually over million upon millions of years.

    There is absolutely no evidence to say that god did not set up the laws of the universe, set the bing bang in motion, setup DNA (either directly, or by creating the ground rules) and let things happen. There is however substantial evidence that the earth is not 6500 years old. The only way to reconcile the 6500 year old earth with god, using this evidence is the assumption that god created things to purposely deceive mankind. Again, I can’t disprove this hypothesis, but it is certainly not simplest solution (and yes, I know I’ve said the same thing few times already, I’m just trying to make the point).

    As for evolution not being universally accepted, you’re correct. However, this is overrated in it’s numbers. One of my favorite examples of just ho overrated is the list that was gathered by the discovery institute. This list contains just over 100 PhDs (103 is the last count I believe) who disagree with current evolutionary theory. To “combat” this, a group of evolutionary biologists created a similar list comprising only PhDs who’s first name is Steve. At last count I believe the number of Steve’s was just about 822. Based on the estimate that roughly 1% of the general population of the US are named Steve (or some other variation, Stephanie, Steven, etc) this would correspond to roughly 82,200 scientists is they expanded this to included any scientist.

    103 vs an estimated 82,200. That is roughly 1/10th of 1& of scientists do not support evolution based on an admittedly non-scientific, but nonetheless relatively accurate overall percentage (even the discovery institute admits this).
    Check out this list for more information:
    http://www.ncseweb.org/resources/articles/3541_project_steve_2_16_2003.asp

    As for the gaps in the fossil record, this is true. There are a massive number gaps, but every time we find a new fossil this creates two new gaps (the versions just before and just after this new fossil). The overall theory is still validated by the fossil record we do have, even if we would like to have a more compete one.

    I am curious exactly why you say “Obviously the earth had to have been created with an assumption of age”.

    How is this obvious, why “must” the earth have been created to look as if it is 4-5 billion years old? Why “must” the universe have been created to appear 14.7 billion years old. I understand that he would not create all plant and animal life as infants, because then there would have been a much harder time for those plants and animals to survive, but why the appearance of such drastic ages (surely he could make the earth appear to be 100 years years old to give life a good starting point, why would he need it to appear 4-5 BILLION years old?

    Yes, I know, “we can’t hope to understand the mind of god”, but if we were not meant to question, “he” should not have given us such an inquisitive nature. 🙂

    As for your final point of evolution being a god of the gaps, scientists DO NOT discard evidence that conflicts with evolutionary theory, but they do at times have to revise the theory to take new observations into account. The overall gist of the theory does not change, even when some aspects of it may have to be reanalyzed.

  202. Rodibidably says:

    I’d urge everybody reading here to check out this post:
    http://johnshoreland.com/2008/02/28/theres-no-arguing-it-we-cant-know-if-theres-a-god-or-not/

    This is from the blog of a christian, and it’s essentially on the very topic we have been debating here, but I think his view point is a very rational one (in fact, it’s essentially the same view that a number of people here have already stated) and he is very eloquent in his wording of the blog post, and his responses to a number of posters.

  203. samwrites2 says:

    At your request I’ll leave an abbreviated comment and expand on it later when I take the hour or so needed to read – then another few hours to digest – the above comments.
    I believe the Bible by faith, that it is inerrant as God spoke it through his Holy Spirit but marred by man’s translations. The creation accounts come across as a literal Adam and Eve to me but a metaphor for the creation of nature. As noted, could God have used natural selection as a means of creation after speaking the original matter into existence? i.e. Specifically how did God turn the beginning matter into the matter we see today?
    -Sam

  204. Rodibidably says:

    sam,

    Welcome to the discussion. As you can tell, a number of my replies to people are quite lengthy, so if you’re planning to read through it all, best of luck.

    I will say that we’ve had almost exclusively well thought out rational posts from all involved. Obviously that have been a few exceptions, but in most cases, even those who I don’t agree with, have done a very good job explaining their position rationally, and with a bare minimum of personal attacks.

    There have been a few “types” who have posted, and I’ll try to briefly summarize a few of the major positions for you here, if you’d prefer not to spend your entire weekend reading 200+ lengthy replies.

    By and large all of the comm enters have been very knowledgeable on the subjects they have brought up ,and made some excellent points.

    Looking back at my own replies, I think I may have been too confrontational at times, but I have tried my best to ask questions to understand better, and not to attack (although as I re-read some of them I can see how a few of my replies do perhaps come across as attacking).

    We have covered the gambit from creation, to contradictions within the bible, to slavery, to where we get our morality from, to reality itself. While we have mostly avoided the evolution/creation debate, it has creeped in at times (and I am as guilty as anybody, if not more so).

    On the controversial side, after giving a massive disclaimer I compared jesus to hitler (only in their charisma and ability to get others ot follow them blindly), and called mother theresa the biggest murderer in all of human history (for her stance against birth control in a country already starving to death and overpopulated).

    The vast majority of those who have posted have been christians of varying denominations, and similar but in cases differing interpretations of the bible (literal vs allegory, etc).

    We’ve discussed war, bigotry, sexism, genocide, taboos against sexuality, sin, slavery, rape, and pedophilia. We’ve also discussed love, peace, understanding, and acceptance.

    We’ve discussed science, defined science, and talked in depth about what science is and is not, what science can do and what it can not do, and what scientific skepticism is and why one might have that as a view point.

    We’ve had an odd “Letterman top 10”, a series of posts from another blog, a bastardized quote of Jerry Maguire, tons of actual quotes of books, speeches, scripture (torah, bible, koran, and I assume some buddhist text), wikipedia, other websites, and each other. We’ve had christians, muslims, buddhist, also learned of a religion called Numenism (or Numen), which apparently was created in the aftermath of WW2 (we might have had other religions, but those are the ones that stand out in my mind right now); and we’ve even had another atheist come to my defense a bit (although the tone has been almost all civil, so perhaps “defense” is too strong a word).

    I’ve given a brief history of my road to atheism, my goals for humanity, and my hope for this blog post.

    mootpoints has been one of the most prolific posters, and has made some great points, and added a ton of valuable insight to the discussion (if you’re looknig for a good summary of the major points made, check out the back and forth between him and myself, those will cover almost all the points made through the comments). While moot and I disagree on the existence of god (or lack there of), we seem to have a very similar view on things. Obviously the whole “god” thing causes a few differences (some gigantic, many much smaller), but I believe deep down, we’re actually pretty close in most of our views.

    We have not yet had a sceintologist or mormon that I know of, but we have ridiculed a few of their beliefs a bit (all to make various points, I assure you). And not just to make a point (although we did make a point, but it was also just for “shits and giggles” we bashed the people in the movie “Jesus Camp”, because well, they are bat-shit-insane.

    All in all I’d say we’ve covered a wide range of topics, all the while trying to stay close to the original question posed in the beginning, but taking a few turns along the way to better understand each other. And I’d also say that I have learned a good deal, and I hope others have to.

    Hopefully we are not yet at the end of our journey, because each time a new person has come along, I think we have re-invigorated the discussion, and added many new points to discuss and ponder.

  205. Moot Point says:

    I’m on a different computer for the moment. I did read Mr. Shore’s eloquent thesis on the rationality of either position in that we can’t know for sure. While I ultimately agree with that point I’m surprised you do as well.

    The reason being – the decision doesn’t start out on equal footing. By your own previously stated position, the Christian has the burden of proof thus making non-belief more rational, not equally rational.

    Not that I should be undoing whatever progress Mr. Shore made. Just a quick thought.

    By the way I discovered I own a book written by Mr. Shore. Oddly enough, give the other books he’s written, it’s the book on punctuation.

  206. Rodibidably says:

    moot,

    I said “I think his view point is a very rational one and he is very eloquent”, I did not say I agree with him.

    As I have said to you a number of times already, I respect your opinion, I think you’re doing a very good job “defending” your side, and you’ve made some great points. I don’t think you’re wrong on a few issues, but I can respect a well thought out debate even if I don’t agree with the point. I was on a debate team in high school, and I had to debate “for” a number of positions I did not actually believe in (such as debating on behalf of the death penalty). I gave very detailed, rational reasons why the death penalty is a good idea, even though I personally disagreed with a number of the points I was making. I even once had to debate the existance of god (with me being on the pro god side) and although I could not help myself to leaving one wide open avenue for the other side to exploit, I did actually give a fairly convincing argument for the existence of god.

    Richard Dawkins puts the possibility of god at 5%, personally I think he is being a bit generous (or he is trying to be less confrontational) but I think he’s at least in the ballpark. I certainly don’t put the likelihood at 50/50, but any time a christian (or any other religious person) is willing to concede the fact that “god is not obvious”, I think that is a good step forward.

  207. uncertainhope says:

    Lots of comments to wade through, which I will, later, but first here’s my attempt at answering the question.

    “How certain are you that your version of the “truth” (truth of god, religion, the world, the universe, etc) is the correct one, and more importantly, how do you know what that “truth” is?”

    And you said, in your invite, that I seemed certain about my faith. Which, in a way, I guess I am. And, although I’m not sure I’m the type of person you aimed the question at, I’ll take a stab at it.

    The short answer is that I’m not certain about any of it and I really don’t understand how anyone can be.

    I’m not really religious, and as far as I can see, neither the existence or nature of god can be proven or disproven and in the end I’m not sure it matters.

    I’m certain that I don’t know if my view of the world is accurate and that it’s important for me personally that I keep questioning, keep refining and testing my understanding of the world around me in an attempt to see it as accurately as possible.

    As to how I know what ‘truth’ is? Again, I’m afraid the answer is that I don’t. What I do know is that, as I said, I believe it’s important to keep asking yourself that question as honestly as you can. Because if you stop . . . your reality becomes that much more limited and stagnates into a dull reflection of, well, reality and bacause of that flawed understanding of the world your actions will quite frequently not produce the results you intend.

  208. Rodibidably says:

    uncertainhope,

    If you scroll up a bit and look for a reply from me that mostly bold, you’ll see a fairly good summary of what has been discussed so far (or at least the major points that stuck out in my mind). There have been some great points mode from some very different perspectives, so if you’ve got a bunch of time and want to read all the replies I’d recommend it, but i know that there is a TON there, so I decided to summarize it for those just joining the discussion.

    Based on your post on your blog:
    “If certainty were truly possible,
    It wouldn’t be called faith.”
    I felt that you’d be a very good addition to this discussion, and I was not wrong.

    I truly appreciate those who can understand that their view may be mistaken, and that others who don’t agree with them have a very valid position. As an atheist myself, my view is that there is no “god”, no heaven, no hell. I beleive this because in my view the scientific evidence (as put forth by the “scientific community) shows that there is no “need” for a god to explain things. That said, I fully appreciate that if god exists, that “he” could have created things to look as if the big bang was a natural phenomena and as if evolution was a natural random process that took place of millions upon millions of years.

    There is a legitimate chance that I am completely wrong, and that some religion out there “has it right”. While I put this likelihood quite low, as somebody who tries to live a rational scientific life, I must admit that it does have some percentage chance of being correct.

    You are coming from a “believers” point of view, but you seem to be saying essentially the same thing. In your view “god’ does exist, but you seem to readily admit that you could be wrong. There is a legitimate chance that either god does not exist, or if he does that he is not the “god” that you personally believe in.

    In my mind, this is one of the biggest steps that the “two sides” (atheists and deists) need to make. We must admit the possibility that the “other” side may be correct. There is far too much rhetoric from both sides claiming the other side to be blind, ignorant, liars, or worse. These sort of attacks do no good to anybody and serve to do nothing but divide us further.

    My hope is that by first admitting the possibility that we are wrong, we can hopefully try to come to an understand of WHY the “other” side believes what they do, we can find some common ground and begin to get past our differences.

    By the way, I really like the line:
    “I believe it’s important to keep asking yourself that question as honestly as you can. Because if you stop . . . your reality becomes that much more limited and stagnates into a dull reflection of, well, reality and bacause of that flawed understanding of the world your actions will quite frequently not produce the results you intend.”

    Thank you for your input, and I hope as you check out some of the other replies, you feel free to leave your comments, we’re always interested in unique points of view.

  209. mootpoints says:

    I’m getting a bit philosophical here but I wonder if there isn’t something larger at play than a atheism/theism debate.

    I wonder if it’s not about atheism vs. theism at all.

    We’ve both previously acknowledged a couple of key factors
    -Despite the fundamental reasons for having the beliefs we do, we probably have more beliefs in common than not.
    -We’ve both admitted that our respective sides have some absolute nuts.

    Maybe what you have is not so much a conflict between atheism and theism but of rationality vs. irrationality.

    I’m as outraged as you are by the abuses perpetuated by those that claim Christianity as a world-view. (Interestingly my world view explains and even expects that sort of behavior, even from within itself.)

    I’m sure you’re outraged by the abuses of those like Stalin or the extreme conclusions of Nietzsche.

    We’d both be quick to point out that those of have abused others did so not as a natural result of our beliefs but in fact contrary to our beliefs.

    We’d both be quick to dismiss those as either as isolated aberrations or perversions of an otherwise hopeful and helpful world-view.

    I’m wondering if most of the frustrations arise when a rational person from one side tries to take on an irrational person from the other. The only result a discussion like that results in is a strengthening of our previously held beliefs.

    I wonder if our task isn’t about convincing people that our way of viewing things is superior to their but convincing people to even be rational.

    None of that is to say I don’t want to continue the discussion, just some thoughts.

  210. Rodibidably says:

    moot,

    I agree that it’s primarily the irrational people that cause the greatest harm on both sides, although I think that it’s easier to become irrational if you’re able/willing to completely “submit your life to god”.

    I’m sure that at least 1 of the 19 hijackers from 9/11 was a reasonable guy, had fun hanging out with his friends, loved his family, and if raised under different circumstances would have been a rational, reasonable, and possible cool person. However because those 19 felt that they were doing “god’s work” all sense of morality, of right and wrong, or rational thing was thrown out the window.

    While there have been some horrendous acts committed by both sides, Stalin and others on the “atheist” side did not commit their acts because “the lack of god told me to” they did it because, frankly, they were paranoid, megalomaniac assholes. Once that particular person was no longer in power, society turned back to a more rational (if still communist) one and stalin’s successors even destroyed many of the statues, renamed “his” city, and tried (in vain) to remove as much of the historical record related to him as possible.

    In a religious dominated society this does not happen, because “god” never dies or is taken out of power. Religion by it’s nature is more prone to continue on generation after generation (scientology, latter day saints, islam, christianity, etc as a few examples) despite a specific leader passing on.

    I’m sure we can both agree, that lord zenu did NOT drop alien life forms into our volcanoes and catch the souls trying to escape with football field sized flying “soul catchers”, only for those souls to be reborn out of clam shells and 75 million years later, here we are. Frankly, this idea is absolutely insane, and if l ron hubbard had said he “thought” this happened, it would have ended the day he dies. Instead he was “told” this happened, and it became a religion.

    None of this disproves “god” or any specific religion, but it does show that when dealing with religious beliefs, even false ones, there is a greater propensity for flaws to be passed on for generation after generation.

    In my ideal world all of the extremists on both sides would come to a more moderate view. People who want to believe in god would be free to do so, but NOBODY would attempt to force their beliefs on another person, or justify their actions because it was “god’s will”.

    Yes, bad shit would still happen. We’d still get the occasional pedophile, murderer, racist, sexist, etc, but those people would never be able to justify flying planes into buildings, or rape of a child, or buying meth from a male hooker, or just be bat-shit-insane on “god”, they would be forced to take responsibility for their actions (or be sent to a hospital where they could get serious mental help) and nobody would praise their actions as being “holy”.

    In my mind, the best way to get there, is to have the already existing moderates (which I believe is the majority of people in the world) to ostracize the extremists on both sides, “forcing” the extremists to come to the center or no longer be part of society.

  211. I have no doubt of the truth of Jesus Christ. I don’t say that to project an air of super faith, but with a clear conscience, and pure motives. There is no denying what Christ has done in my life. He has changed my desires, my motives, my priorities and forgiven me of my sins. This is mercy.

    I am also sure of the exclusivity and absolute truth of Jesus Christ as the only way of salvation. The question regarding one god writing all the books: It is NOT one God. There IS only one God, and He does not take different forms, inhabit different religions, etc. What’s funny is that no scholar of any world religion, other than Universalism and Bahai, says that this is the case. Muslims do not believe that Allah is Jehovah any more than the opposite.

    Those that try to say all religions are true are speaking from a lack of understanding of general knowledge. It is more correct to deny an absolute truth to say that none of the ways are true, than to say they all are. It is impossible for every belief system to be equal and true. And if you practice a religion and believe this, you are wasting your time. Why bother, if you don’t truly believe what you are living?

    The only faith that claims sacrifice for the human race is that of the true God, Jesus Christ who simultaneously exhists as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. All other “gods” spent their time on earth for their own gain and recognition. They are also still dead.the resurrection of Christ had more eye witnesses than so many events we study without question. His disciples all willingly died horrible deaths before renouncing what they knew to be true. These are the same men who denied Him when He was on the cross. Did they die for a lie just to save face? Please! The world denies Christ because they are running from themselves. People know if one truth exhists, they are no longer their own God, and since Adam and Eve humans have not been ok with that. I have no hatred or contempt for those of other religions. I pray to see teir fervor go unwasted. To see them worshipping the one and only God, Jesus Christ. Who, by the way died for your sins and mine. All you need do is aske for His forgiveness to begin a relationship with Him. Email me if you are ready to let go of your hurt, sorrow, shame and sin, and finally kneel at the feet of the One who made you!
    For the glory of Christ Alone,
    ilovejesusverymuch.

    There have been Christians to misrepresent the true faith in Christ, this is because they are human beings.

  212. uncertainhope says:

    Rodibidably,

    Oh dear, you seem to have misunderstood one little point, and I guess I can understand why. You seem to be assuming I believe in God, and possibly that I’m Christian. But I’m not religious, really. I’m not a practising or non-practising member of any religion and I don’t believe it’s probable that God (or gods) exists.

    If I believe in anything, it’s uncertainty and in being honest enough to admit that you don’t know, not for sure.

    If I had to define myself as anything it would be as agnostic, in the original sense of the word as TH Huxley coined it and not in the much weaker sense the word tends to be used now.

    He saw it as an on-going method of applying reason to the world around him and following its logical conclusions as far as you could, and not pretending that conclusions that were not certain were unquestionably true.

    Unfortunately I’m away from home this weekend, so my time online is limited, but I’ll probably drop by again.

  213. Rodibidably says:

    ilovejesus,

    You believe that jesus is god because of changes in your own life after you “accepted” him. Many people feel the same due to islam or judaism or even scientology. How is your subjective experience different than their own. Keep in mind, that they believe JUST as strongly as you do, that their god has touched their lives (people don’t fly planes into buildings if they are “unsure” of their faith).

    I do have a question about the exclusivity of jesus. If jesus is the only way to salvation, does this mean that every person in history who did not know about jesus is automatically not saved, and thus going to hell? Many people are never “exposed” to the bible in their lifetimes, not because they are “evil”, but because they happen to live in the “wrong” country, it seems kind of harsh to send them to hell for being born in the wrong place, seems ALMOST racist in fact.

    As for those who follow a “universal” spiritualism, I’m curious why you say they don’t “truly believe”. I know a few people who follow a universal spiritualism type of faith, and they believe in their faith as strong as I believe in no faith, or as strongly as you believe in your “god”.

    While some of the specifics of religions are absolutely incompatible with others, the concept of a “god” that you must “submit” to is fairly universal. Most people who believe in a “universal” spiritualism do not believe the literal truth of each individual scripture, they believe that these “holy books” were written more as an allegory to make a point about the human condition. It seems you don’t really understand the actual beliefs of those you are knocking.

    The only accounts of “eyewitnesses” to the resurrection of jesus are in the bible, there are NO EXTERNAL sources (unless of course you put stock in the book of mormon, then there are two “sources”).

    “The world denies Christ because they are running from themselves.” Wow, I’m not even sure where to begin on this, this is SO OBVIOUSLY a logical fallacy it’s almost pointless to respond. For “the world to deny christ” assumes that EVERYBODY inherently “knows” that jesus is the “one true god”. If this is the case then muslims who kill themselves in the name of allah are doing it for what reason exactly? The ONLY thing that can make somebody so willing to lay down their own life in this manner is if they truly believe that they are doing “god’s work”. Nobody is going to blow themselves up or fly a plane into a building to make a point denying what they “know” to be true, that’s just illogical and against all of human nature.

    I thank you for your candor, but I think you allow your own fervor to cloud logic and rationality.

  214. Rodibidably says:

    uncertainhope,

    Based on your comments I understood that you believe in the concept of “god” but you are agnostic as to WHICH “god” is the “true god”, or even if there is only one “true god”. I don’t believe that I assumed you were a christian, just that you are a believer.

    From this latest reply, apparently you are more agnostic as to the existance of god in the first place, not just your interpretation of “god” than I had originally understood.

    I suppose that on some level any rational person is agnostic in a sense, but I personally feel that if the likelihood for something is low enough then one can assume non-existence until evidence shows a reason to change that default position.

  215. mootpoints says:

    I’m curious – can you give me a brief working of an atheist defense of a morality? I know I’m working on some assumptions but I can’t presuppose who morality works in the atheist world-view. This is an honest question not a back-handed attack. I’m not trying to establish the God-should-exist-because-we’re-moral line of reasoning. I’m just curious.

  216. Pingback: Truth, Evidence, Experience, and Faith. « On Living

  217. tallandrew says:

    Hi Rodibidably. Thanks for posting on my blog. I’ve read your article and some (not all) of the comments. I’ve posted my reply at http://onliving.wordpress.com/2008/03/01/truth-evidence-experience-and-faith/
    It asks the question “How do we know something is true?”

  218. kaysandee says:

    Do all Evangelical, Catholic, and Fundamental paths lead to heaven? Are we all just one big, happy, agreeing to disagree family who will one day reside agreeably in heaven? Is there precedent set in Scripture where one loves God, follows Jesus, reads God’s Word and does not go to heaven?

    The life of a cynic is hard. The life of a skeptic is even harder. Life, from above, is easy, peaceful, and full of daily joy. What harm is there in living a nice Catholic, God fearing life, full of charity and morality, dying, and finding out there is no god?

    Yet, won’t it be nice to find out that there is a God and all of His promises are true! You see I’ve already read the back of the book and there really is a God! How do I know. I AM told me! audibly!

    So take heart. Stop living as if God doesn’t exist! Life, lived for God, is so much more rewarding. I’ve tried it both ways!

  219. Rodibidably says:

    moot,

    I thought we had gone through the morality thing already, but that may have been with a few of the other people who have commented, but essentially I agree wit Richard Dawkins when he states:
    “Religious people do not derive their morality from religion. I disagree (with the interviewer) on this point. Almost all of us do agree on moral grounds where religion had no effect. For example we all hate slavery, we want emancipation of women – they are all our moral grounds. These moral grounds started building only a few centuries ago and long after all major religions were established. We derive our morality from the environment we live in, Talk shows, Novels, Newspaper editorials and of course by the guidance of parents. Religion might only have a minor role to play in it. An atheist derives his morality from the same source as a religious people do.”

    In my view this helps explain the changing nature of morality (women have more rights now than they did 100 years ago, slavery is now considered to be one of the greatest evils in all of society while it was accepted as recently as 150-200 years ago, etc).

