Author Topic: Kcrady - old school  (Read 46104 times)

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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #29 on: May 11, 2011, 03:25:25 PM »
On a new religion

Quote from: laetusatheos
Everyone has an irrepressible right
to follow his or her desires
and enjoy to the fullest the life
that he or she is given.
Let no one be denied the rightful honor and reverence
due a blessed incarnation of the Living God.

If the above were taken out along with the latter verses about unrealistic communal living it wouldn't be that bad of a belief system.

People have every right to follow their desires but only to the extent that those desires do not trample upon the desires of others.  As written, it allows for believers to do absolutly anything they desire (other than kill).

I think the last two sentences you cited would rule that out.  If you treat everyone with "the rightful honor and reverence due to a blessed incarnation of the Living God" then that doesn't seem to leave much room for rapine, brutality, and abuse in the course of following your desires.  Of course, the problem with any written document is interpretation, especially when people start getting lawyery.  And people do that (I'm not saying you are). 

This touches on something I've been contemplating lately:

If your religion teaches you that you are an incorrigible, utterly wicked sinner deserving of Hell, who can only be restrained by strict rules and and threats of divine violence, how will you behave?  If you also believe you have carte blanche so long as you're obeying the law-giver, is there any atrocity you're incapable of?1

If your religion teaches you that other people are incorrigible, utterly wicked sinners deserving of everlasting torture in Hell, how will you be inclined to feel about them deep down, and what will govern the way you treat them?

If your religion teaches you that you are a manifestation of the Divine2, and that your place here is to do the most Divine acts of which you are capable, and be Divine in all that you are and do, how would you be, and what would you do?

If your religion teaches you that everyone else is a special-case manifestation of the Divine, how would you be inclined to treat them?

IOW, I think the Christian doctrine of "original sin" provides subliminal reinforcement towards evil behavior,3 whereas a doctrine of "original divinity" might provide subliminal reinforcement toward good behavior and moral progress.

Dawkins developed the concept of memes as "viruses of the mind."  There are two ways viruses can be fought: One is to develop immunity oneseslf.  In the memetic model, this would involve developing the mental immune system of open-minded rational, critical thought based on observation of reality.  But in societal terms, it has proven extraordinarily difficult for atheists to confer this type of mental immune system to others.  This leads to the second way viruses are fought: Vaccination.  A vaccine is a dormant and/or harmless virus that is similar to the one being vaccinated against.  Introducing a vaccine is deliberate infection of a person with the harmless virus, which then causes their body to generate defenses against the harmful virus.

So, I suppose what I am contemplating here, is the idea of a memetic vaccination against fundamentalist religion.  Such a vaccine would have to provide all the main benefits of religion, e.g. a moral code, a "God of Love" (perhaps less- or non-anthropomorphic), a sense of "the sacred" that imbues life with meaning,4 a context in which to understand "spiritual" or "mystical" experiences, maybe a concept of immortality5 and perhaps technologies/techniques for generating numinous experiences, such as "sacred" places, ceremonies, meditation techniques, Persinger headsets, Lilly tanks, etc..6

Of course, this new belief system would also have to be consistent with reality as we understand it, to the greatest extent possible.  It would, at the very least, have to include as virtues the use of the scientific method and critical thought as opposed to "faith."  A lot of this could be as simple as changing our interpretation and evaluation of the meaning of Universe as revealed to us by science.  IOW, emphasize "We are star stuff" over "Earth is a tiny, insignificant planet orbiting a third-rate star in a mediocre galaxy."  In his new book Why Darwin Matters, Michael Schermer says, "The theory of top-down intelligent design of all life by or through a supernatural power was replaced with the theory of bottom-up natural design through natural forces."  It could be argued that "intelligent design" as we humans do it is simply "evolution on steroids" that works via high-speed natural selection that takes place inside a mental (or computer) model of Universe in which we rapidly evolve new "things" like submarines and bridges. 

Just as the interaction of millions of neural pulses generates the emergent property of "consciousness" and "intelligence," perhaps the emergent properties of self-organization and evolutoin by natural selection that arise from mass interaction of particles, molecules, etc. could be modeled as "intelligence in (very) slow motion."  IOW, a bottom-up "cosmic intelligence" emerging from irreducible Grand Unified Theory generalized operating principles of Universe, rather than a top-down external "supernatural" intelligence.  Basically, Lovelock's "Gaia Hypothesis" (as I understand it) applied recursively on a cosmic scale.  If this "cosmic intelligence" is defined as "the Divine" "God/-dess/-s" etc., then we could view ourselves as Its avatars.  "We are evolution become aware of itself and made conscious." 

I will post some more thoughts on this as time permits.


NOTES:

1. In a number of threads (e.g. The Book of Job, the Devil in Eden), Christians have admitted implicitly that God, being the Law-giver is exempt from morality (and may thus rightly murder people, etc. to "glorify himself").  If someone believes God wants them to do something horrific, they must still obey (e.g. Abraham, Moses, George W. Bush).  All that is necessary therefore, for the Christian to feel morally entitled to do anything at all, is the belief on their part that God commands them to do it.  Since their primary epistemological virtue is "faith," the ability to believe as a 'choice' (i.e. an act of will) without regard to evidence, they have all they need to commit any atrocity, with Biblical support from the lives of Bible "heroes."

2. However you want to define that, but it ought to include connotations of high morality and so forth.

3. Comparing most modern Christians with the Bible and its characters, I think it is safe to say that whatever goodness Christianity has comes from the humanity of Christians, not the other way around.

4. I think one of the main "marketing problems" of atheism and skepticism in general is that we have "elite" scientist types like Richard Dawkins, James Randi and Carl Sagan who seem (in the public imagining) to be saying, basically: "Your pointless job, the bills, the arguments with your spouse, the whole 'workaday world' of doing something you hate so you can pay the bills—that's all there is.  Even the things you think are interesting and meaningful, like that UFO you saw or the "experience of Jesus' love" you felt, that's all just fake delusion.  You're just one more furless chimp struggling to survive and reproduce in a Universe that is utterly cold and indifferent to you.  Get real.  Your cubicle is waiting."  Of course they don't really say this in so many words, but IMO that's what people hear when their "spirituality" gets debunked.  Which is why Christians start "Why Live?" threads here.

5. Perhaps this could be put on a scientific footing by grounding it in genetics, nanotechnology, and mind-computer interfaces that would eventually enable "uploading," and other forms of science/technology-derived "immortality."

6. That people do have "mystical experiences" is beyond doubt.  The debate is over whether they're experiencing some "spiritual realm," or just having a brain-trip.  Either way, these experiences are deeply profound and moving to those who have them, and are IMO a big factor in the history-controlling power of religion.  Perhaps instead of merely throwing cold water on them and saying "You're delusional!" emphasis could be placed on generating and exploring these experiences in systematic, scientific fashion.  "The methods of science--the aims of religion."  Perhaps the most important thing we can do to save the world is to teach scientific methodology, and why it works.  "How to think" is more important than "what to think."
 
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #30 on: May 11, 2011, 03:28:43 PM »
Why the Egyptian pantheon makes more sense than xianity

Quote from: CJaKfOrEsT
Final question, McCrady,:
Do you actually believe in this stuff, or do you just present this as an alternative to try to make Christianity look stupid? (Real question, no disrepect intended)

I can't make Christianity look stupid.  That is a feat only Christians can accomplish.  You know the type of Christian I'm talking about--the ones that make you go "D'OH! We're not all like that!

The purpose of my citing this information is illustration.  Christians often argue as if Christianity were the only religion in the world.  So we're told we have to have faith, trust that your holy book is true, be afraid of your Judgment Day and your Hell, and trust that your religious formula is the only way to be 'saved.'

The problem is, even if we were inclined to succumb to that sort of argumentation...Christianity isn't the only religion in the world, now or in the past.  There isn't even one "Christianity," but quite a few of them.  And so, as neutral observers, we have a number of different religions threatening us with their version of Hell/Judgment and promising us their version of salvation.

Furthermore, merely offerng hints and warnings of judgment and promises of salvation is not persuasive to us for the same reason warnings of Osiris' Judgment Hall is not persuading you to give up Christianity and go find a copy of Per Em Hru.

Also, you are attempting to paint OkiMike into a corner by decreeing your own specialized, non-standard definition of "life" which assumes the premises you are trying to validate (e.g. circular reasoning).  By choosing the ancient Egyptian word for "life" instead of the ancient Hebrew, I was able to define you as "not really alive" the same way you did to OkiMike.  Again, for illustration purposes.

However, comparing the Egyptian religion to Biblical Christianity, I do evaluate the Egyptian religion as superior.  It has stronger textual support (many of its texts are carved in stone, eliminating the copies-of-copies problem the Bible has).  We do not have any evidence that I know of to indicate that the Egyptian religion is responsible for any mass atrocities of the kind openly boasted about in the Bible, nor any persecution of other religions1  The Egyptian religion reveres feminine as well as masculine divinity, unlike the Bible, in which God is male, all the spirit beings (angels and demons) are male, and women are either chattels who literally don't count,2 or at best due for a sex-change before they can get into heaven.3

On the other hand, if I really had to pick a civilization from that era on which to base my life and belief, it would have to be the Minoans.  So far as we can tell from excavations, they were a peaceful, prosperous society where women were (as far as we can tell) equal with men and able to fully participate in society along with men, with no evidence of tyrannical, aggressive warrior-kings.  Unfortunately, we cannot yet translate Minoan writing, so we do not know the specifics of their religion beyond what their statuary and art tell us.


NOTES:

1. The alleged "killing of male Jewish children" at the time of Moses' alleged birth as described in Exodus doesn't qualify, as there is no evidence for this or any of the events of Exodus in Egyptian records.  In contrast, the Bible openly boasts of genocidal campaigns carried out in the name of its god.  The only religious suppression I know of in Egyptian history took place during the reign of Akhenaten--a monotheist.

2. Notice how in the geneologies and census data (e.g. "Numbers") only men are counted.  In the Garden of Eden, God was only concerned that "the man has become like one of us."  Eve was beneath his notice.

3. Jesus told the Pharisees there would be no marrying or giving in marriage in Heaven, but that people would be "like the angels."  Despite all that lovely Rennaisance artwork, the Bible is quite clear that angels are male.  Every single time angels are mentioned, they are described as looking like men and referred to with masculine pronouns.  Apparently, rather handsome ones, judging by the reaction of the mob in Sodom.  There is not one single example of a female angel in the Bible.  So if you're a good Christian girl, you'll get to join the Heavenly Boys' Club after you die.
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #31 on: May 11, 2011, 03:37:42 PM »
A silly moral dilemma

HaveMercy, with regard to your story, you seem to think that the other kid letting David cry on his shoulder is actually an answer (rather than emotional manipulation).  That David went on to become a pastor is presumably supposed to be a good thing.  However, where was all this love for that other little kid that got creamed?  Or for his parents?  Now, God either possesses vast power, or he doesn't.  If he does, then where was his love that day?  With omnipotent power he couldn't nudge a few grams of lead just a couple feet to the right?  And please don't try the "Well, maybe God had some wonderful divine purpose for letting that child die, perhaps so David could become a great pastor."  That's using the death of a 4 year-old as a means to an end, and I don't see how that qualifies as anything but evil.  As if an omnipotent being had need for "means" anyway.

If God is not omnipotent, and was unable to stop the bullet, then he may be a nice guy, but you no longer have the option of singing paeans to his vast unlimited power.

Here's a moral dilemna for you, HaveMercy:

We return to that playground on that fateful day, but with a difference:  You're there, and you have vast supernatural power.  Let's just say you're like Neo from the Matrix and you can stop the bullet in flight.  What do you do?1
Quote from: Have_Mercy
Hellbore, here's a moral dilema for you. 3 people are walking on a train track in a tunnel, a train is coming. There is a switch to put the train on an alternate track, where one person is. No cop outs, would you pull the switch? Kill one to save three? I don't claim any great understanding of God, but maybe he was doing the equivilent on a larger scale. Sacrifice one to save 10, or a hundred thousand to save a million. Or one to save the entire earth.

If I have time to run over to a railroad switch, and pull it to switch the train tracks, the people standing on the tracks have more than enough time to get the hell out of the way.  Cop-out?  No.  Stupid "moral dilemna."  "Morality" is only useful in relation to real life.  What you've done here is set up an unrealistic scenario in order to impose a zero-sum game.  "Who are you going to sacrifice?"  Such scenarios, and the morality they encourage, clearly benefit those who expect to profit from sacrifice.  A much better morality is one founded on seeking common interests and win-win scenarios rather than setting up artificial and unrealistic "moral dilemnas" so you can justify a morality where one person's gain only comes at the sacrifice of another.  A rational morality is also centered on providing us guidance in how we ought to behave in real life, not in highly artificial scenarios we are almost certain never to encounter.

Furthermore, your analogy to God and Jesus is fallacious.  If God is either an omnimax (has all the "Omni-" attributes), or he's the rule-maker who is exempt from the rules (which is why it's OK for him to kill directly or order his followers to, etc.), then he's got better options than picking someone to sacrifice.  He can just teleport the people off the tracks (use his omnopotence), or order them to get off (change the rules or show clemency).  If "Sin" or whatever has them tied to the tracks and God has no choice, then you deny God is an omnimax, or at least claim that "Sin" is an equal and opposite omnimax.
Quote from: Have_Mercy
But when God comes, and if he doesn't we'll never know it, there's going to be a judgement.

That didn't take long, did it?  You Christians always start out telling us how God is just gushing with love, and how eager he is to be our own personal superhero.  But, the second that doesn't seem to work, out come the threats of force.  If we don't believe and serve, God's coming, and he's gonna get us!  I know you put a different spin on it below, but we all know what "Judgment Day" is.  And we all know the Christian view of what is supposed to happen to folks like us afterward.  It's all described very clearly in the Bible.   
Quote from: Have_Mercy
It's going to be us asking God "What were you thinking?" And God's going to have to give an account for his actions. So I'll reserve passing judgement until I can ask him face to face. To me, Jesus gained enough credibility through his actions, actions mind you, that I'm willing to give God a chance to explain for himself.


No, it'll be more like "What?  Were you thinking?" :)  Seriously, nowhere in the Bible is there even the slightest hint that God will give an account for his actions on Judgment Day.  The Bible makes it very, very plain that God has no intention whatsoever of giving such an account.  In Romans, chapter 9, Paul asserts that God, "desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power" (v.22) makes some people especially to punish, like a kid making paper dolls so she can set them on fire.  "You will say to me then, 'Why then does he still find fault?  For who can resist his will?'  But who are you, a human being, to argue with God?" (vs. 19-20).  Paul makes it plain that God creates people and "hardens their hearts" (as he did with the Pharaoh of Exodus) or just hates them before they're born (as with Esau).  In response to the question of how this can be just, Paul simply appeals to God's brute power.   

