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Do you believe a God exists? posted 14 March 2005 in Philosophy DiscussionDo you believe a God exists? by tellner, Peralogue

What do I believe?

There's a G-d. I ain't Him. Beyond that, I'm Jewish and a Sufi (a difficult trick but if the Rambam could do it, I'll try) and the rest can mostly be extrapolated from there. view post


Do you believe a God exists? posted 24 March 2005 in Philosophy DiscussionDo you believe a God exists? by Alric, Auditor

Quote: "tellner":cl6jo7im
There's a G-d. I ain't Him.[/quote:cl6jo7im]

That is one of the fundamental realizations in philosophy and self-awareness. Of course, it only creates more questions, but they certainly are interesting questions. view post


Do you believe a God exists? posted 04 April 2005 in Philosophy DiscussionDo you believe a God exists? by Echoex, Auditor

I'm probably wrong, but don't Existentialists believe that they are the center of their own existences and, essentially, are their own gods? view post


Do you believe a God exists? posted 05 April 2005 in Philosophy DiscussionDo you believe a God exists? by Tol h'Eddes, Auditor

Quote: "Echoex":3cynk7pn
I'm probably wrong, but don't Existentialists believe that they are the center of their own existences and, essentially, are their own gods?[/quote:3cynk7pn]

Essentially, you're right. But I wouldn't say that they believe they are their own gods. I would say they believe in nothing but themselves and what they and others can do.

I pasted a definition taken from google below for clarification purpose.

Quote: "Google says":3cynk7pn
More specifically, existentialism is the philosophical cult of nihilism, that is that each man exists as an individual in a purposeless universe, and that he must oppose this hostile environment through the exercise of his free will.[/quote:3cynk7pn] view post


Do you believe a God exists? posted 05 April 2005 in Philosophy DiscussionDo you believe a God exists? by tellner, Peralogue

The existentialists also believe that there is no external meaning. You have to create it for yourself through existentially significant acts. I wouldn't say that they worship themselves so much as believe at most in themselves.

Moving a little further afield you get the Left Hand Path magical types. At the risk of oversimplifying they could be said to worship themselves and believe themselves to be the gods of their existences. view post


Do you believe a God exists? posted 05 April 2005 in Philosophy DiscussionDo you believe a God exists? by Randal, Auditor

Nope. I don't believe in a god, I don't believe in afterlife, I don't believe there's a purpose or meaning to life. (That is, no externally imposed one. Make your own purpose if you will.) I don't believe in supernatural forces, psychic powers, spirituality, homeopathy, the lot. Never have, and I strongly doubt I ever will. (Barring reliable scientific evidence indicating the existence of these phenomena.)

That would make me an atheist. A third-generation one, at that. So I haven't had much to do with religion at all in my life. The subject does interest me on an intellectual level, though, probably because it's quite alien to me.

As for things I do believe in, I rather like the philosophy of existentialism, but I haven't studied it enough to commit myself.

Never heard of those "Left Hand Path" people, but that most definitely is not what I see as existentialism. Worshipping oneself as a god sounds rather pointless to me. (But then, most religions do.) view post


Do you believe a God exists? posted 21 April 2005 in Philosophy DiscussionDo you believe a God exists? by Anonymous, Subdidact

Quote: "Grantaire":31yng4pt
And/or what are your religious beliefs? Why?[/quote:31yng4pt]
Yes, but then if i choose, can i divorce myself from such beliefs? I find that belief has become so intergrated in my thoughts it many times governs my actions. I find it has become the center of my moral self. In this my belief has become like a god. That resembles a cycle if you can grasp the idea of belief as a god of a god. There are other such cycles as well such as atheist belief in no god which is still belief and therefore thier religion. <!-- s:cry: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_cry.gif" alt=":cry:" title="Crying or Very sad" /><!-- s:cry: --> view post


Do you believe a God exists? posted 21 April 2005 in Philosophy DiscussionDo you believe a God exists? by Echoex, Auditor

"such as atheist belief in no god which is still belief and therefore thier religion."

I read somewhere that the true definition of an aethiest is someone who does not feel compelled to believe in a higher power. If this is correct, then your syllogism is incorrect.

You've used a simple twisting of words to formulate a hypothesis. Try it the other way:

Aethiests don't believe in God. And since they don't believe in god, they don't have a religion.

Ex. view post


Do you believe a God exists? posted 21 April 2005 in Philosophy DiscussionDo you believe a God exists? by Scilvenas, Auditor

I have no tea. (forgive me if that's too obscure of a reference) view post


Do you believe a God exists? posted 24 April 2005 in Philosophy DiscussionDo you believe a God exists? by Cynadar, Candidate

I believe that the possibility of any higher being is a paradox in itself. First of all, take the concept of time. We say time is infinite, meaning it spans an incalculable amount both forward and reverse. How can a being simply come from the start of that which has no beginning? The universe is also limitless, so how can there be nothing preceding the existence of a supreme power? He had to come from somewhere, but nothing could exist before Him...

Next point, how can an all-forgiving god send someone to eternal damnation for no wrong-deed; for just being raised different (such as Christians saying all Muslims (for example) will burn in hell. How can something all-forgiving send someone who was raised Muslim his whole life, and was otherwise a good soul to hell?)

This next point is just toward religious refernces based on Christian beliefs. Noah's ark: Noah fits one of every animal onto his ark. Did he manage to get one of every species of whale, fish, shark and other sea organisms? Did he have knowledge enough to build an aquarium with the correct ratio of salt and water, while maintaining size enough to fit these animals? Why would there be any point in doing this? But why would the bible say "two of EVERY animal?" How does that make sense? And take all the recently discovered species of animals dwelling in the rainforest... did he also manage to discover them and load them up on the boat?

Next attack on christianity: Lucifer. God creates Lucifer, knowing that he will be betrayed by this very being. WHY??? Or, you can take the other answer to this: he truly isn't God, he isn't omniscient and omnipotent. Can a god lie?

Well, that's it for my religious rambling attacks... view post


Do you believe a God exists? posted 24 April 2005 in Philosophy DiscussionDo you believe a God exists? by Randal, Auditor

Most of those are not problems with the idea of a higher being as such, just a very specific variant judeo-christian-muslim god. I'm sure there are many christians (etc) out there who for these very reasons (or similar ones) hold to a slightly different but more internally consistent view of their deity. And others who have some sort of explanation for these apparent (or factual?) inconsistencies.

As for time, it is a tricky concept; one that I cannot really understand, once you add in the theory of relativity. If time is relative to the observer, what does it mean for the universe as such? Or any hypothetical diety? Not a clue, really, although I do admit I find the concept of an eternal god creating all hard to accept.

[/devil's advocate]. (Or should that be god's advocate in this particular context?) view post


Do you believe a God exists? posted 25 April 2005 in Philosophy DiscussionDo you believe a God exists? by Andrew, Peralogue

either nothing created everything or God created everything.
And/Or
either all matter is eternal and self-sustaining or God is eternal and self-sustaining.

either nothing exploded and became infinite(or near infinite), or the Infinite God brought everything into existence in an act of creation.

Are any of you to tell me that the first one of these is inherently more plausible than the second?

Science is a gamble. 99% of science only describes WHAT IS ALREADY HAPPENING. What is gravity? IT's what happens when you fall down. Why does "what happens when you fall down" happen? BECAUSE OF GRAVITY. get my point? Science can tell you HOW FAST you will fall because the universe operates according to laws.

Suppose a child in the largest library in the universe. He manages to decipher one book. It tells him marvellous things about what happens in the universe. It tells him that the earth spins around a star. It tells him that a star produces light and heat by crushing matter out of existence and converting it to energy. It tells him that obscene amounts of energy are present in a tiny speck of matter. He learns from this book how to make an atom bomb. What pray tell does this tell us about the library? What answer does the child have when asked, "who wrote the book?" What does this tell us about the EXISTENCE of laws of physics? Nothing we didn't know before we read the book.

last comment - time isn't infinite. Time is an effect.

as to the comment about Noah's Ark - i think it is pretty clear that one doesn't need to bring a whale/shark/fish into an ark if one's goal is to preserve life from a catastrophic FLOOD. Whether you believe the event existed or not. Genesis 7 contains a reference to the animals - clearly no fish.

The comment about God creating lucifer is equally pertinent to the question of God creating people. Knowing they would reject him. view post


Do you believe a God exists? posted 25 April 2005 in Philosophy DiscussionDo you believe a God exists? by Echoex, Auditor

And it might be sufficed to note that -- when the Old Testament was written -- the authors had an INCREDIBLY limited worldview. For someone in a small village that had 2 dogs, a 4 cats, and a family of catepilliars, that very well could have been all the animals this author knew of.

I'm going to disagree with the assertion that 99% of Science only describes what is already happening. It's more correct to say that Science uses precedence to predict what WILL HAPPEN. Scientists formulate hypotheses on the basis of what is already known. We believe the universe is expanding. We think the universe is expanding at a certain rate, and we predict the area of expansion and the direction of galaxies and heavenly bodies based on that prediction.

Infinity is a very difficult concept for us mere humans to comprehend or accept because everything in our lives is limited. One of the 5 postulates of the particle theorum tells us that matter can not be created from nothing or destroyed to nothing; it can only be altered. But this is a postulate, and our rules may not apply for the rest of the universe. view post


Do you believe a God exists? posted 25 April 2005 in Philosophy DiscussionDo you believe a God exists? by Cynadar, Candidate

Quote: &quot;Andrew&quot;:v1ey83rb
The comment about God creating lucifer is equally pertinent to the question of God creating people. Knowing they would reject him.[/quote:v1ey83rb]

Exactly. Why the f*** would God create ANYTHING that he knew would betray him!? Makes no sense, huh?

Time cannot be perceived of as an effect; rather, for our own understanding, it NEEDS to be thought of as a fourth dimension. Based on previous knowledge, the universe in infinite. The universe, in essence, contains everything, all previous 4 dimensions included. Therefore, the is no limit to the amount of space in the universe or the amount of time. Time is infinite; it has no beginning or end. Nothing can possibly precede that which is older then the age of the current universe itself. There is no possibility that a god (or any higher being) can exist once this knowledge is established.

And what about my comment on God supposedly being a great forgiver, yet refusing all who have differing world views but manage to live a good life?

And moving on to "Either nothing created everything or god created everything" argument: Not true. As I mentioned above, there is no beginning or end to time. Therefore, everything has been in existence for longer than this very universe has. It has simply shifted state due to certain effects such as the universe expansion.