  220. Rodibidably says:

    kaysandee,

    Why do you limit the possible “true” paths to only versions of christianity? Why not mormonism, islam, scientology, hindu, buddhism, etc?

    I am very cynical about humanity based on seeing all of the horrendous acts we have committed against each other (crusades, inquisition, 9/11, the holocaust, raping little boys and hiding the priests, genocide, etc). If you can look at those events and have no cynicism at all, you are perhaps being naive or possibly had a tad too much sacramental wine.

    If somebody HONESTLY does not believe in god, and “fakes” it by going through the motions, don’t you think that IF god does exist, “he’d know” it was all an act.

    I was raised catholic, and my father later became a “born again” christian. Based on my understanding of cristianity, “god knows” our thoughts, so “faking it” would not “fool him”.

    You paint being a christian as if it’s a wonderful reality where nothing bad ever happens, and you all play together in harmony singing songs and picking flowers. The reality is that you live in the same world as the rest of us, and are as guilty of as many atrocities as any group in history. Sugar coating your view on life does not remove the past or present actions taken by christians in the “name of god”, it just makes you look disingenuous.

    As for what harm is there, I think there are a few alter boys who might have something to say about that. Or perhaps some of the many muslims, jews, women, people of color and/or any other religion than your own who might have something to say about the harm caused by christianity.

    I’ve read “the book” as well, and I found god to be (as Richard Dawkins puts it):
    “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

    And with quote that I’ll end my little rant…

  221. Rodibidably says:

    tallandrew,

    Wow, this is a long reply, but I’ll give it a try.

    The accounts of Josephus have shown to have been a later addition by the catholic church, and are at BEST highly unreliable and suspect, and at worst, complete and utterly false.
    I’m not disputing a man named jesus lived roughly 2000 years ago, but I would suggest not using josephus as your “proof”, since even the catholic church no longer stands by the validity of his writings with regards to jesus.

    I’m also not disputing that he, or his followers, claimed he did miracles. However if you look closer at the evidence, many of the miracles attributed to jesus were also attributed to other people around the same time as him, and before his time (for example the virgin birth, walking on water, raising the dead, etc).
    Very little of his supposed life is actually unique to jesus, and there are quite a few reasons to look skeptically at these claims regarding his life.

    You state that the 500 who saw jesus after his death either either telling the truth, or they were lying. But you leave no room for other options.
    In muslim traditions jesus was not the one on the cross, there was a substitute who resembled jesus. Since even the bible states that none of the apostles went to see him on the cross, it would be quite easy to use a substitute of him on the cross in order to fake his resurrection (although I admit that’s one VERY DEDICATED follower to allow themselves to die in his place).
    Other traditions say that jesus was on the cross but that he did not die, he faked his death and was taken down before he had time to die (this is in part because of the biblical tradition stating he died quick and suddenly after being given some liquid on a cloth (perhaps something which enabled his breathing to slow down to simulate death).
    In either of these cases, the apostles could see a “resurrected” jesus, and not be lying, but be mistaken as to previous events (and the second would even leave room for “doubting thomas” to put his finger in the holes in jesus’s hand.

    Now I don’t claim to know if any of these is the truth, but there are certainly other plausible suggestions that can avoid your idea that they must be telling the truth, or they must be lying.

    As for the validity of the “scripture”, mootpoint and I have gone through this a good deal; both his sources (and he is a christian) and mine show that there are roughly 200,000-400,000 errors in the various translations of the bible.
    Moot, claims this leads to only 16 differences per version (since by his figures there are 25,000 versions), but what he does not take into account is the math would say there are 16 UNIQUE things in each and every version, not 16 differences between any two versions.
    There is no way to really tell the original text any more, unless we get lucky and unearth some more scrolls hidden in a mountain cave somewhere in the middle east again (which I’m thinking is unlikely at this point, after the amount of searching after the Nag Hammadi scrolls and the dead sea scrolls were uncovered).

    I think we’d have to disagree as to what the evidence shows. I believe that the evidence shows that a charismatic man lived 2000 years ago, and that his followers were very devout. I see no reason to infer that this means he was “god” or that what he said was true.
    Not to compare the two too closely, but hitler was a very charismatic (insane and obviously not a nice guy, but VERY charismatic) leader, and still has many followers today. Does that mean that Hitler was correct. Or how about something slightly less inflammatory, like Mohammed, or l ron hubbard, or joseph smith, or any other “prophet” of any other religion that you personally don’t believe in?

    Does christianity play out well today. Hmmm, let’s see. Christianity not only did nothing to stop slavery, the new testament (and old) gives rules for how slaves should act, and how their masters should treat their slaves. I’m not quite sure that “plays out as true”, what about you?
    Or we could go into some of the many fallacies of the old testament, although I’ve been trying to avoid an evolution/creationism debate.
    Or we could go into many other facets of cristianty that come up short in the light of science and progress (such as views towards women).

    Many people claim that scientology “saved” them. Many people claim the same of latter day saints, or islam, or hindu, or buddhism. Does this mean that all of those religions are true? Of course not, any subjective experience by people is just anecdotal evidence, it’s not science at all.

    Any religion, christianity included is a leap of faith that goes well beyond reason and science. To believe in jesus as god, you must suspend belief in all that we know of science, morality, justice, and more.

    This does not mean that christianity or any other religion is wrong, it just means that it’s a leap of faith to believe in any god, much less a specific god, and to claim that it’s even remotely scientific or logical is not true.

  222. mootpoints says:

    So there is still not objective standard outside of social norms?

    Dawkin’s opinion isn’t the only one nor is it even the majority one among athiest.

    Sartre said that when all is said and done – “…the bare valueless fact of existence.”

    Kai Nelson – “We have not been able to show that reason requires the moral point of view, or that all really rational persons, unhoodwinked by myth or ideology, need not be individual egoists or classical amoralists. Reason doesn’t decide here. The picture I have painted for you is not a pleasant one. Reflection on it depresses me. . . . Pure practical reason, even with a good knowledge of the facts, will not take you to morality.”

    And further if morality is the product of taste of social evolution, how can I say that Hitler or Stalin were wrong? One could argue that they changed the social norms in their respective cultures – what made them immoral?

    The issue of morality isn’t simply one of having one but the thing that compels us to do what is right and avoid what is wrong.

    If I walk by an alley in which a woman is being raped
    -First, why would I think that man is wrong for doing what he is doing?
    -Second, despite the inclination for self-preservation, what makes me decide to intervene?

    I guess it seems that it’s still difficult to establish subjective moral boundaries. Unless there’s an absolute to which we can appeal it makes it incredibly difficult to convince some one do what is right when it conflicts with what benefits them.

  223. Rodibidably says:

    moot,

    I agree, that Dawkins’ view is not the only view, and not even necessarily the prevailing view, but you asked me for a “brief working of an atheist defense of a morality”.

    I would assume you’d want the view that I myself believe in, just like I would not expect you to give a christian view that you don’t personally agree with. Of the books, movies, papers, websites, etc I have consumed that discuss morality, I happen to agree most closely with Daniel Dennett and Richard Dawkins views. Since there is not simple quick quote from Dennett that I know of I went with a quote from Dawkins that essentially sums up where I believe we get morality from. Dennett’s book, Breaking The Spell: Religion As a Natural Phenomena, goes into much greater detail than that simple quote from Dawkins, however it’s a book and as such a bit longer of a quote (although it does more accurately and fully describe the concept).

    Sarte and Nelson seem to have a more pessimistic view than I do I suppose (which is kind of funny, since I consider myself to be quite pessimistic).

    Hitler and Stalin were wrong based on the social norms of the time they lived in. If Hitler had followed the social norms of his time, the US would never have gotten involved in WW2. If Stalin had followed the social norms then after his death the people of the USSR would not have attempted to erase the historical record of him and his actions (renaming cities, tearing down statues, destroying papers, etc). There were immoral because society said they were immoral.

    Would you consider George Washington to be immoral? What about ANY white man living today in the US who OWNED another man based only on the color of their skin? If we had “universal” morals, or if we got our morals from ANY book written before the mid 1700’s then we would HAVE to consider Washington to be a complete bastard.

    I do what is “right” because I want to make the world a better place for myself, my wife, my friends, and (when I have them) my children. One of the ways to do this is to be kind to others in society to make society a better place for the people I care about to live in.

    You should think somebody who is raping somebody else is wrong because society says that this is not something that “good” people do.
    You would intervene for a number of reasons. A small number of those reasons include empathy for others in pain (which is an evolutionary byproduct) and a sense of fairness (which has been shown in chimpanzees and other great apes in a number of studies; btw I really like NOVA they have some cool stuff).

    If morals are absolute, then PLEASE explain why George Washington was not a complete bastard why anybody who owns a slave today would be (of course even if you can this won’t prove morals are absolute, but I’m curious of your opinion).

  224. mootpoints says:

    It’s funny that you bring up Washington. I’ve long been bothered by the churches complete adoration of the founding fathers. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the concept that “this country was founded on God.” or something like that.

    This country was founded on the outrage promoted by the taxation it was subjugated to without proper representation. It had to do with money not morality.

    I do think morality in it’s purest form is absolute.

    I do think that Washington, Jefferson and other were wrong and not just on the slave issue. If we’re being strictly biblical then the Founding Fathers were wrong for more than just slavery. Roman’s 13 forbids rebelling against the governing authorities.

    However the Christian world-view would explain and expect that sort of behavior from humans. Christianity teaches that all people have an internal moral conflict. Specifically that we have a strong desire to be moral but that desire is assailed and overcoming by the desire to be selfish and self-serving.

    That world view explains why Washington was a complete moral failure in regards to slavery but honorable in regards to moral ideals like bravery or strong leadership.

    In fact Christianity allows me to take people like Washington and learn from the respectable parts and denounce (and reject, if you’re political at all) the immoral parts.

    I still think your definition of morality is weak. You said that you want to make life better. Better for who and better in what way? I’m having a hard time applying your reasoning to someone breaking into my house to steal. They may be trying to make their life better but that doesn’t make it right.

    There are a million of the same types of examples, but I’m just curious how your moral system deals with the conflict of what is good for one is bad for another.

    Isn’t that essentially the same problem with Hitler? Wasn’t he essentially trying to make the world a better place?

  225. mootpoints says:

    I’m rereading my post above – I really need to edit myself before I hit “submit”. Sorry for all the grammar and spelling errors. I hope it’s still legible and doesn’t take away from my ultimate points.

  226. Rodibidably says:

    moot,

    Personally I admire what Washington, Jefferson, and the rest did (fighting against what they say as an unfair and corrupt government), but as for the myth of the “founding fathers”, my favorite quote on them is a George Carlin one from long ago:
    “this country was founded on a very basic double standard. This country was founded by slave owners who wanted to be free”

    Jesus himself rebelled against the authority, it’s sort of the reason they killed him… Wouldn’t it seem a TAD bit hypocritical of “god/jesus” to tell us not to do the very thing “he” did himself?

    And back ot the founding fathers for a moment. Yes they owned slaves, and by today’s standards they are immoral horrible people. However by the standards of their day, they did what was expected and normal and natural. This is not to say it was “right” to own slaves, but you can not place the morals of today on the people of the past. How recently in our history did we stop sending children out to work at ridiculously young ages? How recently in history did we treat young girls as property (i.e. giving a dowry as part of an engagement/marriage is essentially treating the bride as if she is the property of the father and becoming property of the husband)? We look at these things now and should be horrified, but at the time, this was the accepted norm of society.

    If society was not the basis for our morals they would be unchanging, and if we got our morals from a 2000 year old book, we would STILL have slaves, we would STILL treat women as property, we would STILL send young children out to do dangerous work, and we would STILL be stuck in the dark ages killing heretics for proclaiming science to be true.

    Does our society today “accept” somebody breaking into another person’s house to steal something? No it does not, obviously, thus it is immoral to do so based on the “morals” that society has given us.

    My personal moral code would be something along the lines of:
    “Do not do anything that directly or indirectly harms another person unless it is in defense of self or others”

    I think that this would essentially cover all “moral” grounds that SHOULD be covered by society. Obviously there would still be a need for laws for specific things that are not “cut and dry”, but I think that 90% or more of morality is covered by this one sentence.

    I’m sure you can come up with some examples that this would not cover, and since I really have only spent a very short amount of time (45 seconds, give or take) thinking of the wording of this sentence, I’m sure it’s not “bullet proof”, but it does take care of the primary issues I can think of off hand (slavery, sexism, racism, murder, theft, genocide, rape, pedophilia, assault) and it specifically leaves people free to do things that the government and religious fundamentalist have no right to tell them any differently about (love the person you love regardless of race, religion, or sex). I also have on problem with somebody doing drugs/alcohol/gambling, as long as they are informed of the consequences, there are ways to help them if they abuse it (obviously having a WAR on drugs isn’t doing shit to stop people, so why waste the time and money on it), and they do not harm others with their usage (obviously I am against the crime related to drugs, but that is at least partially due to the illegality of drugs).

    Hitler was obviously not following the moral standards of the day (if he was, then the rest of the world would not have fought so hard to stop him). And he certainly did not follow my personal guideline that I have as my own morality.

    “Do not do anything that directly or indirectly harms another person unless it is in defense of self or others”

  227. Rodibidably says:

    Hehe, grammar and spelling are not my strong suits either, but I type rather quickly and just as it comes to mind. This also explains why at times I repeat myself in the same post at times (having reread some of the earlier posts when I made my “summary” I noticed I repeat a lot).

  228. empyrean says:

    Rodibi…,

    You have gathered responses for more than a month and I can hardly enter into the discussion here. It is simply too sophisticated and complicated for me. I am neither a philosopher nor a theologian. But I am a down-to-earth practical man. So after all my college education where I earned a Master degree and a research degree, where my faith was chllenged to the core, I tried to see whether the faith in the God of the Bible actually worked in practical life or not.

    So instead of accepting a job with a reasonable salary, I decided to be on my own trusting the God of Moses to provide me with ‘manna’ every day (Manna means ‘what!’). So in 1979 with our three children my wife and I went to an unknown part of the world where there lived a food-gathering jungle-tribe. No salary, no sponsor, no other regular source of income was there for us. Almost for every meal we simply trusted God and I want to tell you for the glory of God that we never ever went hungry or were left out uncared-for.

    Sure, I did have a small group of people who promised me nothing other than their prayer-support. They did indeed pray for us. The also did send us financial help as and when they felt like doing it. There was not a way any one could moniter our financilal needs. By 1985 two more children were born to us there. And we were well taken care of by our God in whom alone we put our trust.

    By 1986 I had sufficient faith to pray for a sustained miracle by which I would buy a piece of land and to build a concrete building for the purpose of educating THEIR children. And I want to tell you that unknown to any man any where in the entire world a sixty day miracle gave us a piece of land and a concrete building of 700sft. area.

    The building has an inscription on it saying, “This building stands wintnessing the fact that God of Elijah lives”. For more than six months I spent on an average eight to ten hours in my prayer-closet praying, planning and inter-acting with God.

    Read a lot more of my prayer experiences in my blog-site and tell me whether I need to be doubtful about a God who cared for me. Please go to http://www.mathewpaul.org and read experiences in prayer and a small book on prayer. Tell me who could possibly doubt that God answers prayers done according to His Will and for His glory in the Biblical way? This I did for a whole life-time.

    All the very best. Would appreciate comments if you will.

    Thank you and Bye.

  229. empyrean says:

    Rodibi…,

    I should have added in the above post that I did not have a magazine where I reported the progress of my work every now and then nor did I send out a prayer-letter at intervals. There was no supervsion on my work nor was I a well-known figure either. These facts are very important for the matter under discussion.

    Thanks.

  230. Rodibidably says:

    empyrean,

    I think that anybody and everybody can enter the discussion. Every person has a unique view and can make contributions to the discussion.

    The first thing that strikes me is the contradiction between your claim “I am a down-to-earth practical man” and “instead of accepting a job with a reasonable salary, I decided to be on my own trusting the God of Moses to provide me”. To me that does not seem at ALL to be the practice option. I’m not sure how YOU attempt to reconcile the two, but this is not a logical combination.

    I am curious how you would explain the faith of people who follow a different religion, or a different “god” than yours. There are many billions of people in the world who do NOT follow the god of the bible, but find that their own god or gods have meaning in their life, and that their prayers are answered, and they can see “god” in their life. How would you explain this, if your god is the true god, and theirs is false?
    Their lives have been changed just as yours has. To me this would show that potentially ALL religions are on equal footing (either all correct in some form, or all false) since all religions and all faiths can have the same affects of the lives of those who follow and believe in them.

    As for the effectiveness of prayer, I already know you will say “god can not be tested” however I must make the point that there have been MANY MANY studies of the effectiveness of prayer, and EVERY SINGLE SCIENTIFIC study has shown absolutely no difference between the “effectiveness” of prayer and the placebo affect.

    Another point I’d like to make, is that your personal experience may have been life changing for you, but it is still nothing more than anecdotal evidence, and is not a reasonable basis for anybody (other than yourself) to believe. You say that “we were well taken care of by our God in whom alone we put our trust”, but then you had just said that people “also did send us financial help”. I also assume that you worked hard for everything that came to you in your life. I would guess that you worked as hard or harder than the vast majority of people (mostly due to putting yourself in a situation where you were forced to).

    Finally, I’d like to answer your question “Tell me who could possibly doubt that God answers prayers done according to His Will and for His glory in the Biblical way?”.
    The easy answer to this is every atheist on the planet as well as everybody who believe in any god other than your definition of “god”.
    The long answer is to tell you to check out http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/ and ask you for your response to the points made about specific biblical passages quoted, many of the points made about the god of the bible, and the overall question of the site.

  231. Kaysandee says:

    Rodi, Is Dawkins your own version of Messiah. With your description of God, I hope Dawkins can bring you to a place of peace. Is your life one rant after another? God allows things to happen, He doesn’t necessarily cause them to happen. A trip through the Psalms with David might clear that up for you. Man causes bad things to happen. God has to undo the knots. This is not drippy, syrupy stuff. Truth is light. Light exposes darkness. Only the humble and lowly can really see and understand God’s truth. The haughty and arrogant can’t. Why? Because it is hidden from them. Some are already to the point that their hearts are hardened and they cannot see. The eyes of their understanding have been darkened. That seems to be Dawkins and Hitchens plot. This is all foretold in the Scriptures. I hope and pray that you are not in that place.

  232. Rodibidably says:

    kaysandee,

    I find it interesting that you attack my quoting Dawkins while leaving all of my questions and comments directed at/to you alone. Is it perhaps that you have no intellectually honest response?

    Let’s see if I can summarize your “points” you are making in this latest reply:
    1) Rodibidably likes to rant on and on
    2) Rodibidably worships Dawkins
    3) Dawkins, Hitchens, and others like them can not “see” the truth and live darkened lives with dark hearts
    4) Read the bible (just not the parts that embarrass christians, such as the sexism, racism, genocide, and other forms of violence and hatred)
    5) Rodibidably, Dawkins, Hitchens and others who “deny” god are arrogant and haughty (now there is a word you don’t see too often)

    Not one actual relevant point.
    Not one actual response to any of the points made to you.
    Not one actual reply to any of the questions posed to you.

    It sure must be nice to be so certain of yourself that you don’t need to “bother yourself” with pesky things like facts or logical arguments…

  233. bpatterson67 says:

    This is a post from my now defunct “other blog”. I’ve tried to go totally martial arts over at Striking Thoughts. Anyhow, thanks for the comments and invite. Here’s what I believe:

    First I suppose I’m a type of metaphysical naturalist. I believe science is the best way to look at the world. However, I do not believe it’s the ONLY way to look at the world.

    My old post:

    I have been meaning to comment on what I liked about John Paul II so here goes:

    “Science can purify religion from error and superstition; religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes. Each can draw the other into a wider world, a world in which both can flourish.”

    In John Paul’s world, religion and science were compatible. In addressing the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in 1996 he observed the following:

    “…we find ourselves in the presence of an ontological difference, an ontological leap, one could say. However, does not the posing of such ontological discontinuity run counter to that physical continuity which seems to be the main thread of research into evolution in the field of physics and chemistry? Consideration of the method used in the various branches of knowledge makes it possible to reconcile two points of view which would seem irreconcilable. The sciences of observation describe and measure the multiple manifestations of life with increasing precision and correlate them with the time line. The moment of transition to the spiritual cannot be the object of this kind of observation, which nevertheless can discover at the experimental level a series of very valuable signs indicating what is specific to the human being. But the experience of metaphysical knowledge, of self-awareness and self-reflection, of moral conscience, freedom, or again of aesthetic and religious experience, falls within the competence of philosophical analysis and reflection, while theology brings out its ultimate meaning according to the Creator’s plans.”

    So, according to John Paul II science and religion compliment one another. Yet, in the end, he defers to Christian theology as the ultimate answer. Now here’s where I stand on the issue of science and religion. First, quoting John Paul II again: “Each can draw the other into a wider world, a world in which both can flourish.”

    Another article that captures this sentiment can be found in the December 13, 2004 issue of Newsweek, p. 51:

    But faith and reason need not be constantly at war; they are, John Paul II once wrote, “like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth”

    In fact, what he is suggesting comes straight from the original notion of a liberal arts education which leads to my first digression:

    “In the history of education, the seven liberal arts comprise two groups of studies, the trivium and the quadrivium. Grammar, rhetoric, and dialectic (or logic) make up the trivium. The quadrivium consists of the studies of arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music. These liberal arts made up the core curriculum of the medieval universities. Colloquially, however, the term ‘liberal arts’ has come to mean studies intended to provide general knowledge and intellectual skills, rather than occupational or professional skills. The scope of the liberal arts has changed with society… Today, the liberal arts are sometimes promoted as “liberal” in the later Enlightenment sense, as liberating of the mind, removing prejudices and unjustified assumptions. In spite of the term’s original medieval meaning, this is treated by some today as the central meaning of the term.”

    Now both the classical and colloquial concept of a liberal arts education are ideas that I wholeheartedly support. Where I get annoyed is when the politically conservative fanatics demonize all proponents of the liberal arts as being “politically liberal” or, for that matter, it bothers me just as much when the radically liberal try to make liberal arts “politically liberal”. Both camps are trying to turn “liberal arts” into something it was never meant to be or should be!

    Back to the original topic: Where I disagree with the late pope is when he places theology over science. I take the position that science and religion (and the liberal arts) are pieces of a much larger picture. Now I’m a self-admitted “cheerleader for science” however I disagree with those who think it is the only way to look at the world (whether it is the “best” way is a separate question and we’ll save the philosophical naturalism discussion for another day). In fact, I think a much more balanced world view should consider all of the disciplines that typically fall under what is described as a liberal arts education. So, in that sense I guess I’m a bigger cheerleader for the liberal arts than I am for science.