In the Book of Job, when offered the chance to explain why he's having a friendly wager with Satan over how much unjust punishment Job can take without rejecting him, God offers no stunning revelations that reveal the mystery of his perfect goodness.  No, he just makes fun of Job for not being omnipotent, then goes on and on about how big and powerful he is, like the Mighty Oz.  And like the Mighty Oz, he has the same motive to keep us from peeking behind the curtain.

If Universe really was governed by such a super-bully2, then perhaps cowardice might incline us to side with him and cheer him on as he beats up the first-graders for their lunch money.  And, he has promised to share the booty, so maybe we'll wait 'till after we're dead before we find out if he exists or has been telling us the truth.  Or, maybe we'll have a peek behind that curtain. 
Quote from: Have_Mercy
John, that's, sad. I sincerely hope you can find a way to love people. I completely agree that you don't have to be a christian to love. That's why it's such a good way to communicate, everyone understands love to some degree. I have no notion of "proving" christianity. Proof applies to scientific disiplines, religion is a philosophy. So anyone who says they can "prove" God exists is a little bit silly. John, I'll be praying that you encounter someone who can show you pure, selfless, love, and that it ignites in you a passion to show other people that same love.

Since you've already agreed that you don't have to be Christian to love, what would you think if your wish comes true, but the person John meets is a Buddhist.  Like, say, Thich Nhat Hanh?
Quote from: Have_Mercy
Krypt, you're absolutly right. When I started to really buckle down and figure out just exactly what I believed, still ongoing, I started reading the bible and taking all those good bits and putting them together. The more bits I had, the more I saw Jesus. The reason I trust God is because Jesus trusted him 100%, devoted his life to doing God's will, and he was a pretty darn nice guy.

Is that so?  Of the two, Thich Nhat Hanh is by far the "nicer" guy. 


NOTES:

1. Later in the post, I question the validity of unrealistic moral dilemna scenarios.  However, as someone who professes t believe in a being with vast miraculous power, this is not an unrealistic scenario for you.  It is simply asking: if you had the power, what would you do?

2. Once we take the actual behavior of the Christian God as portrayed in the Bible into account and evaluate it honestly, is is no longer a mystery that there's evil in the world.  To the contrary, it's the existence of good that proves that the Biblical God doesn't exist.

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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #32 on: May 11, 2011, 03:52:53 PM »
Answers a crazy person


Quote from: JesusisGod

Read what God says about Intellectual logic:

"As the Scriptures say,
   “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise
      and discard the intelligence of the intelligent.”


So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish. Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense." 1 Corinthians 1:19-22


God wants you to believe what He says, not use logic (human wisdom) in believing what He says.

A couple questions for you:

1)  Why?  What's in it for God if I believe what he says without question?  What does he need unthinking, obedient minions for?

2)  Why should I not believe what Allah says through His Prophet Mohammed without question instead?  Or the Instruction of Ptahotep?  In other words: why should your belief system, and only your belief system be accepted "just because?"1


NOTES:

1. I think it is probable that at this point you will quote a Biblical scripture as your answer, probably something describing how big and powerful your God is.  That's OK, but what I'm asking is: why should I accept your Scriptures uncritically and not someone else's?  Once I agree to stop thinking and believe "just because," I have no way of determining which belief system is true, if any.  Even if the belief in question is utterly absurd, I have to ignore the absurdity and "just believe."  Why should Christianity be the only belief system that gets a free pass here?

thread continues with other participants and kcrady for 9 pages.  Great fun!
« Last Edit: May 11, 2011, 03:54:31 PM by screwtape »
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #33 on: May 18, 2011, 03:48:59 PM »
God and Stars

Quote from: JesusisGod
>snip<
[The] use of “evening and morning” in that order is significant. As each day’s work was accomplished during the “light,” there was a cessation of God’s activity during the “darkness.” Consequently, there was nothing to report between evening and morning.” The beginning of the next day’s activity began with the next period of light, after the “morning,” or better, “dawning.” The literal sense of the formula after each day’s work is: “Then there was dusk, then dawn, ending the first day.”

How is that possible?  Earth is round.  Since there would always be a face of Earth directed toward the "light," when exactly were these periods of darkness supposed to take place?

Parsimonious answer: In order for there to be "evening and morning" taking place for the whole Earth at the same time, it would have to be flat, so that the "light" could set below the horizon, i.e. below the edge of the Earth.

Quote from: JesusisGod
Gen 1:16-18

These stars were scattered in tremendous numbers throughout the infinite recesses of the heavens (note Isaiah 55:9). The light energy emanating from them would henceforth traverse space to “give light on the earth,” providing patterns and movements which would also enable man to keep records of time and history.

This only makes sense for stars observable by the naked eye.  In what sense could a quasar 10 billion light years away that can only be seen with the Hubble Space Telescope, or perhaps only via the radio waves or X-rays it emits possibly be seen as existing to "give light on the earth" "for times and seasons"?

Quote from: JesusisGod
In order to serve these purposes, however, light energy trails would need to be established already in place in space between each star and earth. Thus, men would have been able to see stars billions of light-years away at the very moment of their formation, in accordance with the principle of mature creation, or creation of apparent age.

So...a galaxy that's say, a billion light years away has a "light trail" that God created between it and the Earth a billion light-years long, so that we could see it.  Except that Earth is only somewhere in the neighborhood of 6 - 10,000 years old, and since the end of the world is nigh (a doctrine ubiquitous in the New Testament), it's a pretty safe bet that there will be no humans around on Earth a billion years from now to see light emitted from the actual star itself.  God is going to wipe everything out and make "a new heavens and a new Earth" well before then.

Which means: We will never see the galaxy itself, just a "light trail" God created to make Universe look a lot older than it really is.  Which means: everything in the night sky further than 6 - 10,000 light-years out is an illusion.  Why would God trick us like that?  Why would he put "light trails" of Cepheid variable stars fluctuating in brightness, when that light was never emitted by a star at all?  Why would he put a "light trail" showing us a supernova that never actually happened? 

Why would he put things like Hubble red-shift into these light trails?  Or images of galaxies colliding, or stars forming?  Cosmic background radiation?  What for?

Regarding the concept of "apparent age," that's understandable within limits.  Adam and Eve were supposedly created as adults or adolescents, rather than zygotes, so someone showing up in Eden would think the Universe was, say 20 years older than it was.

However, when you talk about stars and galaxies as much as 15 billion light-years away, you're talking multiple orders of magnitude worth of illusory "age" of Universe compared to the supposed "actual" age.  So much for "the heavens declare the glory of the Lord."  In your theory, the heavens are a lie.


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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #34 on: May 18, 2011, 03:52:31 PM »
another post in that thread...
Why is Slavery Immoral?

OrigenII:

Why is slavery immoral?

To answer this, we must first provide a basis for morality.  Moral philosophy is a large subject, and I cannot attempt to explain everything in a short post.  Humans need "morality" because we do not have an automatically-known "proper set of behaviors" (e.g. instincts) like animals do.  If a cheetah fails to meet the requirements of cheetah survival, it will perish, but no one will call it a "bad" cheetah.  Unlike the cheetah, we humans must set out to discover what behaviors enhance our survival and flourishing, and what behaviors do not.  As in any other science, it is possible to derive generalized operating principles.  Humans are entities of a certain nature, so certain things will prove to be "good" for them, and certain things will prove to be "bad."  This set of generalized operating principles related to human behavior is what we call a "code of morality."

Just as in science, some discoveries are easier to make and validate than others.  It is much easier to discover and validate that Earth orbits the sun than it is to discover and validate whether "dark matter" exists, and what it is.  Likewise, some "moral issues" are easier to solve than others.   Since we are social animals, "morality" subsumes not only individual behavior in isolation, but how humans ought to behave toward each other in society.  Most human societies have discovered certain generalized operating principles by trial and error.  So we see such moral principles as "murder is wrong," "stealing is wrong" and so forth existing in every civilized human society.1

I am going to try to simplify the science of morality as much as possible, since this is a post and not a book.  Each of us can define what is "good" for our survival and flourishing fairly easily.  It is obvious that you would not want to be murdered, stolen from, beaten, raped, kidnapped, or enslaved.  You know all of these things would cause you suffering.  "Suffering" is physical (pain) or psychological (anguish) warning of damage or danger, i.e. threats to your survival and flourishing.  "Happiness" is an indicator that you are surviving and flourishing.2

"Morality" is simply the extension of what you know to be "good for you" to others.  There is a quote that sums it up well:3
Quote
A person will not hit themselves on the head with a hammer, because it hurts.

An enlightened being will not hit someone else on the head with a hammer, for the same reason.

I think it is fairly safe to guess that you would not want to be enslaved, or sold into marriage, or sold to a master who could then decide to use you for sex, or given as a spouse to another slave, who would then have to submit to perpetual servitude to keep you and whatever children you had, or have someone given to you as a spouse and be forced to submit to perpetual servitude in order to stay with any children you produced.  I think it is fairly safe to assume that you would not want to be an 11 year-old Midianite girl who sees your entire family murdered before her eyes, is inspected to prove virginity, then given to one of the men who killed your family and everyone else you know except other virgin girls your age (Numbers 31:17-18).

Through the simple expedient of extending your horizons of empathy from yourself only, to other people, it becomes easy to see how these things would be immoral.


The Prisoner Analogy

In our justice system, a person can be imprisoned and/or required to perform community service if they are conviced in a crime, in a court of law, after having had at least some rights in regard to defense against the charge.  Our justice system is far from perfect, but when it works, it assures that incarceration and/or community service are required only of those guilty of crimes.  This is not the same as buying a slave, or enslaving the aforementioned Midianite girls.  Furthermore, if new facts should come in proving the prisoner is innocent, they are released immediately.  There is no "master" with ownership rights involved.

They Were Slaves Anyway

You have said in regard to the purchase of foreign slaves, that this is acceptable because they were slaves anyway, and that (you believe--no evidence has been provided) the Hebrews would treat them better than they would have been treated otherwise.  Very well.  There are places in Africa, where slavery is still practiced to this day.  These places are also beset by famine, wars, disease, etc.  Do you think it would be moral to re-open the slave trade, so that people living in developed countries could buy these slaves, as long as they were treated just a little bit better than they would have been in Africa?  If not, why not?

"I'm Alright, Jack"

This is the fallacy that "those were barbaric times, so it was OK for God to establish barbaric laws" or "but we're in the New Covenant now, so genocide and slavery that were perfectly moral in the Bad Old Days are wrong now (until God gives the order)."

This is the very sort of "moral relativism" Christians often hold up as a bugaboo in relation to atheists.  Christians actually believe in this sort of moral relativism.  There is nothing that is good or bad in principle, as a moral absolute.  If there were, it would be wrong, even if God did it or commanded that it be done.  I have yet to encounter a Christian who can give an example of any atrocity that would be wrong, even for God.  We humans only have "morality" because we have a list of commands, things God tells us we "shalt not" do.  And if God tells us we "shall" do any of them (graven images: cherubim for the Tabernacle; Murder: large-scale genocides throughout the OT, various killings in the NT such as Ananias and Sappira;  Adultery/fornication: God fathering a son with a betrothed girl; etc.) then it becomes "immoral" (i.e. sinful) not to do them.

For Christians, morality = following orders.  Thus, if there's no order-giver, there's no orders, and we are all free to act just like God.  Ironically, this is one of the things about the idea of atheism that terrifies Christians the most.


NOTES:

1. Many societies apply these principles only to "us," i.e. to members of the society, not applying them to members of other societies or applying a much lower standard.

2. It is possible to sabotage the indicator system, for example, taking drugs to produce euphoria while your body wastes away.  The results of this speak for themselves, showing that the drugs are in fact a threat to your survival and flourishing.

3. I think this comes from Conversations With God, vol. 1, but I don't recall the page number offhand.
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #35 on: May 18, 2011, 03:58:38 PM »
Is Religion Addictive?

Hmmm...  Very interesting question.

I'm not a psychologist, but as I understand it, "addiction" also includes a physiological component.  The "substance" in question affects the body chemistry in such a way as to generate physical urges for a "fix."  I'm not sure religion necessarily qualifies in this regard.  I can see that some religious practices might be "addictive," e.g. Charismatic ecstasies/frenzies.  A Southern Baptist service, with a bunch of old people singing hymns (not hymens!  LOL!) written before 1900 can be very boring, such that one must attend it as a duty rather than a chance to get a buzz.

The things that do have physiological components (and could thus be potentially addictive in themselves) such as the aforementioned Charismatic holy-rolling, the "experience of the presence of God," etc. can be sought without "religion" per se (at least organized religion) as any mystic from any tradition can tell you.  A Persinger helmet may also be able to generate these 'spiritual' states using magnetic fields.

I do see the similarities between religion and addiction you're pointing out.  I'm just a bit cautious about applying the word "addiction," because, as has already been pointed out, it is a highly-abused word in our language today.  I think religion may well involve elements of addiction.  For example, many religions include a sense of high indignation against "sinners" and "infidels."  The emotion of strong indignation generates addictive brain chemicals.  Many people, from religious fundamentalists to political ideologues of the left, right, libertarian, Green, etc. could arguably qualify as "indignation addicts."  More information here: http://davidbrin.com/addiction.html[1]

I tend to think of religion more like a computer virus for the brain that has adapted itself superbly to the habitat of the human mind.  Just as a computer virus can take over the processing power, etc. of a computer and use it to propagate itself (e.g. sending copies of itself to everyone in the computer owner's address book, etc.), so religion (or perhaps the "God program") takes over the functions of the host's brain and deploys them to defending itself/attacking rival memes ("apologetics") and propagating itself ("spreading the Gospel").

Addiction(s) could well be part of its toolkit.  Various "mystical" states of consciousness (often being dream-like in nature) will be shaped to fit whatever religion-virus a person has.  An "apparition" for a devout Catholic would take the form of the Virgin Mary, for other Christians, perhaps Jesus...for a Hindu, one of the gods of their pantheon, for a believer in UFO's, a little grey alien with big black eyes.  "Apparitions" as well as things like "out of body experiences," a "sense of presence" (of an unseeing being), a feeling of "oneness with the All" etc. can be generated by stimulating the appropriate sections of the brain with electrodes.  All of these experiences, being quite malleable, will "shape to fit" the experiencer's belief system. 