Science is not a gamble. It is a study of effects of what we already know in order to determine what we don't. For example, testing drugs on animals. We use the drugs on animals to determine the fundamentals of how the drug will work and affect the body. Once we establish these key basics of how the drug works, we attempt to study its effects on humans, knowing that they will be similar, but not exactly the same. So we find the final effects after months of testing on animals who share similary characteristics (one reason why we classify animals into groups such as Mammals. Is that a gamble? Relying on hundreds of years of work that animals can be classified into distinct groups to help with tasks such as this?).

Let's take that child in the largest library in the universe example and make it truly useful. The child reads and understands everything presented in the text. He then sits down and thinks about everything the book has just taught him. He thinks this over in a new light that the author hadn't thought about. He then comes up with some a new hypothesis and puts it to the test. Working on countless experiments, he soon finds a new law that holds true for everything he has experimented with. Is this known as learning nothing that he didn't already know? view post


Do you believe a God exists? posted 28 April 2005 in Philosophy DiscussionDo you believe a God exists? by Randal, Auditor

We're talking about two different things here, confusingly both called "god".

One can believe that the universe was created by some kind of external force or intelligence, and name that force "god." Let's call it a "creator."

Or one can believe in the god of the bible who is omnipotent, omnibenevolent, omniscient, etc, who rewards good people with heaven and bad people with hell, who poses rules of conduct for mortals, etc, etc. (there are, of course, a million variations on this theme.) Let's call this one "Jehova."

I personally believe in neither of these things, but I do find the first one a lot more plausible than the second. I reject the first one because I do not think a universe created by a mysterious eternal "creator" is any more logical or clear than a universe that simply is eternal (and mysterious) by itself. I reject the second for the inconsistencies and contradictions listed here, and many similar ones.

Anyway, arguments against the second kind of god do not apply to the first one at all.

Now, on a completely different tangent (one is allowed to ramble on messageboards, right?) a question for the believers in the second kind of god:

If I were to assume, hypothetically, that the bible is correct, and Jehova exist, why should I worship him?

Besides the rather obvious reason I'll be punished with hellfire if I disobey (that's not a good reason, i.m.o. Worship out of fear would not be worship at all.) and rewarded with eternal life and happyness if I do, I can't think of any reason to do such a thing. view post


Do you believe a God exists? posted 28 April 2005 in Philosophy DiscussionDo you believe a God exists? by Andrew, Peralogue

1) prediction is based on observation and extrapolation. Take away observation and there is NO sound basis for extrapolation and no sound basis for prediction. "we attempt to study its effects on humans, knowing that they will be similar" ... yeah that's my point. we 'study' by observing, and we HOPE it will be similar because in the past we have observed similarity.

2) i see from cynader's comments that my previous posting was wholly inadequate in respect of conveying the thought i had in mind. My comment about the "child not knowing any more than he did before..." is not a reference to whether he learned anything from the book, but whether he learned anything MORE about the library than he knew before. Whether it is POSSIBLE for him to learn more about the Library FROM READING ITS BOOKS!!. Why is the library THERE IN THE FIRST PLACE. Who wrote the books? Why were they written? Why can I (after a certain amount of effort) understand them? Ie., Why is the data of the universe comprehensible to me? Studying and understanding that THERE IS such and such A LAW which allows the universe (or some tiny part of it) to be Understood, DOES NOT solve the question of WHY there is a Law. Why is the universe comprehensible? If you are looking to science to answer these questions, it is a gamble.

3) the statement that the universe is infinite seems incompatible with the statement that it is expanding. Whether WE NEED to understand time in a certain way is inconclusive as to its ultimate nature. Also, it would be to presuppose perfect knowledge of all attributes of God, to assert that God cannot exist because Time does. If one suspends disbelief for a moment, one would see that If God can create Time and the Universe, surely he will have a way of standing OUTSIDE his creation and not being Bound or subjugated to it.
The assertion that Time and the Universe are infinite in duration, and therefore incapable of being created at a finite point in time is nothing more than an assertion. The expansion of the universe is necessary for it to be stable because of Gravity. For this reason, the expansion of the universe can't be taken as proof excluding God, nor as proof of the infiniteness of time or matter. If God created the universe, presumably he wouldn't want it to collapse in on itself. God might necessitate the expansion of the universe by creating physical laws which require it. Maybe i have missed your point though.

4) God does not refuse to forgive anyone. The notion which people have of the judeo-christian God on this posting are quite mis-conceived. A better understanding would be that those who chose not to ask God for forgiveness cannot enter into eternal communion with God. Or, how can those who reject the sovereignty of God in this life, have a complaint in the next? My own notions of forgiveness cannot quite encompass the situation where the person who has wronged me rejects the validity of my claim. (ie. is there such a thing as forgiveness where the aggressor has not asked for forgiveness and insists i have No Right to assert that he has wronged me).

5) the notion of Hell is quite a subject of dispute among christians. The Bible refers to Satan being cast into a lake of fire at the end of history, but beyond that things become far more obscure. Many people consider Hell (as a destination for humans) to be a state of eternal separation from God.


Randal said:
"I reject the first one because I do not think a universe created by a mysterious eternal "creator" is any more logical or clear than a universe that simply is eternal (and mysterious) by itself. "

It is kind of pecular to reject the existence of God merely because you see an equally plausible alternative. Wouldn't it be more consistent to reject neither God, NOR an eternal universe? OR, you ought also to reject the existence of the universe. If you hold 2 things to be equally implausible (or that neither is more 'logical or clear' than the other), then to reject one and accept the other is pure prejudice.

Cynadar said:
"Exactly. Why the f*** would God create ANYTHING that he knew would betray him!? Makes no sense, huh?"

In that case it similarly makes no sense for your parents to have conceived and raised you given that every parent knows that at some point their child will turn his back on them. Indeed any individual who soberly considers becoming a parent will realize that it is an awful lot of work, grief and frustration. It is expensive. It limits a parents options for life. It creates obligation.
Somehow it's still worth it. When the child runs to his father and says "i'm sorry dad, i love you, please forgive me", all of a sudden it was worth it. How can anyone who has loved another person not comprehend this truth? Who reading this doesn't know that relationships can HURT so badly, and yet, given the choice we throw ourselves into them, we cannot be without them, we LONG for them. It is in the nature of God, which is reflected in his creations, to desire a relationship - to suffer the cost of betrayal and rejection in exchange for the rewards. Jesus came that the Reconciliation of God and People might be complete. That through him, people might come to know God, and to rejoice with God, and to stand in a relationship with God.
This incidentally is why we ought to praise God. requiring nothing from us, but rather out of love for us, He sought us out and made himself knowable. It is naturally true that one ought not worship out of fear, and i believe that a correct conception of 'worship' is logically inconsistent with the goal of pain avoidance. I.E. you don't call it LOVE when you marry for MONEY.
Why do spouses (who have a good relationship that is) constantly say "i love you", every day, maybe even many times a day? is it because the have forgotten what was said the day before? Is it because they think that their partner is so fickle that feelings may have changed? Of course they say it to rejoice with one another in their love. to re-affirm that they have chosen the other freely - to rejoice in their common bond. Similarly to praise God is to rejoice in a relationship with God - of course there's a bit more as well than simply re-affirming a relationship. There is also the communication of thanks to a benefactor, and praise to a king. So in short, for a believer there are a multitude of very natural and spontaneous reasons to praise God. view post


Do you believe a God exists? posted 29 April 2005 in Philosophy DiscussionDo you believe a God exists? by Randal, Auditor

[quote:1iucp1ld]Randal said:
"I reject the first one because I do not think a universe created by a mysterious eternal "creator" is any more logical or clear than a universe that simply is eternal (and mysterious) by itself. "

Andrew said:
It is kind of pecular to reject the existence of God merely because you see an equally plausible alternative. Wouldn't it be more consistent to reject neither God, NOR an eternal universe? OR, you ought also to reject the existence of the universe. If you hold 2 things to be equally implausible (or that neither is more 'logical or clear' than the other), then to reject one and accept the other is pure prejudice. [/quote:1iucp1ld]

No, I don't find that peculiar at all. The situation is like this: I have a question, namely: "Why does the universe exist, and how did it come into existence."

Now, one could answer that question by saying "A creator did it." But that answer is equally implausible to me as the answer "it simply always existed." In the end, both answers come down to "Because!"

So, I have two equally implausible answers. I like neither. But for the moment I'll go with the one that does not require additional outside agents, i.e. god. It's the old argument of Occam's razor.

And as for prejudice? I don't think so. After all, god and the universe are not equal. The universe does exist, and we don't know whether it ever did not. There is no evidence for a creator. To me, just accepting the universe exists and may always have in one form or another is far less of a leap of faith than inventing a creator god to answer the question.

Basically, I still don't have a real answer to the question, but I don't see a reason to believe in a creator either. (At least, as far as the origin of the universe is concerned.) Maybe we'll learn more some day in the future. view post


Do you believe a God exists? posted 29 April 2005 in Philosophy DiscussionDo you believe a God exists? by Andrew, Peralogue

Well Randall, i would say based on your answer that you basically AGREE with my point!! First you said "I REJECT" - now you say "But for the moment I'll go with the one that does not require additional outside agents". There is a vast difference between saying "I reject X, because X OR Y is true but equally implausible", and, "I accept Y exclusively because i don't currently see a reason to accept X as well as Y". Earlier you said the Former, now the latter.

Clearly the biggest difference between us is that I take the existence of the universe as the greatest proof there could possibly be of God's existence, where as you assert that the existence of the universe provides absolutely no proof of God's existence. I would be curious to know what it would require for God to prove his existence to you if creating a universe of staggering complexity isn't enough! How about one human being of staggering complexity?? How about laws of nature and physics of staggering complexity?? evolution can only occur by operation of physical laws, no matter over how LONG a time period. Outside of the mind of men there is no such thing as "chance" or "random" or "unpredictable".

You accept that I exist as a separate human being, with no evidence other than the words on your screen! might i not be a bit of cosmic radiation interfereing with the Net somehow? Or a rogue scrap of code turned sentient, or perhaps some kind of newly evolved internet life form which generated itself into existence via a random interaction of electrons and circuits and code and chips and 50 billion bytes and 3 billion spam messages sent daily and rogue microsoft engineers and all the power of the internet... etc... but of course that's absurd! that's rediculous! how can there NOT be an Andrew out there writing these absurd things... naturally you would have no problem accepting cosmic radiation as the explanation of ME if all you saw on your screen was line of meaningless jibberish - random letters, symbols large blank sections followed by more jumble mumble... etc. Somehow the existence of (semi) ordered sentences, thoughts, etc; the (bare) hint of some kind of intellect causing what you see on your screen provides sufficient proof that I exist. And yet an ordered, lawful universe you say provides "no evidence" of an ordered, thoughtful cause? view post


Do you believe a God exists? posted 30 April 2005 in Philosophy DiscussionDo you believe a God exists? by Cynadar, Candidate

Time to start chipping away... (damn these long posts)

prediction/ extrapolation/ gambling is not how science works. If science was only guesswork, we would be nowhere farther than following animals, because we know they provide food. We would have no language, no religion. You refuse to accept this fact, yet fight for religion which is a product of scientific advancement. Quite interesting, don't you agree?