    Paralleling what John Paul II said is something that the late Bertrand Russell once said:

    “The value of philosophy is . . . to be sought largely in its very uncertainty. The man who has no tincture of philosophy goes through life imprisoned in the prejudices derived from common sense, from the habitual beliefs of his age or his nation, and from convictions which have grown up in his mind without the co-operation or consent of his deliberate reason. To such a man the world tends to become definite, finite, obvious; common objects rouse no questions, and unfamiliar possibilities are contemptuously rejected. As soon as we begin to philosophize, on the contrary, we find . . . that even the most everyday things lead to problems to which only very incomplete answers can be given. Philosophy, though unable to tell us with certainty what is the true answer to the doubts which it raises, is able to suggest many possibilities which enlarge our thoughts and free them from the tyranny of custom. Thus, while diminishing our feeling of certainty as to what things are, it greatly increases our knowledge as to what they may be; it removes the somewhat arrogant dogmatism of those who have never traveled into the region of liberating doubt, and it keeps alive our sense of wonder by showing familiar things in an unfamiliar aspect.” Bertrand Russell: The Problems of Philosophy, p. 157

    Paraphrasing yet another Russellian idea: Philosophy allows us to consider things that science is not yet ready to test. This is a notion that I readily agree with and one that you can apply to a true liberal arts education. In fact, it is one of the transforming lessons that I have taken from a liberal arts education. My personal opinion is this: There are many ways to look at the world and usually people get into trouble when they dogmatically lock into one method (e.g., science, religion, philosophy, etc.) and consider it as “the Gospel truth.”

    Do I think science and religion are compatible? Yes and no. Yes in the sense that they are parts of much larger picture (eg. Eastern philosophy). No if you make them out to be the only way to look at the world.

    Bob Patterson
    http://strikingthoughts.wordpress.com/

  234. Rodibidably says:

    bpatterson,

    Wow, a post almost long enough to be one of my own. 🙂

    First of all I’d like to thank you for coming over to post. I enjoyed the discussion on your blog of “disproving a negative”, and I am glad that you took the time to check out this post as well.

    I’m curious what other way you would suggest we try to understand the world if science is not the only way.
    Spirituality is a very subjective way to look at things, and certainly not universal.
    Faith or Belief in a “higher power” has obviously had some problems historically, since most faiths are incompatible with each other, and by their very nature do not allow questioning of the beliefs to allow a common ground between opposing views.
    Or is there some other way that I am not thinking of off hand?

    I do agree the former Pope did much to help bridge the gap between faith/religion and science, however he still held onto a number of religious superstitions (the virgin mary, sainthood, etc), outdated ideologies (such as opposition to birth control, opposition to stem cell research, etc), and he did not do enough to uncover and stop the corruption that was rampant withing the church during his reign (US priests raping young boys scandal, etc).
    Overall I think he was trying to do his best, but I think the catholic church still has a long way to go.

    From the quotes you give though, it’s easy to see the respect he had for science, but I fail to see the contribution of religion.

    I do agree that science and religion do not need to be as odds with each other, but I think the way to avoid this conflict is for religion to not try to replace, alter, or judge science in any way. The goal of science is to explain the world around us. The goal of religion SHOULD be to give a sense of community and comfort to those in need. As long as religion never claims to go beyond it’s scope, it can easily live in harmony with all scientific discoveries.

    It seems we do agree on these points about religion not trying to replace science, but I personally fail to see the contribution of religion today. In my view it is a left over evolutionary remnant, much like the appendix, tonsils, etc…

    You say that the seven liberal arts (grammar, rhetoric, and dialectic (or logic), arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music) can teach us things that science along can not.
    Grammar is important to allow people to communicate effectively, but I don’t see how grammar is going to teach us about the world around us. Grammar is more of a tool to allow communication than a learning device on it’s own.
    Rhetoric is essentially the same type of tool as grammar, in that it allows for ease of communication, but by itself it does not tell us anything about the world around us.
    Logic, I would argue at it’s most basic is yet another tool, this one used especially by science to help determine the validity of information. Logic also can be a science in and of itself.
    Arithmetic and all mathematics are the most basic language of the universe and everything in it. In this sense they are a science in and of them self. In fact most scientific ideas today are “proven” mathematically before the actual evidence is found to support them (including Hawkins’ and Penrose’s theories on singularities).
    Geometry is another branch of mathematics, which is used as a tool in scientific fields, not exclusive of science.
    Astronomy has given way to astrophysics, since with everything we now know of the universe, to study the sky without the use of physics is almost useless.
    And finally we come to music, I dare say there are many people less adept musically who have a greater love of the art form more than myself. I consume a vast amount of music (in fact my wife not long ago had to “cut me off” form the iTunes store) and I love to listen to a very eclectic mix of musical genres. However I believe that music is more of a way of transferring information, in such a way that merely words along can not do. Music is a window into the mind of the artist and when done right can touch people deeper than almost anything else, sans love. Music conveys information already known by the artist to the listeners, it does not teach us anything “new”, it reinforces what we already know, and transfers knowledge from the artists to the listening public.

    Philosophy is something I honestly do not have as much to say about, because I have always lived my life asking more of the “how” types of questions, than the “why”. I don’t know that we can understand “why” the universe exists, but we can understand “how” (and we now do know a great deal of this and are learning more).
    I have my own personal philosophy which essentially boils down to “Do not do anything that directly or indirectly harms another person unless it is in defense of self or others”, but beyond that I have never really has too much of an opinion on philosophy. I tend to believe, as many do, that society makes the morals for people, not a single group of philosophers (at least in current times).

    I can see a place for philosophy, but I’m not sure religion is needed any more (but perhaps that’s just my atheism showing).

  235. mootpoints says:

    I have to take issue with a couple of your conclusions. Let me quote –

    “If society was not the basis for our morals they would be unchanging,”

    I’m not arguing that social agenda has nothing to do with morality. Society often creates more strict social constraints than biblical morality requires. In fact, Christ’s rebellion wasn’t against the Roman governing authorities but against the strict, prevailing and incorrect interpretation of scripture by the religious authorities.

    And who’s to say that society ever really listens to the bible? Most examples of biblical morality that have been pushed on society are no more than a heavy dose of opinion wrapped in a few out-of-context bible verses. It’s hardly about appealing to scriptural absolutes but hijacking scripture.

    “…and if we got our morals from a 2000 year old book, we would STILL have slaves, we would STILL treat women as property, we would STILL send young children out to do dangerous work, and we would STILL be stuck in the dark ages killing heretics for proclaiming science to be true.”

    Look, I could give you plenty of verses that speak clearly and emphatically against those specific issues you brought up. So the point you’re making simply isn’t true.

    Finally your moral code (quickly derived or not) is a solid one but it’s certainly not unique. That concept was written thousands of year ago! Just one example is “love your neighbor as yourself” as well as similar edicts from other religions.

    Listen, if morality is a societal norm, how do you explain your personal moral code being a constant (if often ignored one) for thousands of years?

  236. Rodibidably says:

    moot,

    Christ’s was accused and convicted of “rebelling against the governing authorities”. Whether those authorities were the romans themselves or the jewish pharasies that were allowed to “govern” all aspects of religious life in Israel at the time is irrelevant, he went against governing authorities, which you already stated is against god’s own laws (Roman’s 13 as you so kindly pointed out). So the message we can learn from jesus in this instance is “do as I say, not as I do”.

    You criticize Washington and the other founding fathers for the EXACT SAME ACTION that “god/jesus” was killed for (and as I recall from my childhood, it was sort of important for christianity that he be convicted and die).

    Biblical morality has lead to the Spanish Inquisition, the Crusades, the Salem Witch Trials, children dying due to lack of medical attention because their parents believed that god does not want them to use modern medicine, and much more.

    This is not to say that ALL of the bible is bad, but if one lives their life STRICTLY by the bible (or some person’s interpretation of the bible) people will be stoned for eating shellfish, women will be treated as property, slavery will come back into fashion, and those who disagree with religious doctrine will be executed as heretics.

    I’d rather not live in that world.

    I understand that YOU have a more liberal view, but there are MANY passages in the bible that condone horrendous actions, and if you are to take the bible as your only source of morality, those horrendous acts become acceptable.

    I also understand that the bible also has many great, wonderful, and kind things that it says. But so does the Koran; do you want to live your life by a strict interpretation of the Koran because 1.5 billion people think it’s the “word of god”?

    I understand that you can give verses that contradict slavery, sexism and killing of heretics. But I can also give biblical verses that support those things. THAT is exactly my point (well, one of my points at least), the bible is not consistent, and is not a good basis for morality because of those inconsistencies.

    I understand that my personal moral code is not at all unique, but it was not originated in Isreal 2000 years ago either. The basic concept actually predated the bible by a good amount of time and was a major part of eastern philosophies long before jesus’ time.

    I explain my moral code being consistent with such an old philosophy by the fact that while some things evolve, once they get to a certain point, they are only refined, and no more MAJOR revisions are needed (I could give many evolutionary examples, but the risk of turning this into a evolution/creationism debate is too great, but it’s fun to mention morals evolving nonetheless).

    BTW, as a final note sort of related to this, most christians do not believe in MY moral code, even though I think “jesus would”. There is no reason that jesus would condemn contraception, but the overwhelming majority of christians do, because of some perverse prudishness brought on by the puritanical history of our country oppose all forms of birth control, even as a means to stop the spread of deadly diseases. People are going to have sex, it’s a fact of life. No “virginity pledge” or abstinence education is going to stop that; in fact almost all studies show that people who make virginity pledges are much more likely to engage in unprotected oral and anal sex than those who do not, and those who have abstinence only sex ed are more likely to get pregnant and diseases such as HIV than those who are taught about condoms and other forms of birth control. I know that is a bit off topic, but it seemed to flow in fairly smoothly, and makes another point, that even those CLAIMING to get their morality from the bible, are actually getting their morality from the Puritans (who are the same people who burned innocent women for being witches).

  237. empyrean says:

    Rodibi…,

    Why do you say that it is not a logical combination at all when I said I wanted to test out my faith in practical life? In order to do that I decided to subsist on prayers rather than on a regular salary. I don’t understand what is the inconsistancy there.

    You ask me how do I explain the experiences of other people whho follow other religions and they too have religious experiences.

    Yes, to me that is no problem at all. Because there is a deep hunger in human heart for the supernatural or the spirit world as God created man with a human spirit within. And every one looks for some thing and whatever catches their eye first, they get hooked on to it. I see all the religions of the world as an evidence for God. But I see them as duplicates. Because duplicates are there, that is the clearest evidence that true must be there. All religions talk about some stanard for morality. All say that good will be followed by good and vice versa. These are general truths found in all religions in common.

    The only book in the entire world which talks about the possibility of entering into a filial relationship with God of creation is the New Testament. All others talk about various other relationship with God and their concepts of God also vary from one another. All other faiths are men seeking after God. The Bible talks about a God who seeks after man and made a way possible for any man to have a filial relationship with Him.

    Your observation about the scientific study about prayer as producing no effect can not be accepted in the light of my prayer experiences. Science tests chemicals in a test-tube. They can not test a space craft in a test-tube. They need a totally different enviornment where it functions. I have tested out prayer in my physical enviornment and I found that prayer wrought marvellous results which otherwise I would never have found in my life. Truly prayer was experimented on and found working effectively.

    Again, to test some chemicals, there are certain conditions to be fulfilled. Every chemical will not react in the same set of enviornments. Like wise, prayer needs certain conditions to be fulfilled, and I bet, whoever is willing to fulfill those conditions will surely ever get results. I challenge you to fulfill the Biblical conditions and pray in accordance with the Bible truths, if it does not produce result in your life,I will agree with you that prayer is not effective.

    As you observed clearly, since I put myself to hard conditions, I did have to do hard work as well. I was never ever lazy. But prayer was the hardest thing which I did every day. Every thing else simply followed without any human effort at all. My usual prayer time was from 4 pm and some times I went on till 2 am in the morning at a streatch till I knew that the needs for the following day was adequately met. I knew when to stop praying and start thanking. It simply comes by practice. What can some one who never saw an automobile know about shifting gears?!! So only those who pray can understand what I am talking about.

    Whoever doubts, doubts because they have never experienced it. They have not experienced because they have never tried it. They have never tried it because they are not willing to fulfill conditions laid out there. They are simply unwilling and unbelieving. I challenge any one to fulfill biblical conditions and see results in life for themselves. After all, when you go to a banker to get his services, you have to accept his terms and conditions for service. Same thing with the services of an Air-liner. Could you possibly dictate conditions to them to get their services? How could one blame the Air-liner, if one is unwilling to accept their terms of services? How could one blame God, if one is not willing to work with His terms and conditions?

    It is great talking to you. May be you could ask me more and I shall try to answer… But as for me I have proved a whole life-time that prayer simply worked for me and God to me is as real as life itself.

    Bye for now.

  238. bpatterson67 says:

    I too am an atheist. However, I see the language of religion as one of many ways to look at the world. You can come at a it from a purely “English major” perspective, hard sciences, social sciences, art, and so on. Bracketing out the supernatural, you can still look at the world through the language of religious metaphors. There are professors on the far left of things that do this. One such person is here:

    http://exploringourmatrix.blogspot.com/

    If science reaches a limit on a thing then you get very speculative (and non-scientific) in which case most of the other “isms” can also be brought into play.

    Again, I prefer naturalism but I personally have taken value from religion and the other disciplines. Yes, I know we skeptics like to beat up on a religion (and in some cases rightfully so). But you can also apply skepticism to such things a politics and find just as much harm–if not more. Oddly, most of the “big gun” skeptics keep focusing on religion…

    ~BCP

  239. Rodibidably says:

    empyrean,

    While going to an unknown part of the world to live with a food gathering jungle tribe with no salary and a growing family may be admirable, it is not practicle.

    Practicle can be defined as:
    1. Of, relating to, governed by, or acquired through practice or action, rather than theory, speculation, or ideals
    2. Manifested in or involving practice
    3. Actually engaged in a specified occupation or a certain kind of work
    4. Capable of being used or put into effect
    5. Intended to serve a purpose without elaboration
    6. Concerned with the production or operation of something useful
    7. Level-headed, efficient, and unspeculative

    Going to in a third world country (I would guess at least in part to “spread the gospel”) is living your life based on ideals and speculative at best.
    It may have been a great experience for you and your family, and it may have worked out in the end, but it certainly does NOT meet the definition of practicle.

    THIS is the inconsistency.

    As for other religions being a way to god. You as a christian believe that jesus was the son of god (and based on the trinity is god at the same time) and that he “died for your sins”.
    Islam teaches that he was not divine, but just a prophet, much like abraham. Islam also teaches that he did not in fact die on the cross. This is wholly incompatible with your beliefs.
    Either jesus is god and died for you, or he is not god and did not die for you. Both accounts can not be true. Thus both forms of faith can not be equally valid (although they can be both equally invalid if for instance hinduism is the “true” for of belief).

    One of the things that all of the abrahamic religions teach is that to deny god is a sin, and by the very nature of your beliefs, either all muslims are denying the “true” god or all christians are denying the “true” god (or potentially both groups are).
    If somebody denies god (which is a sin based on your faith) and prays to a false god (which sort of breaks one of the 10 commandments) then god should not be answering their prayers, since they’re not following his rules for prayer (they are putting false gods before the “true” god).

    Therefore the ability for prayers to allah, vishnu, l ron hubbard, the virgin mary, joseph smith, etc should NEVER be answered if your faith is “true”.
    However, just as your personal experience (i.e. anecdotal evidence) shows you that god listens to your prayers, many muslims, hindus, buddhist, scientologist, mormons, etc pray to their “gods” and feel just as strongly that their prayers are in fact answered unequivocally.

    THIS is yet another inconsistency. (Wow, even for me this is a long reply to what was a simple comment by you.)

    You state that because there are multiple religions in the world, this proves the existence of god (at least that is how I am reading your comments, please correct me if I misunderstood you). There are multiple killers, rapists, bigots, racists, pedophiles, etc in the world as well, does this mean that those are valid ways to interact with others in the world around us?
    Just because something is popular, does not mean it is true. There are vampire myths in virtually every culture of the world. There are reported alien visitations world wide (and supposed accounts throughout history). There are myths of dragons in every corner of the world. None of these universal myths is true solely BECAUSE the myth is universal.

    Your next point is about the uniqueness of the bible. Every “holy book” has something about it that is unique from other “holy scriptures”, so by your logic, they must all be true. However we know that they are vastly incompatible with each other, so they can not ALL be true. Dilemma, dilemma…

    This next point made me laugh quite a bit actually:
    “Science tests chemicals in a test-tube. They can not test a space craft in a test-tube”
    So are you claiming that chemistry is the ONLY science? Are you claiming that science had nothing to do with the creation of the space shuttle?

    Science is a means of learning about the universe and the world around us, as well as learning about ourselves. Your definition of science is a 16th or 17th century vision of chemistry it is not at all compatible with science in the 21rst century.

    Whenever religion claims to have an impact on the world around us, that impact should be able to be measured objectively.
    If you claim that praying for rain will bring rain, we can do a study of multiple areas where some pray for rain and some do not, and determine what percentage of the prayed for areas rained and what aread of the non prayed for areas rain. By looking at the difference between these two numbers, we can see if there is any effectiveness to praying for rain.
    ANY TIME that prayers are “answered” with definitive results, we should be able to measure those results. So far EVERY STUDY that has been conducted under scientific methods have shown that prayers has no affect at all.

    As for prayer NOT working, I’d suggest looking at ANYBODY who has EVERY had a limb amputated in the history of mankind. I’d venture that given the majority of the world’s population is religious, and has been religious for as long as recorded history, that some percentage of them MUST have prayed to get their limb back.
    And NEVER, NOT EVEN ONCE IN THE ENTIRE RECORDED HISTORY OF MANKIND has an amputated limb ever regrown back on a human.
    Again, I’d direct you to check out the website for more specific information:
    http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/

    “Whoever doubts, doubts because they have never experienced it. They have not experienced because they have never tried it. They have never tried it because they are not willing to fulfill conditions laid out there. They are simply unwilling and unbelieving.”
    This is simply a false assumption. There are numerous examples of “former” christians, muslims, jews, etc becoming disenfranchised with their faith and becoming atheists. There are examples of priests, nuns, etc doing this. You are stating that EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM was unwilling, even those who gave their lives to their chosen religion.

    I do appreciate your response very much, and i hope you continue to be part of this discussion, because while w may not agree with each other, I do beleive your perspective is an interesting one to hear more about.

  240. Rodibidably says:

    bpatterson,

    Wuhoo, another atheist, all be it a spiritual atheist, but still an atheist.

    While I agree that science has it’s limits, those limits are being stretched every day, and I don’t see a reason to use a “god of the gaps” to explain things. I think that we can leave some questions unanswered until we have a better understanding. My main issue with using religion to plug those holes is that once religion takes a foothold, it’s much harder to remove the supernatural (god) because some believers are unwilling ot accept new facts that conflict with their dogma.

    I do agree that politics and other realms should be “attacked” from a scientific and skeptical perspective as well, but I think the focus is on religion for two reasons.
    1) It’s a much easier target since many of the basic foundations conflict with well know, and essentially “proven” science.
    2) Religion is tougher to get to release a hold over it’s followers, and thus will take more time than something like politics will take to clean up. And many of the primary issues that politics has with science are based on the religious views of the politicians.

  241. uncertainhope says:

    I don’t have much time today, alas, so I’ll be as brief as I can.

    empyrean, your analogy of the terms and conditions offered by God is interesting, so I’ll continue with that frame of reference to point out one problem with it:

    Imagine a bank who claimed to be the only true bank, and the only way to save or borrow money, despite the fact that there were similar institutions all over the world, all claiming to be the one true bank and all offering similar claims and benefits – none of which were measurable in any objective terms? How would you tell them apart.

    I’d also like to say that I have a passing familiarity with the study on the effects of prayer that Rodibidably mentioned and, if it’s the one I’m thinking of, it wasn’t conducted in the manner you seem to think. Social sciences tend not to conduct experiments that require test tubes and their methodologies are usually quite rigourous.

    As to what you say about doubt . . .

    I find that sort of certainty worrying because, as far as I can see, admitting to the *possibility* that would could be wrong in your beliefs or your interpretation of your chosen holy book (you are only human after all) doesn’t necessarily demonstrate a weakness of faith and seems quite healthy and natural, but the reverse . . .

    To me, not to admit to the merest possibility that you might be wrong, that *your* interpretation of reality (or scripture, for that matter) might not be flawed in some way, well, it seems arrogant and prideful and may contain quite a bit of fear as well. And, correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t fear, pride and arrogance emotions that most religions have some pretty pointed warnings about?

    But, the biggest problem I have with that sort of iron-clad, unyielding certainty is that in our history and indeed in our present, we can see where it leads: to people seeing those different from them (in race, in belief, in sexual orientation, whatever) as somehow lesser beings, less worthy and that in turn leads to children being torn from their parents and denied their cultural heritage, to single mothers being locked away in workhouses, to whole communities being slaughtered, to kids strapping bombs to their chests and walking out into a busy street, to women being gang-raped and beaten for just being in the car with a man who is not their husband while her rapists go unpunished and she is sent to jail and sentenced to death, it leads to people being burnt at the stake as heretics, it leads to people being lynched for being in the wrong place at the wrong time and the wrong colour, it leads to terror, torture and pain.

  242. mootpoints says:

    Couple of things –

    -I conceded the point that “love your neighbor” and other examples of ancient moral codes aren’t unique to Christian scripture. However one way to interpret that phenomena biblically is the fact that we’re created beings, endowed with a basic set of moral guidelines by our creator. It’s no surprise that the best of humanity keeps coming to the same conclusions about the way things should be.

    The examples you cited, the inquisition, the crusades, etc. are great examples of what happens when peoples personal bias are infused with scripture. Those things are not a reflection of the the intent of scripture at all. The fact that people have misused scripture in no way disproves scripture.

    -You say that Christ was convicted of rebelling against the governing authorities and he was. However on this point there’s a couple of important doctrinal points to consider. The authorities that he defied were a self-appointed group of opportunities. He defied them not by declaring war but by living by God’s moral code. He never struck anyone, he never killed anyone, he rebelled socially not physically. In fact when we was questioned about paying taxes to Rome he told his followers to “…render unto Caesar…” (By the way, Christ was convicted of sedition or treason but if you recall, it’s also kind of important to Christianity that those charges be false and thus he’d be innocent.)

    The bible, nor the example of Christ, gives me the right to destroy property or take lives to protest unjust taxation.

    To, hopefully, put this issue to rest, I’m not saying that I dislike the founding fathers or that I disrespect what they did. I’m simply saying that even the American Revolution gets co-opted by religious revisionists and turned into some kind of holy war for the freedom of religions – that simply was not the case. That’s the point I’m making. You asked me to defend Washington’s slave-owning and I’m telling you I don’t think it was right – then or now.

    You said you could give me verses that promote slavery and sexism. I’d be interested in seeing those.

    Also I think trying to defend your ancient morality by being completely evolved is a problem on two fronts. First, it goes against your overall point that we get our morality from society. Second, I’m not sure you can compare philosophy and biology. They’re apples and oranges. Not that I agree with you about evolution but even if species evolved to a perfect form it certainly doesn’t follow that morality does as well, this again contradicts your overall point about morality being a social construct.

    Finally, as to Puritanical morality. Again, because someone creates a moral standard outside the scriptures and blames the bible doesn’t mean the bible is wrong.

    I’m not trying to defended every twisted application of Scripture. I’m saying that because someone mangles the bible to devastating effect, doesn’t mean the bible is wrong.