Since religious memes have been with us, apparently since the time of Neandertal man, they may have co-evolved with the human brain, so that these "God circuits" evolved as religious-meme reinforcers.  It seems fairly obvious to me that a tribe or society that is willing to act in concert on short notice (i.e. when given orders), fight, kill, and die, will have a decisive military advantage over a tribe or society that will deliberate endlessly and still not act in concert, and that is reluctant to fight, kill, and die.  Religion makes that possible, so tribes of Believers would have outcompeted tribes of Critical Thinkers.1 

There is a limit to this, however, as tribes that are constantly in mystical woo-woo land would have a harder time dealing with reality, and would be easily out-thought by someone with a modicum of critical thinking.  Hence, the "Trickster" archetype in mythology.  Clever Ulysses handily outwitting the magical beings, sorceresses, and even gods and goddesses he encountered, the Serpent in the Bible, etc.  Result: Most humans are not too mystical/unthinkingly obedient (i.e. most are rational enough to "get by" most of the time), but we're not "too" rational either.  Basically, we ended up being part religious, part rational, amphibians of the mind.

Another factor to consider is that for most people, reality sucks (either stressful or boring).  Consider the multi-billion dollar fiction industry.  Movies, novels, computer games, role-playing games, etc. all designed to let us get away from "the real world" and live in an entertaining and interesting fiction for awhile.  Few people would want to rid themselves of all fiction.  The definition of a good movie/novel/game is that it can make you willing to suspend disbelief and accept it as real, for awhile.  For example, a good horror movie can actually scare people, even though moving images on a screen represent no actual threat.  Delusion!

What religion does, is offer an exciting or meaningful "story" that's running all the time.  Many Christians believe that they are right in the middle of the cosmic struggle between good and evil, that they "wage war against principalities and powers in heavenly places" when they pray, that by "saving a soul" they've made a difference that will endure for eternity.  Religion is a novel or movie that lets you be the hero, with victory assured because the Author is on your side--but the battle's still exciting anyway.  And unlike other novels, you don't reach an end in a few hours, after which you have to return to the workaday world.  Religion inhabits the workaday world itself, so that the job you hate becomes an opportunity to witness to your co-workers and make that eternal difference for the good. 

Then there's all the fantastic special effects--the grandiose miracles, glowing angels, etc.2  Even if the believer never experiences an angelic vision or sees a "miraculous healing," they can still believe in the back of their mind that these fascinating things are part of their world.  Perhaps they happened in the past (e.g. Biblical times), will again in the future ("the End Times"), or for specially-empowered sages somewhere far away ("a pastor I've heard of" "monks in Tibet who can walk through walls").

So when atheists like us come along, we're telling them all that cool stuff is just fake.  We're the alarm clock that rings when you're dreaming of having sex with Eva Longoria (for women, pick the heartthrob of your choice).  We're the dispensers of thrown cold water, telling them their job is just their job, and nothing they ever do will have cosmic significance in a universe that's billions of years old and utterly indifferent to them.  They will never see a miracle, or get to meet alien visitors, or spend eternity with Jesus Christ/72 virgins/Ascended Masters/whatever.  None of that nifty stuff is real, and the nifty stuff that is, like quasars and quarks, is stuff only a handful of people get to make a meaningful part of their lives (scientists). 

No wonder they sputter "But without God life has no meaning!  Why live?!"

I think this is probably the biggest "marketing problem" atheism has, and why believers (whether Christian, New Ager, or whatever) will enter "denial" in hopes of defeating the cold, wet facts we throw at them.  Is this "addiction?"  I don't know, but I'm inclined to resist the label because it leads to ad-hominens that probably tend to make atheism an even harder sell.

No one likes to be told: "You're delusional."  "You're an idiot.3"  "You're an addict."  I think atheists need to drop these patronizing monikers (even if through our eyes the Believer seems to be all three!) and face the fact that we're dealing with a phenomenon (religious memes) that has been evolving as long as we have, that has learned to exploit all the vulnerabilities of our psychology, and has gotten very good at it.  Perhaps this will help with our stress levels too.  If we understand that we're not up against a mere absurdity, perhaps we won't be as shocked and frustrated when it refuses to succumb to an elegant debunking.



NOTES:

1. This "relative evolutionary advantage" is arguably obsolete in an age of nuclear (and coming soon: nanotech, biotech, etc.) weapons.

2. For other belief systems, it's "alien spaceships," "celestial guardians," "nature spirits" "magick" "chakras"  "spirit energy" etc.   

3. Level of intelligence is largely irrelevant to religion.  Many extremely intelligent people have been and are religious.  The mind-virus of religion can simply harness a greater intellect to serve its ends just as a computer virus can take over a Cray supercomputer as easily as a home laptop.  It is not intelligence per se that matters, but the quality of one's mental firewalls and anti-virus software (critical thinking).   
 1. defunct website, sorry ~screwtape
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #36 on: May 18, 2011, 04:03:17 PM »
Crady's Wager

Quote from: Darius
Quote from: kcrady
[Darius, please stow the veiled threats. A threat is only as good as the entity making it. If your God wants to intimidate us into worshipping him by threatening to torture us after we die if we don't, he'd have a better shot at it if he came out of hiding and showed us all what a stupendous badass he is.

Hi kcrady,

Just saw your next post, not a veiled threat but a sincere question. I'm sure you have all already been told that Christians believe in Eternity in fellowship with Christ, and the lake of fire as the only final destinations.

The point I was making is if you don't know where you are going, why not?

I know where I am going, I'm making the point that anyone who does not know the creator cannot know where they are going because they have never been past death, and they don't know the only one who can tell them.

If I was here to preach hellfire & brimstone to the wicked sinners I could, but I sympathise with people who don't know God because I remember when I didn't and a lot of people I spoke to didn't make it clear, so I want to give a guide as how to seek God and meet with Him for real, for those who want to.

Darius

I do not know of any compelling evidence that "I" will be "going" anywhere after my death.  Your claim to know is not very helpful, since there are people who claim to know, with equal sincerity, that you are going to Hell because you did not accpet that Allah is one (He has no son), and Mohammed is His prophet.  Then there's the sects of Christianity that consider your views (whatever they are) to be heretical, whose members have equal conviction that they, not you (and certainly not I!) are the ones going to Heaven.  Therefore, the looming threat of "where will you go when you die?" cannot be an effective persuader because you're not the only one who gets to play that game.  Believers in other religions can, too.  Unless I have the option of believing in all of them, accepting ideas in hopes of evading the Everlasting Marshmallow Roast would be futile.

Furthermore, despite your assurance, you can't "know" where you're going either.  Why?  You see, on another thread (I think it was the "Book of Job" thread), I posted a wager with God.  It went something like this:

Dear God:

I know you're very proud of all these devout Christians who worship and praise you, and dedicate their lives to your service.  And why shouldn't they?  The retirement benefits can't be beat.  You're offering them eternal bliss.  Who wouldn't be willing to obey any orders, suffer any persecution, ignore any atrocity on your part, or happily accept martyrdom for an eternity of happiness?  No matter what happens to your followers here on Earth, I'm sure that after the first thousand years or so of perfect joy, that none of it could possibly matter in the least.

Of course they worship you!  Look what's in it for them!  But I bet you, that if they thought you might send them to Hell after they died...or even just let them die and rot, ceasing to exist with their last breath...if they thought they didn't have that payoff coming, they wouldn't worship you for a second!  See how long they praise you in Hell, I dare ya!

------

This is Crady's Wager, my antidote to Pascal's.  Now, one thing the Book of Job makes crystal clear ("allegory" or otherwise) is that God values his vanity more than any promises he's made to his followers.  This is obvious from the nature of the Old Covenant, which Job followed.  He obeyed God, and made the proper offerings to cover his sins, and God himself declared that he was "upright" in his original boast to Satan.  According to the Old Covenant, if God's people would obey his commands and make the necessary sin offerings, he would protect and bless them.  It is apparent that God was doing this originally, as Satan refers to God's protection of Job in his wager.

Satan's challenge was: I bet he'll curse you if you break your covenant with him and let me kick him around some!  The crucial teaching of the Book of Job is that God didn't say "Beat it, Satan!  I am a just God, and I keep my promises!"  Instead, God wanted to show off that he could garner unearned worship from Job, so he took the bet.

Which means: Now that my wager is published, and surely is within the purview of an omniscient deity, you have no way to know if he will take the bet or not.

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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #37 on: May 18, 2011, 04:15:21 PM »
You may have all seen the kcrady vs Fran debate here[1].  This was one of the first exchanges between them in the old forum.  Over time, nothing really changed. Fran continued to get one pants-down spanking after another.   

kcrady vs fran: the early years


Quote from: Fran
Hello Robert... How are you?  I hope you and your loved ones had a Happy Thanksgiving.  And i'm not saying  that because I think the U.S. is the center of the Universe either, despite Star Stuff's uncalled for  remark.  If you are not from the U.S.... then please accept my comment as a gesture in the spirit it was  given... that is a spirit of good will with the assumption that all of us, no matter where we are born, have  something to be greatly thankful for.

You always start out sounding so much like a sweet little grandmother I keep expecting you to bake us cookies. :)  (No offense intended, that's just the voice I hear when I read your posts)

Quote from: Fran
I'm not sure I know of any well-respected Christian Thinker or philosopher or Apologist or Logician who  would say  that "let there be light" is a statement of the Big Bang Theory.
 

Dr. Hugh RossWiki.  I'm not sure if he's said "Let there be light = Big Bang" in so many words, but he does hold that the Genesis account is consistent with Big Bang theory. 
Quote from: Fran
I believe it can be reasonably argued that the eventual elimination of slavery from civilized nations had to  start somewhere in history.  And the Mosaic Laws are absolutely the earliest documents we have of a nation  or a large group of people who started the long and difficult process of stopping and reversing and  overcoming strongly held beliefs that had been established and accepted in the hearts and minds of people  who for many years were used to thinking a certain way.

In what way did the Mosaic Law do this?  It merely states the provisions under which slavery was to be practiced.  It specified that Jews could only purchase slaves from other nations.  It also specified rules that allowed Jews to sell themselves into indentured servitude for a temporary period (seven years, if I recall correctly) with a provision that an indentured servant could volunteer to remain a slave after participating in a ceremony in which the master nails his ear to his door with an awl.

Furthermore, the "God was being patient and tolerant" hypothesis fails in consideration of the other laws.  If God really wanted to ban slavery, he could have simply done so--the way he banned worship of other deities.  Polytheism was just as rampant in the world as slavery.  Yet, we see nothing like, "You can worship Asherah and Baal on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, but the rest of the week thou shalt worship the LORD thy God, and Saturday is Mine, period!"

In other words, when it came to God's own ego, jealousy, and power, he wasn't willing to wait around for a few thousand years for people to slowly make the change to monotheism.

Quote from: Fran
And when we finally come upon the time of Jesus, we see that the most advanced civilizations at the time,  the Romans and the Greeks, are still deeply steeped in slavery, whereas the people from whom the Mosaic Laws  came from, had no slaves.

Do you have a source for this?

Even if this is true, there's a simple reason for it: The Mosaic Law permitted Jews to own only Gentile slaves.  In the time of Jesus, Judea was a subject nation, so most Jews were in no position to own Gentiles.  This is not in any way establishing a principle of freedom from slavery.  It just says slavery is something we can do to "Them" but not "Us."

Quote from: Fran
There might have been some secular Jews who did not believe in a God who may  have had some slaves (but I'm not aware of any),

Those dirty rotten immoral atheists!!!!!
Quote from: Fran
but there certainly were no slaves among the devout Jews  who revered Moses and believed in the God of Abraham.

No slaves among the devout Jews?  Not a single one?  In the entire Roman world?  "Certainly?"  What is your proof?  If you read the book of Philemon in the New Testament, you can see that there were no barriers to a devout Christian owning a slave in New Testament times. 

Quote from: Fran
And then we see the process which began with the Mosaic Laws, the ripple effect among the Jewish people,  we  see that same process repeating itself first with the Apostles telling the gentiles among them to start  treating their slaves more humanely... then secondly among other gentiles in other countries when Christians  were forced to scatter all over the world thru persecution.

Was the process perfect?  NO.

Why not?  If God is perfect, and all-powerful, and wanted to abolish slavery, couldn't he have managed a perfect process?  Or at least one that worked as well as his war on Paganism?

Quote from: Fran
And as for your other statement:
"The abolition starts at the end of the 18th Century because people start to ignore the Mosaic laws and  instead work on the idea of government by consent (see the US Constitution)."

I find that interesting for a couple of reasons.  First, it was the U.S. Constitution which held that blacks were  only 2/3 human...

A couple things:  1) It wasn't 2/3, it was 3/5.  2) The slave-owners wanted the slaves to be counted as a whole person.  The abolitionists didn't want them counted at all. Counting them as 3/5 of a person was a compromise.  Why?

What they were being "counted" for was census data, on which apportionment of Congressional representatives was based.  Slave owners wanted slaves to be counted as whole persons, since that would increase the relative number of Congressional representatives for the slave states.  Slaves would have counted as voters, though they themselves could not vote.  Their masters would vote on their behalf.  Slaves, in effect, would magnify the political power of their masters.  This would have served as a powerful incentive to own more slaves.   

It was because of this that abolitionists in the founding era did not want slaves counted at all for the purposes of apportioning Congressional representatives.  The 3/5 Compromise was a deal made in order to get the Southern colonies to ratify the Constitution.  It was the most "abolitionist' deal politically possible at the time.  Far from dehumanizing slaves, it was the best effort to reduce the power of slave owners, and thus pave the way for eventual emancipation.
 
You are correct that Christians were on both sides of the slavery debate, as well as the Civil War that followed.  At the most, this tells us that Christianity as such was "neutral" on the issue.  However, there is still the fact that both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible sanction slavery.  In the New Testament, we read injunctions to slaves to serve their masters as if they were serving Christ, and to obey gladly rather than resentfully.  This is hardly a ringing anti-slavery declaration.  Again, the NT had no difficulty whatsoever condemning things like worship of other deities or requiring obedience to the Mosaic Law.  Slavery, apparently, was such an unimportant issue compared to God getting his worship and praise in the "right" way that it could wait another couple thousand years.

Edit: Fixed quotes - Graybeard
 1. if not, ZOMG! go read it!
« Last Edit: May 21, 2011, 02:56:43 PM by Graybeard »
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #38 on: May 20, 2011, 12:54:28 PM »
The conversation begins here but kcrady gets rolling with this post…

Getting JesusisGod out of his “reality tunnel”

Quote from: JesusisGod
Quote from: kcrady
JiG:

As my reply above shows, your poem is a classic example of the Christian Epistemological1 Double Standard.  Obviously, you would never accept a belief in Zeus by reading my poem.  Yet, you seriously expect the same poem (with your God left where Zeus has been inserted) to motivate people to accept your religion.  Why should I give Christianity, and only Christianity this sort of "free pass?"
   