First of all, I don't understand what the example of the library does to prove the existence of god, but here we go. We're saying that this child was (for no apparent reason) in a library. This child is able to read a book that describes (from what you said earlier) everything imaginable about science. This child understands everything presented in the text. But what does that tell us about the nature of the library? Everything and nothing. You see, you're taking a single moment in an infinite amount of time. We can assume the child doesn't miraculously die seconds after reading this (if he did, the whole argument would be useless). Therefore, the child continues living (and will continue to do as he is a CHILD). The reason I say everything and nothing, is because the book itself provides no example to these questions, but the example of the child as a whole gives us evidence that looking farther into time, we learn everything about the library. This child is smart enough to read and understand EVERYTHING in a book about physics, chemistry, astronomy and basically all forms of science. And then the next sentence you completely disregard this intelligence. The child would then THINK. He would realize he knows everything about the laws of physics and decide to either read more of what the library has to offer, or determine his current position. He would find the entrance/ exit of this library, or a references to the books contained in the library. One side of this, he reads the list of books and determines the reason of the libraries existance. Or he leaves the library (if possible) and determines its location and can use later resources to find its purpose. Third option, he continues reading, and determines the organization of the books in the library, the type of books this library offers and everything else he reads and learns from these books. You looked at one single moment throughout the scale of the situation, when there was so much more. You did not even look into the child's past, which may give reason for the library to exist. Perhaps this child was bred (with modern technology) to be a super-genius (of the likes this world has not seen). The library was a compilation of every single piece of writing ever written to give him abundant knowledge of what we (as humans) already know. You are refusing to take past or present events into account, and therefore, look over any event (past or future) aside from the child reading this book. You label them useless to further the point of your argument so you can attempt to crush any opposition towards it.

The statement that the universe is infinite is completely in line with the fact that is expanding. We as humans cannot perceive anything infinite. When we decide to look at "End Behavior" of a graph (as in math), we draw it out to infinite. Can we actually perform a calculation with this number? NO! We substitute a very large (or very small) number that will cause the calculation to be so nearly equal to the "infinite" value of the function that we can say the two are "equal." Infinite is simply the state of rapid expansion (and decomposition) with no signs of slowing. And, as I said earlier, time in its infinite state will continue to progress in a positive and negative direction. The statement that "God created everything or nothing created everything" becomes a completely useless argument in this case. However, you already gave up this argument, so I'll move on. The law of conservation of mass/ energy states that mass (or energy) cannot be created or destroyed, simply transferred. Again, disproving god's existance. However, "suspending disbelief," god would (of course) have the power to manuever around his own laws... But that goes to the essential simpson's question: (assuming omnipotence of god) "Can god create a..." Burrito in this case, it is simpsons... "Burrito so hot that he can't eat it." How does an omnipotent being exist? It would be impossible for Him to create a burrito so hot that he can't eat it, becuase he can do anything (eat that burrito included). But perahps you can argue omnipotence and keep up with these discrepansies...

I am not saying God does not forgive everyone, I'm saying he doesn't forgive you unless YOU ASK FOR IT (like you said, proving my own point). He claims to be a great forgiver. I am saying that you cannot call him forgiver, when he refuses to forgive all those who deny him. I'll write out the example one more time:

A young man was born and raised muslim. This is all he knows. He hears about the Christian religion, but can't possibly convert (his nature and upbringing do not allow this). He manages to live a good life, making NO MISTAKE WHATSOEVER (which I actually think would be impossible, but for this example, he doesn't do anything that God would not want him to do, aside from being muslim). He dies and God deems him unworthy of acceptance to heavan because of one small thing against him: he was muslim. How can you call that forgiving!? That's cruelty at its worst. God refuses this man simply because he was born to the wrong people? How can anyone in their right mind call THAT forgiving?

Finally, "Why does a parent raise a child, when they know that child will rebel sometime in their life?" My simple answer is this: (most) modern parents are complete idiots, who have kids simply because they want to fuck. They hold expectations for this kid, and destroy any sense of individuality that child will ever have. I use myself in this case. My mom basically refuses to accept the fact that perhaps her religion is wrong; God may not exist. That simple refusal destroys my sense of self. If and when I become a parent, I will hold no expectations, leave my children free to live how they see fit. A certain amount of structure will obviously need to be provided, but I will not say "I don't believe in God, so they CAN'T." I'll raise them aetheist, sure. But allow them to choose whether or not they believe in god, whether or not they want to dress a certain way, whether or not they want a certain career or not, etc (the list goes on, trust me). Parents raise kids with expectations, where they should allow the child to be a true individual. They always hold that expectation that he (or she) won't rebel. "She'll be my little angel" "He'll be a rocket scientist" They are crushed when they realize that the child has no motivation to be a beauty queen or rocket scientist. That causes them to lash out at the child. The child knows that the only way to get back is to rebel and try as hard as they can to go against how their parent (s) raised them. This didn't work so well in my case, because naturally school comes so easy to me (and that's just about the only expectation (aside from religion) that my mom had for me), that I literally can't fail (plus it'll only hurt me later when I attempt to live on my own). That's the only thing we, as teenagers, know how to do to fight it. You see what I mean, how the parent doesn't expect the child to rebel, but by holding that expectation, they allow the child to rebel against that expectation... view post


Do you believe a God exists? posted 01 May 2005 in Philosophy DiscussionDo you believe a God exists? by Randal, Auditor

Preliminary notes

Interesting discussion, this, albeit one that has been held many times before. Still, this time I participate myself. It's a good mental exercise, I think, to really try and explain one's views to a stranger.

I do wonder, Andrew, what your exact position in the debate is? You obviously believe that some intelligent creator made the universe. But I do wonder what your other beliefs are. Do you also believe in a more conventional god, i.e. judeo-christian-muslim? Or just a creator, a "first cause" of the universe?

Anyway, your post. My reply is going to be a long one. (well, it's tricky to explain one's worldview in a few sentences. And you did ask...) To the other worthy members of this forum, my apologies for what basically amounts to something like a thread-hijack. I guess it was inevitable once this subject reared it's head.

Quote: &quot;Andrew&quot;:1nq10sw6
Well Randall, I would say based on your answer that you basically AGREE with my point![/quote:1nq10sw6]

Yes, my first assertion was not very logical. It was a bit of an afterthought, a casual reference to my position, but irrelevant to my argument. (That we were talking about two different ideas called "god".) It was a line I added at the last minute, and did not really clarify my beliefs. (well, I wasn't really expecting a debate like this.)

I stand by the second post, as well as the gist of the first. I still reject X, because there is no reason to accept it, and it is less plausible than other, albeit equally unsatisfying answers. (as far as I can see.) Note that this does not mean I really accept Y either, just that I think it's a possibility, which I'll stick to until new evidence is forthcoming.

Onto the main issue

Quote: &quot;Andrew&quot;:1nq10sw6
{snip}I would be curious to know what it would require for God to prove his existence to you if creating a universe of staggering complexity isn't enough!{snip}[/quote:1nq10sw6]

Yes, that's where the difference lies between our views.

Quote: &quot;Andrew&quot;:1nq10sw6
{another snip}Outside of the mind of men there is no such thing as "chance" or "random" or "unpredictable".{snip}[/quote:1nq10sw6]

That sentence goes part of the way towards the answer. Chance and random do exist outside the minds of men, in my worldview. (quantum processes and all that.) Things that go one way could just as well go another. God (or in my case, the universe) does indeed play dice. A lot can be predicted, and many chances are so heavily weighed one way or another that the possibility of something else happening is virtually negligible, but in the end everything is the result of a chance process. Everything is random.

In such a worldview, the existence of the universe proves nothing about a creator. Order can come from chaos all by itself, if left alone long enough. And long enough is easy if infinity is at your disposal.

But, now to formulate an answer to the important question;

"what would god need to do to prove his existence to me?"

Which is, indeed, a tricky question to answer. One I have considered before, but which will still need some thought to arrive at a reasonably clear answer.

Ultimately, it would depend on the kind of god we're talking about.

The judeo-christian-muslim-buddhist whatever else you can think of gods that make up 99% of the world's religions, all make claim to influencing the world in one way or another. To prove their existence, that influence would need to be proven. Miracles would need to be shown, efficacy of prayer detected, proof of reincarnation found, etc. Depends on the exact variant of religion.

In a more general sense, for me to even consider the existence of these kinds of deities, scientific research would have to prove the existence of the supernatural in one way or another. Should that happen, I will completely re-evaluate my worldview, and start considering the religions as possible fact, rather than regarding them as nonsense.

Note, however, that this does not mean I'd convert. Even if christianity, to take the most obvious example, proved to be true in all it's various claims, I doubt I would turn to worship God. I don't really understand why people worship anything, be he the creator of the universe or the emperor of Hulaland. Same for morals. I do what I believe good, and will not consciously alter my positions just because it turns out some god is watching my moves from heaven. I'm not a very worshippy person, I guess.

But, all this is concerning the second kind of god I discussed earlier. The acting god, not the first variant, who is merely the "first cause."

The claim of the first cause "god" is far more ephemeral than the second one. Where the second one claims to be omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, whatever, the first one merely claims to be the invisible, intangible, untraceable reason the universe exists. A hard claim to either prove, or disprove. Such a creator would exist outside of our universe, in all probability, and not be subject to the laws of nature by which we live and by which all our research is conducted. Such a "god" might not want to prove his existence, might not be able to by virtue of his position outside the universe. He need not even be sentient as we see it.

Which means my position on this one is rather less firm than on the other. Dismissing it out of hand, when so little is or can be proven, would be a bit premature, I think. But I still don't accept the claim the universe must have a creator, for precisely the same reason. It's so easy to claim something unprovable exists. It's a tired old analogy, but here goes anyway: how does one disprove the existence of invisible purple unicorns living on the far side of the galaxy? The only possibility would be to travel to every planet in the galaxy with supersophisticated sensors capable of finding even invisible pink unicorns. Only once every place has been visited could one safely claim they do not exist. But with our current technology, this is not possible, or desirable. So in the meantime, I'll dismiss their existence based on the burden of proof and probability. Something does not exist unless there is proof, or at least a good reason to assume it does.

All of which does not answer the question "how would a creator/first cause go about proving his existence, when that may well be impossible by definition." (if it is completely separated from the physical universe and hence undetectable by beings limited by it's constraints.)