  243. Rodibidably says:

    uncertainhope,

    I like the bank analogy, it’s a good fit for this discussion. The one caveat I would add is that each bank is mutually exclusive of the others in it’s practices, so it is not possible to use follow the protocols of banks at the same time.

    I also wholeheartedly agree with the issues of essentially “good doubt”. While many (most) religions say that blind faith is a virtue, it has been shown that one of the reasons for this fondness of blind faith is so that the religion does not subject itself to scrutiny.
    If one is never allowed to question the status quo, then almost all of what we take for granted today that science has given us, would never had been discovered, invented, created, etc.

    I could not agree more with your final paragraph, as it makes many of the same points I have tried to make as well. Thank you very much for your response, and I hope you continue to check in and leave your thoughts as you feel.

  244. Rodibidably says:

    moot,

    If morality was ingrained in us then 150 years ago people would have felt the same about slavery as we do today. This is OBVIOUSLY not the case, or else there would have been no need for the civil war.
    If morality was ingrained in us then 100 years ago women would have had the right to vote and been treated as equals to men. This is OBVIOUSLY not the case, or there would have been no need for the women’s suffrage movement.
    If morality was ingrained in us then 100 years ago children would not have been forced to go work in dangerous conditions risking their lives. This is OBVIOUSLY not the case, or there would have been no need worker’s rights.
    I could continue on, but these examples should give a basic idea of the point.

    People are inherently biased based on their upbringing, their family, their experiences, etc. you can work to mitigate the biases, but you can never exclude them, we are after all, “only human”.
    You admit rightly so that “scripture” can be misused, and this is exactly one of the points I have tried to make. If the bible, or any holy book can be interpreted in multiple wholly incompatible ways then all believers should take a step back and wonder if perhaps they might have misinterpreted some facet of the scripture themselves.

    Even if one assumes that the bible is the word of god (which I don’t concede, but for the sake of this particular point):
    Perhaps jesus does NOT bean to say that all gay people are sinners.
    Perhaps god does not want us to put the 10 commandments in courthouses.
    Perhaps the creation of the universe, the earth, and mankind did not take just under 1 week.
    Perhaps, just perhaps, the understanding that christians have of their “holy book” is just as flawed as those who used it’s words to starts holy wars, to enslave others, and to commit acts of genocide.

    Actually the jewish “leaders” of the time were NOT self appointed, they were appointed by Rome as a way to appease the people that Rome had conquered. Since the romans were the rulers of isreal and THEY appointed the jewish leadership, then jesus defying them was the same as defying Rome directly (at least in Rome’s eyes, which is why Pilate agreed to have jesus killed).
    However he defied them the fact is that he still defied them; the bible makes no distinction between types of “rebelling against the governing authorities”, it states that it is wrong, period.

    I am glad that you agree that Washington owning slaves was wrong, but do you beleive that this made him personally an immoral person?
    Do you think that Washington, Jefferson, etc are “burning in hell” for their actions (slavery and the war) or do you think that they should be judged by the moral standard of their day, in which slavery was perfectly acceptable?

    Here are a couple of links that go into a brief description of some of the biblical passages about slavery and sexism. These are not indicative of EVERY passage from the bible on the subject, these are just the passages that this website felt were most useful in making their point. BTW, I do highly recommend checking out more of this site as well, a number of the points I have tried briefly to make are made in greater detail here.
    http://www.whydoesgodhateamputees.com/god13.htm – Slavery
    http://www.whydoesgodhateamputees.com/god15.htm – Sexism

    On my personal morality, I think perhaps my wording was poor. Essentially the point that I was trying to make is that even though a concept can be found over and over again throughout history, does not mean that it is a universal concept.
    We have found racism over and over again, do you beleive that racism is a universal part of humanity?
    We have found good and bad things throughout history and rediscovered them again many times. Just because an idea is good previously does not mean it was always accepted at every step between the past and today.

    For your final point, I’ve already touched on it a bit here, but check out the post just above yours from uncertainhope where he goes into this a bit and uses a very good analogy to make his point.a

  245. mootpoints says:

    In pointing out that if morality were ingrained you wouldn’t have slavery/suffrage/child labor you’re presupposing that people can’t violate they’re own sense of right and wrong. I can easily concede that social immorality can all but extinguish an embedded moral code.

    Secondly – because the bible is misused doesn’t speak to it’s difficulty but rather the depravity of those who misuse it to that degree.

    I’ll certainly be the first in line to admit that my
    understandings of scripture may be flawed but they are not dishonest. Much of the basis for things like the Crusades, the Inquisition or practically anything else an intentional misrepresentation of scripture to serve their own purposes.

    I maintain that an honest individual reading the story of Jesus will not declare holy war on Muslims, blow up abortion clinics or burn witches at the stake.

    This is a total side-bar that’s lost it’s relevance in this discussion but the Pharisees were not appointed by Rome. Herod the king was but he didn’t condemn Christ. Pilate never agreed to have Christ killed. In fact he found him innocent and said so on three occasions. What he did do was turn Christ over to the Jews knowing they would kill him.

    Yes, I think Washington was immoral. By belief system tells me that everyone is immoral and in need of salvation, Founding Father’s receive no special exemptions.

    In one regards to your point about racism being a universal and therefore part of the human code. Moral failure is a part of the human code.

    You haven’t always kept your own personal moral code and there will be times you break it in the future. It’s not that your code is flawed it’s that (sorry for the insult here) but you are flawed. Humans are often mean-spirited when we should be patient, unforgiving when we should be letting things go, hateful when we should be loving.

    Anyway, I’ll be checking out those links. Thanks.

  246. mootpoints says:

    Sorry again for the mistakes – I promise I’ll start proof-reading these things.

  247. mootpoints says:

    One last thing – and this is more in support of your position than mine. You talked about slavery things like that being condoned in the bible.

    Interestingly polygamy seems to be perfectly acceptable in the old testament and there really isn’t anything condemning it in the new testament. Polygamy certainly not on par with slavery but I would think most modern Christians would find it fairly repulsive but there it is, condoned and unrefuted in the bible.

  248. Rodibidably says:

    moot,

    My point is not totally that we would not have had slavery in the past is we had universal morality. Another related idea, made from the same data, is that if we had a universal morality, and in the past slavery had been universally accepted, then it should be universally accepted now, unless our sense of morality has changed. Since we KNOW that it was perfectly acceptable to be a slave owner in the past, and we KNOW that it is considered horrific now to be a slave owner, we can conclude that the moral standards have changed over time.

    As for the bible being misinterpreted, even if one assume that the original text (which we no longer have) was the “word of god”, it is obviously easy to misinterpret (open up a history book and turn the page to any random war, genocide, etc and odds are it was motivated by religion).
    Since the book can be used (even if wrongly used) to justify such horrific actions, we must step back and question the validity of our interpretations, if only to stop the next horrible acts done is “god’s name”.

    Before Roman rule, most of jewish society was run by the religious leaders (the Pharasies). After Rome took over, in an attempt to placate the people they had conquered they allowed the previous ruling class to continue to have some autonomy under their supervision.
    Herod specifically may not have condemned jesus, but his governor did (Pilate). If you check with historical accounts the romans allowed people to carry out sentences (to a point) under their own law, but some methods of execution were ONLY ALLOWED to be carried out for “crimes” that were to be punished by the Romans themselves. Crusifiction was one of these, and COULD NOT BE carried out by the jews without the accused being “convicted” by Roman authority.
    “Pontius Pilate was the governor of the Roman Iudaea province from 26 until 36. In modern times he is best known as the man who presided over the trial of Jesus and ordered his crucifixion.”
    You may want to re-read the Gospel of Matthew, in it Pilate washes his hands of Jesus and reluctantly sends him to his death. It may have been reluctant on his part, but HE AND HE ALONE sent jesus to his death by crusifiction.

    As for Washington, let’s rephrase the question I guess since you consider ALL people to be immoral.
    Would you consider Washington to be MORE immoral than let’s say Jimmy Carter (to keep it presidential and a bit less political since nobody really HATES Carter liek some people do Clinton and Bush)?
    Assuming you say yes, would that difference be due to his owning slaves (which was an accepted practice at the time, and was NOT considered by any of his contemporaries to be immoral or wrong)?

    As for your final comment in your first (of these 3), you are correct, I don’t always live up to my own moral code, but I must say that since I got married and “grew up” I think I’ve done a damn good job of it actually. I may have inadvertently hurt others, but I can say with all honesty, I have not intentionally caused harm to others in a LONG time.

    I don’t really have a reply to your final comment, since you pretty much made another point “for me”, but you’re correct, I had not really covered polygamy, because I have done more study on the whole slavery, sexism, racism, genocide issues, and those are IMO much easier to contrast and much more “universally” condemned in society today.

  249. kaysandee says:

    The points raised against me are of no concern to me, just to you. This is not a competition but a conversation. You are right in saying that I have no need to concern myself with pesky little things like facts(facts by whose authority–according to whose agenda?) I rather concern myself with FAITH. The benefits are in the “NOW”. The proof is in the believing and I don’t have to wait until I die to receive the rewards. The hourly peace is in the inner knowing, the oneing, the breathing in of HIS SPIRIT! Utter, sheer, beyond joy!

  250. Rodibidably says:

    kaysandee,

    Really, logical thought out questions of your position are of no concern to you? So once you’ve made up your mind on a subject you are unwilling to waiver or question the foundation of that opinion you formed?

    I never said it was a competition. I never made it into a competition. What I did was ask was for clarification on aspects of your position, and offered alternative explanations, which you summarily ignored.

    In your first post you made very specific claims which you did not support further. You then never answered my criticism of those claims, you only attacked those who’s ideas you do not agree with.

    As for your comment:
    “facts by whose authority–according to whose agenda”

    My reply to this would be, facts based on the consensus of scientific opinion and based on the historical record. While you may be happy to live a live of blind faith, I see blind faith as a tool too often used to justify horrendous acts of violence, bigotry, and intolerance (the inquisition, the crusades, slavery, sexism, 9/11, etc).

  251. mootpoints says:

    That “God hates amputees” site is fascinating. It’s of particular interest to me. My brother was born with only one fully developed limb, an arm. He is missing parts of both legs and most of the other arm.

    However we prayed for him and they all grew back! Just kidding. My brother really does have only one arm but we’ve never prayed they’d grow back. (Unless prosthetics count.)

    The site does presuppose a number of things that leads to it’s question. It presupposes that all Christians are constantly praying for divine medical intervention. It also says that what we call miracles can be chalked up to coincidence. A Christian would simply argue that what you might call coincidence we Christians chalk up to the miraculous.

    Let me restate what I’m getting about your position to see if I’m understanding it properly. If morality is simply a evolving social dictate…
    -…slavery/sexism/child labor could all be morally acceptable at some time in the near future.
    -…the countries and cultures were those things continue to exist are morally acceptable.

    As to your response –

    – I agree what is morally acceptable has changed over time. But moral absolutes have not changed over time. It’s just that society, despite itself, occasionally gets it right.

    – I also agree we need to constantly step back and examine the validity of our interpretations. Especially if we happen to be considering starting up another Crusade or some other form of genocide.

    – I would say that Washington was not more immoral than Carter.

    -My purpose in pointing out that you haven’t lived up to your own moral code was to show that we are all flawed.

    Let me sum up what exactly I’m arguing for here.

    -I maintain that there are moral absolutes.
    -Human failure to live up to those absolutes is not evidence that those absolutes do not exist. (You have an personal absolute that you admit to on occasion failing to abide by)
    -I also believe that subjective social morals exist
    -The fact that social morals have changed through the years, and may continue to change, does not disprove the existence of moral absolutes.
    -The fact that good moral laws (your personal code included) have remained unchanged for thousands of years and across hundreds of countries and cultures is evidence of universal moral absolutes. Social morality is an inadequate explanation of this phenomena.

    Yeah, I think that’s it.

  252. empyrean says:

    Rodibi…,

    You said, “…it may have worked out in the end, but certaintly does NOT meet the definition of particle”.

    Excellent observation indeed. But what matters to me is that my faith worked for me perfectly well. I do not need any thing more now as a retired man. As long as you see that my faith worked for me, I am satisfied.

    You seem to contend that Islam has some thing different to tell about Jesus.

    Please tell me, would you rather believe several eye-witness accounts of an incident, or believe a report about that incident by some one who came hundreds of years later and who did not have the faintest idea of what happened then? Ofcourse, the choice is yours. You can choose to believe any thing. I would rather prefer an eye-witness report than a report which was made hundreds of years later by some one who knew nothing about it other than hearsay!

    Then you said. “Therfore the ability of prayers to allah.vishnu…etc should NEVER be answered if your faith is “true”.

    Why not? Each god, each faith has its respective power. They will be answered and they must be answered. But they all deal with eartly life only. What faith has clearly told you about what is your fate when you die? Is there any ASSURANCE any where?

    You did not answer my question about any other book which offers a filial relation to God. The New Testament is unique in that.

    I am only glad that I made you to give long answers!

    You said myth is universal. Myths only tell us that there is more to life than the physical. That there is a spiritual world which is a real world is the issue here. To me the spiritual world IS real.

    You said, “each holy book has some thing that is unique”. Absolutely true. You went on to say. “so by your logic, they must all be true”. Not necessarily. Uniqueness of the Bible is found in the Person of Christ. No other book has s person of that standing anywhere. A RISEN SAVIOR.

    You said, “This next pont made me laugh quite a bit actually”.

    I am so glad! LAUGHTER IS A GOOD MEDICINE! LOL!!

    But come to the point now. I AM indeed surprised that an itelligent man like you would take a sentence out of context and try to understand it! Did you not read the following sentence where I said that a space craft can not possibly tested in a TEST-TUBE but they need a different ENVIORNMENT for testing!! I hope you got the point now. I think you are being over-loaded with answers from all sides that it is rather difficult for you to keep pace with it. Is that true? Otherwise, why would you make drastic comment with out reading the whole paragraph? I wonder whether I should converse with you at all.

    All I said was that prayers need a different enviornment to function and therefore it can not be tested in a test-tube! What’s wrong with it?

    You said, ‘ANY TIME that prayers are “answered” with definite results, we shouold be able to measure those results”.

    Please send to me those who measure results of prayers and let them, if possible, prove to me that prayers did not produce any results in my life!!

    You said that never an amputated limb grew on any man. How true an observation. I do not know whether such a thing ever happened any where either.

    My answer is, why was that limb got amputated at all in the first place?

    At last you said that there are numerous examples of believers becoming atheists because their faith did not work for them.

    Who would doubt your statement. I know people who give up their faith myself. It is a true fact of life. I PITY THEM.

    BUT COULD YOU POSSIBILY TELL ME THAT PRAYER DID NOT WORK FOR ME? Please give me an yes/no answer here.

    (Oh, yes, in the beginning itself you agreed that it may have worked for me. That is JUST sufficinet for me. Somewhere someone agreed that my faith worked for me! Do I need a better compliment than that?)

    Thank you very much indeed.

  253. Rodibidably says:

    moot,

    I agree, that site is great. While they obviously have an agenda and they don’t pull any punches, I think the authors of the site have done a GREAT job of finding evidence from the bible and other sources to make their points.

    Actually I don’t think that it presupposed that christians are praying for divine medical intervention, it only presupposes prayer.
    I know that after my father left the catholic church and became born again, he would pray for such mundane things as finding his car keys. When he found the keys it was “because god helped him”, not because he kept looking.
    He also prayed that he and his second wife would have a child. When they did finally get pregnant it was a “miracle”. Perhaps if they had not had sex during this time, and not seen fertility specialists during this time it may have been miraculous, but they did everything they could medically to conceive, there was no logical reason for any rational person to see two people who were having unprotected sex and become pregnant as any other than the expected outcome.

    If a rational christian wants to say that praying can cause definitive, verifiable, miracles they should be willing to accept the results of numerous scientific evidence that disputes this, or they should be willing to be part of further testing if they beleive the testing methods were flawed in some way. Instead they fall back on the tired cliche “god’s will can not be tested”, which is a cop out.

    While I beleive that it is POSSIBLE for those things to be acceptable in the future, I doubt that we would “regress” in our morality. I think it’s more likely that some other accepted aspect of society today will be looked at as heinous in the future (perhaps there will be no more hatred of homosexuality or something, who knows).
    I think that in a culture where sexism is rampant (i.e. much of the middle east) while it is acceptable by THEIR standards, that since the majority of the rest of the world does not view these things as moral, it is up to us to pull those countries that are “behind” us into a more universal (I mean universal as in accepted world wide, not inherent in humans from god) moral code.

    If moral absolutes are constant over time, and in the future they determine that something that we do now (and consider to be benign) is immoral, does that mean that we should have also viewed it as immoral?

    “I also agree we need to constantly step back and examine the validity of our interpretations. Especially if we happen to be considering starting up another Crusade or some other form of genocide.”
    I think we can apply this to ALL aspects of life, not just the more obvious ones such as genocide and wars, but otherwise, I certainly applaud you for this statement.

    Personally I’m a fan of Carter (post presidency at least, he was kind of blah as president) but that’s neither here nor there.
    If you believe that slavery was immoral in Washington’s time, then why would Washington not be MORE immoral than Carter, since Carter never owned slaves?

    I also agree, we are ALL flawed; at our most base levels, we are designed for replication of our genes, and instinctively our natural reaction is to do what’s best for the survival of our gene pool.

    I do agree that morals standards shifting throughout history does not disprove moral absolutes, but there is also NO EVIDENCE for moral absolutes. I can’t DISPROVE vampires either, but that doesn’t mean that vampires exist.

    Extraordinary claims (the existence of god, the infallibility of the bible, moral absolutes, etc) require extraordinary evidence to support them.

  254. mootpoints says:

    I can’t really speak to the issue of prayer. I’m much too ignorant to make absolute claims about the way it works. I’m not conceding the point to be sure, I’m just not sure I agree with the points the site argues against.

    Back to ethics.

    -You admitted that it may be possible for culture to “regress” (the quotation marks were not lost on me) but doesn’t the concept of regression again imply an absolute ideal? How else do we know which way is progress or regression?

    -You said there is also a universal standard toward which we can pull the countries that lag “behind”. (Again with the quotation marks.) I’m sure you’ll correct me if I’m wrong but aren’t you then saying that it’s morality by majority? Essentially whatever the most people believe is the correct belief? Are you willing to adopt that as your official stance?

    -As to the discussion of degrees of morality in regard to Carter and Washington. This is more of an in-house discussion among believers but let me pull back the curtains for a second. Christians basically believe that everyone is immoral in regard to an absolute standard of right and wrong. In other words there are two categories – “good” for people that have never so much as jay-walked and “bad” for everyone else. So in this absolute sense you, me, Carter and Washington are all in same boat. Not because we’re all guilty of the same crimes but because we’re all guilty of crime.

    Now there certainly is a more subjective sense that one sin is worse than another. In this more nuanced list someone like Dahmer scores much higher than say, Martha Stewart. In an absolute sense both are guilty of lawbreaking and are thus immoral, in a subjective sense I’d much rather have Martha Stewart making me dinner.

    So in that absolute sense Washington and Carter fall into the same category, immoral. In that more nuanced sense…I don’t know. Washington was a great president who kept slaves. Carter was a terrible president who didn’t. Who did more damage and what scale do we rate this on? Again this discussion certainly lends itself to the concept of absolutes.

    In sum, moral absolutes exist…
    – the continued existence of essentially unchanged moral codes (again, yours included) for thousands of years and across hundreds of cultures, speak to this fact. Social ethics don’t account for this.
    – Even your appeals to progress vs. regression speak to a definite moral absolute. Social ethics don’t account for a absolute toward which we strive.
    – The ethical basis upon which to appeal to other countries and cultures and make them comply (a premise you supported in your previous post) speak to that fact. Social ethics don’t allow for us imposing our morals on other social groups.

    All in all I think there is quite a good bit of evidence for moral absolutes.

  255. Rodibidably says:

    empyrean,

    “Please tell me, would you rather believe several eye-witness accounts of an incident, or believe a report about that incident by some one who came hundreds of years later and who did not have the faintest idea of what happened then”
    DO you mean like the “several eye-witnesses” to the creation of the universe, and the flood, or the people who wrote about them thousands of years after the fact?

    As for prayer to “any” god working, I have a few points (I know, you’re shocked).
    If your version of god is correct, then mohammed was mistaken, correct? If mohammed was wrong, then allah is not god, correct? If allah is NOT god, then praying to him should accomplish nothing, it should be the same as praying to the easter bunny, or santa.
    If jesus is god, then vishnu is not a god, correct? If praying to somebody or something that is NOT a god works, then praying to YOUR god and having it work is NOT proof that your god is true.

    Pick either (or both) points, one shows that prayer working does not prove god exists, the other shows that prayer does not work just because somebody is certain that it does.

    Actually I did answer that, my answer was:
    “Your next point is about the uniqueness of the bible. Every “holy book” has something about it that is unique from other “holy scriptures”, so by your logic, they must all be true. However we know that they are vastly incompatible with each other, so they can not ALL be true.”
    The bibles uniqueness is, according to you, it’s “filial relationship with God”. But other holy books are unique in other perspectives, uniqueness does not prove validity.

    Also uncertainhope’s response to your previous post made some very good points, which concern this subject as well.

    Regarding myths, do you take the myth of psychic power at face value? Or does the myth of vampires teach us about the “truth” of spirituality?
    Most myths are stories passed down through generations and mangled (like a child’s game of telephone), they only teach us about the superstitions and ignorance of our ancestors.

    I apologize if I replied to quickly to the test tube comment, but the part that stuck me funniest on the test tube analogy was using space craft as the thing that science can not test inside a test tube. It stuck me as quite an odd choice.

    However the eventual point you made still has some serious flaws.
    “I have tested out prayer in my physical environment and I found that prayer wrought marvelous results which otherwise I would never have found in my life. Truly prayer was experimented on and found working effectively.”

    This is called anecdotal evidence, this is NOT a scientific test. A scientific test would involve writing up specific goals of the prayer before hand to check the results afterwards, it would involve a control group that did not use prayer and a comparison between the control group and the group using prayer, and it would involve being a blinded study, so those doing the comparisons would not know which group was praying/not praying.
    If I were to pray to Richard Dawkins (and NO, this in no way means I “worship” Dawkins, it’s to make a point that he is OBVIOUSLY not a god) that I will find my keys when i lose them, if i find them, this does NOT mean that Dawkins “helped” me find them, it means I kept looking for them.
    Now if I were to to STOP looking, and sit down on my couch and pray, and the keys suddenly dropped from the ceiling into my lap, this MIGHT show something, but even that drastic an event would not ALONE be proof that Dawkins was god.

    Nobody can prove a negative 100% (i.e. that god does not exist), and nobody can do scientific analysis on anecdotal evidence AFTER the fact. “Proving” that god did not help you is not possible, but so is proving that god did help you. The simpler solution is that you most likely worked your ass off in a rough environment, and managed a good life for yourself and your family.
    If you want to PROVE that prayer did it, I would suggest joining a scientific study where people can objectively examine the evidence and reach an unbiased conclusion.

    “why was that limb got amputated at all in the first place”
    I suppose your response is that it’s part of “god’s plan” for a child to have a leg blown off by a land mine.