Becuase 1 faith is true, the other is a lie:

Wow.  You are so completely trapped in your own reality tunnel you (apparently) are honestly incapable of imagining that other people are not necessarily in it with you.  You accept Christianity a priori.  It's "true," period, and after accepting that, then you evaluate everything else in the light of that assumption.  OK, I can understand that.  I do my best to avoid doing something like that myself in regards to my own views, but I can understand it.

Here is what I would like you to try to understand: Other people do not always accept Christianity or any of its premises a priori like you do.  Some other people take the exact same approach as you, but apply it to a different faith.  If Mateen were here, he would explain to you with equally unshakeable a priori certainty that his faith (Islam) is true, and yours is a lie.  And I'm sure he could produce a sura (verse from the Koran) or two to prove it.

Before you go quoting some passage or other in the Bible that says "Christianity is true!" understand that I am not trying to advocate Islam.  What I am trying to get you to do is understand the concept people who do not think like you do.  Take the example of the "bystander."  The "bystander" is someone who does not accept Christianity as true a priori, and who also does not accept Islam as true a priori.

Let's say you, Mateen, and I are all sitting in a drawing room sipping the beverages of our choice and having a polite discussion.

You say, "Christianity is true!" and quote a verse from the Bible that says "Christianity is true!"

Mateen says, "Islam is true!" and quotes a verse from the Koran that says "Islam is true!"

You say, "Any religion but Christianity is a lie!" and quote a verse from the Bible that says "Any religion but Christianity is a lie!"

Mateen says "Any religion but Islam is a lie!" and quotes a verse from the Koran that says "Any religion but Islam is a lie!"

You say, "When you die and stand before the Lord on Judgment Day, then you'll know Christianity is true!  It'll be too late though..." and quote a verse from the Bible that says so.

Mateen says, "When you die and stand before Allah on Judgment Day, then you'll know Islam is true!  It'll be too late though..." and quotes a verse from the Koran that says so.

Now...

I know that you're absolutely certain that Christianity is true.  That's fine.  You don't need to quote a Bible verse that says Christianity is true.  I'm pretty sure we can assume that according to the Bible, biblical religion is the true one.  And since you don't accept the Koran as holy scripture, I am sure no verse Mateen could ever quote would persuade you to believe otherwise.

What I would like you to do is step outside of your mental box for a moment and imagine witnessing the dialogue above from my point of view.  Just pretend for a sec, OK?  From my point of view, neither the Bible nor the Koran is self-evidently, unquestionalby True, Period.  I can readily observe that to you, the Bible is self-evidently, unquestionably True, Period, and that for Mateen the Koran is self-evidently, unquestionably True, Period.

Both of you want me to assume that your preferred holy book os self-evidently, unquestionably True, Period.  Mateen wants me to use faith to believe in absurd things like a flying horse taking Mohammad to Heaven.  You want me to use faith to believe in Balaam's talking donkey.  Try to imagine my point of view.  If it helps, pretend I'm an alien from another planet who has never heard of either of your religions.  Don't worry now, it's just pretend.  Your God won't smite you, I promise.

Now: Why should I accept your beliefs a priori, instead of Mateen's?
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #39 on: May 20, 2011, 12:59:19 PM »
Deep xianity

Quote from: michael807
I keep getting thrown for a loop here because much of the discussion about the existence or not of "God" seems to be tied to arguments about the bible. Are we discussing the existence of any  type of supreme being? Are we discussing the existence of the Christian god? Or are we discussing the accuracy of a book? I personally would like to see a more focused discussion on a specific topic.

The problem I have with some of the atheist posts I have been reading here is the same problem I have with Richard Dawkins. You posit your definition of God and then set about "proving" that the god in your definition cannot logically exist and therefore NO god can exist. This seems a little unfair to theists. Why not take THEIR definition of their god and disprove it?

The Christians have the opposite problem. They attack scientific theory and state, "because I prove your theory wrong, it means that MY god must exist." I have a lot more trouble with Christian arguments in general because they have a tendency to invoke the "god's will" excuse every time they get to a corner. ...and they have a tendency to use questionable logic and philosophical truisms in their arguments. But I most specifically have a problem with the fact that they think that if there is A god it must be the one they talk about in the bible.

I find both premises to be flawed. How about narrowing the topics and responses to more focused areas where it can be determined whether or not there is a basis for discussion or whether all parties are so committed to their personal views that there is no room for discussion?

It is true that most critiques here focus on the Abrahamic (JCI) God-concept.  There are a few reasons for that:

1. Most writers here (as far as I can tell) originate from nations dominated or affected by belief in the Abrahamic deity.  Since the primary reason for atheists to bother critiquing faith at all is because they perceive it as dangerous, it is natural that atheists would critique the varieties of faith they find most threatening (in this case, Christianity and Islam).  No one bothers to debunk Thor and Odin because we do not see our nations' domestic and foreign policy being determined by people who believe in them.

2. I have not yet seen any theist from a non-Abrahamic religion come to this forum and argue in favor of Ghanesh or Goddess.  If one did, there would probably be critiques of Ghanesh or Goddess given in response.  Or, if belief in the deity in question was deemed non-harmful, perhaps a chorus of tolerant shrugs.

3.  "Deep Christianity".  If you click on the link, you will find an article providing an excellent description of this concept.  It includes a picture of Shinto priests carrying a large image of a naked penis as part of a fertility rite.  This is a normal part of their Pagan religion.  However, if they were to attempt to celebrate this on the streets of New York, they would be arrested for obscenity, regardless of our "freedom of religion." 

Even many secular liberals would probably agree that an image of a naked penis "is" obscene, and should not be displayed in public.  Why?  Well...it just is...isn't it?  Not to the Shinto priests.  Not to the Pagan cultures all around the globe who celebrate comparable fertility rites.  It is obscene, in Christian thought. Secular liberals who would reject it as obscene would do so without even knowing that they're acting from Christian premises--they're not Christians, after all.  But Christianity is so ingrained into our thinking in the West that many of its premises remain even in the minds of those who reject Christiaity.

Another example: When was the las time you heard someone ask: "Do you believe in the Gods?" or even "Do you believe in Goddess?"  No, it's always "Do you believe in God?"  The Abrahamic deity is so much a part of people's mental furniture in the West that the concept of the divine is automatically assumed to refer to a monotheistic, nominally male Deity that corresponds closely to the Abrahamic one.  Thus, when atheists set out to critique the concept of "God," they will often automatically aim their barbs at what is unconsciously assumed to be "the" God-concept.

The entire concept of "Intelligent Design" is built on cashing in on this "Deep Christianity."  If you read their literature, they are always trying to prove the existence of "a" Designer.  They claim to be non-sectarian and non-religious becuase they don't have to quote the Bible.  They're betting that we'll unconsciously accept that, if the Universe and life were designed, then the designing was done by a single omnimax (possessing omni- attributes) Deity we can learn more about in church.  The "Flying Spaghetti Monster" was invented precisely to respond to this unspoken assumption.  If Universe was designed, we could as easily say it was designed by the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and obviously no one would do that.  But notice:  There is only one Flying Spaghetti Monster, and it's a male.  "Have you been touched by His Noodly Appendage?"  Even here, the deep assumption of the Abrahamic god's attributes prevails. 

Every now and then I like to invoke other god-concepts like the ancient Egyptian pantheon precisely to reveal and challenge this "Deep Christianity."
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #40 on: May 20, 2011, 01:04:53 PM »
From Not only is god Imaginary

I have proposed elsewhere on this forum that Gods actually exist--just not in the sense their followers imagine they do.

As I understand it, Multiple Personality Disorder is accepted as a legitimate phenomenon in psychology.  These personas can be of different genders, different ages, and (as I recall) in some cases health problems of a persona can show up psychosomatically when that persona is "in charge" of the body.  A Method Actor can experience this by "becoming" the character to an extent that they actuall feel the emotions they're trying to portray.  Likewise, better authors will sometimes report that a character they're writing "surprised" them by taking the story in a direction different than the author's original intention by making a different choice.

From this, it is apparent that the "hardware" of the human brain can "run" more than one "person." 

A Thought Experiment:

Imagine that one of these "alternate personas" figured out how to transmit itself to other brains.  Such an entity would gain several of the attributes of a "god" or "goddess."  It would be immortal, so long as at least one host still lived.  It could transmit itself through succeeding generations of hosts, surviving its original host by centuries or millennia.  It would be a disembodied consciousness, not confined to any particular body.  "Invisible stuff that thinks" is about as close to the definition of "spirit" (in the "supernatural" sense, not metaphorical) as anyone I know has gotten.  This entity would not be confined to a single location.  A community of hosts in Rome could "run" it, and so could a community of hosts in Texas.  It would thus have a functional "omnipresence" compatible with Bible passages like "Wherever two or three of you are gathered in my name, there I am in your midst."  It would also "indwell" its hosts, as many religions claim for their deities.  It would also have considerable power, as it could get a community of hosts to act in concert to build temples for it, or launch wars on its behalf.

How would such a persona transmit itself?  It would have to have a way to "compress" itself, in similar fashion to a .zip file compressing computer data, so that it could transmit itself in a resonable period of time.  It would have to be able to maintain fidelity of transmission so that it would not "die" and be replaced by another persona in the process.

There are several ways to do this.  Oral tradition is one.  Artistic portrayal ("idols," bas reliefs, paintings, etc.) is another.  Oral myths can convey basic personality traits.  A statue can convey a considerable amount of information, provided the community understands the meanings of the symbols it contains.  For example, the statue of Justice includes such concepts as impartiality (the blindfold) the importance of objective measurement (the scales, held high) and that force ought to be restrained, but used when necessary (the sword, held loosely and in a passive position).  We see this sort of symbolism in representations of gods and goddesses all the time.  Mars with his sword and shield, Zeus with his kingly beard and thunderbolt, nubile Venus emerging naked and radiant from the sea. 

Using archetypes ("warrior" "seductive woman" "mother" "king") also helps compact personality information into one word or a few.  The word "mother" generally conjures the image of someone tenderly nurturing babies and children, so a "Mother Goddess" automatically possesses these nurturing attributes, and her power is seen in refreshing streams and growing crops.  The "King of the Gods" rules in much the same way as earthly kings, so it is easy to understand that he will brook no opposition, that he will want to be praised for his might, and so forth. 

Another way was to appeal to nature.  The "trickster" god Coyote is represented by a clever animal that waits just outside the camp, always ready to snatch a piece of drying meat if it is not well-guarded.  An angry god can be linked to storms.  A reigning king-god can be linked to a soaring falcon, or the sun--or both (Horus).

However, the amount of data such representations can convey is fairly limited.  The result is deities who are "cardboard characters."  Mars is a fierce warrior, but we know little to nothing of what he's like in peacetime, or how he would treat a dog.  Since polytheism permits deities to "specialize," they often fail to develop highly nuanced character.  Still, we do see them acting in very human ways.

In order to facilitate transmission, a persona must persuade its host, and would-be hosts that it is important, enough to believe in and share with others.  Since it needs to dominate the hosts in order to do this, it must persuade the host that it is the superior persona, that the host ought to obey it.  It does this by becoming a god/-dess, a being that is superior by virtue of its disembodied state, a "spirit being" with powers beyond mortal ken.  Linking itself to nature serves both to compress its personality-data and provide it with a realm in which its power reigns supreme.  In order to deal with the natural forces or principles (e.g. "fertility") it is associated with, humans must deal with the god/-dess that controls them.  And so, religion is born. 

Then, one day, one of these personas decided to monopolize all the brain-space for himself instead of sharing it with a pantheon.  He declared himself to be the One True God, and set out to systematically destroy belief in the others in any way he could.  First, he monopolized all of the "divine functions" and attributes to himself.  Any function he could not absorb (e.g. female sexuality) was demeaned and suppressed.  This monopolization was made possible by the innovation of literary god-storage.  The god was no longer limited in the amount of personality-data he could contain by what could easily be held in human memory as oral tales or symbolic correspondances.

A god transmitted via literature would not be limited to simple mythic tales.  An entire biography could be constructed.  Commands could be written down, teachings and declarations, and a history of the god's interaction with his hosts.  This enabled the creation of a more well-rounded persona.  This god can be both hateful and loving, forgiving and ruthless, a King and a Warrior and a Father and a gentle Lover/Husband.

In this sense, contradictions in the Bible ("God is love" vs. "God is a man of war" or "For the LORD thy God is a Jealous God, his name is Jealous") are not flaws, but advantages.  Consider a man we'll call "Joe."  At a party, people might say that Joe "is" shy and soft-spoken.  But catch him in the middle of an Internet flame-war, and he "is" rude and boorish.  Watch him frag others in his favorite first-person shooter, and he "is" aggressive and murderous.  See him spank his child, and he "is" angry and violent.  See him with his wife and he "is" gentle and romantic.

In like manner, the literary Abrahamic God has a full-orbed personality that can respond to virtually any situation.  His hosts know exactly what will make him mad and what will make him loving.  Naturally, these correspond with things that advantage him.  Skepticism about him?  Mad.  Worshipping other deities?  Mad.  Worshipping him devoutly?  Loving.  Transmitting him to new hosts? ("spreading the Gospel")  Loving.

The increased flexibility open to a literary god also gives it more adaptability.  The hosts of the Christian god can be either devoutly pacifist to the point of going eagerly to martyrdom, or ferociously warlike to the point of going eagerly to martyrdom, depending on which aspect of the Biblical god's personality they're "running" at the time.  With multiple hosts, the god can try both approaches at once.  Where his hosts are overwhelmingly outmatched by a rival god's hosts, pacifism can be effective in either avoiding persecution or making the persecutors feel guilty and persuaded of the moral superiority of their victims.  When his hosts are in the stronger position, they can switch to violence as a strategy and eradicate the other deities' hosts.  We see this happening in Christianity (pacifist, until Emperor Theodosius handed them the Roman Legions, after which Christianity became a persecutor religion) and Judaism (warlike, until they were decisively and thorougly conquered by the Romans in 66 and 120 AD, after which they became pacifist--until Hitler demonstrated the flaws of that strategy, so now we have a warlike Judaism in Israel and more peaceful variants elsewhere).

Since the god is being "run" on multiple brains, it has a certain "parallel processing" ability that lets it deal with circumstances more effectively than a single human could.  Confronted with danger, a human has a choice of "fight or flight."  A god can do both at the same time, with increased chances of survival.  Since each person's "copy" of the God-persona is going to be a little different, this gives the god the same kind of adaptability a species of organisms has.  Variations that are better suited to conditions will prevail over those less suited, so that as a whole the god adapts himself to the situation in which he finds himself.  Yet, with the Sacred Text being carefully preserved as Holy Writ, old adaptations that aren't currently useful can emerge again when circumstances warrant.