On consideration, my answer would be that it is impossible for such a god to prove it's existence, or for us to prove it, because the concept thought up here is too abstract, too remote and too alien to be subjected to conventional research.

Maybe, one day in the future, with advanced technology and tools, we'll be able to truly examine the origins of the universe, and come to some kind of conclusion. Only a few hundred years ago, it was impossible to think of some non-divine alternative explanation for the existence of life, let alone humans. Now, there are extensive theories to explain these things. Maybe the origins of the universe will one day be unveiled as well.

But right now, I can neither prove nor disprove the existence of a "first cause." Be that as it may, I still choose not to believe in it, because for me that is the more logical way to approach a subject. I will not believe in something unprovable unless there is a reason to do so. If that means I disregard something that in the future will be proven to be true, so be it. I'd rather be overly sceptical than credulous. (note: I am not accusing you of credulity. I just state that with the worldview I have described, belief in god for me would require credulousness.)

Wrapping things up

After this already long post, I think it's fairly safe to state that our difference of opinion arises basically from a disagreement of what constitutes he evidence in this case. You believe in a creator, because to you the universe is obviously/logically something that must have been created by an intelligence, a god.

I, however, have no problems whatsoever with ascribing something so complex and wonderful as the universe or even the laws of nature to something as basic as the result of mere chance and random processes which we do not yet understand. Or something else entirely, such as hyperintelligent aliens from the umpteenth dimension, or another kind of creator. Or I could see it as something that simply always has existed, and has no origin or cause as we understand it. Therefore, where you see evidence for one thing, I see an unexplained phenomenon which may have for which we have multiple widely differring possible explanations, none of which need be true, and some of which sound more implausible to me than others.

Now, I'd better get some sleep, as this reply took rather longer than I expected. I don't think I need to reply to your "maybe Andrew is cosmic radiation" analogy, which is quite as ridiculous as my invisible purple unicorns and would only cause confusion. This post is quite long enough. view post


Do you believe a God exists? posted 02 May 2005 in Philosophy DiscussionDo you believe a God exists? by Anonymous, Subdidact

There was a line promoting an old French publication that read:

"There are no more Manicheans"
"There is me."

I always thinking about that, wondering if I am one of the few unrepentant polytheists left. In Perdido Street Station, there's a quick mention about the possibility of gods. Its admitted there are powerful agents, but whether they should be worshipped is another question entirely. I find myself in this camp, as it seems there is enough circumstantial evidence and my own personal gut feeling to accept the supernatural, but nothing to make me define it as lovable or coherent. I would consider allying myself with various such agents through the business dealings of sacrifice, if in fact I was confident I'd receive something in return. But my agnosticism always acts up and I can't commit to any gods.

Simply put, I find D&amp;D &amp; fantasy novels to have the most realistic viewpoint on gods than any real religion. view post


Do you believe a God exists? posted 02 May 2005 in Philosophy DiscussionDo you believe a God exists? by Randal, Auditor

Upon consideration, I think I'll adress your "andrew might as well be cosmic radiation" argument as well. To recapitulate:

Quote: &quot;Andrew&quot;:11cx5v7w
You accept that I exist as a separate human being, with no evidence other than the words on your screen! might i not be a bit of cosmic radiation interfereing with the Net somehow? {snip}... etc... but of course that's absurd! that's rediculous! how can there NOT be an Andrew out there writing these absurd things... naturally you would have no problem accepting cosmic radiation as the explanation of ME if all you saw on your screen was line of meaningless jibberish - random letters, symbols large blank sections followed by more jumble mumble... etc. Somehow the existence of (semi) ordered sentences, thoughts, etc; the (bare) hint of some kind of intellect causing what you see on your screen provides sufficient proof that I exist. And yet an ordered, lawful universe you say provides "no evidence" of an ordered, thoughtful cause?[/quote:11cx5v7w]

This analogy is highly flawed. I believe the posts I see to be written by a fellow human being, because I have seen many messages on many messageboards in many different places, I have written some myself, and have seen other people write others. Therefore, although it is theoretically possible you're some kind of A.I. or virus, by far the most plausible assumption is you're just a human being.

This analogy would apply to the universe only if there were thousands of other universes in existence, and I had positive evidence at least some of them were created by gods, I had created some myself, and seen others being created. Then, it would be silly to say: "No, this universe, out of all those thousands of others, probably wasn't created by a god. Prove it was!"

Secondly, your analogy is flawed in my eyes because the universe does not resemble a piece of written text. I don't think the universe is "ordered and lawful" at all. In fact, to me it looks very much the result of random processes. The "laws" of nature work the other way around. They do not dictate how matter behaves, they're simply a way of describing how it behaves. And if you study it closely, it does not behave all that orderly, and the "laws" are not all that immutable. On the smallest scale, the laws of nature are the result of probability processes. Only because our perception is limited to the macro level does the universe appear to be orderly.

The "complexity" of humans or the universe is not all that surprising, it merely is a result of trial and error. There is no master plan being followed. If one were to turn time back a billion years, events might take a quite different cause. Humans might not have evolved at all, for example. Or a thousand different things might have happened. Impossible to tell.

Anyway, that's how I see things. Chaos, not order, rules the universe. view post


Do you believe a God exists? posted 04 May 2005 in Philosophy DiscussionDo you believe a God exists? by Andrew, Peralogue

If chaos rules the universe, then basing your belief system entirely on what is scientifically provable seems a bit iffy... you will only believe what can be scientifically verified but you seem to in the same breath negate the very possibility of anything being scientifically verifiable at all, in the sense that anything which appears to be verifiable on earth from our perspective, might be completely limited to our planet, our speck of the galaxy, this instant in time and so forth. So that science cannot really tell us anything except that here on this earth, such and such seems to occur with frequency.
I am very curious about your idea that the laws of nature are only descriptive of what matter does, and are not necessary. If they are descriptive only then what can possibly be causing matter to behave in certain ways?

I will gladly accept your criticism of my "andrew is cosmic radiation" argument. Really, it is just the old watchmaker argument i guess. The chief point is that, something being ordered or something complex existing at all suggests that something intelligent must be behind it. The watchmaker analogy goes something like, suppose you are a castaway on a desert island and you discover a watch (it could be anything complex). One option is to suppose that certain metals existed in certain rocks, and through that magical combination of time and chance and physical forces, those metals and sand and whatever melded themselves into the watch spontaneously. The more common sense conclusion to a watch on a desert island is that there was some intelligent person who made the watch and left it there. Most people would say, "i don't care if you let an island be for 10 billion years, there is no way a watch will arise by itself". Biological processes, stars, planets, atmospheres, atoms, molecules etc., being vastly more complex and intricate than a mere watch, it is only logical to look for the intelligent creator of those things. If a watch spontaneously coming into existence is absurd then how about other things. What is being discovered is that the most basic building blocks of life are themselves staggeringly complex. Look at proteins for example. I participate in a project called "folding at home" - it is one of these internet projects that seeks to harness the computing power of idle computers in peoples homes in order to carry out calculations which require vast amounts of computing power. I don't pretend to understand what i am trying to describe, but Proteins are reactive to their environment in certain ways. They can change their form or shape and in so doing they change the way they interact with whatever is facing them. This is what they have posted on the home page for the project:

"It's amazing that not only do proteins self-assemble -- fold -- but they do so amazingly quickly: some as fast as a millionth of a second. While this time is very fast on a person's timescale, it's remarkably long for computers to simulate.

In fact, it takes about a day to simulate a nanosecond (1/1,000,000,000 of a second). Unfortunately, proteins fold on the tens of microsecond timescale (10,000 nanoseconds). Thus, it would take 10,000 CPU days to simulate folding -- i.e. it would take 30 CPU years! That's a long time to wait for one result!"

So my basic point is that the further we study what are supposed to be the most basic building blocks of us, the MORE complexity we discover. it becomes staggeringly complex in fact. I have to ask myself if it makes sense. How can the EARLIEST things which are said to be most basic and giving rise to more complex things, be themselves so absurdly complex that we barely understand them? How can it be that something such as a protein can arise out of nothing? To me, just repeating the mantra "time + chance" is rediculous. It seems to become such a convienient definition that it solves everythiing. One gets the impression that if tommorow a booming voice was heard shouting out for all humanity to hear, "prepare for the day of the Lord", we would have newspapers full of speculation how it was just a matter of time + chance that certain volcanoes would erupt and asteroids would collide and sun radiation would reflect off the moon, creating this improbable, once in a gazillion year confluence of sound waves which happened to make sense to our ears and happened to make a coherent sentence. After-all, if the universe is infinite, and etc., then anything should be possible and possibly explained through natural random phenomena.

I once had a professor in university for a course called advanced linear algebra or something like that. It was years ago and i shortly thereafter abandoned studying math, but i've always remembered the first day of that class. This professor was a sincere christian and he spoke on the first day about the beauty of math, its symmetry, its marvellous complexity and so on. The upshot was that he personally had been so amazed by what he was learning while studying math that he came to an absolute conviction that there was an intelligent creator of the universe. The more he learned, the more astounded he became and he sought out religion shortly thereafter. Well enough on that.

incidentally, when you say that humans are a product of mere trial and error, isn't it curious that you are using language best suited to describiing how an intelligent process would create something? I realize it is just a consequence of language, but i'm sure you will agree that it is non-sense to speak of trial and error unless one is intentially seeking to produce a particular outcome (which in your world view is impossible in respect of the origin of humans). Thomas Edison seeking a suitable metal for his lightbulb was trial and error.

Sciborg2: myself i have never really encountered an original version or view of gods in fantasy. seems to me basically, you have the unknown/unknowable type, you have the all-good creator vs. all-bad destroyer type, and you have the capricious, meddling shades of grey type, all of which can be found in human religions.

Back to Randal- your point about efficacy of prayer is interesting because it is well known and well documented that people who go to church, pray and have others pray for them DO live longer and healthier lives.

Happily (for you) this can all be explained away via psychology. It is KNOWN that attitude makes a huge difference in outcome. The only General cure for every disease in the world is a placebo. The placebo effect is well known and it is entirely mental. When people believe they are taking a miracle drug that is sure to cure them, they get better (at least a statistically significant portion do). Similarly, if one believes that prayer is efficacious, then one is more likely to get better (so it is said). Also, if one goes to church, one often has a more extensive support group, one believes that God is looking out for ones best interests, one can leave ones stress and anxiety and fear and guilt in the hands of God etc. Less stress, guilt, anxiety leads to healthier people. More social interaction and support leads to better outcomes for sick and old people.

I can give you examples from my own life where in the midst of severe sorrow or anger or pain, i prayed and FELT the hand of God and felt my spirits lifted immeasurably - in short i experienced a complete reversal from misery to joy. Happily for you, this can also be explained via psychology. It can be ascribed to my BELIEF that God would aid me producing a psychological effect. I believed that God would hold my heart in his hands, and viola.