    As I said before, Nobody can PROVE a negative, and nobody can disprove anecdotal evidence AFTER the fact, but if you were to join a scientific study you could “prove” to the world that prayer does work, assuming the results of this study were the exact opposite of every other scientific study done on prayer.

    I do agree, that for YOU, faith worked. You put yourself in a harsh environment and you seemingly thrived in it.
    Faith in god perhaps was a big reason that you were able to do so well. But faith working for you, does not prove that “your” god is the “true” god.
    Just as if a hindu family was put in the same situation, and had the same results, this would not prove that vishnu and ghanesh are true “gods”.

  256. Rodibidably says:

    moot,

    I meant regression in terms of our current moral standard.
    Right now we have values that a typical christian might think of as being lesser than we had 50 years ago (acceptance of homosexuality, etc). While I may personally disagree with this being a regression, if the majority of society went back to a more homophobic view point, then in the future, this period would be considered a regression by those people (while their view point would be the “regression” in my opinion).
    Progress and regression is based on whatever the society says it is.

    What I am saying is that SINCE we get our morality from society, that essentially, yes “majority rules”. While I may personally not agree with every specific value that society believes in, I am convinced that we get the basics of our moral code from society. Each individual person has a different interaction with society, so each specific person’s morality may differ in some areas, but the underlying core is based on the group we live in.
    If in 1000 years the majority of people of the earth “decided” that slavery is ok again, then according to their morality, it would be acceptable; while according to our morality it would be a regression.

    You make some solid points on the Washington/Cater question (although I disagree with Carter being horrible, I think he was just ineffective and most bland than horrible, I would personally put our current president on the horrible scale, i.e. the worst president in US history).
    The point that we disagree on though is your viewing Washington negatively due to the whole “slave owning thing”.
    While I abhor slavery, I feel that you can’t judge the people of past on the morality of today.
    When Washington was alive, according to the morality of his day, black people were less than human, they were beasts of burden. In his mind/hearts/soul/what-have-you he was not doing anything immoral, and according to his contemporaries he was doing nothing wrong.
    As a christian, part of your believes is to follow the 10 commandments. Is somebody who’s never heard of these commandments and does not obey some of the more innocuous ones (lord’s name in vain, honor parents, keep holy the sabbath, etc) and otherwise lives a PERFECTLY SIN FREE LIFE (this is only hypothetical mind you), guilty of sin in your view? Keep in mind that according to the moral code of their culture they have NEVER committed any immoral act.

    I am also glad that you did go into the idea of “levels” of sin, since that would have been my next point.

    As for your final points:
    – “essentially unchanged moral codes” – Like slavery, sexism, bigotry, racism, etc…
    – The “progress vs. regression” I was speaking of were with regards to the CURRENT standards of the time, not a timeless moral code.
    – The ethical code complying I was referring to was the moral code of the majority of the world at THIS time (i.e. sexism is bad) being used by those few who don’t currently accept the overall morality the rest of the world does. This speaks ONLY to current time, again not a timeless code.

  257. Kaysandee says:

    Typical and extreme conclusions Rodi. I love the way you put words in people’s mouths and even attribute thoughts and attitudes based on your own interpretations. It seems that you have ‘assumed’ and ‘mis-assumed’ most of what I have said – or not said. IMHO you are not truly seeking others’ opinions – just a platform for blabber – excuse me, super-experienced-scientific-psychoblabber. It appears the brainiacs have it and the poor clinging vine faithful are fools. Quite frankly, I would serve God even if there were no eternal heaven offered because of His goodness to me here. Maybe your vitriolic thoughts of the God of the Bible stem from fear – and maybe you scoff at those lowly who claim true joy because you really don’t have a very joyful existence. Tell me, in your great, scientific formulaic knowledge, was there ever a time when the earth was void?

  258. Rodibidably says:

    kaysandee,

    You STILL have yet to respond to even one question or comment to you. You made your initial statement, which I replied to questioning a few of the comments you made, and asking for further clarification.

    Yes I did quote Richard Dawkins, which apparently you did not seem to understand, but I also quote many various people in my blog, this does not mean that I believe they are divine, it just means that they put into words a point which I think is valid to the discussion at that time. I have quoted the bible as well, and as I’ve stated many times, I don’t believe in god, but I quoted it to make various points.

    As for assuming or mis-assuming what you’ve said, please feel free to correct me where I did not grasp your “point”.

    In your first post, you mentioned a number of variations of christianty, and questioned if they were all equally valid. I asked you why you ONLY included christian denomination,s and did not include islam, scientology, hindu, buddhism or any other religions but forms of your own.
    You have yet to respond to that question.

    In this first post you claimed that being a cynic or being skeptical is a hard life. As somebody who takes things on blind faith I hardly think you are qualified to make this assumption. I feel that skepticism is a very important part of life. Are you skeptical of the teachings of mohammed? How about l ron hubbard? How is that skepticism different than my skepticism of christianity?
    You also have yet to respond to my comments on this subject previously about being cynical of actions committed by humanity. Are you not cynical about the crusades, the inquisition, 9/11, the holocaust, raping little boys and hiding the priests, genocide, etc?

    You also claimed a religious life is “easy, peaceful, and full of daily joy”. Not according to mother theresa who doubted her faith often, and as a christian, you are likely to think of her a saintly figure and a good example of the faithful. Perhaps YOUR life is good, but your experiences are not indicative of all religious people like you seem to want to claim.
    You have yet to replied to my previous comments that “Sugar coating your view on life does not remove the past or present actions taken by christians in the “name of god”, it just makes you look disingenuous”.

    As to your question “What harm is there in living a nice Catholic, God fearing life, full of charity and morality, dying, and finding out there is no god?”:
    I replied: “If somebody HONESTLY does not believe in god, and “fakes” it by going through the motions, don’t you think that IF god does exist, “he’d know” it was all an act.”
    You have yet to reply to this. Are we sensing a trend yet?

    You final comments from the first post were more clearly opinion based on your personal experiences, and as such I did not respond directly to them. If you find that in your own personal life that having blind faith in a supernatural belief helps you, so be it. If you find that hopping on your left leg in a circle 3 times heps, great, go on and do it. This neither proves that it works for others, nor proves that your are putting your belief in anything real, but if it works for you, then I’m glad you found something to give your life meaning and purpose.

    I did make a few other points on your overall outlook, which, you guessed it, you failed to give ANY response to.

    And on to your second post…
    You start out asking sarcastically if I think Dawkins is the messiah, which is of course a Very christian attitude. I’m sure you know what this means, so think to yourself: WWJD

    Since your first statement was so utterly devoid of any intelligence I did not expect much from the rest of your post, and of course yo did not disappoint.

    You then attributed the quote of Dawkins to me personally (and while I agree with it, wasn’t the entire point of you mentioning I think Dawkins is god because I quoted him?

    Ah, and then you go right back to asking if Dawkins can “bring me to a place of peace”, which I think assumes I believe Dawkins to be divine again, which is of course ludacris for an atheist.

    “God allows things to happen, He doesn’t necessarily cause them to happen.” You mean like the biblical flood? Or allowing a child to be raped; if a person did that you’d consider them to be a vile despicable human being, but when “god” allows bad things to happen to innocent children, it’s part of a plan. Or if you put stock in what some nut-job like Pat Robertson then god caused the destruction of hurricane Katrina.

    Then you tell me to read the bible; I’ve read it twice actually, and like you professed in your first post, I have also read the end and I found it to be a sick twisted piece of fiction that idealizes bigotry, sexism, and many other horrendous acts.

    I’ve already broken down all of your “points” in my previous reply to this particular post of yours, so I won’t go through them all again other than to mention once again two small points.
    You have YET to respond to even one point made towards your comments.
    You have YET to respond to one question I asked of you.

    So we move on to your third post where you admit no interest in looking at facts, but only in looking at your own personal faith. Of course I questioned your lack of interest in facts, but you remained consistent.
    You have yet to respond to my questions.

    You asked “facts by whose authority–according to whose agenda?” to which I replied.
    You have yet to respond to that reply (oh the trend is continuing, at least you’re consistent).

    You somehow got the impression I claimed this is a competition, although how you came to this conclusion I don’t know, and of course you don’t specify. I made the point that I never claimed it was a competition, but of course (can you guess?)…
    You have yet to respond.

    You next comment is a logical fallacy, not that you’d seem to understand what this means. But essentially you stated you have faith, and you know this faith is true, because you believe it to be so. This is such an odd statement, and such a fallacious statement, I’m not even sure how to respond honestly.

    And then you end again with your description of being a believer as one of unimaginable joy. Since I had already responded to this type of comment before, I did not bother to yet again, but of course…
    You have yet to respond to my previous comments on this “point”.

    In my response to this overall post, I made number of points and asked a few questions about the overall gist of your post, and (do I even need to say it any more?).
    You have yet to respond to any of these questions or comments.

    You then claim in your newest post that I am the one being extreme, when I have responded to every comment you’ve made no matter how ignorant they have been, and you have repeatedly shown your disdain for a reasonable discourse.

    If you would like to see an intelligent back and forth from two sides who don’t agree but are civil and respond to each point and question the other side makes, check out the posts back and forth between myself and mootpoint. While moot and I do not see eye to eye on a number of things, I respect the points he (actually I guess I’m assuming he, I’m not sure now if moot has given gender) has made, I have learned much from moot’s replies about his position and beliefs, and I think he has come to understand a good deal more about my side as well. We have discussed many topics over the course of a month or more of back and forth, and while each back and forth has questioned or commented on the others’ positions, we have managed to remain civil due to both abiding by general rules of debate and discussion. I’d say that moot is somebody that you could learn a GREAT deal from, and as a bonus, moot’s a believer too, so perhaps you’ll actually be willing to listen and respond to actual points he makes to you.

    Please tell me where I have put words in your mouth. I have not needed to, you’ve done a much better job of showing your ignorance than I could ever HOPE to.

    I am seeking opinions of rational intelligent people who are willing to listen to other ideas and defend their position using rational reasonable discourse. The majority of posts on here have been of that type, but there have been a few outliers like yourself where no amount of discussion could ever get you to see another point of view.

    I never claimed the faithful are fools, in fact some of the most intelligent posts have been from believers.

    As for me not having joy, that’s irrelevant, but since you brought it up… I have a loving wife who I care for very much. I found a career that I am very good at and that I enjoy a great deal… I have a great dog (a tad small for my tastes, but she’s a great dog), who’s an absolute joy to play with. My wife’s family is wonderful and I love my nephews more than I thought possible. And most importantly, in the next few years I expect my wife and I will have our first child.
    I’d say I have a VERY joyful life, and I would not trade it for anything.

    Just because YOU have a need for “god” in your life, does not mean that others are not perfectly happy without that type of superstition.

    As for your final sarcastic comment/question, “in your great, scientific formulaic knowledge, was there ever a time when the earth was void”, even though YOU refuse to acknowledge questions and comments from others, I will answer you.
    Whether one believes in a 14.7 billion year old universe, or the myth of a 6,500 year old creation, one should believe that there was a time the planet was void. For a young earth creationist, that void lasted for a few days, for somebody woh looks at the science, that void lasted for millions upon millions of years. So in a word, yes, and so do you…

  259. empyrean says:

    Rodibi…,

    When you said that Islam had a different view about Jesus, I said I would rather believe eye-witness reports than one said hundreds of years later as hearsay report.

    Sorry, your comment to my statement is unwarranted!

    I am not shocked to see that prayers to other gods do have its effect on believers.

    I told you clearly that all religions have a function and it is like food to a starving person. Spiritually hungry people are looking for some thing to satisfy them and each one has found some satisfaction in each thing. They can not believe elsewhere sumptous food is freely available! Hence they stick on to their faith.

    Vishnu is their god, allah is some one else’s god. As I said in my previus post, each functions differently, each offers different things to devotees and each has its respective power. All these religions only show that there is a God who has given a hunger in man’s hearts for Him. How else could you explain religions of the world?

    But No RELIGIOUS BOOK EVER GIVES ANY ASSURANCE TO BELIEVERS ABOUT THEIR LIFE AFTER DEATH. WHILE THE NT CLEARLY DOES.

    I am repeating my challenge to you. Show me any other book than the NT which gives any ASSURANCE about life after death to believers!! I had asked you in the previous post. I am repeating my qn. here as well.

    You said, “prayer working does not prove God exists”.

    What you say is right. Prayer working does not prove that God exists. But it is evidence which can not be simply ignored.

    I repeat my qn. about filial relationship with God.

    Show me one book which teaches you to enter into a filial relationship the creator God. This is the second question which you did not answer.

    You said, “This is called anecdotal evidence”. What did you say? Why is it anecdotal? Did you read about my experience in prayer where I sustained a miracle for sixty days continually when I bought a piece of land and constructed a concrete building as direct, tangible, undeniable answer to prayer? Still you call it anecdotal?

    I spent over six months for this project spending eight to ten hours in my prayer-closet, planning, praying, inter-acting with God. I FIXED MY TARGET BEFORE I started and that was a piece of land and 700sft. of concrete building, building to be finished in thirty days. It happened exactly as I planned and prayed! Please read my post ‘God who fed Elijah by ravens is alive and active even today’. If you call it anecdotal, sorry, I have no further talk with you.

    You said, “Just as if a hindu family was put in the same situation, and had the same results, this would not prove that vishnu and ghanesh are true “gods”.

    I say, NO BODY can produce similar results as I have produced trusting in the God of the Bible. Show me one person who has done a similar thing for a whole lifetime trusting in any other god or trusting in any other system of belief other than the God of the Bible. This is my third challenge to you in this post.(I have given my story in the link in my first post. Please reply me only after reading it.)

    Please give me ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers to my three questions which I repeat for you.

    Qn.1. Is there one book which clearly talks about what is going to be the future of the one who believes in it and gives an assurance about heaven, other than the NT?

    Qn.2. Is there one book other than the NT which can guide you to enter into a filial relationship with God your creator?

    Qn.3. Can you produce ONE MAN who produced a lifetime results in prayer trusting in some god, some philosophy other than the God of the Bible, as I have done for a lifetime trusting in the God of the Bible?

    TO ME GOD IS REAL. If He was not, I would not have been probably alive today, as I subsisted my whole life simply by prayer. I GIVE HIM ALL GLORY. Amen.

    Any body out there to challenge it?

  260. mootpoints says:

    I do have what I think is an honest question.

    How does the atheist explain belief in God?

    If you contend that we’re continuing to evolve biologically and philosophically then wouldn’t religion be a byproduct of evolution? And if it’s a deviation contrary to social progress, then how does is it accounted for in naturalistic terms? It seems like atheism must somewhere exaplain, expect and even allow for belief, right?

    Anyway…back to responding.

    -I’m willing to accept your explanation of regression and progression as referring to current societal norms. However it still seems to belie a sense of absolutism. How could we say something is progress even in terms of social norms, when there is no ideal? Reverting to slavery, sexism and racism is no better or worse than not. And thus there is no particular reason to work toward one versus the other.

    -So, essentially majority rules… then that brings up a question for me. Given that the majority of people live in Africa and Asia shouldn’t we be looking to them for our morality? I think the majority rules concept brings up a number of problems but I’d be really curious as to your answer to the one I present above.

    -On the Washington/Carter issue. I did a tiny bit of research which I probably should have done a few posts back and discovered that historical consensus is that Washington changed his views on slavery later in life. In fact the majority public opinion at that time was by no means in favor of slavery. Vermont abolished slavery in 1777.

    Hypothetically I still think that had he not changed his position we could hold slavery against him. There were plenty of tools to develop a belief that opposed slavery. Again many people in Washington’s time in fact did develop an aversion to slavery.

    However this is more of an example of the absolute vs. social morality debate we’ve been having. I’d fully expect you not to hold Washington accountable because of your beliefs.

    -The Ten Commandments. No modern Christian follows the Ten Commandments nor should they. I certainly don’t. I’d love to explain but it’s a sidebar from the issue that we’re currently discussing. If you’re interested let me know I’ll try to give a brief summary of what I mean.

    -However your hypothetical is still an issue. What if some native of Toga, Toga who’s never been exposed to God or a bible-thumping society, still manages to live a good life?

    The Bible actually addresses this issue. If you’ll bear with me while I quote a bible verse for you.

    “Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they should that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts either accusing or defending them.” – Romans 2:14, 15

    I think that’s pretty self-explanatory. I realize it’s the Bible but I just wanted to show you how my world-view handles that dilemma.

    -“Essentially unchanged moral codes” I know you know what I’m talking about. We’ve already agreed that humans have an incredible propensity for being morally flawed and you’ve stated that failure to live up to moral standards does not disprove absolutes.

    My point is that moral ideals have remained unchanged through thousands of years and hundreds of cultures. Societal ethics doesn’t (and can’t) account for that.

  261. mootpoints says:

    Rodibidably,

    I would almost like to respond to some of the other posts for you. Even as a believer, I have problems with their answers. I’m pretty sure they’re not doing their belief system any favors with their chosen manner of defense. Judging by their responses I’m not at all sure they’re even interested in a discussion. Good luck all the same in developing your responses.

  262. Pingback: An Open Question for All Atheists. « Moot The Point

  263. Rodibidably says:

    empyrean,

    Your point you tried to make is that the bible is more valid because it is an eye-witness account. I replied by pointing out that the SAME BOOK also talks about other events which NO HUMAN WITNESSED, even according to the book itself.
    If you’re going to use something being an eye-witness account as a plus for your “holy book” over others, then you must be willing to admit that the points where your book fails to live up to your own standards are at least a bit dubious.

    I do want to clarify your view on prayer to “other” gods, because perhaps I don’t get it fully.
    If a muslim prays to allah, and that prayer has an effect on the person, in YOUR view, does this mean that allah answered their prayer?
    Same question if a Hindu person prays to Vishnu?
    How about if I pray to a toaster, and from my belief in the toaster has a tangible effect on my life in my view. Does this mean that a TOASTER is god?
    Or are you saying that “your” gos listens to all prayers, no matter which “god” you pray to and is equally likely to answer prayers for a hindu person as a scientologist or a muslim or a christian or a toaster worshiper.

    I know this may sound a bit like I am making light, but I am actually curious what your belief is, and this example (absurd though it may be) will help me get a better understanding.

    As for how I explain the religions of the world, there are a number of theories, but there are two that I personally think seem very likely.
    First off is the theory which Daniel Dennett puts forth in his excellent book, Breaking The Spell: Religion As a Natural Phenomena. In his book he puts forth the idea that religion is a by product of evolution. In an evolutionary sense, religion type of experiences helped create a stronger group bond, which enabled early man to work together more effectively, and thus increased our chances for survival. His book goes into much further detail than I could ever give it justice here, and I highly recommend checking it out and seeing what he has to say on the subject.
    Another theory that I believe is ALSO correct, which works in conjunction with Dennett’s, is that while the religious experience if a by product of evolution, “god” or “gods” are remnant of early man’s attempts to explain the world around them. Thousands of years ago early man gave sacrifices to appease the gods so that it would rain, or so that their harvest would go well or their hunt would be fruitful. Eventually as we realized as a species that “god” did not intervene on such trivial matters,and that there were certain laws of the universe that allowed the sun to rise in the morning and set in the evening, god’s role diminished slightly over time, until we got to the point where we are now, with our current views on “god”.

    The Koran gives VERY CLEAR assurances as to what happens after death, the whole 72 virgins for maryters thing, you know… To say the bible is the only book or religion that does is patently false.
    Does this satisfy your “challenge”?

    I’d like to repeat my point about the difference between anecdotal evidence versus scientifically controlled studies.
    Anecdotal evidence is a person’s individual experience looked at after the fact and that person making a causal relationship between multiple events. For example, if I pray that I find my keys, and keep looking for them and find them, I could say that “god” helped me find my keys. This does not mean that he did, it just means that two events happened in some order. How likely is it that I’d NEVER find my keys, or how likely is it that I’d pray to find my keys AFTER I had already found them. The logical assumption when a person loses their keys is that eventually they will find them.
    A Scientifically controlled study takes multiple groups of people in controlled situations, and eliminated all differences possible between those two groups, except the specific thing bing tested. In the keys analogy, let’s say you have two groups of 10 people each, and one group prays before looking for their keys and the other group does not. Somebody can time the two groups to see ho long on average does the “prayer group” take vs the non praying group, and see if there is any statistically significant difference between them.

    There have been MANY scientific studies on the effectiveness of prayer, and EVERY SINGLE ONE has shown no effect at all.

    While I have no doubt at all that you believe with every fiber of your being that god helped you in your life, this is anecdotal evidence, there is no scientific way to check AFTER the fact and confirm that things would have been different without prayer.
    I’m all for people praying if they feel it helps them, however I think that prayer alone is not going to accomplish anything. I’m sure you worked your ass off to get things done. If you had prayed and sat around drinking margaritas, your prayers would most certainly NOT have been answered.

    As for your question on the filial relationship with god, I have answered this, just not in the way you wanted/expected/etc…
    As I stated previously, every holy book has something unique about it. These uniquenesses do not validate these mutually exclusive beliefs. In your opinion, one of the unique characteristics of the bible, is the “filial relationship” with god. This might have more meaning to somebody if they had NO understanding of any religion at all and said, I’ll choose the one with the “filial relationship” to god, and you showed them the bible. But unless that is the SPECIFIC thing that you’re looking for in your religion, it’s jut another unique thing about one specific religion, which is not inherently better than the unique nature of any other religion.

    AS I stated above, this is EXACTLY THE DEFINITION of anecdotal.
    I’m NOT arguing that it’s not true.
    I’m NOT arguing that prayer did not “work” for you.
    I’m NOT even arguing that your god is false.
    I’m just saying that showing the after affects of your life with no previous controlled testing, is not proof of something.

    For more information on Anecdotal evidence, check out the wikipedia page on the subject.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anecdotal_evidence

    Once again, to clarify, saying that something is anecdotal is NOT saying something negative (or positive), it is ONLY saying that this piece of information is not scientific evidence and can not be used to prove or disprove anything.

    I hate to harp on this point, but you seem to be taking this as an attack, and it’s not. I am only stating that as thrilling as your life seems to have been, it’s not a valid basis for a scientific finding.

    I have read your post, and while I personally do not know of anybody who has done the same thing as you, there any countless examples of people living their lives by their faith and relying on their god to help them (see the quakers, shakers, buddhist monks, the dahli lhama, mother theresa, etc).
    While their situations may not be exact correlatives to your own, even your own does not prove anything other than you worked very hard to accomplish a great deal.

    I also have no doubt at all that “TO YOU, GOD IS REAL”, just as I have no doubt that all 19 of the 9/11 hijackers were convinced 100% that what they were doing was “god’s will”.
    Conviction can be a very powerful force for great works and horrendous acts alike.

    I hope I have answered your questions to your satisfaction, and I look forward to your response.