This concept makes sense out of otherwise inexplicable behaviors of the Biblical deity.
  • He demands worship, and threatens when he doesn't get it: Worship is the source of his life and power
  • He is "jealous" of other deities: they are competitors for "mind-space," and threats to his survival.
  • He claims great omnimax power, even though his stories do not portray him thus: such claims garner him awe and worship
  • He is opposed to reason, proof, and critical thought: such things challenge the claims upon which his worship is based.
Such things make no sense as personality attributes of an omnimax, or even a vastly superior being who is self-sufficient and does not need us to survive.  They do make sense if we really are the "sheep of his flock" the "fruit of his vine," the "crops of his field"--that is, his source of nourishment and life.   


a good argument ensues
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #41 on: May 20, 2011, 01:09:21 PM »
Witches in the bible

As Stardust pointed out, the biblical deity is not opposed to magick/witchcraft per se, only other people's magick/witchcraft.  The central issue is not magickal practices, "good" magick vs. "harmful" magick, etc., rather it is the self-described jealousy of the biblical deity.
We can find numerous examples of magickal practices that are accepted when applied by an "official" spokesperson for God, that are rejected when employed by someone doing the same thing in the name of another deity.

For example, many practices of "diviination" (seeking knowledge from spiritual sources) are based on the principle of asking a deity to guide a random or semi-random process in order to produce a synchronicity in the output.  Examples include Tarot cards, casting runes, reading pidgeon entrails, etc.  In the OT, the Levitical priests would seek divine guidance by casting sacred lots known as the urim and thummim. 

Another form of divination is "scrying," in which someone looks into a shiny surface such as fluid in a cup or bowl, a crystal ball, a darkened mirror, etc..  In Genesis, we see the following:
Quote
When they had gone only a short distance from the city, Joseph said to his steward, "Go, follow after the men; and when you overtake them, say to them, 'Why have you returned evil for good?  Why have you stolen my silver cup?  Is it not from this that my lord drinks?  Does he not indeed use it for divination? You have done wrong in doing this.'"

--Gen. 44:4-5

In Moses' wizards' duel with the Pharaoh's court magicians, we see that they were able to do several of the same spells, but Moses' are said to be more powerful.  Interestingly, the story of a wizard parting waters occurs in an Egyptian account from the reign of the Pharaoh Senefru (father to Khufu, who had the Great Pyramid built), about a thousand years before the story of Moses.  Senefru was out boating with some of his harem girls when one of them dropped her necklace into the water.  Senefru called a magician to part the waters so the necklace could be retrieved.  This is not as grand and cinematic as the Bible story, and the purpose is rather trivial by comparison.  Nonetheless, it is interesting that the notion of a wizard parting water was part of a tale that was already ancient by the time Moses allegedly lived.

In the New Testament, we hear that certain enchanted items, such as cloths that had been touched by the Apostles, had power to heal.  James 5:14 calls on sick Christians to go to the elders of the church to be anoined with oil in a healing ritual.  Jesus also performed healing rituals, in one case healing a blind man's eyes by spitting in the dirt, fashioning mud, and rubbing this in the man's eyes, thus ritually re-enacting the creation story in which man was formed from dust.

Regarding "harmful" magick, we see several examples of biblical prophets doing things like calling fire down from the sky and invoking other supernatural harm on their enemies.  In a number of psalms, the Psalmist invokes divine wrath against enemies.  In the New Testament, we see Peter striking Ananias and Sapphira dead for lying about donations to the church.

Modern Christianity has no shortage of magick.  Catholicism is rife with it.  In the ritual of transubstantiation, the Eucharist and "wine" (grape juice) are, according to Catholic belief, transformed into the actual body and blood of Christ (in "essence").  Various relics are believed to be imbued with magickal power to heal or perform other miracles.  I've seen footage of a ritual (I don't recall which church or what time of year it is performed) in which the dried blood of a saint, held in a glass vessel embedded in a large golden cross is made to become fluid again.

In Charismatic Protestantism, holy "anointing oil" is used for healing purposes, as well as to anoint doorposts as a repellant for evil spirits.  I have also seen Benny Hinn (allegedly) heal people by slapping them with his enchanted coat (based, apparently, on the NT accounts of healing cloths).

What the biblical God really opposes is not magick or witchcraft, but dealing in any way with other deities or powers.  He is just as opposed to prayer under those circumstances.  Naturally this jealousy served the interests of his clergy, who were able to corner the market on magickal services by having other practicioners killed. 
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #42 on: May 20, 2011, 01:11:54 PM »
Wwgha framework for discussion

Quote from: Brandon
My actual definition of religion is closest to that of Paul Tillich, which is one of "Ultimate Concern."

This means that if your ultimate concern is being right, then that is your "religion." Or if your ultimate concern is loving others, that is your "religion." This almost begins to answer the question of purpose.

My ultimate concern is closely tied to what Jesus teaches in scripture. The main teaching that I try to learn about and show is that of love. It is insanely difficult, but I strive to do so.

I noticed the premise of your argument is that of disagreement. Why can't Christians agree? My answer is simply because we are all unique people and have differing viewpoints to acheive a similar goal. That goal, however, is not of converting the world. Jesus did not say "Go and convert" He said "Go and make disciples." This means discuss and talk. Live as a community, love one another. Does this match up with some of the actions of others? No, it does not. It pains me to see this.

My question to you would be, does religion have to be agreed upon by all believers to be valid?

To the extent that believers in religion claim to have knowledge of objective reality (usually they claim to know a "higher" or "more fundamental," and thus more important reality than the commonplace existence we're all familiar with), their "observations" (revelations in holy books, mystical experiences, etc.) ought to agree.  Presumably, they're all experiencing the same aspect of reality.  If their accounts disagree, then the quality of their observations cannot be trusted.  In the same way, if an astronomer claims to have discovered a certain type of quasar in a certain location in the sky, and other astronomers' reports do not agree with hers, we would have to distrust her reports.  If all of the astronomers disagreed as to what they were seeing, we would have to distrust the ability of their instruments to accurately resolve whatever they were looking at.  The "canals of Mars" are an example of this in a real historical scenario.

This "need for agreement" rises with the specificity of the claims.  Based on what you've said so far, and from the source you cited (Tillich), you make only the broadest of claims: "Religion" is "ultimate concern," "God" is something like a "Ground of Being," and we are called to love each other and live cooperatively together.  It's fairly easy to get agreement on that.  A Wiccan could accept it as easily as a Christian, Buddhist, or Hindu.  They would have no problem dealing with your acceptance of Jesus as the exemplar you follow, while they chose to follow Buddha, Maher Baba, Adyashanti, or Silver Ravenwolf.  It might even be possible to follow Ken Wilber's "integral" approach and cross-map all the things religions and mystical teachers hold in common in order to come up with a "unified theory of spiritual experience." 

I do not have much of a difficulty with this sort of "religion."  The only question here is, "Is what they're experiencing something that's really 'out there'/'in here'/everywhere (i.e. some sort of 'spiritual reality'), or is it something that's only going on in the brain?  While I think the preponderance of evidence favors the "it's all in the brain" model, there is, in my opinion, some evidence for psi and other as-yet poorly understood phenomena such as Sheldrake's "morphogenetic fields" that should be carefully considered.

However, there are those in each religion that claim theirs is "the" One True Faith, and that those who do not accept it and follow its teachings will burn in Hell or spend ten thousand incarnations as a cockroach or an Untouchable.  Since these people are making much more specific claims, and express a higher degree of certainty in their beliefs and importance (you get punished very severely if you don't agree), these people have a correspondingly higher burden of proof, and the fact that they disagree with each other, even within the "same" religion, makes their claims to possession of the spiritual "inside track" less credible to me.

In short, it is one thing to claim that there is a "Ground of Being" that could be called "God," "Goddess," "Universal Spirit," "Higgs Field," or "Zero Point Quantum Entanglement Manifold" with equal validity.  It is another to claim that there is one true God who created Universe 6-10,000 years ago, who incarnated as Jesus Christ (and only Jesus Christ), who walked among us, worked miracles, died for our sins and was resurrected and ascended into heaven, and that anyone who does not believe this and accept the Bible as God's inerrant Word is condemned to eternal fiery torment.  In the case of the latter, the fact that people who agree on those premises also disagree on some very important issues, such as predestination of salvation (Calvinism) vs. human free will (Arminianism), etc. falsifies their claim to having absolute, perfect knowledge of spiritual matters.

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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #43 on: May 20, 2011, 01:16:03 PM »
God is not an elephant

Begins here, but kcrady enters here…

Quote from: el
God is infinite and cannot be grasped by a human mind.

The universe and all its components are finite and cannot grasp God.

Those that are of God recognize God. Those that are of the universe recognize the universe.

Those who are of God know God and do not use the mind (finite) to know the infinite (God) Those who are of the universe attempt to explain and understand God (infinite) with a mind (finite) Which is of course impossible. You cannot understand the infinite (God) with the finite (mind)

All logic is finite, and so can only exist relative to finite things. God is infinite and so rules do not apply to God. God does not operate according to mental rules of human manufacture. Simply because your finite mind tells you God does not exist does not mean that your conclusion is so. It means that your finite mind spit out a finite conclusion relative to what you want to see. The Mind exists to support your ego. The mind will always spit out what ever conclusion you need to make yourself right. This cuts both ways

I believe. Not because I thought about it and weighed the evidence. No matter how much you think about something, the result of your thought is finite. I believe specifically because I was not thinking, God infinite called and I was listening. In other words, I experienced direct, obvious, personal and in defiance of all logic the obviousness of God. There is not enough logic existent in the world to overcome my personal direct and awakening experience with God (that continues with every breath). The reason for that is simple. Belief in God is not about logic, it is about faith.  Faith cannot be defeated with logic.

Your claim is self-refuting.  You start out by claiming that God is unknowable, and then claim to know a whole bunch of stuff about him.  But let's set that aside for a moment (others have raised that point, and I'm feeling charitable :) )

You assert that your belief in God comes as the result of a direct experience of him.  Apparently, given your premises, such an experience is the only reasonable way to accept the idea that God exists.  So, is there a way you know of, such as a meditation technique, yogic position, entheogen we could take, etc. whereby we could act to have this experience ourselves? 

If yes, then we have the option of conducting the experiment ourselves and (possibly) validating the existence of God by direct perception.

If no (i.e. you believe God must initiate the experience), then we have no say in the matter of whether we believe in God or not, and only those special people God likes enough to give the experience get to have any reason to accept that he exists.

Either way, "faith" is irrelevant to the question of belief in God.  Perhaps, having had the experience of God, you can have "faith" (i.e. confidence) in him (his trustworthiness, etc.) derived from your ongoing mystical union in the same way a person boarding an airplane has confidence in Bournelli's Law, the structural integrity of the aircraft, etc.  Note that this is not the same thing as believing in an invisible, intangible, inherently undetectable aircraft.

Furthermore, if your concept of "God" includes the idea of him sending unbelievers to Hell or otherwise punishing us because he did not choose to give us the mystic union you have, I can only hope you'll enjoy being trapped for eternity with a being who can be so spectacularly unjust...

At any rate, given your premises, you are wasting your time here.  If we had your gnosis experience we would (according to your premises) be as certain of God's existence as you are, and you would not need to tell us about it.  If we have not had your gnosis experience, all of our reasons for not believing in your God are still valid for us.  Describing your experience can have no effect, since God has apparently not chosen us, or has not chosen us yet.  The idea that God can and will just "beam" himself into people via direct revelatory experience rules out the need for things like faith, scriptures, priesthoods, churches, missionaries, etc..  This is why what was to become the Catholic Church hated Gnosticism so much.

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Offline Graybeard

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #44 on: May 21, 2011, 03:19:07 PM »
Just caught up with the kcrady saga: there's some real brilliance in style and content there.

Do we know anything about him? He seems to be professor of philosophy level with theology thrown in for good measure.
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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #45 on: May 23, 2011, 08:58:47 PM »
Just caught up with the kcrady saga: there's some real brilliance in style and content there.

Do we know anything about him? He seems to be professor of philosophy level with theology thrown in for good measure.

I thought I recall something about a law degree, but I have not seen that in the 20 or so pages of posts I have so far waded through.  I think there is also a background[1] in Egyptology or ancient Egyptian history. 
 1. formal or a serious hobby
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #46 on: May 25, 2011, 11:08:55 AM »
The next three posts are all in the same thread, post numbers 36, 49 and 62.  I would normally just link the second two, but I think they are worthy of being posted separately.  But please do read the whole conversation.

The folly of miracles

OK, Linefo.  Forget about amputees.  How 'bout just replicating Jesus' works?  Or even Moses.'  I'm sure parting the Red Sea would be unambiguous enough.  Or showing a few Christians in Africa how to do the loaves and fishes trick.

Instead of "real" miracles like that, what we get here is ambiguous stuff like "I really had to get across town in a hurry, so I prayed to God, and lo and behold, a cab came around the corner right as I left my house!"  Or in your case, "I applied for a grant and prayed, and I got the grant!  Halleluiah!"   

We do get some "Well, my friend had cancer, and we prayed for her, and she went into remission (or the chemotherapy worked)!  Halleluiah!"  Of course, when the friend dies, then "God wanted to take her home."  If you hadn't got your grant, you would have said, "God didn't want me to do that research."  No matter what happens, it's "proof" of God.  Yes, No, or Wait.  That works as well for a jug of milk as it does for God.

I used to live in a little town in Idaho called Orofino.  In '96, there was a big flood.  There were two fundamentalist type churches located near the river.  One of them barely avoided getting washed away.  Next Sunday, they praised God on their church sign for miraculoulsy sparing them.  The other church did get washed away.  Next Sunday, their church sign said Satan sent the flood because they were Doing It Right and he had to try to stop them.

The whole thing is a "rigged game" Christians set up so they can declare their god the winner no matter what happens.  Now, Ayn Rand once said, "Never bother to examine a folly, only ask what it accomplishes."

What does this sort of folly accomplish?  What does your claim that God can't/won't heal amputees because he only "works with existing matter" (the stump, made of matter and containing DNA instructions for the lost limb somehow doesn't count) accomplish?

What this, and all of the other Christian rationalizations of this type achieves is to explain why Universe looks exactly like it would if a miracle-working deity doesn't exist.

We both agree that grandiose, Biblical-style miracles don't happen.   The difference is, for your worldview, this requires quite a bit of explanation.  For ours, it's just an ombvious corollary.

Now, you'll say such miracles do exist "long ago and far away"--in Bible stories, and in other stories one can google, but which have no more substantiation than Elvis sightings and flying saucer abductions. The fascinating thing about miracles is that they never happen when anybody's looking.  If somebody fed a football stadium crowd out of a lunchbox, or unleashed a plague of frogs on New York, it would be photographed by a thousand cell phone cameras. 