There is no shortage of miraculous stories within the Christian community, and i am speaking of stories from our day, not from 2000 years ago. Happily for you, these can be explained as unlikely coincidences, one of those seemingly random twists of 'fate': a highly improbable this or that which is certain to have a rational and natural, rather than mystical/devine cause.

I suspect Randall that what you would require would be something massive. Something so undeniably God-sent that it would overwhelm you entirely. And it would not do for it to have occured in the past! Oh no, we all know how susceptible and silly anyone not living within the last 100 yrs or so was. THEY would believe anything! Unfortunately, if one studies what the bible says about God, one can only conclude that he is not interested inperfoming parlour tricks for the purpose of proving his existence.

It would do you no good to learn that 2000-odd years ago a small group of people whose leader had just been executed, who were alone and afraid that their own ending was imminent; who were rejected and branded as heretics by their former religious leaders - how this small group suddenly became so convinced that they had seen their leader risen from the dead that they personally endured every kind of torture and death, every humiliation and defeat and never recanted, never surrendered their message, never retracted their statement that they had SEEN their leader alive. There is a great mystery that a band of jewish heretics whose leader had just been executed, managed within a remarkably short time convert masses of people away from belief systems thousands of years old.

But who can answer the eternal sceptic? I guarantee that there is nothing i could write which you could not dismiss as mere coincidence or as certainly explainable though we don't quite know how, or as historical puffery.

Cynader - your comments about my library analogy seem to suggest a wildly optimistic vision of human understanding. I guarantee you and I won't live to see the day when the child has read and understands everything in that library. It may well be that someday eons hence, all that can be known about the universe will be known. I suspect that we will still be somewhat in the dark about what can be known that is NOT in the universe. I suspect that we might have certain ideas based on analogy and so forth, however i suspect that it is IMPOSSIBLE to know with certainty about anything that is not in our universe. The library is our universe. The books are bits of knowledge about the universe. The aggregate of those bits adds up to everything knowable about the universe. Currently we probably have read several decimals below 1 percent of all those books. We don't even have a full list of land animals, never mind proper descriptions, never mind ocean animals, never mind insects, microbes, plants etc. There are VAST amounts of info about our world alone that we are still looking for. If God created our universe then he is not contained in it or defined through it. Quite the reverse in fact. If he made it, then he is outside it. It may be possible to get a glimpse of the creator through what he has created. I.E. something of his nature will be revealed in what he has created. But that's it. That is why i say, for each book the child reads, he is more knowledgeable about what is IN the library, but he is no closer to finding out what is OUT of the library. Which is where God would reside, or i suppose, any other process which creates universes.

Cynader - i must say that your view of parenting is suprisingly cynical. I will leave myself to advancing an alternative view of parenting, which is that people long to create something; they long to love; they long to pass on what they have learned and discovered; they long to care for something; they long to impart something of themself into something else; they long to project themselves into the future; they long to BE loved; they long to Be depended on; they long to be esteemed and respected; they long to Be cared for by another. Maybe that is enough.

I would also respectfully say that the "choice" of the child model is overrated. First because kids typically WANT to be like their parents (so their choice is illusory to an extent). Second because I think it is impossible that a parent will fail to impart their own values to their kids. Your child, knowing that you have a distaste or distain for religion, will not fail to act accordingly. He may react in a backlash - i have a good friend whose parents raised him as a materialist and he has spent the last 10 years or so seeking mystical experiences and deeper meaning (alas - he choses mystical substances to induce said deeper meanings). He may react by wholesale adoption of your views. I have always felt that a parent has an obligation to impart their received wisdom to the child - why force them to tread all the paths which you have? Naturally, one must realize that certain things must be experienced to be learned, but were I you, i would not so quickly abdicate my role in raising a child in every sense of the word. Certainly, your comments about a parent trying to impose their vision of the child's outcome onto the child and then rejecting the child who does not conform - yes clearly you are correct in that respect. But there IS a middle ground between caring for a child and raising them and teaching them about the world, and becoming a domineering lunatic. if all you are going to do is feed them and play catch in the back yard (ok, i'm drawing a caricature to make a point) - then why not have them raised by robots. I would hazard to guess that the unfortunate state of children now adays is caused my LESS parenting and not more parenting. Kids are saying over and over that they WANT some direction from their parents, they WANT a better relationship, they WANT guidelines on their behaviour - it makes them feel loved and cared for - again, all this has to be done with a hefty dose of reasonableness. Kids in the 40's (the other faults of that era aside), were not toting guns to school and blowing people to bits, or subjected to depression and anxiety etc to the degree they are now. I saw a recent documentary about a certain rocker whose fans were carving his name in their chest with razor blades. these are 15 year old girls carving into their chest with razor's. Who can say the process of parenting those kids experienced? i don't know of course. It is enough though to make me sceptical about modern ideas of parenting.

these posts are becoming intolerably long.

second last point for cynader. i really don't see what your burrito example is supposed to prove. i think it proves absolutely nothing. its' like asking whether God could create a God more powerful than himself. Those 2 things are mutually exclusive and impossible. You can't have in the same universe something which is Infinitely X, and something which is greater than that. It makes no sense and doesn't prove a thing. It's like asking whether God could make 1+1=3 and 2 at the same time and if he can't well i guess he ain't all powerful!!

As to your point about God as a Forgiver. I now understand you better. I will point out that no one (who knows what they are talking about) has ever claimed that Gods sole characteristic is a forgiver. That is an aspect of his personality. Another aspect is judge. What would we think of a human judge who was either 100% mercy, or 100% judgment? would we not prefer one who mixed judgment and mercy? NO ONE (ie no christian who has read the bible) has ever claimed that God will forgive someone who does not repent and seek forgiveness. Since God does not claim to do that, your only complaint is that he is not forgiving enough and HE OUGHT TO BE MORE forgiving. It is a curious thing that people these days seem to separate and fixate on INDIVIDUAL characteristics of God, as if the entirety of God could possibly be contained in one single aspect of his character.

I would like to know why you believe he ought to be more forgiving with respect to someone who has rejected him outright. How can ANYONE be obliged to forgive? That is an absurd contention. The entire NOTION of forgiveness is that it is NOT deserved - it is a Gift bestowed, NOT A RIGHT. Try to think of this in human terms. If you tell your wife/lover/best friend to F off on a particularly bad day and you NEVER apologize - will you be surprised if they hold it against you? Will you go up to them and say "see hear, you've been telling people all your life what a nice person you are - you claim that you never held a grudge against anyone - well now i demand that you forgive what i said to you even though i'm not the least bit sorry and don't acknowledge that i've wronged you. If you refuse, i will spread the word what a rotten liar you are since you've claimed to be nice all this time." What would you say about the person if they agreed with you and went along with you? would you hesitate to abuse them in the future? Would you respect them in the least? Would you not call them a push-over? Would you not suspect that they were so lacking in self worth that they would say or do anything - humiliate themselves just so as to keep some semblance of friendship with you (or rather to keep the idea in their head that you were still friends)?

this has gotten to be quite to long. perhaps i'll talk about your 'muslim guy' question later. view post


Do you believe a God exists? posted 05 May 2005 in Philosophy DiscussionDo you believe a God exists? by Randal, Auditor

This thread seems to generate long, long replies. Hardly surprising, given the fact that libraries have been filled with this subject matter, and will undoubtedly continue to be filled.

Incidentally, you still haven't told me where you stand in the debate. General "first cause" god, or Omni-everything God with a capital G? From your reference to prayer experiences, I infer the latter, but I'd still be interested to know your denomination, even if it's just out of curiosity. Are you a Christian? Muslim? Roman Catholic, Anglican, Remonstrant, Lutheran, Mormon, generic believer? (Hey, that was the original point of this thread, wasn't it?)

Chaos and the universe

If chaos rules the universe, then basing your belief system entirely on what is scientifically provable seems a bit iffy... you will only believe what can be scientifically verified but you seem to in the same breath negate the very possibility of anything being scientifically verifiable at all, in the sense that anything which appears to be verifiable on earth from our perspective, might be completely limited to our planet, our speck of the galaxy, this instant in time and so forth. So that science cannot really tell us anything except that here on this earth, such and such seems to occur with frequency.


Well, I don't so much believe that chaos rules the universe here and now, as that the universe arose out of chaos. (quantum mess out of which big bang arose) I think our "laws of nature" apply to the physical universe as a whole, but that it is entirely possible that other universes with different laws of nature could exist, and perhaps even do, and that our laws of nature will at some point cease to apply as the universe reverts to entropy. Perhaps there exceptions to the laws of nature even within this universe. (Black holes? Wormholes? Weird stuff?)

Moreover, even if things arise from random effects, this does not mean they are completely unpredictable. There still is probability. Even though the result of a dice roll is random, if you roll a million dice it's fairly safe to predict the average score will be 3,5.

But I do admit that this gets rather far into quantum physics and other stuff I do not understand myself. In the end, everybody has to accept some things he's told by other people as truth, as you can't check everything yourself. In my case, I'll accept physics.

I am very curious about your idea that the laws of nature are only descriptive of what matter does, and are not necessary. If they are descriptive only then what can possibly be causing matter to behave in certain ways?


Mostly, I see the same thing you do, but from a slightly different angle. You say "matter behaves in a certain way because of the (god imposed?) laws of nature."

I say "Out of the big bang arose matter that behaves in a certain way. The way it behaves is described by the laws of nature." In other words, the laws of nature do not precede matter. You can't have the laws without matter, it'd be meaningless. "Before" the big bang (there is no before, time is a dimension of the universe) the laws of nature as we see them would have been meaningless. Like the idea of a time "before" the big bang. But as I said, I do not completely understand this stuff. I ought perhaps to read up on it.

The blind watchmaker, trial and error

incidentally, when you say that humans are a product of mere trial and error, isn't it curious that you are using language best suited to describing how an intelligent process would create something? I realize it is just a consequence of language, but i'm sure you will agree that it is non-sense to speak of trial and error unless one is intentially seeking to produce a particular outcome (which in your world view is impossible in respect of the origin of humans).


No, not really. "Trial and error" presupposes a goal. But it does not presuppose an intelligence. You can have a goal without intelligence. Take the example of a evolution. If anything is trial and error, evolution is. And the goal is clear: reproduce yourself, maintain the species. This goal is nor formulated by any intelligence, it simply arises because anything without that goal would cease to exist. Anything not good enough at achieving that goal ceases to exist. Etc.

So, it is quite possible to seek to produce a particular outcome without having any intelligence interfering whatsoever.