  264. Rodibidably says:

    moot,

    Your first question is a very good one, and actually good timing, since I the previous person asked the same thing, so I can just copy from there:
    As for how I explain the religions of the world, there are a number of theories, but there are two that I personally think seem very likely.
    First off is the theory which Daniel Dennett puts forth in his excellent book, Breaking The Spell: Religion As a Natural Phenomena. In his book he puts forth the idea that religion is a by product of evolution. In an evolutionary sense, religion type of experiences helped create a stronger group bond, which enabled early man to work together more effectively, and thus increased our chances for survival. His book goes into much further detail than I could ever give it justice here, and I highly recommend checking it out and seeing what he has to say on the subject.
    Another theory that I believe is ALSO correct, which works in conjunction with Dennett’s, is that while the religious experience if a by product of evolution, “god” or “gods” are remnant of early man’s attempts to explain the world around them. Thousands of years ago early man gave sacrifices to appease the gods so that it would rain, or so that their harvest would go well or their hunt would be fruitful. Eventually as we realized as a species that “god” did not intervene on such trivial matters,and that there were certain laws of the universe that allowed the sun to rise in the morning and set in the evening, god’s role diminished slightly over time, until we got to the point where we are now, with our current views on “god”.

    Actually by Dennett’s theory (and he is not the only one with this idea, his is just one of the better books, and more recent books, on this theory, so it’s the one I would recommend people to check out for a better understanding) religious experience was a very valuable tool in our evolution, and we may not have completely “outgrown” it 100% yet. However even if one assumes we’ve outgrown the need for it completely, it could still be considered a left over similar to an appendix, or tonsils, etc, where it’s not always harmful (unless it bursts which I suppose the religious equivalent would be causing irrational decision making based on blind faith).

    You are 100% correct, atheism does EXPECT, and even allow for belief (see Dennett’s book for more).

    I personally have absolutely no problem with somebody going to church, and praying, etc…
    Where I have a problem is when religious people try to enforce their own beliefs on other people (president bush creating a ban on stem cell research which could save countless lives or states not allowing gay marriage are two simple examples), or when people use their faith as justification for their actions (look no further than 9/11 for a GREAT example of that).
    If you want to pray to allah 6 times a day, or wear a cross around your neck and pretend to “eat god” on Sunday’s, or not eat a cow because it’s sacred, go for it.
    If you want to bomb an abortion clinic or protest a soldier’s funeral screaming “god hates fags”, then I have a MAJOR problem with your religion and your faith.

    The ideals are created by society. Think of women’s fashion as an example. Stylish women in the 1700’s showed very little skin, wore big puffy dresses. In Marylin Monroe’s day, a woman who was a bit curvy was considered to be a knockout. Today’s “idealized” women makes Marylin Monroe look overweight, and wears less clothes on her body than a woman from the 1700’s worse on her hands. None of these styles is inherently better than another, but they are changing through time. Perhaps in the future women who are a tad bigger (like Monroe) will be the ideal again, and from today’s standards that would be considered a regression.
    Morality is very much like this in a typical atheist’s view (or at least my view, which I feel is fairly typical of a large portion of atheists).

    Your next point is quite a good one, and I’m not sure I have a GREAT answer, but I do have AN answer, which I hope does your question/comment justice.
    From the view of the US, China is “behind” on moral issues. From the view of China, the US is not “behind”, but we have “gone too far”. From a world view perspective, there is a middle ground which would be the “ideal morality”. Perhaps we need to get over our sexual issues and become more accepting of homosexuality, and China needs to grant more rights to the individual, etc…
    By reaching this “happy medium” the world would come to a global consensus.
    I’m not sure if this is exactly the answer you were looking for, but it’s at least my attempt at a “quick and dirty” explanation off the top of my head (and I don’t even go to a Dawkins, Harris, Dennett, or Hitchens book or quote for that one).

    On the Washington thing, I knew that Jefferson freed his slaves on his death (which is only appropriate since he was screwing at least one of them), but I did not know the same was true of Washington. Perhaps I should have gone with a different person as an example, but he’s the first “moral slave owner” that comes to mind for me typically.

    “No modern Christian follows the Ten Commandments nor should they”.
    If only this were true. Mike Huccabee, who was a legitimate candidate for president of the US wants to change the constitution to reflect the 10 commandments. At least once every 3 years or so somebody in the US tries to sue to get the 10 commandments displayed in a public building (courthouse, state government building, etc). I know that MANY people feel that jesus overrides the 10 commandments and that by following jesus’s example the 10 commandments are no longer needed, but unfortunately, there are a LARGE number of people in this country who still believe the 10 commandments are the ultimate rules to live our lives by (the founder of Chick-fil-A has all of his stores closed on Sundays in honor of the sabbath).
    Perhaps this was not the greatest example to a seemingly rational christian like yourself, I guess I should have saved it for kaysandee, but I thank you very much for answering.

    As I read that verse it says essentially if I am wrong and the god of the bible is true, that I as an atheist, as long as I live a good life and live by the “rules” that even I will go to heaven. The problem is that a LARGE GROUP of christians (estimated at 80 million in the US) believe that unless you believe and follow every word of the bible (according to their own interpretation of it mind you) that you’ll burn in hell for all eternity.
    I still think you’re wrong on the whole “god existing thing” 😉 but I must say, I like “your god” much better than theirs.

    As for the “essentially unchanged moral codes”, I personally don’t think that morality is unchanged, but for the sake of argument, let’s say that something like “don’t kill other humans” is a universal unchanging moral code, even that could be explained evolutionarily.
    Those people who did kill others, were more likely to receive retaliation, and thus less likely to breed and pass on their genes to the next generation. Those who lived in harmony with other people were more likely to cooperate, and thus more likely to reproduce. Give that process a few million years, and the “aggression” or “desire to kill” would have dwindles through less numbers of those people having offspring who carry this trait.
    Perhaps this could explain an unchanging moral code, if it does truly exist, without the need for the supernatural aspects of religion.

    From your second post, I’d love to hear a rational christian’s view on some of the more extreme religious types (like kaysandee), so if you’re up for it, I’d really welcome your views/comments on anybody else who has joined out discussion.
    Also, I o plan on checking our your new post on your blog and responding, but I need a break for a bit (these last two replies have been long), so it’ll be later tonight, or tomorrow morning…

  265. mootpoints says:

    I managed to read about four chapters of Hitchen’s “god is not Great” I thought it was very compelling. And, with the exception of the basic premise, I agree with almost everything. I’m perfectly willing to concede that most theists are ridiculous at best and homicidal at worst, but then that sums up humanity fairly well too.

    -Dennet’s proposition is an interesting one. I’m fascinated that he argues that religion would create stronger group bond. He’s obviously never been to a church board meeting.

    Let me refine my question slightly. Is it possible to explain belief in philosophical terms rather than evolutionary ones? I know I’m asking you to bend over backward here but I’m just interested in exploring these lines of reasoning.

    Using idealized feminine beauty as an example of a changing social ideal is good but but I think it plays to my point a little better. Using the your analogy of women’s changing standards of beauty, beautiful women still come in the same basic package. The trends are slight variations on an absolute. (showing some skin, slightly plumb, skinny, blonde, etc.) But the truth remains that they’re all still reflective of an absolute. In other words, Mona Lisa and Marilyn Monroe have more in common than they don’t.

    The same is truth with most moral standards. There are slight variations that social customs bring to bear on them but the ideals come in the same basic package. (Be nice to people, don’t kill people, treat your family well, be brave, etc.)

    I would like to explore the concept of which majority defines our standards a little more. In your response were still left to essentially pick and choose what we like regardless of the majority view. Take homosexuality for example. The majority of the global community doesn’t like it but that hasn’t stopped people from saying that protecting homosexual rights is an ideal. China has huge human rights problems, but why doesn’t that illustrate the moral ideal (despite our aversion to it) if it reflects the majority opinion? Finding the “happy medium” doesn’t seem compatible with your views on letting the majority dictate morality.

    Despite Washington’s stance on slavery – I still understand your point. The issue is, “can I consider someone immoral by today’s standards who was moral by the historical standards of their day?”. My ultimate point is still the same. History or not we all have the tools with which to make good moral judgments about the common practices of the day.

    Generally if we consider someone evil today they were evil by the standards of their day as well. However the opposite is not always true. There were men who were judged evil by the standards of their day that have proved themselves to be moral by absolute standards and thus are regarded as heroes today. I hesitate to give the example because I’m sure we could find flaws, but Lincoln was widely hated by many of his fellow Americans.)

    -The Ten Commandments thing. Mike Huckabee, despite what he says, doesn’t keep the ten commandments and really doesn’t want anyone else to either. Those that sue the government for the right to display them in courthouses don’t follow them either, nor would they want to be held to the commandments exacting standards.

    It’s not that I’m for adultery, covetousness or worshiping other Gods. It has to do with little commandment number four. The one about the Sabbath.

    Even a cursory examination of the subject tells us that the Sabbath was strictly defined as sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. For that 24 hour period Hebrew people were not supposed to do a wide variety of activities. Things like preparing or cooking food are out, that includes warming something up. Carrying an object outside of your house is out. (Better store the golf clubs outside, except that traveling more than two miles is out.) Requiring someone else to work is out, so don’t go out to eat. Lighting a fire is out, so, by definition, starting a care with an internal combustion engine is out. Changing the thermostat is also prohibited. This list could go on ad nauseum but I think it’s safe to say not a single “ten commandments” touting person would be willing to adhere to even part of that list.

    I’ve long maintained that it’s not scripture keeping but scripture ignorance that has resulted in the vast majority of ridiculousness that masquerades as “faith”. It’s not right to judge the scriptures themselves on people are seem hardly willing to take even a few moments to learn about what they so vehemently claim to believe.

    -As to the Romans passage. I think that believing in God would be an important part of following a code of conduct, even an internal one. We’re in the process of arguing if you can come to a moral standard outside of absolutes and this outside of God, so the jury’s still out on this one.

    I’m going out on a limb here but I find it difficult to believe that God would hold someone to a standard of which they were innocently ignorant. I can’t imagine there’s lots of people out there who, despite their lack of exposure to Scripture, haven’t violated their own standards of ethics, but I could be wrong. In other words – I still think we could use some good missionaries.

    -Let’s examine your genetic explanation of morality. You assumed people that kill were “more likely to receive retaliation”. Why would that be true? It would if people have an innate sense of justice. Where would that sense of justice (or right and wrong) have come from?

    In any regard, I would think it more likely that those with an inclination to kill have passed on their genes. We have plenty homicidal instincts left in the human race as evidence of that.

    This genetic line of reasoning brings up another totally unrelated question. Wouldn’t homosexuality, if it were indeed genetic, have removed itself from the gene pool eons ago? And if early homosexuals simply suppressed the desire be homosexual, what compelled them to do so? And how does homosexuality fit in with evolution and its instinct to propagate the species? We’re not talking about male animals that act out with other male animals. We’re talking about humans that claim to be only sexually attracted by the same gender. How, in the world did that particular genetic strain manage to escape the relentless onslaught of evolution? And what good is it today in a naturalistic world-view?

    Anyway…

    I will respond to a couple of he points from the other posts. But I don’t imagine we’ll be seeing too much more of some of them. Some world-views have no patience for people who aren’t easily dominated.

  266. mootpoints says:

    Hi Empyrean,

    You leveled a challenge at the end of your post. It sounds like an open invitation so I thought I’d take you up on it.

    Question One –

    Yes, there are quite a number of religious books that give assurance to their follower concerning the afterlife. I could give you quotes from the Koran, The Doctrine and Covenants, the Baha’i faith to name a few.

    Your challenge leads me to believe that you are either unaware of the many volumes of religious work and their content or I am misunderstanding your challenge. Regardless, the New Testament is by no means unique on this front.

    Question Two –

    I’m not sure about other religions and their “filial” descriptions of God and man. Even if the New Testament is unique in this (and I’m not sure it is) that fact in itself in no way proves the existence of God or even a firm basis on which to believe Christianity is the right religion.

    Question Three –

    I’m sure you’ve accomplished great things. But the concepts of a “lifetime of results” is pretty subjective. Then to go on to say that no other man accomplished as much outside Christianity starts to sound a little arrogant.

    Gandhi accomplished quite little bit in his lifetime. There are lot of examples of non-Christian that have great accomplishments as there are examples of Christian who hardly did anything.

    Ultimately your conclusion reveals a sort of relativistic approach to Christianity. You say “To me God is real.” I’m glad for that fact but that doesn’t prove He’s real to the rest of the world.

  267. Rodibidably says:

    moot,

    I’m glad you have begun to read Hitchen’s book and are enjoying it.
    He also has another EXCELLENT book on mother theresa which I am going ot start reading shortly (after I finish the book I’m into now) that is supposed to be eye-opening as to her motives and actions that the general public are ignorant of (including conversations with other nuns from her group she worked directly with that were horrified by her actions).

    As for Dennett’s idea, if you think about it, it’s actually really makes sense. If you tell me to help another person, I may or may not do it depending on the amount of effort involved, etc. If you tell me that “god” wants me to do something, and I believe you, I’m almost certainly going ot do it, even if the direct harm to myself outweighs any potential benefit.

    Religion in philosophical terms, hmm. I concider myself more of a scientific mind set than a philosofical one, but I’m up for giving it a try.
    However, I’d like to start this off with a brief potential “history” of how the current religions formed (some of these ideas are borrowed from others like ennett, and some are my own “best guesses” at how it may have played itself out).
    I am of course starting with the assumption that religion began in an evoutionary manner in order to help promote the group dynamic (ala Daniel Dennett).
    I am also going with the idea that the supernatural aspects of religion began as man tried to understand the world around them (the other main point i made in my previous post on the origins of faith/religion).
    When you combine the two ideas, then “god” has needs (worship me) and desires (follow these rules) and those early religions involved a give and take (sacrifice a goat for me, and I’ll let it rain for you) then you have all of the essential ingredients for today’s religions in a much more primitive form.
    Throughout countless centuries/milliniums these were refined further and further until they became a kind of second nature.
    As this happened, those in charge of the religious aspects of life were being pushed out of the way slowly, and as people will often to, they fought to retain control. First the most educated of these early “priests” would write down specific rules, and since at the time most people were illiterate the only way for them to follow the rules set forth by “god” was to listen to the priests of the time.
    As these priests gain more and more control, they centralized this power, creating a heigerarchy, pushing the common people lower and lower on the scale.
    To prevent “revolt” from this lower class the religions came up wit hthe general idea that is easily explained as “the meak shall inherit the earth”, or to put another way “your treasure is not here on earth, but in heaven”.
    This enabled the priests to control the masses since the general public “knew” that by towing the line, they would be rewarded when they die. Some eastern religions turned this idea into reincarnation into a crappy being for evil people, or reincarnating into a ruling class person if you lived a good life. Whether Eastern or Western ideas, the concept is “your life may suck now, but if you’re good, you’ll be rewarded when you die.
    A few hundred or thousand more years of revision and refining, and we have the religions we know today.

    As for thge absolut female beauty, what would you say it is? Tall and thin, short and plumper? Show no skin, or show a great deal? Exotic beaty or “girl next door”?
    There is no ideal of feminine beauty across different times, it ebbs and flows with societal standards, just as morality ebbs and flows.
    As I mentioned previously, the idea of SOME basic moral concepts COULD in fact be evolutionary, but the way those concepts are viewed changes with time.

    I did not mean to imprly we pick and choose our morality like a buffet, but if you look at china vs the US as an example, perhaps I can better explain myself this time.
    In the US, we look at China as being “backwards” or “behind” on a number of moral issues.
    In China, they do not look at the US as “behind”, but as having “gone too far”.
    In this sense, there is a “moral medium” between the two countries at some point. Because we’re intensly vain ,and we think we’re always right, the US tries to dictate to other countries to follow “our ideals” and we rarely sucumb to the views of other countries (see Iraq and the US/UN debate as an example).
    The opposite is not completely true of China though, the Chinese do not want ot force us to come “down” to their level morally, they just want us to not attempt to enforce our morals on them.
    So in this example, you have one side attempting ot pull the other towards it, while the other side does not pull back, but only tries not to be pulled. Give this enough time, and eventually China is likely to budge (well that or finally get pissed off and hit back economically).
    So this fits with the idea the in each society the majority DOES dictate their own morality, but here we ALSO have one society trying ot enforce their morality on another society.

    I think we understand eachother on the Washington thing, but perhaps another way to approach the idea I was trying to convey would be morality as medical treatment.
    Today, we look at the idea of using leaches on somebody, or drilling a hole in somebody’s head as barbaric (for the morality idea, insert sexism, or slavery here).
    A few hundred years ago, before medical standards were as strong (or moral standards were as strong) this was common practice.
    In this way we can see a clear migration of medical standards (morality) over time.
    This also would explain the difference in morality in one time, but across societies (i.e. not many MRI or CAT scan machines in Africa).
    While I admit this is not a perfect analogy, perhaps it gives a different angle than the Washington one.
    Although, perhaps the Washington one was good enough, since you seem to have understood what I was trying to say.

    *** I’m heading out of the office now, I’ll finish responding to the rest of your post from homer later on this evening…

  268. mootpoints says:

    kaysandee,

    Hi you seem like a nice person but your tone down-shifted dramatically when you were challenged to define and defend your beliefs.

    I’ve often been baffled at self-described believers who find themselves both confused and outraged at non-belief. You labeled Rodibidly a cynic and a skeptic and then seemed offended by his cynicism and skepticism.

    Arguments concerning rationality and logic are not won through condescension or utopian descriptions of catholic bliss.

    It’s undermining to your claim of “the breathing in of his Spirit” when your “hourly peace” and “sheer joy” can’t handle a few lobs from an atheist whose willing to have a conversation with you.

  269. Rodibidably says:

    moot,

    Ok, part two of my reply to your last long post, that I did not complete while I was at work…

    You state that if we consider somebody evil today, that we would always have considered them to be evil. I (and I assume you as well) would consider somebody who was willing to sacrifice their own child to be an evil bastard. In many cultures throughout history children are sacrificed to appease the gods, and in the three abrahamic religions, the founder of the religion was willing, and ABOUT to according to the “holy books” and this is actually looked at as being a virtue (blind faith).
    If a scientologist, buddhist, hindu, etc (or most likely, even a christian) today told you that “god” told them to sacrifice their child, and they were planning to do it tonight, you’d ALMOST CERTAINLY call the police. However the founder of the jewish faith (and therefor christianity and islam) did this, and is looked upon as being a great man.

    Mike Huckabee may or may not “truly” want to change the constitution. The fact remains that claiming he did as part of his campaign was an effort to get to the republican “base” who WOULD like to see the separation of church and state broken away,and feel that inserting the 10 commandments into our political life is a good thing.
    I agree with that you that typical christian in the US has very little understanding of what the old testament actually says, and what the rules of the old testament are, but they do CLAIM to want the US to follow the 10 commandments, whether they understand what that entails or not.
    I’d reckon than every human who has lived past young childhood has “had another god before the jewish/christian god”, taken the lord’s name in vain, dishonored at least one of their parents, lied, and coveted people and possessions. The vast majority have also stolen something at least once. And you make some great points on the whole sabbath thing. So that’s 8 out of 10 for the overwhelming majority of humanity. The last 2, killing and adultery, are a bit more rare, although the rate of adultery is ridiculously high in many countries, including the US. But we have the murder thing, we generally prefer to lets our government do that for us (execution), or if we REALLY disagree with somebody (bombing abortion clinics), or agree with Pat Robertson’s suggestion that we assassinate a leader of another country (my, how “christian” of him).

    While I agree with a number of these ideas, some of them are ludacris (TRY to stop yourself form coveting something, or don’t do anything for 24 hours a week).
    The problem is not really with the rules themselves per say (although I do have issues with a few of them) the bigger issue is that those who CLAIM to support them as the best example of morality, REALLY want OTHERS to follow them under circumstances that THEY deem fit, and want the freedom to break them when they feel it’s necessary.

    You are VERY RIGHT about the ignorance of scripture being a massive issue with “bible believing christians”. I am an atheist, and I probably know the bible better than 90% of people in the US (and possibly the world) who consider themselves to be a “christian”. The TYPICAL christian knows what they hear in their church on Sundays, knows the 10 commandments (or at least a BRIEF IDEA of what they are), the golden rule, and the story of jesus’s birth, and crusifiction.
    VERY FEW of them have read much of the old testament, and really don’t have the slightest clue what it says or means.
    And of those who have read it, a LARGE percentage of them read it as part of a bible study group, where their priest/pastor/leader told them how to interpret it to meet their own preconceived belief system.

    For the Romans’ passage, you think that believing in god would be an “important part of following a code of conduct”.
    Would you say that it is necessary, or just helpful? Can an atheist go to heaven even if they KNOWINGLY and PURPOSELY DENY god’s existance?
    What about if that atheist does their best to follow the moral guideline I set for myself (or one similar to it)?
    And if that atheist who lives a life that you might consider “moral” (other than the whole denying god’s existance thing), but actively tries to “de-convert” others by showing them the irrationality of their belief system?

    If you say that a person can live a moral life, and get into heaven despite “denying god”, then what advantage is there to believing in random superstition which scientifically seems unreasonable or unlikely?

    The idea of missionaries is one I’m not fond of myself (I know, you’re shocked, huh).
    First, the positives; I VERY MUCH admire the desire to help those less fortunate; I believe that many missionaries have good intentions; I believe that many missionaries do very good work and help many people live better, healthier, and more educated lives.

    However the problem that I have with missionaries is primarily two fold.
    First of all, you have people like mother theresa, which I’ve gone into a bit previously, so I won’t rehash this again right now other than a few words (unless you’d like me to elaborate further). As Christopher Hitchens has put bluntly “MT was not a friend of the poor. She was a friend of poverty. She said that suffering was a gift from God. She spent her life opposing the only known cure for poverty, which is the empowerment of women and the emancipation of them from a livestock version of compulsory reproduction.”
    For a quick glance of this stance check out http://www.slate.com/id/2090083/
    For a more in depth look at a critical view of her life and work, check out his book “The Missionary Position”.
    The second primary problem I have with missionary work is that to go to another country with the intent of converting them to your own religion, one must be living under the assumption that the religious beliefs of those people is “lacking” in some sense, and that your own religion is in some way “better”. To me this is a very egotistical outlook, and condescending towards those who are being “preached” to.

    Ok, next point… There are two reasonable explanation that a “killer” would be likely to receive retaliation.
    First off there have been studies on apes and chimps that how that they have a “sense of fairness”. When one ape feels they have been “wronged” they are likely to retaliate, and even if they see another “wronged” they are likely to retaliate in defense of that other person. Now from my understanding of the Christian position, humans are somebody “better” than other great apes because they were created in god’s image and imbued with special rights. If this is so, then an ape should not have a sense of fairness and morality if god gave humans our own morality. While this is not a direct “point”, it should at least be something to think about for any true believer who feels that humanity is “special in god’s eye”.
    Another idea would be that due to self preservation instincts of the witnesses they are likely to “take out” a rogue person who’s likely to kill them. If I witness somebody randomly kill another person, I’m not just going to sit around and wait to see what he does next, and I’m pretty certain you would not either.
    This “retaliation” is not done because of a sense of “fairness” or “morality” it is done from self preservation. Perhaps over millions of years this subtly shifts and turns into “fairness”.
    Obviously I’m not an expert on this subject, but these are rough ideas that I feel are reasonable explanations based on my understanding of evolution, morality, early human life, etc…

    I do agree that there is still a good deal of aggression in humanity, but I think we can both agree, it’s relatively minor when compared to the overall population of the world. I do not commit murder, not because I worry I would get in trouble, but because I don’t feel I have the right to decide who should live and who should die. I would argue that the VAST majority of people feel this same way, and those that don’t are aberrations, who make the news BECAUSE they are not the norm.