Of course, something like that will never happen, because God only works miracles under circumstances where the only "documentation" that exists is oral anecdotes--just like flying saucers only abduct people out in the middle of nowhere and never off of city streets.  Why?

Because that's the only way Universe can look exactly like it would if these things weren't real.
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #47 on: May 25, 2011, 11:12:39 AM »
Who is responsible for starving children?

Quote from: linefo
As for the starving children in Africa, I doubt any of you know even one starving child in Africa so how can you make claims about to whom and how often they pray and their success rates? 
Unfortunately, post-colonialism-effects and civil wars and such between dictators and rebels etc are a source of many of the starving populations in Africa - all this, man made.  Yet people are quick to blame God when He doesn't immediately come down and solve all the problems that we caused and continue to cause.  Even the Israelites in the Bible who had visual, everyday experience of God's power still often failed to repent, believe and honor God.  Yet everyone is quick to say that if God just came and fed all the starving children they would all of a sudden change their ways and believe.  I sincerely doubt that. 

Also, feeding all the starving children would mean stopping the causes of their lack of food and that would mean subverting the free will of those causing the wars and such.  What I'm trying to say is that it's not as simple as magic up some sacks of rice all over the place, meanwhile the warfare and strife still go on.

Let's not ignore our own responsibility to those starving children.  God also expects us to do our part.  There's a passage that says:

James 2:14 - "What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?  Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?  In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead."

Let me get this straight: We humans, having limited knowledge, power, and resources, have a moral responsibility to help starving children in Africa.  God, having unlimited knowledge, power, and resources, doesn't.  Un-huh.  How is it that Christians can claim that God is the epitome of moral perfection while at the same time holding him to a lower ethical standard than "sinful" humans?  I also like the part where God lets kids starve, and be maimed and killed so as not to disrupt the free will of the tyrants and thugs doing the maiming and killing.  While at the same time claiming to be the "King of Kings and Lord of Lords" to whom "every knee shall bow and every tongue confess."  Hint: any ruler who cannot at the very least maintain order within the territory he governs is not a ruler at all.  Some "King."  And how, exactly, are we mere mortals supposed to stop the strife and killing without violating the free will of the killers?!

But again, notice what this "explanation" of yours serves to accomplish: to explain why Universe looks exactly the way it would if there wasn't an all-loving, all-powerful God who could rain down manna on Africa, smite the evildoers with fire from the sky, etc.

Atheist hypothesis: The only way starvation in Africa will be ended, or amputees get limbs, or any other problem on Earth get solved, is if we humans work to solve it.  There's nobody else to do it.

Christian hypothesis: There is an all-powerful, perfectly loving God who could solve all of these problems in an instant as easy as you snapping your fingers.  But here's why he doesn't do anything of the sort: [laundry list of "reasons" here].  The only way starvation in Africa will be ended, or amputees get limbs, or any other problem on Earth get solved, is if we humans work to solve it.  There's nobody else to do it.   Well, there is, but He won't.

Bottom line: For all practical intents and purposes there is no God.  You can believe he's there if you like, but you still live in a reality that acts exactly like it would if there were no God, no miracles, etc.  If you want something done, you've got to do it yourself.  Just like us.  The "God theory" has no content, since there is nothing that distinguishes a theist universe from an atheist one, once you provide all the reasons why God prefers to act like he doesn't exist. 

Why bother with the "God" hypothesis?  Even apart from Occam's Razor, why subject yourself to the need for constant mental gymnastics?
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #48 on: May 25, 2011, 11:14:08 AM »
The godless universe

Let me try to make this simple:

There are two hypotheses.

1. Universe is a haunted house.  There is at least one entity called "God" that has unlimited power, that cares about us, answers prayers from those who love him.  He is aware of every sparrow that falls, and values a human much more than many sparrows.  He can, and sometimes (at least in the past) does overturn the limits of nature to do extraordinary and wonderful things we call "miracles."  Like creating several thousand pounds of fish and bread out of nothing.

2. Universe is not a haunted house.  What we see is what we get.  "Miracles" do not happen.  If we want bread and fish, we gotta get it ourselves.

At first glance, we would expect each of these hypotheses to make very different predictions as to what we will actually experience in Universe.  Instead, what we get is the believers in Hypothesis 1 going to great lengths to explain why Universe looks so much like what Hypothesis 2 would predict.  We would expect that something as big and blatant as an omnipotent, omnipresent miralcle-working being determined to rule over all areas of our lives ought to have a few detectable effects.  He would be a wooly mammoth in the living room.

But no!  He's an invisible, intangible woolly mammoth who never has any noticeable effects whatsoever!  In fact, there's no way to even tell he's there at all!  That's why the living room looks so much like it doesn't have a gigantic wooly mammoth standing right in the middle of it.  But he's there!  Really!  You just gotta have faith!

Why bother with all the ledgerdemain and mental Matrix-dodging?  That's the beauty of parsimony.  We don't have to try to believe in something and then explain why its existence is simultaneously the most important truth of all, and also indistinguishable from its non-existence.  We can just accept reality as it is.  You have to play pretend, and work to convince yourself that the almighty creator of the cosmos is in the business of distributing research grants to you, while remaining indifferent to far greater needs because those needs can't be met without actual miracles that would actually be incompatible with the atheist Universe in which you live.

You snatch at obvious coincidences for "proof" of miracles because you know no unambiguous miracles will ever happen.  You live in the exact same Cosmos of natural regularities as we do.  The only difference between us is, you claim to believe those regularities can be suspended at any time--just that they never are, for whatever reason.  "Miracles" are a Lucy's Football that's never there when you actually try to "kick" it (i.e. apply practically your belief in them).

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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #49 on: May 25, 2011, 11:19:07 AM »
Playing god

What is it that makes Christians so viscerally afraid of atheism?  Why are they so quick to cry that atheism must inherently lead to savagery?

Because, Christians do not beleive in morality at all.  To Christians, the only reason not to run amok raping and pillaging is because the King says you can't, and he will punish you severely for it after you die.  No King = no constraints on brutality.  For Christians then, there is no morality, only legality.  They hold this theory consistently, as is apparent whenever anyone questions the morality of God.

"God is not limited to human moral understanding."
"God is our Creator.  He is entitled to kill humans.  It is his sovereign right as our Creator."
"Who are you, O man, to answer back to God?"

Whenever atheists bring up any of the moral atrocities in the Bible, Christians routinely exempt God from any moral standard whatsoever.  This is only a natural consequence of their concept of "morality."  God has no "higher power" to tell him what to do.  No one will punish him, and no one can, because he has all the power.  Relative to God, atheism is true.  For him, there is no God.  Having no law he is subject to, God is free to commit any atrocity whatsoever, or command his servants to do it in his name.  God can do no wrong because for him, there is no morality.  As long as its him doing it, any act is "holy" or "righteous."

Think about it.

What do we mean when we use the phrase "playing God?"

If a medical researcher discovers a cure for some horrific illness, we do not say she is "playing God."

If an aid worker lives in primitive conditions and works tirelessly to help poor people in developing countries, we do not say he is "playing God."

If a soldier throws himself on a hand grenade to save his buddies, we do not say he is "playing God."

No, we reserve that phrase only for frightening or evil acts done by a person who feels entitled to lord over other people's lives or over nature in some malevolent way, with no moral or legal accountability.  When Dr. Mengele stood at the gates of Auschwitz arbitrarily deciding who would die, and who would be subjected to his inhuman experiments, that is what we mean by "playing God."

Why is this so?  Because the Bible clearly portrays God acting in exactly that manner.  See the ninth chapter of Romans.  It's spelled out quite clearly.  Why are Christians so afraid of atheism?

Because they're afraid we will act like God.   
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #50 on: May 25, 2011, 11:23:33 AM »
Historical Exodus

Quote from: james51
Quote from: OkiMike
. Any problems that exist on this planet are the results of natural humans living in a natural world.
EXACTLY ! That is what I said in my message. Maybe you do not blame God but the writers of the bible did. An earthquake causes plagues and deaths and the people say "God did it." Really? What about this kind of evidence?

Please go here and read this.

http://varnam.org/blog/archives/2006/08/exodus_decoded_1.php 

Velikovsky made this argument back in the '50's.  One big problem I see with this theory is that Ahmose was triumphant over the Hyksos, ending their occupation of Egypt, while the Exodus story claims the Hebrews were escaping slavery in Egypt, rather than scampering away after getting their rear ends handed to them.  One side or the other is lying.  Given the vast archaeological evidence for the 18th Dynasty in Egypt, and the absolute absence of evidence for the "Exodus" (no one has found a single horseshoe or metal chariot fitting from that drowned Egyptian army, or any evidence of 6 million people tromping around Sinai for 40 years), it's gotta be the Hebrew side. 

Furthermore, attempting to explain the Exodus plagues in by using the volcanic eruption at Santorini requires a volcano erupting in time to some guy announcing "plagues" hundreds of miles away.  If you grant that, then "God" not only slaugtered uncounted innocent Egyptians (who could not be held responsible for the decisions of their king, especially when "God" hardened the heart of Pharaoh so he couldn't do as Moses wanted), he also killed vast numbers of innocent Minoans and inhabitants of Santorini, just so he could show off in Egypt.  Never mind that the reign of Ahmose was the beginning of Egypt's golden age, the 18th Dynasty.  This is the exact opposite of an Egypt in ruins with her Pharaoh and army drowned.  If the Hyksos theory were true, then the Hyksos would have taken advantage of the chaos and destruction to return to Egypt and re-establish their rule.  To the contrary, Egyptian history clearly shows that Pharaoh Ahmose and his successors were there to tell the Hyksos to "get out, and stay out!" 

What's the point of erecting this Byzantine theory to have a "natural explanation" for the Exodus, when it would take a supernatural agency to make sure the timing worked so perfectly (would have been embarrassing if the water came back in time to drown the Israelites/Hyksos before the Pharaoh led his charioteers in).  The Exodus story also portrays the Egyptian court magicians being able to duplicate several of Moses' feats.  They, too would have apparently been expert seismologists, knowing when the Santorini volcano would send another plume of ash or whatever, I guess.

Also, I'd like to see a real Egyptologist source for the notion that only firstborn sons would sleep on low beds in houses while everyone else slept on roofs.  It would also be interesting to know how putting lamb's blood on door-posts would keep poison gas from seeping into a house. 

"Tell me again how sheep's bladders may be employed in the prevention of earthquakes..."

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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #51 on: May 25, 2011, 11:25:26 AM »
Miracles

One of the strange things to me about religion--and not just Christianity--is that its advocates bother with the concept of "miracles" at all.  The Bible is chock full of stories of gradiose, special-effects miracles, then there's all those promises Jesus made about the power of prayer and faith.  But, if you ever try to put any of that into practice (like a person on another thread here who has an autistic, mentally-disabled daughter, who could certainly benefit from some real live Supernatural Powertm), then there's all sorts of reasons why it either can't work or why you shouldn't even expect or want miracles.

"You shouldn't test God."  "You don't have enough faith."  "God doesn't work miracles like that these days, it's a different dispensation."  Etc., etc., etc..

In Hinduism, there's all sorts of legends about powerful miracle-working gurus.  I once tried to read Pramahansa Yogananda's book Autobiography of a Guru.  He starts explaining his story, how he began his spiritual quest, and so on.  It's almost like he couldn't throw a rock without hitting some guru who can materialize food, and do other astounding feats.  Now, India is a country plagued with starvation and poverty.  If these powers exist and can be taught, why not spread 'em around enough so that everybody has enough to eat?  Then India's spiritual power would surely demonstrate the validity of Hinduism and the transcendance of Spirit over Matter.

But the book teaches that the really enlightened sages don't work miracles because miracle-working is a sign of spiritual immaturity.  IOW, Hinduism promises all these wonderful powers, but if you actually want to learn how to have the powers and put them to practical use, you're not enlightened.

It's like Lucy's football.  "Here, Charlie Brown, kick the football!"  But as soon as Good Ol' Charlie Brown tries, she yanks it away.  It's the same thing with religion and miracles. 

"Look!  Look!  Our religion makes it possible for people to work all these wonderful miracles!"

"That's great!  There's this crippled child who lives next door.  He loves baseball, but can never play, only watch.  I'd love to make it possible for him to play baseball.  Plus his disease is degenerative, and it'll kill him in a few years.  But if I join your religion, and pray or meditate alot, I can learn how to do miracles, then I can help him, right?"

"Um...well, you see, there's all these reasons why we either can't or shouldn't even want to work miracles.  To begin with..."

So, for anyone out there who believes in a miraculous religion, why even have a concept of "miracles" at all?  Wouldn't it save you a lot of embarrassing backpedaling to just have a non-miraculous religion in the first place?  James51's religion seems to be non-miraculous--except when it isn't.  So it's possible to have religion without miracles, at least sometimes.  In fact, when it really comes down to it, all of you do have religion without miracles.  If you want to feed children in Africa, you donate to Christian Children's Fund.  You don't expect anyone to go around multiplying loaves and fishes.  If you want to heal people, you set up an Our Lady of Whatever General Hospital, you don't send someone around healing people Jesus-style.  If you need to get into the attic, you use a stepladder, not an Indian Rope Trick.

We can all agree that for all practical purposes, here and now, in our real lives, miracles don't happen.  So why not just come right out and say that there are no miracles?  Why try to claim that there are, then come up with all these reasons why it "only looks like there aren't?"  Isn't that a bit like advertizing a car that comes with a vertical take-off feature and warp drive, but you should never, ever press the VTO and Warp Drive buttons?  You all believe in your religions despite the fact that there are no miracles.  You even go so far as to say that it would be wrong to believe in a religion because of miracles, or for God to work miracles (because it would "violate free will").  So why not just discard the whole "miracle" concept altogether?  Why not just promote your religion based on whatever benefits it actually has?

Please explain, I really want to know.
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #52 on: May 25, 2011, 11:33:58 AM »
Everything…

Quote from: Red McWilliams
Here's something I've been kicking around.  I'd love to hear what you folks think, especially the theists.  I think the best, perhaps only way to have an honest discussion about a topic is with a shared understanding of the context of the discussion and a healthy appetite to learn about another viewpoint.  My example: many of the atheists on this forum, myself included, used to be christians, and therefore have a very good knowledge base from which to debate the merits of christianity (I'm sorry if I'm excluding other religions, I just haven't heard much from you).  The christians here appear to have been christians for quite some time and know virtually nothing about atheism, and I don't mean the apathetic atheism that is born out of teenage angst.  That statement is derived from two observations.  One, my own thought processes when I was a christian, and two, reading the posts made by christians in this fourm.

So, can we really have productive conversations when one side has no concept of the other side's position?  I know I'm making broad generalizations here, but I really want to know if the christians out there have ever stopped to honestly consider the atheist position.