Therefore, the existence of a human does not presuppose the existence of a "humanmaker." This becomes clear when examining a human more closely. We don't appear to be designed. A clever, let alone omniscient designer could make something far more efficient than a human, without, tailbones, appendixes, ingrown toenails or dementia. All these things do not interfere with reproduction whatsoever, and therefore are not weeded out by evolution. An intelligent designer probably would have fixed these problems/redundancies and a thousand more.

Note that the "desired outcome" here is not "to design a human being" and that were one to start evolution all over, we could well end up with entirely different creatures. Say, sentient dinosaurs. Or no sentient beings at all. Or something even weirder.

Efficacy of prayer

Yes, you're right on that. Prayer and religion undoubtedly helps many people. (which is one reason I never try to dissuade people from their faith. Just defend my own lack of it.)

For the effects of prayer to be evidence of the existence of a god, it would not just need to be effective, it would need to be more effective than belief in a witch doctor, new age healing guru or a placebo.

But not only can this effect be explained away via psychology, for me it actually is another reason to disbelieve the existence of god. Because, if belief helps you live longer and healthier and increases mental health, it explains nicely why so many humans are religious. It's an evolutionary advantage, that's why.

Evidence for God

I suspect Randal that what you would require would be something massive. Something so undeniably God-sent that it would overwhelm you entirely. And it would not do for it to have occured in the past!{snip}


As I stated, what would be required for me to believe in a god, depends on the kind of god. For me to believe in the Christian god would indeed require... if not something massive, more something... definite. Unambiguous. Preferably in a laboratory. Unlikely to happen, I know.

And stories in the bible do indeed not qualify. Besides the doubts about the bible's origin and veracity, there's Clarke's law: any technology sufficiently advanced appears as magic to the beholder. (Or any natural phenomena sufficiently complicated.) Whilst the rise of christianity is certainly remarkable, it is by no means supernatural. In that time and age, there was a wide dissatisfaction with the established religion, and hundreds of mystery cults arose. One thrived, in part because of Constantine's conversion, but christianity really was just a sign of the times in my eyes. Fanatics always have existed, and probably always will. Other religions have their saints and martyrs. Does that prove them true?

The Eternal Sceptic, or an Open Mind on Religion


But who can answer the eternal sceptic? I guarantee that there is nothing i could write which you could not dismiss as mere coincidence or as certainly explainable though we don't quite know how, or as historical puffery.


Yes, that's fair enough. I try to keep an open mind on most things, but I do not think there's anything you can say to convince me to become a christian. (Although I might just be persuaded of the possibility of a "first cause" god.)

Not only because of the points discussed in this thread, but because there are dozens of other reasons why I do not believe in the Christian god. I do not think I could believe in him if my life depended on it. (and according to christians, it does. Now there's a pity.)

And, also because I was raised an atheist and a sceptic. Much though I would like to believe my position is entirely and completely rational, I'm too much of a sceptic to believe that either. Education and indoctrination are of immense influence in these things. It's kinda hard to be a christian when you've been dismissively told by your mother from age 4 onwards that religion is "a story some other people believe is true. But don't tell them that, it might upset them." when you asked about what god is.

That doesn't mean I haven't looked at the questions carefully myself when I was older, and tried to form my own conclusions as much as possible. But one does not shake off one's background entirely, as you said in your reply to Cynader.

Finally, I think there was recent research that indicates there exists a genetic predisposition for or against religion. Some people are simply born sceptics, or the opposite.

We all strive to keep an open mind (or so I hope) but where religion is concerned, this is rarely achieved. There is no definite answer in this debate. If there was, all sceptics would have been converted a century ago, or religion would have ceased to exist.

I think it would be safe to state that this is equally true for you, Andrew. Do you think there is anything I could say to you that would make you renounce your faith? Me, a stranger over the internet? I do not particularly care to try, as your beliefs are really your own business, but if I were a particular rabid brand of atheist hell-bent on denouncing the "misguided religious fools" I doubt I would have much success.

Why don't you answer the same question I did, but the other way around?

What would make you stop believing in God and become an atheist? view post


Do you believe a God exists? posted 05 May 2005 in Philosophy DiscussionDo you believe a God exists? by Anonymous, Subdidact

Sciborg2: myself i have never really encountered an original version or view of gods in fantasy. seems to me basically, you have the unknown/unknowable type, you have the all-good creator vs. all-bad destroyer type, and you have the capricious, meddling shades of grey type, all of which can be found in human religions.


Well, I was referring to their carpricious and childish battles to control reality. This is how I see the gods, if they exist--as creatures that feed off of certain memes, certain ideas.

I have the problem you presented in your posts, that almost all miracles can be attributed to rational explanations. More importantly, many religions can cite miracles or historical mysteries of faith's power. Its just as, if not more, plausible that there is a psychic field that reacts to our beliefs instead of a sentient creator(s) watching (spying on?) us.

Paranormal phenomenon, even when it passes scientific tests, doesn't show us the Truth, only bizarre phenomenon tied to belief. Perhaps we are our own gods? view post


Do you believe a God exists? posted 05 May 2005 in Philosophy DiscussionDo you believe a God exists? by H, Auditor

I think that we have a problem here in the fact that human beings do not tolerate ambiguity well at all, both cognitively and perceptually. If you are presented with a thoroughly ambiguous visual or auditory stimulus, you will attempt to order it, forcing an order to it which is probably not present at all, but is necessary for you to be able to comprehend the stimulus.

This applies to cognition as well. If you've ever heard of Capgraw Syndrome it is where, due to damage in certain areas of the brain, there is a lack of emotional attachment to visual stimulus. Thus, you would lose the 'feeling' that comes with seeing someone you love, for example. An excellent example of the effect of this is a man who, following a head trauma, believed his parents were imposters. Sure, he said, they look like my parents but i know they aren't. Now, someone actually impersonating his parents is highly illogical, but in being presented with ambiguity (in that he knew these people looked exactly like his parents, but that he had no emotional attachments to them) he created an entire cognitive complex of how they were really imposters in order for himself to understand his situation.

So what’s my point? My point is that in perceiving the world, and assimilating it into our psyche's, we can place order, meaning, and patterns onto that which does not actually have those qualities.

Because we cannot know the entire content of psyche (the darkness that comes before, anyone?) how can we not be faced with the fact that when we perceive or cognate anything we are doing so through the triple lens of cognition, the unconscious, and perceptual senses all of which seek to remove ambiguity in and of themselves without conscious intention.

We seek to eliminate ambiguity, because it is not tolerated by those three lenses. But the universe is greatly ambiguous. Light is both a particle and a wave. How can that be true though? How can there be cause and effect without a first cause, which would consequently need to be an effect of some pervious cause? How can God be good, if there is evil in the world He created? We don't think about these dualities endlessly, we seek to explain how they can be resolved. We seek to explain them away. Why? Because we have little tolerance for abiguity. We want definite answers, no flip-floping. We want 'the Truth', and nothing less. We don't want to accept that there can be meaning in the meaningless, good within the bad, becuse dualities are meaningless to us. We are convinced that there is one right way for everything, one right way to see things, think about things, because it makes living alot easier. Have you ever tried to think of all the possible different ways you could live, or things you could do? And in the end, you have to stop, give yourself one direction, less you travel in a circle endlessly. Humans need the definite to survive, why do many people have nervous breakdowns under the stress of facing ambiguous aspects of their own lives? Under the weight of uncertainty, of meaninglessness, of loss of all purpose, we break, and rather easily for the most part.

Both science and traditional religions seek the removal of ambiguity. Science provides its answers though perception, verifiable perceptions. Religion provides answers through belief and validation of feelings. The problem is that both are inherently flawed in that perceptions and feelings do not always equal reality.

Science has a great history of finding exactly what it was looking for in the first place. For example, in the times of slavery, science looked for the reason that the 'darker' 'races' were less 'intelligent' and more 'primitive'. And low and behold, they found their 'answers' empirically. Once again, in a toughly ambiguous world, you can find anything if you look hard enough, and find that which you can string together to make (nearly) any conclusion appear plausible.

Religion has the exact same ability to find exactly what it looks for. Want an example of God's work in the world? It is fairly simple to find an ambiguous event, and attribute to it any meaning, purpose, or cause you'd like. The great allure of religion is that, as opposed to science, whose bias can be in any number of different directions, the religion attribution will always be positive. No one follows a religion which preaches that everything is meaningless, that you are no one, that life is pointless. Religion seeks to view the world in a way that makes cognitive life more bearable. Why do people all of a sudden pick up a religion in a time of crisis? Perhaps to give themselves the order they so desperately need to make sense of the ambiguity of the world?

Science makes the claim that it gets closer to 'the Truth' because it is objective. But once again, as i said before, how can any person be objective when everything is viewed though the triple lens of perception, cognition, and the unconscious. How can you place yourself outside yourself? As the quote at the beginning of tDtCB, asks where does the thought come from, before i think of it? And so consequently how may i be objective when i cannot remove that which i don’t know where it comes from. In other words, if i am unconsciously biased, how may i remove that if i don't even know it is there, or if i don't know where it comes from?

To conclude, it is my position that deep questions of the nature of the universe are beyond our understanding, due to our lack of understanding of that which we understand with, that is, ourselves and our minds.

So in the end, we take the ambiguities of the universe and make them make sense to ourselves. This is not truth, or 'The Truth', no more than they are 'Our Truth' in so far as they are what we perceive and what we can comprehend. We can never be objective, any more than i can be you, or you me, or me a star, or a planet, or an atom of Hydrogen. Sure, we can figure out that if i jump up, i fall down, and even find out how i fall, but exactly what gravity is, and why it exists, i believe are beyond out perceptual ability to comprehend and will forever be speculated upon, and never proven. In the end, can we really comprehend the universe, if it is infinitly complex, or nearly so? view post


Do you believe a God exists? posted 06 May 2005 in Philosophy DiscussionDo you believe a God exists? by Andrew, Peralogue

i generally agree with what H is saying, especially as it pertains to Science since on any given issue we can find scientists who make exactly opposite claims, whilst representing that they serve objectivity, no agenda, all based on pure science etc... Naturally you get a certain amount of conflicting cliams in religion, but religion isn't predicated on the objectivity of the individual, the idea of independant verifiability etc. In science a person claims to have himself discovered an objective truth, whereas in religion, religious claims are revelations from God - i'm speaking here in the judeo-christian tradition.
I'm far more suspicious when a person claims to have discovered objective truth, for the reasons so clearly enunciated by H, then when God makes statements of objective truth and they are merely recorded by people. Now naturally, i am accepting that such and such a person didn't make something up about what God has told him. In this regard, there are certain indicia about what is a more or less trustworthy claim. Naturually, one would view the supposedly revelational sayings of a cave hermit with more suspicion than the witness of thousands - or for that matter, writings about a common experience in which thousands of people participated. This is why i find the old testament quite compelling - in Israellite society, there was a HUGE tradition of passing down family histories, social histories etc., verbally within the family. Your lineage meant something in those days. This is something which is hard for modern North Americans to grasp - my own family memory basically extends to my grandparents having come to Canada from the Ukraine.