    Ahh, homosexuality and evolution. This is actualyl something I am very interested in, but I honestly have done VERY little research into the subject (it’s just one I have not yet gotten to).
    However, I can point out a few simple facts that I do know of. We have currently documented homosexual behavior in roughly 500 species of animals (including every species of primates, dogs, cats, dolphins, elephants, etc…)
    I want to do this subject justice, but I honestly think that I could not give it the justice it deserves. Instead I would recommend checking out the following link (you’ll have to scroll down a bit to get to the homosexuality portion):
    http://evolution-101.blogspot.com/2006/07/why-did-homosexuality-evolve.html
    Also, TalkOrigins (which is a very good website) has a few small resources on this subject:
    http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CA/CA010.html
    http://www.talkorigins.org/indexcc/CB/CB403.html
    http://www.google.com/custom?q=homosexual&sa=Search&sitesearch=www.talkorigins.org

  270. Rodibidably says:

    moot,

    I’d like to thank you for your responses to empyrean and kaysandeee. While I’m not convinced they will listen to you, I do think there is more of a likelihood they will, since you are a “fellow christian”, and thus they should not dismiss you out of hand like many christians seem to do with people of other faiths and even more so atheists.

    I think that it is mcuh easier in their minds to dismiss me since I have “not been touched by the holy spirit” than it is for them to dismiss you who are obviously a christian.

    I think that you and I have shown a debate between two people with very different views on a subject can be civil, reasonable, rational, and most importantly, allow the two sides to better understand each other.

    I know that in my life, most of the “christians” who I have discussed faith with have been much less rational than you have been, and in many cases the discussions have turned into rants about my soul, and going to hell, etc. While that type of “back and forth” is kind of humorous it really has no benefit for anybody involved.
    The discussion with you has been enlightening. You’ve pushed me to reexamine a few aspects I had not though of in a while, and even to think about a few issues that I had never specifically considered in the past.

    It’s very nice to see that despite our disagreements on some things, we share many of the same goals, ideals, and views on the extremists on both sides of the discussion.
    It’s also quite interesting to see that you and I make many of the same “points” to the speech of extremists.

  271. Kaysandee says:

    Oh Rodi, I love you – because God made you! You are so transparent. Sorry to disappoint you with my ignorance, ignorance, more ignorance, and failure to play by your rules. But I am so glad you went to such great lengths to draw me out into your scientific world of debate and share your expert pointage with me – although I am a bit sorry for your wife and your dog since you spend so much time at the keyboard.(might be a little difficult to become a “creator” of new life) I am glad to know though that you know right from wrong, bad from good, black from white, etc. Too bad you are your own authority. So since you believe that the world was void, I guess the next step was that “something” came from “nothing”. Correct?

  272. moot,
    what ever gave you the impression that I can’t handle a few lobs from an atheist? I just happen to believe that there are NO real atheists! In order to be an atheist you have to believe there is a God in order to say God isn’t real. If you are truly an atheist then you don’t spend so much of your time trying to rescue people away from ‘nothing’. How can ‘nothing’ be so sick and vicious? Thanks for your concern and your admonition. Received with humility. You seem like a nice person too.

  273. Rodibidably says:

    kaysandee,

    I forget, exactly WHICH verse in the bible does it say that sarcasm and condescension are virtues? Was it the gospel of john or luke, I get those two confused some times you know….

    I’m curious exactly how I am transparent to you.
    Is it my desire for a dialog? geez, should have seen that coming…
    Or is it my expecting people involved in a debate to follow general rules of civility and reasonableness? How dare I…
    Or perhaps it’s that you expected me to question your beliefs? OMG, an atheist not agreeing with a christian about the existance of god, how utterly shocking…
    Or could it be my posing question to you that you don’t like? Would you prefer me to just resort to insults, like you have, so that you can claim the high road?

    I would expect that ANY RATIONAL person who is a christian and posts on the blog of an atheist about religion, ESPECIALLY IF THERE ARE ALREADY 200+ POSTS SO THAT YOU CAN EASILY SEE WHAT IS GOING ON FOR OVER A MONTH, would expect that perhaps the atheist might call into question a few of their statements.

    I never claimed to be an expert on ANY of the subjects that have been brought up in this post. Yes, I have read a number of books on the subjects we’ve discussed, as well as articles, websites, movies, tv shows, documentaries, “holy scriptures”, etc that go into a number of these subjects, but I am far from an expert. In fact you’ve already had derogatory remarks when I have quoted “experts”, so I doubt you’re care HOW qualified somebody is, unless of course they agreed with your views unwaveringly.

    I do admit, you’ve given me a few laughs, included the quotes “failure to play by your rules” and “scientific world of debate”.

    Do you understand what a debate is?
    Just in case you don’t (since that is the appearance you’re giving, I’ll help clear it up for you a tad.

    Debate (North American English) or debating (British English) is a formal method of interactive and position representational argument. Debate is a broader form of argument than logical argument, since it includes persuasion which appeals to the emotional responses of an audience, and rules enabling people to discuss and decide on differences, within a framework defining how they will interact.
    Informal debate is a common occurrence, but the quality and depth of a debate improves with knowledge and skill of its participants as debaters.

    Perhaps that will help you understand what is going on here, so that you can participate on a similar level to the other participants involved.

    As for the “failure to play by your rules”, which rules are those exactly?
    I expect people to remain civil, and I had hope that people would actually answer the question which I posed in the original post here (a surprisingly large number of people completely ignored the actual question, and just went into their own random issues).
    I expect that when somebody makes a statement, that they back that statement up with some type of evidence or support.
    I expect that when somebody is asked a question, they answer it.
    And I expect that when somebody makes a statement ,and that statement is called into question, that the person defend their position in some way, or acknowledge their mistakes.

    These are not necessarily “my rules” they are rules that ANYBODY involved in a debate would expect of all participants. If you somehow managed to pull your head out of your ass for long enough to make a rational point, I believe that you would expect me to respond to it.

    I’m curious why you feel sorry for my wife and dog, without knowing any of the details of our schedules, but it’s much more likely that you are once again attempting to make a snide remark at my expense. Wow, you got me with that one I suppose. Seriously, if I did not know any better, I’d almost think you were a friend of mine trying to do a bad parody of a believer to get under my skin.

    It seems that you are being critical without actually reading what I have written (not that I am at ALL surprised by this), but when you state that “Too bad you are your own authority” you OBVIOUSLY have missed that I have posted the same quote AT LEAST 5 times, and referred to it at least another 7 or more times. Since obviously you missed it the first DOZEN OR MORE times, I’ll post it again (but you may want to be careful, it’s a quote from Richard Dawkins).
    “Religious people do not derive their morality from religion. I disagree (with the interviewer) on this point. Almost all of us do agree on moral grounds where religion had no effect. For example we all hate slavery, we want emancipation of women – they are all our moral grounds. These moral grounds started building only a few centuries ago and long after all major religions were established. We derive our morality from the environment we live in, Talk shows, Novels, Newspaper editorials and of course by the guidance of parents. Religion might only have a minor role to play in it. An atheist derives his morality from the same source as a religious people do.”

    I’m not sure if that could be much clearer, but just in case, here it is in one line, since I don’t want to strain your mental capacity.
    I get my morality from society, just like EVERYONE else.

    And to your final comment, the something from nothing claim. This is what’s known as a “straw man argument”. What this means is that when somebody tries to purposely (or out of ignorance) make a generalization about a group or a person that has a different viewpoint, they sometimes make a statement that they CLAIM the other side believes or has said, and then they attempt to invalidate that statement instead of the ACTUAL beliefs of the group of person they are debating.

    If you would like to question the ACTUAL things which I believe, I’m more than willing to do this, however if you want to put up a straw man argument, I’m going to have to decline to join your little fantasy land where you think you can make an actual intelligent point. Perhaps you should leave the pseudo-scientific babble to the “discovery institute” or the “answers in genesis” crowd, they may be raving lunatics just like you, but at least they attempt to SOUND intelligent.

  274. Rodibidably says:

    kaysandee,

    In your response to moot, you state:
    “If you are truly an atheist then you don’t spend so much of your time trying to rescue people away from ‘nothing’. How can ‘nothing’ be so sick and vicious?”

    I don’t know, let’s ask the 3000 plus people who died on 9/11…
    Or the countless children raped by priests who were shepherded around the US in order to avoid investigations by the authorities…

    It’s not “god” or religion or faith that we atheists protest. It’s the horrendous acts done under the cloak of religion and faith. It’s using god and belief to justify horrible acts. It’s the blind faith that makes one ignorant, bigoted, and able to commit horrible acts of violence.

    I have ABSOLUTELY no problem with somebody who wants to believe in god, and that feels that their belief makes their life better.

    I have a problem when people try to shove their beliefs on others or when people use their beliefs to justify their own prejudices and their own actions.

    But of course, I could not expect you to actual make a lucid point or have even the most basic understanding of anybody or anything that does not fully support your own narrow views.

    As for your comment:
    “In order to be an atheist you have to believe there is a God in order to say God isn’t real.”
    This is such a complete and utter load of bunk, I’m not even sure that you can claim you actually believe it, and it’s certainly not worth a complete response to explain your total lack of understanding of even the most basic logic.

  275. mootpoints says:

    1. Relativity vs. absolutism

    Obviously the general concept is whether or not moral standards change and if they do upon what basis.

    2. Two Options with Relativism

    In a relativistic system you essentially have two basis upon which the changing morality derives it’s standard. You either have the social ethic (“morality by majority”) or you can have a individual ethic.

    3. The Social Ethic is Essentially Might Makes Right.

    Probably my ultimate problem with social relativism is that while “morality by majority” sounds like it’s reasonable and inclusive, it quickly turns into “morality by authority”.

    In your dynamic the person or people with the most power, whether that power be political or social, is the one who determines what the majority believes.

    Take a microcosm of this as an illustration of it’s truth. Hitler created a moral standard that created a racist mentality in the majority. To enforce that standard he created a culture of fear to ensure that this standard was kept. The West, largely out of the ball-game ’till “invited” by the Japanese, said that social ethic wasn’t proper and sought to enforce it upon the Germans through military power.

    Or look at a social illustration of this issue. It seems fairly obvious that our entertainment industry often deeply influences the social ethic. And often by the movies producers, actors and directors own admission, that is exactly what they are intending to do.

    So thus social morality is often reduced to a few people who have the money, power or rhetoric to create new standards within a society.

    I don’t see how you can escape from what is basically a “might makes right” conclusion in your world-view.

    4. If not a Social Ethic then an Individual Ethic

    The other option for a relativistic world-view is that, while the social ethic make exists, it’s not the final standard to which we appeal.

    In other words I decide for myself what is right, as do you. And thus you can’t be “right” and I can’t be “wrong”. Because what may be right for you is wrong for me and vice versa.

    I want to respond to your last two posts but I wanted to solidify exactly what what we’re arguing here.

    Let me know what you think.

  276. mootpoints says:

    -Yes I’ve read some of Hitchen’s book. But don’t get too excited, we’ve already established that it’s possible to develop similar conclusions from dramatically different premises.

    Hitchen’s essentially says bad things have happened because of religious beliefs, therefore religion is bad. I say he’s missing a vital point in that formula. Here’s my take. Bad things happen because people misappropriate religion, therefore people are bad.

    -I still think Dennett’s theory is inadequate. He’s assuming that someone would spontaneously formulate a heretofore not thought of concept, namely God. Despite the fact that conceiving of something that (even the atheist admits) is inconceivable. Then the same someone would be able to convince a group that this previously inconceivable deity exists. And that some vague threats from the deity channeled through the spokesperson would convince this group to do something contrary to their instincts. It’s a big leap.

    It seems, if non-belief is indeed the null hypothesis, then the evolutionist/atheist still has a bit of an uphill climb to even to explain the existence of the concept of God. Try to imagine and explain something that has never before been thought of and has no connection to anything in the natural world it’s tough to do.

    By the way, I think Dawkins in “The Selfish Gene” argues against the concept of group selection. (This would also apply to the argument about “fairness” and retaliation I address later) He says it’s the gene that is the unit natural selection, not society.

    -The information about Mother Theresa from “Slate” was interesting. Exposing her as a fraud doesn’t affect my world-view much. She wasn’t particularly high my list of reasons I believe in God anyway.

    -As to female beauty as an example of social ethics. My point is essentially a female, despite slight changes in preference, is still pretty attractive to most males. In this analogy the feminine body is the moral absolute and the the variations (height, weight, etc.) are the social variable on that same absolute.

    -The China morality thing. You said “…each side does dictate it’s own morality…” Are you OK with Chinese morality then?

    -As for the Abraham/child sacrifice issue. On the surface it is a difficult passage and a reprehensible act, but…

    …can you imagine a scenario that people would find it moral and even laudable that a man would kill his own child? I can. I think I could argue that, even given our world’s current ethical standards, I could create a plausible scenario in which a man would be considered a hero for the act of killing his son. And I think my scenario would further give evidence to the existence of moral absolutes. If you’re interested I’ll lay it out for you, otherwise we’ll go on to other things.

    -I pretty much agree with your assessment of the ten commandments issue.

    -Back to the Roman’s passage. No, I don’t believe a person can go do heaven if they purposefully deny God’s existence. Sorry. Besides, if you don’t believe in God you certainly wouldn’t want to spend eternity with him. God is nice enough to make heaven optional.

    -Yes, missionaries can be a little heavy-handed. My point was that, even if a person can get to heaven without knowing the bible, they would be an exception not the rule and it’s still a good idea to tell them about God.

    -Your point about missionaries being egotistical. If teaching someone something is arrogant then we can’t ever really teach anyone anything. Egoism would be more in the manner something was preached, not necessarily in the effort to preach itself.

    -OK, now to the apes’ sense of fairness. First of all, drawing conclusions about animal morality simply from external behavior reduces morality to conduct. True morality entails non-behavioral elements, too, like intent and motive. You have to make assumptions about intent and motive to ascribe morality to apes.

    -Now on to homosexuality! (Wow, I never thought I’d write that last sentence.) I also know an infinitesimally small amount about genetics but ignorance has never stopped me from talking about something before.

    First of all, engaging in homosexual behavior is not at all the same as not engaging in heterosexual behavior. I would argue that homosexuality is not a trait found in species, more specifically, what looks like homosexual behavior is found in many specifies who then go on to mate also with the females of that species.

    The article from “Evolution 101” was interesting but it seems that when he could have made a variety of conclusions he went with one and ignored the others entirely.

    -He said that homosexuality is not unique to humans. But strict homosexuality (homosexuality with complete disregard to the opposite sex) is.
    -Secondly, he said that homosexuality fosters better socialization in those animals. That’s a large assumption to make. He’s never observed these animals outside of the homosexual behavior to see if they react negatively without homosexuality.
    -Thirdly he says that the evidence strongly suggests some kind of genetic component and uses the existence of homosexuality as proof. Circular reasoning just doesn’t do it for me like it used to.

    Anyway, I’m having fun. These are great posts.

  277. mootpoints says:

    One last thing. I totally forgot to explain what I was doing with my first post, the one with the numbers and points. I just wanted to re-clarify the discussion. We’ve taken a lot of side arguments and, while I completely enjoy the sidebars, I want to make sure we maintain a clear sense of what were debating.

  278. Rodibidably says:

    moot,

    I do believe that morality changes with the culture.
    I think that our culture tells us what is morally acceptable; and that morality also has an affect on our culture as well. It’s a two way street, which is why morality change slowly over time as our culture changes.

    For an example of this let’s look at the typical life of a male and female throughout historical times (this is only meant to be a VERY brief idea, obviously not fully in depth for this example):
    From the archaeological record, millions of years ago, males and females essentially shared all tasks, there were not yet any defined roles. Everybody was involved in the hunt, and everybody was involved in raising the children.
    Over time, gender specific roles began to emerge. Since the males were larger they continues to do the hunting, the women were left to care of the children.
    As recently as 100 years ago is was general practice that young males of less well off families were working to help support the family as a general practice. The young girls were forced to work in the home, helping the older women raise even younger children, do household chores, etc.
    Now in today’s society we are expected ot treat boys and girls equally, and we are expected to “let kids be kids” and not send them off to work at ridiculously young ages.

    Morality has change over history in two respects.
    Originally all sexes were treated as equals, then separated, and now we strive to treat the sexes equally again.
    And throughout most of history it was morally acceptable to send children out to work at ages as young as 7 or 8, where now if you have a child working under age 14 or so it may be illegal (depending on the state) or at least frowned upon by the current morality.

    The culture has changed throughout time to where children are no longer required to work, and the morality change with it to where children working is not considered immoral. While it’s hard to say which pushed which it’s easy to see the connection between the two.

    Are you trying to argue that these examples of social ethics (hitler and entertainment) do not have an affect on our morality? I think it’s obvious that entertainment has affected our morality (we are much more accepting of homosexuality now than we were just 20 years ago, in part due to TV and movies).
    I am not arguing that this is the BEST way to determine our morality, I am saying it IS HOW WE GET our morality. Those are two different questions.

    As for the individual ethics, I think everybody has their own personal interpretation of the social morality based off of their own personal experiences. This explains how I can feel that homosexuality is perfectly acceptable while somebody who lives next door might find it repulsive.
    While my morality may be different than theirs, the overall societal morality dictates which of us can state our views in public without being looked at as a homophobic, bigoted ass (can you guess which side I think society is on).

  279. Rodibidably says:

    moot,

    Ok, and on to post #2…

    I think the point that Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris, Dennett and others make is that not religion is inherently bad. The point they are attempting to make is that religion is unnecessary, and so easily corrupted that as a society we’d be better off without the current religions/religious beliefs that we have in place.
    In fact in Breaking The Spell, Dennett states that the spell he hopes to break “is not religious belief itself, but the conviction that religion is off-limits to scientific inquiry”.

    I don’t think any reasonable atheist would say that you don’t have a right to pray, or that you can’t believe in a higher power.
    What we do say is that is you are going to make claims about the natural world based on your faith, you need to have extraordinary evidence, since by it’s very nature religion and faith and about extraordinary claims.
    We also say that while you may believe your religion is great, and wonderful, and “joyful” that you have ABSOLUTELY NO RIGHT as a believer, to try to enforce any portion of your beliefs on other people.
    And finally (well not the only other thing really, but the last point I want to bring up) that nobody should have the right to use their religion or faith as an excuse for their behavior.

    Dennett’s theory is not that “god” popped up out of nothing, but perhaps I am just not doing his work justice.
    Wikipedia’s take on this is quite similar to a few of the ideas Dennett puts forth in his book:
    Some scholars have suggested that religion is genetically “hardwired” into the human condition. One controversial hypothesis, the God gene hypothesis, states that some human beings bear a gene which gives them a predisposition to episodes interpreted as religious revelation. One gene claimed to be of this nature is VMAT2.
    The byproduct theory argues that religion is not an evolved adaptation but that the diverse range of beliefs, behavior, and experience collectively referred to as religion emerge as byproducts of other adaptations that evolved to solve other (mundane) adaptive problems. These include: the ability to infer the presence of organisms that might do harm (agent detection), the ability to come up with causal narratives for natural events (causal reasoning), and the ability to recognize that other people have minds of their own with their own beliefs, desires and intentions (theory of mind). These three adaptations (among others) allow human beings to imagine purposeful agents behind many observations that could not readily be explained otherwise, e.g. thunder, lightning, movement of planets, complexity of life, and etc.

    While Dennett never claims his ideas are the EXACT mechanism by which religion came into being, he puts these forth as hypothesis which need further study and refining.
    A good review and overview of his book can be found here:
    http://www.wsws.org/articles/2006/nov2006/spel-n06.shtml

    Check out that review, and I think you may get a better understanding of Dennett’s point (it’s not that religion all of a sudden just “popped up”, it was a very subtle and gradual evolution).

    You’re correct about Dawkins arguing again the idea of “group selection”, but Dawkins goes further to show that what APPEARS as group selection from a distance, when looked at closer is in fact still selection at the gene level.
    It’s just that it’s much more convenient to think of it in terms of group selection, even if that’s not the ACTUAL true term for selection.
    For example, my genes will typically be expected to replicate through me, but if I can give my life to save my sibling/parent/offspring/close relatives, the odds of my own genes passing on may be just as high as if I lived myself (Dawkins goes into the actual math in much more detail than I have room for here).
    This would APPEAR to be an altruism act and a group selection model, but when looked at closer Dawkins argues that it is in fact gene selection.

    I know you personally are not as big a fan of mother theresa as many christians, but I used her as an example of the TYPE of missionary that I think does much more harm than good.

    I’m beginning to think the female beauty analogy is not as good of one as I had first hoped it would be, I’ll try to see if I can come up with better one I guess, but I do think you followed the point I was trying to make.
    However, I do have one question for you on this, in your view of morality, where it is static and absolute because it is given to us by god, then how do you explain the “social variable on that same absolute”? This seems to conflict with the idea of fixed morality from god.

    My moral code says that many things that are acceptable in China are wrong. My own moral code also says that many things accepted in the US are wrong.

    Actually, I’m trying ot think of a case where a father slaughtering his own child would NOT be reprehensible.
    My first thoughts are things like “Hitler or Dahmer or Manson’s father” ridding the world of the evil that will be accomplished by there children. My argument against this would be that as a child, those people had not YET committed the heinous acts which they would later become famous for, and it would be better to teach them (or barring all else, lock them away for life) than to murder them in cold blood.
    Next my thoughts would run towards some scenario where killing one innocent child will somehow save the lives of many others. While in this scenario this may be “the lesser of two evils”, it’s a despicable acts based off an even more despicable situation.
    I’m not sure that I can come up with a GOOD scenario where the killing of a child is not a horrible act, but I’d like to hear your ideas if you have some.
    Keep in mind, I’m talking about the killing of a child (somewhere between the ages of newborn and let’s say 12 years old), not a grown adult son (i.e. Dahmer after he became a cannibal).

    So your view is that Romans states that if somebody is not swayed by the LACK OF EVIDENCE, but uses their free will which you believe god gave us to live a “moral” life in accordance with “god’s standards”, they will “burn for eternity in hell”?
    Perhaps I’m not as big a fan of your god as I had thought.

    Personally I don’t believe in the idea of heaven and hell (obviously), but I’m often curious about the rules for entrance according to those those who do believe.
    And if it turns out I’m wrong, I guess I’ll have to deal with the consequences, but I would expect that IF god really does love the world and those in as most christians profess to believe, he’d prefer an honest skeptic over a believer that only acted “good” out of a sense of fear.

    On the missionary idea of teaching, I think you’re overstating my opinion.
    In my view some topics are cut and dry (2+2 ALWAYS equals 4) while some are subjective (Bob Dylan is the greatest songwriter of all time).

    If there are two perfectly equal ways to add up 2 + 2 I should not try to enforce my own way of adding on somebody who adds the “other” way.
    Since religion by it’s very nature is something which can not be tested scientifically, it is a purely subjective topic (along the lines of art, music, etc).
    I can teach somebody to appreciate art, but I can not tell somebody that they “must like Da Vinci more than Monet” because the two artists are very different, but one is not superior to the other.
    I can teach somebody the concepts by which they can form their own opinions, and I can teach somebody how to learn, but by trying to enforce my own subject beliefs, I would be crossing the line.