Based on my experience as a "stock" Christian, and dealing with "stock" Christians, there is a perfectly good reason they can't take a peek through an atheist's reality tunnel: they believe atheists are going to Hell.  If a perfectly just God is going to condemn atheists to eternal torture in Hell, then obviously the atheist cannot be sincerely and honestly mistaken.  They have to be atheists for some immoral reason, such as an unjustified grudge against God, or because they want to be able to have extramarital sex without feeling guilty.  Otherwise, a perfectly just God wouldn't punish them for it.  To consider atheism (or any other religion) as something someone could honestly believe is really true is to reject the belief that God is just in punishing people for being atheist or belieiving in another religion.

Now, regarding James and UnkleE...

James is an atheist--sometimes.  While he's telling us he doesn't believe in God as an entity, but considers "him" an abstract concept like "truth and righteousness" or "cooperation," he is an atheist.  For the last 40-70,000 years or so, humans have understood "gods" to be disembodied consciousnesses of some sort.  So, when James is denying this, he's an atheist, even if he redefines "god" to mean "truth and righteousness" or "pizza."  When he switches positions, and tells us about a "God" that talks to him, controls the weather, arranges cab rides, and so forth, then he's a theist again.  Someday James, Erwin Schrodinger will let you out of that box he's got you in. :)

UnkleE has a more nuanced position than "stock" Christianity, in which (as I understand him) God does not punish unbelief, he merely withholds reward, on the premise that the unbeliever doesn't want the reward (eternity in Heaven with God) anyway.  This does contradict all the stuff about weeping and gnashing of teeth, "their worm dieth not," etc., but I like UnkleE's position better. :)  Since UnkleE's Biblegod 2.0 is not as vicious and vindictive as the Biblegod 1.0 of historic Christianity, he is able to engage atheism in a much more thoughtful way than someone who has to believe it "must" be based on evil ulterior motives.

In answer to UnkleE's question about why atheists do not acknowledge the force of Christian arguments, I don't think it's because we're obscurantists.  It's because the best arugments Christians use don't necessarily substantiate belief in the Christian God.  For example, take the sense of awe and wonder that any sensitive person feels when looking at the night sky.  "The heavens declare the glory of God," the Bible tells us, "so that they [unbelievers] are without excuse."  But they don't declare the glory of the Christian, and only the Christian, god.  If anything, the self-obsessed, jealous, tyrannical megalomaniac portrayed as "God" in the Bible isn't glorious enough to serve as an explanation for the wonders of Universe.  Surely a Being or Beings capable of creating hundreds of millions of galaxies, with hundreds of millions of stars and planets apiece, could come up with something better to do than extorting the servile worship and praise of tiny, helpless little creatures.

Until Darwin's discovery of natural selection, Paley's "watchmaker" argument was an incredibly strong argument for some form of Divine Intelligence.  What else could it be?  Even now, we could still look at the grand sweep of cosmic history, of "hydrogen----->human" evolution as something incredibly majestic, Divine even.  Not necessarily the work of some big King in the Sky with a pair of drafter's calipers in his hand, perhaps something more like a bottom-up "Divine Intelligence" instead of top-down.  The "God" of Spinoza, Einstein, and Buckminster Fuller arising to Self-awareness in us  and whatever other intelligences look skyward to see different suns ("we are the Cosmos becoming aware of itself").  It wouldn't be too hard to say that evolution is "Intelligent Design," running in slow motion. 

This conception of "God" fits what we know of Universe far better than the Biblegod, who described Earth as stationary with the sun and other "heavenly" bodies going around it, classified bats as birds, and didn't know about the stars, galaxies, etc. that don't "give light upon the Earth" "for times and seasons."  In other words, even if we accept the Design Argument, the First Cause Argument, the Argument from Necessity, and so on, none of these necessarily validate the existence of the Biblegod.

While it is impossible to prove a universal negative ("there is no god or goddess of any sort anywhere in all existence") it is possible to falsify positive claims.  The Bible contains a clearly-stated model of cosmic origins, with literally-stated geneologies starting with Adam that place the Beginning within recent times, about a thousand years after the Sumerians invented glue.  This claim has been falsified.

The Bible declares that "For [as] the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:9).  But the heavens aren't higher than the Earth!  Earth is in the heavens, and there is just as much "heaven" beneath your feet as there is "up above."  "Thus saith the LORD, The heaven [is] my throne, and the earth [is] my footstool: where [is] the house that ye build unto me? and where [is] the place of my rest?" (Isaiah 66:1).  But Earth makes a peculiar foostool, being round, and hurtling through space with three distinct kinds of motion (rotation, precession, orbital revolution).  Nor have see seen any reason to equate "the heavens" with any sort of throne.  Or to consider monarchy as a cosmological principle.  In the Book of Joshua, the villain--er, hero of that work prologs a day by commanding the Sun--not the Earth--to 'stand still' so he can finish a slaughter.  The Bible's descriptions of cosmology have been falsified.

"Yet these may ye eat of every flying creeping thing that goeth upon [all] four, which have legs above their feet, to leap withal upon the earth" (Leviticus 11:21).

Surely, if Biblegod had created several hundred thousand species of insects, he'd know how many legs they have!  Many of the Bible's statements relating to biology have been falsified.  Yes, there are some that are correct.  Bronze-age pastoralists weren't complete idiots.  Stopped clock.  Twice a day.

Regarding the veracity of the Gospels, the very best that Christian scholars can hope to establish is that the canonical Gospels represent an accurate record of the oral tradition that existed several decades after the events they purport to describe.  That's it.  Decades-old hearsay evidence, for the single most important "fact" upon which Christianity is supposed to be founded--the life works, and resurrection of Jesus.  Not one single scrap of evidence, from the many thousands of literate people who would have been able to witness the literally earth-shaking events the Gospels describe.  No contemporary Jewish or Roman attempts to "spin" the events to bolster their own religious and/or political claims, no contemporary evidence at all that anyone noticed Jesus feeding over ten thousand people with miraculously-produced loaves and fishes (including the people themselves, who don't seem to notice even in the Gospels!), and all of the other miracles, so many that "the world could not contain the books" needed to record them.  Nobody noticed!  Nobody reacted!

That's like saying that a flying saucer landed in Central Park, and an alien ambassador spent three years traveling New England giving speaking engagements, demonstrating alien super-technology, then held a week-long teach-in at the United Nations before a huge crowd, and it never made the news.  If the Raelians were to come out and say that all this happened in 1948-1951, based on accounts they gathered from a handful of anonymous, alleged eyewitnesses, would you believe them?  Do you believe the "eyewitnesses" who claim to have seen spaceship wreckage and alien bodies from the flying saucer crash at Roswell?  Why not?  Several of those "eyewitnesses" are still alive.       

In the Book of Exodus, the Biblegod lays waste to Egypt and kills her Pharaoh with his army while depriving them of their slave workforce.  Except that the Egyptians themselves never noticed!  No mass graves of firstborn children, no accounts of the great magicians' duel, no evidence of plagues or famine, of a terrified, leaderless nation, of written pleas to the gods or spells (the Egyptians did these things as part of their religious practice, and we have found non-Exodus-related examples) made in desperate hopes of repulsing the Plagues.  Not one written lament over the destruction, or the death of the children, or the collapse of the economy, or the loss of Pharaoh and his army.  This is self-evident in the numerous Evangelical/Fundamentalist theories as to when the Exodus was supposed to take place.  It is as if historians had several different theories as to when Alexander conquered the Persian Empire, while all the evidence shows the Persian Empire surviving unaffected for another 2,000 years after "Alexander's conquest."

The historical claims of the Bible have been falsified.

Then there are the various claims in the New Testament, regarding the power of faith and prayer, the ability and willingness of Jesus to appear to people, and so on, all of which can be falsified at will (ref. the videos on the "Godisimaginary.com" website).  So, yes, maybe there is a "god" out there somewhere, especially if you get to re-define the word at will.  But claims of the existence of the Biblegod have been falsified.

So, the reason we don't acknowledge "strong arguments" for the Biblegod isn't because we're bullheaded.  It's because, as far as we can tell, there aren't any.  UnkleE, if you or anyone else has a "strong argument" for the Biblegod, please present it.  If it is as strong as you suggest, I will acknowledge that.  However, to count as an argument for the Biblegod, it has to be an argument for the Biblegod.  Philosophical arguments about a "Necessary Being" or "Prime Mover" raised by non-Biblical folk such as Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle don't count because they were Pagans, and clearly weren't arguing for the existence of the Biblegod.  Even if accurate, these arguments can at best only establish the existence of some sort of God.  To say that they validate the Biblegod (or Odin, or Quetzelcoatl, or...) is a non-sequitor.  The fact that the Biblegod's "inspired" prophets and revelators did not discover or receive these arguments is, in my opinion, a good argument that they should not be employed to support belief in the Biblegod. 

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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #53 on: May 25, 2011, 11:35:57 AM »
God is love

Quote
Charity suffereth long, [and] is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things

--1 Cor. 13:4-7

The Greek word translated "charity" here is agape, the same word used for "love" in the verse "God is love."  This is about as close to a stated definition of "love" as can be found in the New Testament.  Therefore, we ought to be able to do a simple word subsitution:

God suffereth long, [and] is kind; God envieth not; God vaunteth not [God]self, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things."

The Bible clearly proclaims that its deity is jealous, going so far as to portraying him stating that his name is Jealous (i.e. a total identification of the Biblegod with jealousy).  He is not kind (ask the Canaanites, or anyone suffering for eternity in Hellfire), and the entire Bible from Genesis to Revelation is filled with portrayals of God "vaunting himself," being "puffed up," "behaving unseemly," "seeking his own," being "easily provoked," "thinking evil," and "rejoicing in iniquity." 

If the Biblegod matched the Biblical definition of "love," then the human sacrifice of Jesus would be unnecessary.  The sacrifice of Jesus is only necessary to appease the Biblegod's vicious wrath, and it only works for those who are willing to grovel before him and become his slaves.  That isn't "love," no matter how you define it.
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #54 on: May 25, 2011, 11:39:58 AM »
The many merits of Satan

"Satan" is not a personal name, it's a title, meaning "Adversary" or "Accuser."  It's a judicial term referring to a prosecuting attorney, or perhaps more precisely, a "Grand Inquisitor."  In the OT, "Satan" is portrayed as a loyal officer of Yahweh's court.  If you get out a Strong's Concordance and look up "Satan," you will see that in every instance, he's working for or with Yahweh. 

For example, the Psalmist invokes a lawsuit against his enemy in Yahweh's court:
Quote
Set thou a wicked man over him: and let Satan stand at his right hand.
When he shall be judged, let him be condemned: and let his prayer become sin.

--Psalm 109:6-7

We are shown such a court case in the book of Zechariah:
Quote
And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him.
And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: [is] not this a brand plucked out of the fire?

--Zechcariah 3:1-2

The word for "resist" is satan, as a verb.  That is, Satan is attempting to prosecute the high priest in Yahweh's court.  Yahweh "rebukes" Satan.  The word for "rebuke" is not especially stern, i.e. not a curse against a mortal enemy.  It means "chide," basically, "You're out of order, Counselor!"

The Book of Job, of course, is famous for the friendly wager between Satan and Yahweh on the degree of Job's loyalty. 

Then there's this interesting pair of verses:
Quote
And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.

---1 Chronicles 21:1


And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say,Go number Israel and Judah

--2 Samuel 24:1

In these two parallel passages, Yahweh and Satan are treated as interchangeable.  This only makes sense if they're part of the same administration, in the same way that a news report announcing that "the Bush Administration said X" and another account saying "White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said X" do not contradict each other, because Tony Snow speaks with President Bush's sanction.  The result of this little escapade is the deaths of 70,000 innocent people.

In the New Testament, things get a little murkier.  We still see "Satan" acting as Yahweh's prosecutor.  For example, Jesus warns Peter that Satan has desired to "sift" him (i.e. test his loyalty).  In the Gospel of John, Satan waits at the Last Supper for Jesus to give the signal for him (Satan) to possess Judas Iscariot.  It should be noted that all OT demon possessions also take place at the expressed command of Yahweh.

However, there are other instances in the NT where "Satan" is portrayed as an enemy of Yahweh, especially in the Book of Revelation.

This picture is further complicated by the appearance of the Serpent in Eden.  He is not identified with "Satan" in that account, or anywhere in the Bible until the Book of Revelation.  The "Prince of Tyre" in Ezekiel 28 seems to be identified with the Serpent, as he is described being "in Eden."  This character is described as resplendent in beauty and wisdom, and his city is described at length as a model of peace and prosperity.  Yahweh does charge that his commerce "filled him with violence," but not a single example of such violence is offered, in a polemic ranging over two chapters.  Instead, we are treated to a panoply of violent threats from Yahweh himself.  In the Garden of Eden, the Serpent is portrayed as nonviolent, never threatening humans as Yahweh does.  Likewise, the only descriptions offered of the Prince of Tyre describe a majestic, wise being who, as spiritual governing principle of the Phoenician civilization (explorers, traders, inventors of the alphabet, a culture light-years ahead of Yahweh's Israelite "Taleban") provides prosperity and safety for his people.

The difference between this being and "Satan" is that Yahweh appears to truly hate him.  He curses him in the Garden of Eden narrative and in Ezekiel 28.  He does not curse "Satan" or threaten him with punishment anywhere in the OT, and examples of their cooperation in the NT imply this relaitonship continued.

However, since "Satan" is a title not a name, there is no reason to assume at the outset that only one being can be given this title.  Just as "Pharaoh" is used in the Bible for different Egyptian kings, the title "Satan" could be applied to Yahweh's Grand Inquisitor in his role as Accuser of humanity before Yahweh's court, and to the Serpent/Prince of Tyre in his role as Accuser of Yahweh before humanity.

Regarding the conflict between "Satan" (i.e. the Serpent/Prince of Tyre) and Yahweh, the Serpent can easily pwn Yahweh--simply by  not playing along.  Through his spokesman John of Patmos, Yahweh predicted that the Apocalypse would come after the Serpent/Dragon established a brutal global theocratic dictatorship led by "the Antichrist."  Then, seven years of "Tribulation" would follow during which Yahweh lays waste to Earth, and finally Jesus returns to establish his own global theocratic dictatorship.

However, as portrayed in the Garden of Eden narrative and Ezekiel 28, the Serpent would have no interest in establishing a global theocratic dictatorship.  All he has to do to keep Yahweh bottled up forever is not do so.  Yahweh, surrounded as he is by toadying yes-beings (see Revelation chapter 4), appears to have decided to show off his power by "predicting the future."  Being so self-absorbed he is incapable of imagining motives other than his own, he assumed his enemy must want to establish a theocratic dictatorship, then mass his forces against Yahweh's kingdom in hopes of taking over.