It is inherently implausible that in a culture which placed such emphasis on oral histories and lineages, a group or individual could INVENT something like the slavery in Egypt, the escape, the wandering in the desert, the conquest of palestine etc., king David and Solomon - ie. huge momentus events in which the entire society is supposed to have participated - and have the ENTIRE israellite culture swallow it. Since the Old testament describes the historical experience of an entire society and that society by its nature was very concerned with passing down its history to the next generation I find the historical and supernatural claims plausible. If someone walked up to me and claimed he had discovered some long-lost manuscript which showed that my great-great-great (etc.) ancestor was Merlin the magician and there was a magical staff awaiting the true descendant etc., I wouldn't give him the time of day - however, if there was an ancient family story about a mysterious staff that was a family heirloom etc.... you get my point.

I similarly find the New Testament plausible, and yes even the miraculous stories. Again we come down to the fact that so many of the stories describe extremely public events. many of them are written as if to say "such and such occurred and everyone living in this city saw it occur - go ask them, they are still living today". What many people don't realize is how early the books of the new testament were writtten following the death of Jesus. There is certain internal evidence in the Gospels as well as evidence based on the dating of fragments, that they were written well prior to A.D. 70 - i won't fill columns with my own renditions of the evidence: <!-- m --><a class="postlink" href="http://www.carm.org/questions/gospels_written.htm">http://www.carm.org/questions/gospels_written.htm</a><!-- m -->
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Naturally there are other views which put the writings after ad. 70, but even those do not suggest dates much after A.D. 70 - ie. 40 years after Jesus' death. You have to be nuts to fabricate that thousands of people from town X Witnessed Y 40 years ago. Take the several hours of darkness and the earthquake which is said to have accompanied Jesus' death. It was also said that the curtain in the Temple which separated the most holy place was torn in two - these are things which one cannot simply make up because if true, they would have been notorious among the Jews, and if false, absurd. Suppose someone wrote a book in 5 years claiming that when Martin Luther King was shot, Memphis was plunged into a 3 hour darkness... difficult to refute? likely to gain a following? not really!

As to the comment about Fanatics and Martyrs, your point is certainly well taken particularly in these times were people seem all to willing to blow themselves up. I would submit that there is a fundamental difference between being essentially indoctrinated and practically brainwashed into a view of the world as the poor unfortunate "martyr's" these days seem to be, and what went on with the disciples/apostles. IF none of the miracles Jesus is said to have performed, were performed, then the writers of the New Testament clearly fabricated them. However, the writers claimed that the miracles were common knowledge. (incidentally, Many people don't know this, but Muslims actually regard Jesus to have been a great prophet because of his deeds). So one has to wonder - if I completely made up certain stories would i be willing to undergo torture and death to see that the ruse was kept up? And for what profit? The disciples did not gain wealth or power or influence by their teaching. They were persecuted and rejected for it. Why would they endure persecution, rejection and then finally death for something that they THEMSELVES made up? Some other religious leaders have endured much for what they claim, but one can frequently suggest an ulterior motive - David Koresh endured much but while alive he was able to dominate and tyrannize his followers. Mohammed was persecuted but he used his teachings to create an empire. I am not saying this to argue that Mohammed was intentionally false- nor do i wish to be seen as equating Koresh and Mohammed - I am using that as a contrast of suffering without gain versus suffering with (potential) gain. The disciples and apostles used their teachings to gain shipwreck, hunger, persecution, imprisonment, redicule, wandering and death. They neither sought earthly wealth, power, prestige, nor did they attain it. If they suffered and died for a lie they made up one has to find some explanation for that. None of the typical explanations are available. One can criticize the teachings of David Koresh being entirely for the purposes of megalomania and to establish himself as a King among his followers. One can argue of Mohammed that his teachings were useful to helping him gain power - one can suggest a motive to lie - And i want to be clear that I am not saying that that is the case - please don't take this as me saying that Mohammed made things up to gain power - i am saying this soley to point out that it is VERY difficult to understand any possible ulterior motive which might have motivated the disciples and apostles. They had nothing to gain by lieing and everything to lose. Often it is suggested that religious leaders are in it for the money - take many recent tele-evangelists - my sole point is that not such or similar motive can be ascribed to the disciples and apostles. I certainly am not saying that Mohammed DID intentionally mislead in order to gain power and influence - please no indignant responses in that vein. The point is that I can find the claims of one who suffers for that claim more plausible when there is no idenfiable POTENTIAL motive for fabrication. Naturally one can suggest that the motive of the disciples was to enter heaven - but their hope could only rest on a belief in the truth of their assertions...

i trust that readers will be charitable in respect of understanding what i was getting at in the above paragraph - one is constantly reminded these days that words are all to easily twisted...

Having discussed all this, I would make a quick comment on H's discussion of ambiguous events. This is really a central part of the matter. If one examines the miracles Christ and the disciples and apostles performed, one can clearly see that there is no ambiguity. Jesus being crucified, dying and then rising from the dead 3 days later is not a curious natural phenomenon which the mind plays tricks with. Feeding 5000 people with 7 loaves of bread, healing the blind, lame, birth defects, deaf, lepors, mentally infirm, raising the dead, walking on water, speaking in multiple languages, turning water into wine - these are the things which it is claimed Jesus (and the disciples to a lesser extent) did. This is far different from "i prayed for rain and three days later it rained, ergo the rainfall was miraculous". Either these events happened or they didn't. If they did, there can be no conclusion but that there was divine intervention of some kind. If they didn't happen, then one must examine why the disciples were willing to die horribly rather than admit they made it all up. As i argued in the paragraph above, there does not seem to be any of the usual motives by which one might attack the veracity of the accounts. Also, if they didn't happen, one must ask how Christianity was able to flourish given that the events were said to have been public and well known, and the accounts were widespread within a very short time of their supposed occurence. Why was there such a debate within Jewish society over whether Jesus was the Messiah? How could such a large population of orthodox Jews living in Jerusalem become convinced that jesus was the Messiah unless the events in question were generally accepted to have occured, albeit that people ascribed different causes and conclusions? (some said that Jesus was just a prophet and not THE messiah, some said that the disciples were able to do miracles because they were possessed by demons etc.)
naturally i realize no one will find this the least troubling given the age we live in, but hey, at least you know what I find compelling evidence.

As to the point about Human design, i think there are different streams of Christian thought on why people are the way they are. Some people hold that humans arose pretty much by evolution but that God interefered at crucial points - to blow the breath of life in so to speak, and create awareness, soul, intelligence etc. Others say that we were orginally made perfect but that disease etc., was allowed to enter in after the Fall. Others would suggest that defects and irregularities serve a certain purpose - for one, it keeps the person humble before God. As the late Pope showed in his life, there is a certain connection between suffering and closeness with God. It forces us to confront our mortality and examine the questions which flow from it. Other people might suggest that certain "defects" are not defects at all - so what if our eyes see upsidedown - what difference does it make? how is it a defect? why shouldnt' we be similar to animals? we're made of the same stuff - we live in the same world, and interact with the same environment - it wouldn't make sense for us to be radically different. etc.

Now as to the question of what could make me question my own faith, i suppose for one i would need real evidence that the miracles didn't happen. It's very curious the way modern scholars deal with Jesus. They say "Miracles are impossible since God doesn't exist and if he does, then he doesn't do these types of things. Therefore, Jesus could not have done these types of things. Therefore he could not possibly have been genuine, since as we have proved he lied about all these miracles." I mean, they presuppose that miracles are impossible and then conclude that Jesus couldn't have been who he claimed to be. Obviously Jesus can't be the Son of God if God doesn't exist. You have these lunatics at the Jesus Seminar who try to get at the truth of what jesus said by voting on which passages of the Bible they accept as being genuine, after excluding all references to supernatural events!! it's mind-boggling. apparently they used differently coloured beads to indicate their view on whether a certain saying was likely, probable, definite, definitely not (etc.) to have been uttered by Jesus. 2000 yrs after he's dead, using coloured beads to decide what they thing he said.. bizarre.

It's as the apostle Paul wrote in one of his letters - if Jesus didn't live as we have been taught, if he didn't die, and rise from the dead, then Christians are surely the sorryest bunch in the world. We're laughed at in this life and deny ourselves this and that, and all for nothing. It is a religion that is necessarily tied up in history. Take away the resurrection and you have nothing. Incidentally, my specific denomination is Mennonite (Anabaptist). Not that anything hangs on that.

As to becoming an all-out atheist... i don't know. I've tried to argue in this thread that science can't tell us definitively about God. I know many christians who fully accept evolution, and the big bang. It's just a question of the Method God chooses to effect his design... so science can't lead to atheism. Maybe if i were convinced somehow that existence is meaningless. Problem is, i've studied the existentiallists, and i think they were all half baked. entertaining but not convincing - more full of themselves then anything else. view post


Do you believe a God exists? posted 06 May 2005 in Philosophy DiscussionDo you believe a God exists? by Anonymous, Subdidact

&lt;&lt;It's as the apostle Paul wrote in one of his letters - if Jesus didn't live as we have been taught, if he didn't die, and rise from the dead, then Christians are surely the sorryest bunch in the world. We're laughed at in this life and deny ourselves this and that, and all for nothing&gt;&gt;

Actually, I see few Christians laughed at in the Western world, and fewer that deny themselves anything of significance. Though as one priest thought, Christianity's acceptance into the modern world is a sign of its failure. The revolutionary aspects are discarded for the orthodoxy. And best of all, for many in the US at least spiritual warfare can be fought through voting for the "right" guy or "right" laws, or having a candlelight vigil for this or that cause.

Now I've met Christians who give everything, risk everything, to do what's right. Christianity's ideals of universal morality and compassion have done the world a ton of good. Many "progressives" don't make the connection that the same morality that can make someone prolife is the same that makes them fight agreed upon humanitarian abuses. None of this, though, determines whether Christianity is real, I just don't think a psychology of martyrdom is adequate proof now or 2000 years ago.