    I plan to teach my children about ALL the world’s major religions (and many of the minor ones). I hope by teaching them the similarities and differences between them, they will come to appreciate them, but not blindly follow them. If they choose to believe in one of these religions, I may feel a sense of disappointment that I failed to teach them critical thinking properly, but I will no enforce my own beliefs (or lack of beliefs) on even my own children, much less people from another country.

    Ok, onto the apes. I figured this one would not go over as smoothly as some of the things i had brought up, because this touches very closely to evolution/creationism, but I think the studies are absolutely fascinating.
    You are correct, that in the study of apes that there must be some assumptions made as to the intent of certain actions, and since the apes can not speak for themselves fully, we have to infer a few things. But the same is true of young children before they learn to speak (and even many older children and adults with disabilities), this does not mean that we don’t attribute feelings, a sense of morality, and motive to their actions.

    On your homosexual points (I hope you get a kick out of that phrase), I’d got a few things, but not too much (alas, as I said, it’s not really something I’ve studied in depth enough yet).

    “-He said that homosexuality is not unique to humans. But strict homosexuality (homosexuality with complete disregard to the opposite sex) is.”
    Actually there have been a number of examples of animals that exhibited ONLY homosexual tendencies, and NEVER engaged in heterosexual relations.

    “Secondly, he said that homosexuality fosters better socialization in those animals. That’s a large assumption to make. He’s never observed these animals outside of the homosexual behavior to see if they react negatively without homosexuality.”
    Some (not all, but some) of the studies done have been on animals in captivity where ALL aspects of their lives have been observed.

    “Thirdly he says that the evidence strongly suggests some kind of genetic component and uses the existence of homosexuality as proof.”
    I agree that the way you described it would be circular logic, but actually what he said was slightly different.
    “In humans, the evidence strongly suggests some kind of genetic component in the development of homosexuality, although the specific genes have not yet been discovered.”
    Here he is stating that some studies have shown evidence for a genetic component controlling homosexuality, but he does not state that proof of this is homosexuality itself.

  280. Hi Rodi, I am just learning so much about you. I’m so sorry that I have been sarcastic. You are right. I am also a rule-breaker, always have been. But, it really is not my intent to offend you or your readers. But since you have stated that so many of my comments are “a load of bunk” and since you have publically stated that my head pretty much stays in my ass, I am now really going to shove my faith down your throat. You see I am more concerned about your soul than your opinion of me and my lack of lucidity. I am now beginning intensive PRAYER for you to my ‘ole, mean’ GOD. So begin looking for little inner and outer indications and inclinations. Secure your defenses, for you may have no idea the power of prayer.

    I think the only comment that I have made that you didn’t have a derrogatory remark about is “I love you”! I am sure that is another aberration on my part and a breaking of the “rules of intelligent debate” design),but I love you both! As you throw up stronger walls around yourself, be sure you include your wife. She might come on over before you do!

    One more thing; you give me a laugh or two yourself. Do you REALLY think that EVERYONE gets their morality from society? & Do you REALLY think that 911 and pedophile priests are GOD’S fault?

  281. Rodibidably says:

    kaysandee,

    I’m glad that you claim you are learning, but based on your comments thus far, I doubt that it is true.

    The ONLY reason I have mentioned your sarcasm is that according to the tenets of your professed faith, sarcasm, insults, and false accusations (which you have been quite fond of in your few posts so far) are not exactly a “godly” way to interact with people (even us “sinners”).
    Personally I’m a fan of sarcasm as a literary device (and as a tool to ridicule others), but if you are to profess your holiness and your godly joy you should be “above such tactics”.

    You are correct, I have ridiculed quite a lot of what you have written, because frankly it deserved it. This is actually the most reasonable post you’ve written so far (granted I have not finished reading it fully yet, I tend to write my responses as I read).

    As for you “now really going to shove [your] faith down [my] throat”, go for it, I enjoy seeing all sides, especially those which are so far removed from my own. The one thing I would ask of you (and all posters here) is that if you are going to make claims about the natural world, that you be prepared to back those claims up with some type of real evidence.

    Oh wow, prayer! As I have stated before, there have been numerous scientific studied on the effectiveness of prayer, and not one study that was done using scientific means has shown ANY validity to prayer, or any inclination that prayer has ANY effect other than what is common to a placebo. While you may find that praying helps you live your life, there is no scientific evidence that praying to your “god” is any more (or less) effective than if I were to pray to my toaster.

    You seem to have the idea that I disagree with religion (or you) based on my ignorance of the subject, however this is not the case. If you scroll up a bit (or check out the link below) you’ll see a VERY BRIEF description of my “road to atheism”.
    https://potomac9499.wordpress.com/2008/01/30/an-open-question-to-all-believers/#comment-91

    I was raised to be a “good god fearing catholic” (hell, I was an alter boy, but luckily the priests at my parish didn’t try to rape me); then some time after my father converted to an “evangelical, fundamentalist, born-again christian” I went on my own quest to study religion (of course based on my background, I started with christianity). I spent time at catholic, presbyterian, and jewish schools. I read (and re-read) the bible, I read the koran, the torah, and other “holy books” (even diantetics). I studied books about these holy books (at first it was primarily “pro” religion books, much later it became books from people like Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, and Dennett). I had discussions with the archbishop based in Atlanta (was nice having him directly live across the street from my grandparents when I began to question religion), as well as many others.

    It took me many years to fully shed my believe in “something bigger” or a “higher power” despite seeing plainly before me that the evidence was just not there. And even after I “lost my faith” and stopped believing it took me a long time before I was willing to articulate what I felt.

    I did much searching to get to where I am now, and honestly, I’m MUCH happier now than I ever was then. Instead of looking for meaning from some book, or from some concept of the supernatural, I look for meaning in my friends and family (and my dog). You’d be amazed how much more peaceful it is to know that this is the only chance you get, and that you need to make the best of it.

    I did not comment on your “i love you” comment, because it seemed (and still seems) like meaningless drivel from one such as yourself. Keep in mind that not only am I an “evil, heathen” atheist, but my best friend is a homosexual woman, I support unlimited stem cell research, I am pro-choice, I support complete sexual education (including condoms), and I believe that mother theresa is the one person responsible for more death and suffering than any other person in all of history (for a brief description of why scroll up and find some of the comments/links I’ve left regarding her, or check out Hitchens’ book, “Missionary Position”). And yes, this includes hitler, stalin, pol pot, etc.

    I’m not sure you should be wasting your prayers on me, perhaps you could put them to better use, like finding lost car keys (always one of my favorites that my father used to pray for).

    You still have yet to answer any of the questions I have asked of you or respond to any of the other comments about your positions, not that I expected anything else, but I felt I’d mention it, since it was such a nice running theme through my last response to you.

    As for your two final questions. First of all, I’d like to mention that they are completely unrelated to each other, but I’ll attempt to answer them anyways.

    “Do [I] REALLY think that EVERYONE gets their morality from society?”
    In a word, YES.
    Scroll up and read for a more in depth answer if you’d like.

    “Do [I] REALLY think that 911 and pedophile priests are GOD’S fault?”
    Again, in a word, NO.
    But this time, I will elaborate slightly.

    I don’t blame “god” for the actions of men, any more than I would blame the easter bunny if a car ran over my dog (unless of course it was driven by a person in an easter bunny costume, but that’s a slight tangent). Since as an atheist, I do not believe in god, it would be unreasonable to expect me to hold a figment of YOUR imagination responsible for the actions of people.

    I do however blame the blind faith that people hold IN god for their actions. Whether you believe in “their god” (allah), or not, there is absolutely NO DOUBT that the 19 hijackers believed in allah strongly enough to kill themselves and over 3000 other people to do what they believed was “god’s will”.

    As for the priests and pedophilia thing, I blame the US catholic church as an institution. Due to the many lawsuits, a number of “confidential” documents have come to light showing a systematic attempt by those in charge of the “church” in the US to cover up the crimes committed by these priests and “hide them away” (those are the words of the church officials, not me). They did this at least in part (again, according to their own documentation) to keep the scandal from ruining recruitment of new priests to the church. While the acts committed by the pedophiles was horrendous enough on it’s own (I don’t think ANYBODY would disagree with that) the actions of those who helped to cover up is equally horrible in my opinion.

    Perhaps you have a different view on the 9/11 hijackers or the pedophiles in the catholic church, and that’s your right, but it is OBVIOUS that blind faith affected the actions of those involved in both instances, and countless lives were ruined as a result.

  282. tallandrew says:

    This is a response to comment 281 (https://potomac9499.wordpress.com/2008/01/30/an-open-question-to-all-believers/#comment-281). I haven’t got time to answer all of your points, but I’ll takle a couple of them.

    You say that Josephus ‘has been shown to be’ unreliable. What you have written shows that you haven’t really understood my comments about the nature of proof. Josephus hasn’t ‘been shown’ to be anything. There may have been some research that you found compelling, and that you have decided to beleive. IT hasn’t been proven. It may be likely, or unlikely, but it hasn’t been proven. Please understand that the atheist position is just as much of a faith position as the Christian views or any other. You simply have chosen to beleive in the athiest worldview, but it hasn’t been proven.

    A couple of points about what you say the Bible doesor doesn’t say. It DOES SAY that one of the apostles witnessed Jesus’ death and some of his other followers too. John 19:25-27 say that Mary (Jesus’ mother), Mary Magedelene, and ‘the disciple who Jesus loved’ (later identified as the apostle John) were there.

    You also make comments about slavery and women – that these would still be going on if it were up to Christians. Once again you have chosen to believe something that is misguided. The Bible clearly speaks out against slave traders (see 1 Tim 1:10). Slavery is mentioned in other places in letters from particular individuals to a community of people (Eph 6, Col 3 and 4). The context of the letters is the context of Christian behaviour – masters are to treat their slaves fairly, slaves are to work hard and respect their masters. The purpose wasn’t to create a revolution, but to encourage Christian behaviour. Please remember that a community that allowed slaves and masters, men and women to worship together as equals was very progressive and unheard of anywhere else at the time. Gal 3:28 says “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” – all people are equal in Gods eyes.

    It is also worth noting that the people who did actually abolish slavery were Christians – William Wilberforce and other members of the Clapham Sect of evangelical Christians. This group of Christians certainly seemed to demonstrate that Christianity ‘plays out as true’.

    You also raise questions about Jesus’ death, claiming that there may have been other explanations and that he didn’t die. Remember that the Romans were experts at executing people. They knew when someone was dead or not. Believing that Jesus didn’t actually die is just another questionable aspect of your faith position, something you have chosen to beleive.

    You finish with a comment that Christianity goes “well beyond reason or science”. You cannot pit science against religion as they are not things that can be compared. Science can tell you how something might have happened but that is all. It cannot give meaning or purpose to life. It asks ‘how’ not ‘why’. It can say how the universe might have been created, but it cannot say why or by whom. It certainly cannot and will not ‘disprove’ God. Those are questions that science simply isn’t equipped to answer. Christianity ultimately is not interested in how things work or the particular molecular makeup of a bee, but in things like people, relationships, purpose, hope. Science isn’t interested in why humans need each other, in why we feel lonely, happy, sad, guilty, fulfilled, why we need to be loved, valued etc, and why each of us is important. These things are beyond the realm of science, but they are the things that God is interested in. Jesus helps us answer these questions.

  283. tallandrew says:

    Having just read your previous comment to kaysandee, in which you outline your ‘road to atheism’, I’m not sure if this blog entry really is “an open question to all beleivers”. It seems you have made up your mind and are not open at all. Is this right? If so, what is the purpose of this discussion?

    I might also add that you didn’t ‘lose your faith’, but you chose to beleive something else – what Hitchens/Dawkins etc were saying instead.

  284. Rodibidably says:

    tallandrew,

    Even the catholic church now questions the authenticity of the references to jesus by Josephus. As it was the catholic church who spent centuries propping these accounts up, I would say that their skepticism is quite a nail in the coffin of that line of inquiry.
    While you are correct that is has not been proven 100% that the accounts are forgeries, there is more than enough evidence against the being legitimate to ignore them as a historical account.

    If you’re going to live your life ONLY by 100% proof, then you need to be worried when you walk out of your house, for gravity is not yet 100% proven,who knows, you might fly up into the sky.
    Of if you go out late at night, keep an extra watchful eye out (and a clove of garlic handy) for vampires have not been proven to not be real.

    We can make educated guesses based on the available evidence, in in the case of the Josephus accounts, the evidence points to them being a later forgery by somebody in the early catholic church.

    You state the atheist position is as much a position of faith as a religious view, this is false.
    The typical skeptical atheists view is that we require evidence for our beliefs. We take a skeptical approach in cases where the evidence is not there (such as psychic powers or bigfoot or god), or where the evidence points towards something being false (like Josephus’s account of jesus).
    The phrase extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence is more than a good catchphrase, it’s also a good philosophy.

    Again, you go back to proof, this time stating that atheism is not proven. You are of course correct, but the existance of a supernatural deity has not been proven either. As I have gone over a number of times here previously science has shown that god is not necessary to explain the workings of the universe, or the earth, or evolution. If here is a simpler explanation which fits all of the available evidence, why would any rational person need to insert something supernatural?

    You are correct that the bible states people saw him on the cross, I never said it does not claim this. The koran says he was not the person on the cross, it was a substitute.
    Here we have an example of two old books with competing claims. for one to be correct, the other MUST be false. You believe the account from one of these books, which I contend that there is not enough unbiased evidence to support the claims of either account.
    I am not advocating that the koran’s account is the true account of what happened, I was just showing that in the example you gave there were more alternatives than the two options you gave.
    As I said on that post:
    “Now I don’t claim to know if any of these is the truth, but there are certainly other plausible suggestions that can avoid your idea that they must be telling the truth, or they must be lying.”

    Perhaps I am a bit more militant when it comes to the issue of slavery, but I would expect that any person (or deity) who opposed the institution of slavery is not going to gives rules on how to treat slaves or how to act when you are a slave (“masters are to treat their slaves fairly, slaves are to work hard and respect their masters”), but that they would condemn slavery in no uncertain terms (perhaps a sentence something along the lines of “Hey jackasses, it’s wrong to OWN other humans, stop it now! It’s one of the WORST THINGS that humanity is capable of doing!”), although since it would be coming from “god” perhaps use the words “thou shall” to make it more godly.

    As for christians opposing slavery, that’s of course true. However there were just as many who supported it. In fact many of the people who fought and died for their “right” to own slaves, quoted scripture as their justification for the practice of slavery, and were considered to be “good god fearing men”.
    If I were to write a book on atheism (or really any subject), I’m going to try my damnedest to make sure nothing I write could be misinterpreted as saying slavery is acceptable. Perhaps I’d fail, but I would sure as hell try my best. Now let’s ask ourselves why an infallible, all knowing deity was not capable of doing this.

    I never claimed I believed that jesus lived through the crusifiction. As a response to your either/or proposition I simply stated that there are many accounts that contradict the biblical account that could easily lead to other scenarios that your either/or proposition failed to account for.
    I personally have no opinion on whether jesus dies on the cross, or there was a substitute who died in his place, or if jesus lived through it. None of these options would affect my life in any way since which ever one is true neither confirms or falsifies the existance of god.

    Your comment, “You cannot pit science against religion as they are not things that can be compared” is an interesting one.
    In some respects I do agree. If somebody wants to believe that a supernatural deity watches over them and cares for them there is nothing science can or should say towards that end.
    However, when religion tries to make claims with regards to the natural word (like a 6500 year old earth, or god causing Katrina because of US acceptance of homosexuality) then it is religion which has stepped over the bounds, and all rational minded people should call those people out who makes these claims.

    If as a christian you want to accept the big bang happened 14.7 billion years ago, and the earth formed some 4-5 billions years ago and life evolved to the point where we are today (with the additional caveat that god was the one who put the energy into the big bang to start it off) then I have absolutely no problem with you believing that.
    If you want to put “god” into a science class however, I do have a problem.
    Or if you want to argue against evolution using a 6500 year old earth creationist myth, then I think that you are trying to step into the realm of science with fantasy, and this should not be allowed.
    You can teach these things in a religion class, or a theology class, but not in a science class.

    As for the purpose of this blog post, I’ve stated it before, but I’ll go through it again.
    I did not post this question so that I could come to follow th faith of anybody who posts here.
    I did not post this as an attempt to “find” god in my life, or for my life, etc…

    I did post this so that people of different faiths (and no faiths) could see that as strongly as you believe your faith and your religion to be the absolute truth, that there are others who are JUST AS CONVINCED that their faith and their religions are the absolute truth.
    I did post this so that people could read and hopefully gain a better understanding of the opinions and beliefs of those who they might not see eye to eye with.
    I did post this so that people could hopefully find some common ground with which to begin an open dialog on religion, since religion is such a major part of our society.

    As for your final comment that I did not lose my faith, bu that I put my faith in something else.
    Faith is the belief in a position despite the lack of evidence or evidence to the contrary.
    My road to atheism was following the evidence and coming to the most reasonable conclusion.

  285. tallandrew says:

    When people try to claim things like the earth is 65000 years old, or whatever, they are stepping outside the realm of what religion can teach us, and indeed outside of what the Bible is for. You said people should ‘call’ people who say things like that, or similar things about God making judgements on this or that. I call them on it.

    However, I disagree that the only part that God could have taken in evolution is kick starting the whole thing. In this statement, you are reducing God to ‘things that science cannot tell us’. As I said, you canot pit science against God, for if we start with the belief that God is the Creator, then he also created science too, right? In my worldview, science sits within God’s realm. As such, it cannot disprove him, or even show that there is no need for him. It simply shows how God might might have done it.

    I also don’t like your definition of faith. – “Faith is the belief in a position despite the lack of evidence or evidence to the contrary.”

    I disagree with this definition. With this definition faith is always bound to fail. Faith is belief in something, anything, with or without evidence. Some things are easier to beleive than others, but all things must ultimately be beleived. There should be no ‘despite’ in the definition. Therefore, you do have faith something.

  286. Rodibidably says:

    tallandrew,

    I’m glad that we agree that the creationists who make claims such as the 6500 year old earth are stepping past the bounds of religion. There is just too much evidence for the age of the universe and the earth to intelligently argue against these established “facts”.

    In my opinion there is no need for god to explain things. however I can “agree to disagree” and let people who want to claim that “god set up the laws and rules of the universe and set the big bang in motion”. To me god is not necessary, but this idea of god “setting the table” can not be disproven by current science (and based on our current understanding of the physics, we may never be able to say what happened before the big bang), and if somebody wants to have that as their belief I think it is their right.

    As for the definition of faith, that was essentially a paraphrase of the definition that Websters, Dictionary.com, and WikiPedia all give. For example, Websters states “firm belief in something for which there is no proof”.

    There is no proof of bigfoot, and those who say they believe in bigfoot are doing so based on faith, not science.
    In that sentence you can replace bigfoot with santa claus, the flying spaghetti monster, vampries, elves, leprechauns, or god and it is equally valid.

    I see faith and belief as two DIFFERENT things. Faith implies belief, but faith is “belief that is not based on proof” (that’s from dictionary.com, not from me).

  287. tallandrew says:

    Ok. So using your definition of faith, what I have been talking about is belief not faith. I have a belief, you have a beleif, and we have both chosen what to beleive for different reasons.

    What I’ve been trying to get away from is the thought that scientific athiesm comes from ‘fact’ that doesn’t need to be beleived because it is true, and religious belief comes from ‘faith’ which does need to be believed because there is little to suggest it is true. They are all beliefs – using your defintion – and we all choose to believe something.

  288. Rodibidably says:

    tallandrew,

    I’m willing to accept that the terms faith and belief were causing a bit of a disconnect, and I think we can get around that.

    You say I “believe” in atheism (even though by definition atheism is a lack of belief in a deity).
    And you say that you believe in god.
    And you make the point that I can never prove god does not exist.

    Though you have not said so yet, I assume you’re getting to the point that atheism and belief in god (any god) are equal propositions, and that I essentially am as much of a “believer” as you are.
    If I am wrong that this is the point you’re trying to make, please let me know.

    The difference I still see though is the evidence.

    In a situation where the evidence is not there one way or the other, you are taking a leap of faith in saying “god exists”.

    I see your position as being analogous to those who believe in alien abductions without any evidence to prove their beliefs.
    It is not up to the person who does not believe in alien abductions to “prove” that they have never happened, it’s up to the proponent of the idea to prove it has.

    By “choosing” not to believe in god, I am not taking a drastic leap of faith, but you are when you actively believe in something that has no evidence.

    I fully admit the possibility that god does exist. I even admit that “god” may be the one you describe and believe in. But there is no evidence to support this position.

    I’m sure you will site the bible, your personal experiences, the beliefs of so many, or some other idea as evidence, but all religions have those same “evidences”, and you don’t believe in them. So why is your book true, but not the torah, koran, hindu texts, etc? How are your experiences so much more compelling than the experiences of muslins, or hindus, or buddhists?

  289. Rodibidably says:

    tallandrew,

    Something I had previously posted on mootpoint’s blog I think might give a good understanding of my position.

    As an atheist, I agree that we can not scientifically 100% DISPROVE the existance of god, just like we can not disprove 100% the existance of the tooth fairy, or santa, or the flying spaghetti monster, or tiny invisible elves living in refrigerators.
    But when looking at the world around us, and the universe at large, we see that EVERYTHING can be explained solely by science, and there is no NEED for god.
    Since by definition anything that could create the universe must be more complex than the universe the existance of this divine, supernatural, ultimately complex deity would be an extraordinary claim.
    Atheists by and large are skeptical of all claims, and even more so with extraordinary claims. The saying “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” comes to mind here.

    Since there is no need for a divinity to explain what we can see in the universe, and the claim of a deity is an extraordinary one, and there is no scientifically verifiable evidence of a deity, the skeptical, rational approach is to assume that there is no “god” until evidence comes to light to change that view.

    While this does not “prove” atheism is correct, or that deism is “false”, it is how I and many other atheists look at the subject. It is also, in my view, the simplest explanation (and as I have mentioned before Occam’s Razor is an idea that I try to follow, since it generally leads down the right path).

  290. The Catholic Church does not teach that the earth is only 6500 years old. You get that from your fundamentalist friends, of which I was one (fundamentalist) for a number of years. The Catholic Church does not teach against the evolutionary processes. The earth is billions of years old. That is why there are TWO creation accounts in the Bible. (I thought you had read it – thoroughly) (you see? I can’t help myself. That old sin nature keep rearing its ugly head) The Catholic Church is not the voice spouting that Katrina was God’s punishment for homosexualism nor was 911 God’s punishment – though, since you’re into evidence, can you prove otherwise? I do know this (as a personal and proven fact) that it was not ‘NOTHING’, or a ‘NON-DEITY’, or Dawkins, that people in the midst of Katrina and 911 and Rita and the Sunami’s aftermath were calling out to for rescue! Nor was it their friends – they were in desperation too! Who will you call out to if tradgedy strikes your family?

    I’m so happy (I know you think it’s drivel) to know that you were baptised Catholic! I’m still praying!

  291. Rodibidably says:

    kaysandee,

    I don’t believe that I ever claimed the catholic church claims the world is 6500 years old.
    I also don’t believe I said anything about a 6500 year old world in any of my re