However, the Serpent's motive in the Garden of Eden seems to be to uplift humans rather than enslave them.  In which case, his goal would be to prevent the formation of a global theocratic dictatorship, and nudge us along in the direction of reason, freedom, and scientific/technological progress.  Just as Yawheh was caught flat-footed in Eden, he appears to have been caught flat-footed at "Armageddon" as well.  All of his vaunted prophecies about "coming soon" have been falsified.  Meanwhile Humanity has mad significant technological, scientific, and moral progress.  With accelerating developments in computer science, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, genetics, anti-aging research, alternative energy, etc., humanity has the option of achieving the transcendence the Serpent tried to give our mythic ancestors in the Garden of Eden.   

Now, Yahweh's followers (in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) seem to be almost trying to force Armageddon on us, seeking a grand apocalyptic conflict between each other, since they can't summon the Serpent to the battlefield. 

We're in a race then, between these two archetypal principles.  As Buckminster Fuller put it, we have the option of Utopia or Oblivion, and "it will be a touch-and-go relay race right up to the final moment."


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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #55 on: May 25, 2011, 11:43:28 AM »
The root of Pascal’s Wager

Quote from: john
If you put a man in a room with a million bottles and tell him that 999,999 contain deadly poison and one contains a potion of immortality, what possible choice could he make other than not to drink?

Excellent argument!  +1! 

When I was a Christian, i used to believe that people who had never heard of the Gospel, Jesus, etc.. were given a mulligan of sorts.  I don't recall the exact Scriptural validation (I think there's a verse where Jesus says "to whom much is given, much is expected"), but I held to the idea that God judged people in accordance with their knowledge.  Those that "did their best" on the basis of "natural revelation" (looking at the natural world and deciding there must be some Divine Agency and seeking sincerely to know and serve it) would be "saved by extension," as it were.

Some sort of argument along these lines is necessary in order to spare God from the charge of spectacular injustice.  After all, if Ubu never had a chance to learn about Jesus' sacrifice on his part, never had a chance to repent and be baptized, etc., how could God condemn him, especially if he (God) said that he is "not willing that any should perish"?  The only alternative to an "Ubu Clause" is the Calvinistic scheme of predestination, which makes a mockery of the very concept of justice.

However, as you point out, even getting "knowledge of Christianity" is not enough.  There is no such thing as "Christianity," only "Christianities."  Which one is the right one?  The outside observer has no way to know.  Is Brad's Christianity "the" right one, or is it James51's (except there are at least two versions of James' depending on which mode he's in...)?  Is it Falwell's, or Pope Benedict's?  The JWs'?  The Mormons?  The Manicheans?  The Valentinians?  The Ebionites?  Etc., etc..

One is hard-pressed to read any book of the "New Testament" and not find warnings about "false teachers."  These warnings are not about infidels or Pagans.  They are about "heretical" Christians.  "Wolves in sheep's clothing" who "infiltrate" the Church (or were there to begin with) and seek to steal away the flock. 

And the New Testament doesn't even represent the whole of ancient Christian "Scripture."  There are over 30 different Gospels we know of, and who knows how many were lost and/or suppressed by the Catholic Church?  Nor was the process of "canonization" a simple, self-evident choice.  It was a centuries-long process that is not entirely over.  Eastern Orthodox "Bibles" differ from Protestant and Catholic "Bibles" (i.e. they have different books included), and the latter two differ from each other as a result of (if I recall correctly) the Council of Trent, in which the Catholic Church added some books Protestants consider apocryphical.

Protestants, despite rejecting the authority of the Catholic Church are using "Bibles" created by Catholic bishops under the auspices of the tyrannical, and at least half-Pagan Emperor Constantine.  Why, exactly, should anyone trust this particular anthology of "Christian" holy scriptures?  Especially since this "canon" won out primarily because the Catholic Church imposed it by force after Emperor Theodosius made the Roman Church the official religion of the Empire!

All of this adds up to: None of us has any way to know what True Christianitytm is!  We're all in Ubu's boat.  Even us atheists.  We're atheists precisely because, as far as we can tell, there is no True Religion.  Perhaps we're wrong, but just like Ubu, we have no way to know which Christianity is the true one.  And that's not even counting the other Abrahamic religions, with their sects!  Furthermore, since there is no way to know which Christianity is the true one, there's no way to know that any of them is.  That means we have to take into account Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism, the various flavors of Neo-Paganism, the New Age, the Course in Miracles/Conversations With God version, and so forth.

Therefore, if God is perfectly just (and I have yet to see any believer here suggest otherwise), He, She, It or They will have to grant us all the "Ubu Clause," and have enough empathy to understand why we atheists choose not tol pick from the million bottles hoping to find the one with the elixir of life.
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #56 on: May 25, 2011, 11:47:33 AM »
God vs no god; or Why god is a comic book hero

Quote from: Stardust
I have no doubt that medical science will discover how to grow new, complete and fully functional limbs for amputees. I have no doubt that this "ability" is encoded in our genes, or within our cells. Think on this from an evolutionary standpoint. Other lower life forms, like starfish, have the ability. Worms can form two complete worms from one being cut in half. We probably have these same genes within ourselves--at least to an extent. Our skin regenerates spontaneously. Our ribs and liver have the ability to regenerate spontaneously under certain circumstances. Collateral circulation in the heart spontaneously grows in some people who have arteries that are beginning to block. So I have absolutely NO DOUBT that science will discover how to cause new arms and legs to grow.

Here is the miracle of God. This "ability" is encoded within us already. This ability may be "turned on" or utiliized at anytime. But even knowing this and believeing this as I do, and even believing in God as I do, I would still find it impossible at this time that I could grow a new leg if I lost one for some reason. This is our mindset, and it is not easily changed no matter how much "faith" we have in the entity of God Himself. Our "faith" is that God will provide spiritual strength to live without the limb, or that prosthetics are the answers to our prayers, and so this is what we receive.

Science will discover how make this happen. Science will steal the thunder. Yet, in reality, science will not have "created" anything, or "discover" anything or any ability that isn't already within ourselves and put into place by God "since the beginning". It will be great, and wonderful, and beautiful when science figures out how to do it....but I, personally, will not be so arrogant to think that science has done anything that God has not first put the ability to be done into place. It may not necessarilly be the "best" in many situations. Some only find their true strength and true depth of being though losing a limb and "moving on". As sad a thing as it is to lose a limb, many who I have spoken to, after a time, would not change it because of the "person they have become because of their ordeal".

What, exactly, is the difference between this hypothesis and ours, that "God" is imaginary?  Do you see what you're doing here?  You're explaining why things look exactly like they would if there was no omnipotent, miracle-working God!  Of course, you claim that "God" created everything and gave us the ability to restore amputated limbs--after 6,000 to 70,000+ years (depending on whether you think Genesis is Real History or God just "used evolution" to create everything) of human existence without any such hope.

But then, what sort of "God" are you talking about here?  One that allegedly does big show-offy Cecil B. Demille stuff like parting seas and raising people from the dead, or is "God" more like a placeholder for "Natural selection, the self-organizing properties of matter, and the synergetic, emergent properties of the sum of all known and unknown generalized operating principles of Universe?"  The Yoans follow the latter hypothesis, and your explanation above (apart from a little more anthropomorphism than they'd use) fits their ideas perfectly.

There are big differences between traditional Christianity and a naturalist spirituality like Yoism.  As in any other case where you have radically different models of the same reality or aspect of reality, there ought to be noticeable differences in what the rival models predict so we can compare them with reality and see which one fits better.  If both models make identical predictions, then we simply choose the most parsimonious of the two.  In relation to healing amputees, you argue above that there is no discernable difference between the hypothesis "There is an omnipotent, omnibenevolent, miracle-working, personal God Who directly intervenes in our lives" and the hypothesis "There is no God like that (Yoism, Deism, atheism, Buddhism), so it's up to us to figure out how to heal amputees."

Since scientists have pretty good ideas about how everything in Universe developed back to about the first three seconds after the Big Bang, there are not many "gaps" left for an omnimax "God" to occupy.  Perhaps whatever happened in those first three seconds properly belongs to the realm of magic and miracle, but so far as I can tell, everything afterward is identical in your model and ours, the Buddhists, the Yoans', etc.  The difference is that yours proposes an entity bigger and more complex than all of Universe put together, which has no discernable effects whatsoever, at least after those first three seconds.   And even that may be shaved down once CERN gets that new supercollider online.

Consider what it actually means for "God" to be undetectable, even in principle.  We are currently able to detect neutrinos--particles which are so "ghostly" they can shoot through the entire Earth at light speed as if it isn't even here.  Yet, we have been able to detect them with extremely sensitive detectors built in deep mine shafts (to block out everything but neutrinos).  Neutrinos cannot and do not interact with matter in spectacular ways like parting oceans and making it possible for a man to walk on water or teleport into a room.  Unlike neutrinos, "God" is supposed to be literally everywhere!  He is described as the cosmic equivalent of a woolly mammoth in the living room, and yet we have no way to tell if he even exists.

The principle of parsimony (Occam's Razor) indicates that we ought to discard the "God" hypothesis as superfluous.  It answers no questions the naturalistic hypothesis doesn't, and there are no phenomena whose existence requires it.  "God," being omnipresent, omniscient, etc., hence larger and more complex than all of Universe represents a great deal of extra baggage for any theory to carry, the very epitome of anti-parsimony.

Analogy:  Let's consider the hypothesis that comic-book superheroes and really exist.


Skeptic: Why doesn't Superman ever save anybody?  We never see him show up to stop a plane crash or hold up a collapsing bridge until everyone can get off.

Believer: Because if he showed up to save us all the time, we'd never learn how to save ourselves!  We wouldn't bother to improve airplane safety and reliability, or build better bridges.

S: Well, why don't we ever see him just flying around and stuff?

B: >rolls eyes< He has a secret identity, you know!  He works for a newspaper, disquised as a mild-mannered reporter.  He flies coach on airliners like the rest of us.  If we ever saw him flying around, we'd start expecting him to rescue us.

S: OK, but what about the X-Men?  Surely we'd spot one of them once in awhile...

B: >sigh< Come on!  You know how much anti-Mutant prejudice there'd be if people knew they existed!  That's why we never see proof of psychic powers either.  As soon as somebody demonstrates real PK or telepathy, they're whisked off to Professor Xavier's School for the Gifted so they can learn how to develop their powers in safety.  James Randi works for Professor X, debunking the fake ones and sending the real ones to join the X-Men.  Where do you think he got his million dollar prize money from? 

S: So...you're telling me that there's no difference at all between "superheroes exist" and "superheroes are just characters in comic books."

B: What?  Of course there's a difference!  Superheroes are cool!  Without them the world would be ordinary and boring!"

"God" is said to be far bigger, more powerful, etc. than any comic-book superhero.  But like them, as far as we can tell he only exists on the printed page.



more kcrady posts in that thread
http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/forum/index.php?topic=4242.msg64161#msg64161
devastating http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/forum/index.php?topic=4242.msg64413#msg64413
http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/forum/index.php?topic=4242.msg65321#msg65321

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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #57 on: May 25, 2011, 11:52:00 AM »
On True Xians

So: let me get this straight.  Anybody who commits atrocities is not a True Christiantm or True Believertm.  OK.

Abraham, the "father of faith" for the currently dominant set of monotheistic religions heard a voice in his head one day telling him to kill his favorite son1 as a burnt offering.  Without the slightest hesitation (as far as we can tell from the story) he takes the kid and sets out to do it, lying to him all the way.  He even goes through with it, again, without any hesitation, until (luckily for Isaac) the voice in his head says it was just kidding.

Whenever some local monarch saw how hot Sarai/Sarah was for a 90+ year old, Father Abraham, exemplar of faith, turned chickens**t, told them she was his sister, so have at 'er.2  He was also a large-scale slave-owner and did fine pro-family things like abandoning the Egyptian slave girl he got pregnant, and his child by her to die in the desert.  So he's a fake. 

Moses commanded genocide on numerous occasions.  One of the more shocking examples included the mass rape of little girls after they had their families murdered before their eyes (Numbers 31:17-18).  Even Torquemada did not murder on so great a scale.  That rules Moses out.

Since Moses was not a True Believer (can't call him a "Christian," even though he is supposed to be in Heaven, and supposedly appeared with Jesus to pass the covenantal torch, so to speak).  Therefore, the five "Books of Moses" can't really be part of the Bible, or anything that's based on them.

All of the "good" kings God liked (in the "historical" books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles) are distinguished by the zeal with which they murder those who practice other religions.  So they cannae be True Scotsmen neither, laddie!

Moving on to the Prophets, we see them doing things like calling fire down from heaven onto people and committing mass murder of people practicing other religions.  When they're not doing that, they're claiming that God will use other countries like Assyria and Babylonia to do the mass murdering.  And not one of 'em ever ate haggis.  Nae True Scotsman!

The guys in the NT fare a little better, since they never had the power to kill anybody and get away with it like their predecessors in the OT did.  Still, Jesus spends a lot of his time talking about the tortures of Hell, and of all the terrible things he plans to visit on the world, such that he says "woe unto women with child" in those days.  In the Book of Revelation, the massacres take place on a grander scale than ever before,3 with large fractions of Earth's population wiped out systematically, as well as various plagues and torments (like weird locust-scorpion creatures with human faces and long hair) that torture people so horribly they beg for death.

Then, it all ends with the ultimate witch-burning--the casting of billions of souls into the "lake of fire." 

Oh....

Wait a minute...

Oh my...

All those atrocities are to be committed by God Himself, and his angels!  And Jesus, when he "treads the winepress of God's wrath," stomping zillions of people like Godzilla!

Wow!  That's right, folks!  God is not a True Christiantm!  And neither is Jesus!

You heard it here first!  All hail JeremytheWicked!  Founder of True Christianitytm!


NOTES:

1.  All of the "Patriarchs" practiced truly crappy "family values:" favoring one son over others, practicing polygamy (which True Christianstm would consider naughty...right?), favoring one wife over the others, selling their brothers into slavery (the story of Joseph), etc.

2.  That must have been terrific for their marital harmony afterwards.  "Why'd you have to go and get me back, you old goat?!  Pharaoh is amazing in the sack!  Egyptians have members like donkeys and emissions like stallions, you know! [Ezekiel 23:17-20]  So you can bet your bippy next time you "go in unto" me, I'm gonna close my eyes and shout 'Pharaoh!  Oooh, Pharaoh!!!" 

3.  Except, perhaps for Noah's Flood, which wiped out the entire world population except for one extended family, though we're not told what the world population was at the time.


Follow up...
http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/forum/index.php?topic=4181.msg64575#msg64575

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