As for miracles, notice how so much paranormal phenomenon today focuses around tribal peoples and polytheistic/animistic religions. There was that whole hubaloo about Hindu statues drinking milk in the 90s, something no one has ever made a definite scientific explanation for. I still don't think the Hindu gods are real, or at least do not bear the characteristics ascribed to them. Maybe its my degree in econ, but I see the whole prayer thing as a business--paradise in return for faith, prayers for health/wealth/etc. The gods feed off memes and worship, and give us fortune in return. And since they don't need to be real for us to benefit psychologically, I falter from polytheism into agnosticism. view post


Do you believe a God exists? posted 06 May 2005 in Philosophy DiscussionDo you believe a God exists? by Anonymous, Subdidact

hmmm. i guess i'll have to join if i want to edit my posts. i'll have to look it up, but a large group of people believed that Athena road into town despite the fact that it was a massive hoax, and that the Oracle of Delphi called upon the gods to inflict an oncoming army with earthquakes, fog, and madness.

A lot of miraculous stories also surround Siddartha and other Buddhist/Hindu figures, not to mention shared UFO sightings by large groups of people. The Dogon tribe possesses far too many knowledge about a white-dwarf binary star system than their technological progress should enable them to. Currently practitioners of various faiths stemming from the African Diaspora claim to see "miracles" today--including an old university professor of mine.

These things make me feel atheism--the patent denial of the supernatural--is a faith as much as any religion. We don't know whats out there, its all mystery view post


Do you believe a God exists? posted 06 May 2005 in Philosophy DiscussionDo you believe a God exists? by H, Auditor

I want to be clear though, that i am not religious at all, and i am a staunch empiricist. But i do recogize the limitations such a stand has and what it can explain. Plus i'm not one to say that there is one right way to think about the world.

My 'problems' with Christianity comes from the historical verfiability and formation its of dogma.

Suppose someone wrote a book in 5 years claiming that when Martin Luther King was shot, Memphis was plunged into a 3 hour darkness... difficult to refute? likely to gain a following? not really!


But, this is assuming two things. Written today, such a book would probably be viewed as an historical account, unless portrayed differently. People would object to its integrity as a true portrayal of real events. What if the author instead decided to write a parable based of the events of the assassination? Then, some would take the rhetorical devices used (such as metaphor, or illusion for the sake of effect) as exactly that. The darkness which felt could easily be a 'spiritual' darkness, not neccessarily a physcical one. Second, what if poeple really want to believe in what the book is saying? What if its spiritual message is deep enough, that it moves people to want to be a part of it? Would the then suspend disbelief, and act on Faith? I think this is a definite possibility.

Also, there were (as you point out) two great historical societies in Jerusalem at the time. Jews and Roman were two societies for whom we possess great records from, due to their diligence in recording the events of their time. What puts doubt in my mind, is why none of these ‘miracles’ were recorded by either sources? No Roman sources speak of any of these great events. Additionally, no Jewish historian i know of tells of such miracles as well. This puts doubt into my mind, as to why nether source would include such momentous events, even if to further condemn the Christians? Sure the Jew's possibly could have had 'an axe to grind' with Jesus, and could have portrayed him as a false Prophet, then why not record the event, if then to condemn him with? This is the first trouble i have, leading me to doubt the accounts as being litterary in nature.

If one examines the miracles Christ and the disciples and apostles performed, one can clearly see that there is no ambiguity. Jesus being crucified, dying and then rising from the dead 3 days later is not a curious natural phenomenon which the mind plays tricks with. Feeding 5000 people with 7 loaves of bread, healing the blind, lame, birth defects, deaf, lepors, mentally infirm, raising the dead, walking on water, speaking in multiple languages, turning water into wine - these are the things which it is claimed Jesus (and the disciples to a lesser extent) did. This is far different from "i prayed for rain and three days later it rained, ergo the rainfall was miraculous". Either these events happened or they didn't. If they did, there can be no conclusion but that there was divine intervention of some kind. If they didn't happen, then one must examine why the disciples were willing to die horribly rather than admit they made it all up.


Given that the society of the time was not a media saturated one like ours, how many people do you believe would still, one, be alive, two, have enough of a voice to refute any claim written in a Gospel (probably written in Greek, which would have been rare for a common Jerusalemite to know)? Additionally anyone who was present at such an event would presumably be a follower, who would for their own reasons want to see a miracle. You ask, why would they die rather than admit they made it all up. The fact is, even if the events didn't happen as they said, they believed they did. Perhaps my post above didn't point at the unconscious motives behind interpreting events. The disciples believed that the events happened as they said. They had Faith. Faith that what they saw had a purpose. Do i know what they saw? No. Will anyone know what they saw? No. Do we know that they really believed what they saw? Yes. We also know that there are plenty of eye witnesses who will testify to thief dying day that they saw someone who later evidence will say could not have physically been there. Eyewitness testimony is not irrefutable. And this is now, in a age of empiricism, of scientific thought. How could uneducated masses (who were in need a faith) refute educated, passionate men, willing to die to deliver their message? Even to me today, if someone is willing to die to tell me something, i at least know that they believe its true and important. There were many willing to die fighting Pagans because they believed they were evil devil worshiping heathens, does that make it so? Hardly, we know pagans were nothing of the sort. People will believe exactly what they want, for reasons of their own.

Even if the Gospels were written 10 years following the events they depict, again, how could anyone refute them? The Gospels were never written as a history book, and wasn't taken as one then, nor should it be now. The Gospels are literary works, and as such, use literary devices to portray a certain point. Again, there is no reason to assume that they are a definite history. Would we refute a parable as being false, because it is fantastical? Doubtful, and i doubt ancient peoples would either. The people of then would not be caught up in the denotation, but would have known that it was the connotation which was the message.

Additionally, why would the Jews not refute Jesus? Because that would give him, and his followers more power. It would attract attention to him, give his cause credence, in persecution (which the Romans would up finding out soon enough). The Jew's were far smarter in religion than the Romans, plus the Romans had no strong central faith with which to resist the tide of Christianity (and plagues, and religiously inactive, yes there are numerous reasons, but those are the main points).

In fact, in looking at the circumstances surrounding the selection of Gospels which would make up what we call the New Testament, one wonders why other Gospels were not included. In the findings of the Dead Sea Scrolls, we may have a slightly better idea of why they were not included. The could have provided more historical data on Jesus' life which was desired to not be known. We do know that the Nicene Council voted upon the Divinity of Jesus. This begs the question, why vote, if it was already known? Additionally, why exclude certain Gospels, why not offer us the entire story of Jesus' life, the life of God, so we may better learn how to live like Him? Censorship always smacks of fear, just what message did they fear though?

The Dogma established by what becomes the Catholic Church has always been what bothers me about the religion. I have no problems with scripture. Most scripture is great literary work. Most scripture is amazing philosophical work. Most dogma is impractical attempts to create a hierarchy of control based off the great works of scripture. The dogma of Christianity is what i have trouble with, not the words of Jesus, or Mohammed, or Buddha. In fact, i think (as an atheist) the words of these prophets are particularly salient. However, the way in which organizations attempt to create a political dogma based off them, is troublesome for me. This is due to the fact that dogma is arbitrary. Like the Catholic position on Homosexuality, or Contraception, whih Jesus had nothing to say about, this dogma is arbitrarily based off out of context quotes from scripture. The position is establish or arbitrary reasons, and reinforced with selected sections of scripture.

Like fundamentalist Islam, which uses selective scripture to paint the idea that violence is acceptable, strong dogma is dangerous. Dogma is not interpretable. Scripture is. Dogma says that there is only one right way to see the world, one right way to read scripture, one right way to be. This is what makes dogma so dangerous. I have no qualms with those i know who are religious, as long as they are not blind adherents to a dogma. If someone i know has read scripture, and understood it for themselves, then i say 'Mad props to you." But to blindly say, "i hate homosexuals, because the Pope told me to" (which isn't true, they disliked them already for other reasons, but use the voice of authority to justify their irrational position), or some such, angers me greatly, because that is not your religion, it you taking someone else’s as your own.

I go a bit a field here.

As to the point about Human design, i think there are different streams of Christian thought on why people are the way they are. Some people hold that humans arose pretty much by evolution but that God interefered at crucial points - to blow the breath of life in so to speak, and create awareness, soul, intelligence etc. Others say that we were orginally made perfect but that disease etc., was allowed to enter in after the Fall. Others would suggest that defects and irregularities serve a certain purpose - for one, it keeps the person humble before God.


This gets to the heart of the matter i discussed above. The question here is, does the Bible need to be taken literally, or is it allegorical?

Genesis says that we were made in and of ourselves, in God's image. No evolution. If we've evolved, Genesis then is wrong. The Bible is God's word, how can God's word be wrong?

But that is only if the Bible is to be taken literally. Again, is it the denotation which is most salient, or the connotation which is the point of Genesis?

It's as the apostle Paul wrote in one of his letters - if Jesus didn't live as we have been taught, if he didn't die, and rise from the dead, then Christians are surely the sorryest bunch in the world. We're laughed at in this life and deny ourselves this and that, and all for nothing. It is a religion that is necessarily tied up in history.


I don't believe your fist sentence at all. That is to say, that all that the Christian message of 'love thy neighbor' (and so on) is worthless if Jesus was not the Son God? Wow, that’s incredibly cynical. No deed worth doing if there is no pay off of eternal salvation at the end? All for nothing? How about all for making the world a better place to live? But, Andrew you must admit that there is some possibility that Jesus could not be the Son of God. So does that make everything meaningless? No, it just means that your being a good Christian for the sake of the fact that you believe it's how people should live. Lastly, i don't think it's the religion tied up in history, but the Dogma tied up in history. The words of Jesus are beyond history. The dogma surround his life and times are tied to history, and only obfuscate his message. Read scripture and make His message yours, not take a dogma as fact.

But all of this is to the ultimate fact that Faith does not make something any more really than wishing it was so. There will not be, and never will be solid evidence of the transcendental. The question is then, do you fill the whole in knowledge with that which you can verify (empirical evidence) or with Faith (in what you feel is right)?

Maybe if i were convinced somehow that existence is meaningless.


Existence is bereft of all meaning except the meaning you give it. Existence doesn't come with a built in meaning. It's not written in the sky, it is not to be found on the Moon. It's nowhere except in your own mind. Even if you believe there is a God, His meaning, your meaning, everything is in your mind (where else could it be?). It is the only place you have to have anything. You can climb a mountain to find meaning, but the meaning you found wasn't there, it was in you the whole time, just waiting for you to be in the right frame of mind to find it.

Problem is, i've studied the existentialists, and i think they were all half baked. entertaining but not convincing - more full of themselves then anything else.


But if your mind is everything (which it is, because you may not be outside your own mind), how can you not be full of yourself? <!-- s:wink: --><img src="{SMILIES_PATH}/icon_wink.gif" alt=":wink:" title="Wink" /><!-- s:wink: -->

But seriously this message is gigantic! I'm done for now!

Mind you Andrew, i'm not trying to convince you to not be Christian, i'm just hoping that you take some hesitance in believing all your scripture as litteral, and dogma as fact. view post


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