Author Topic: Kcrady - old school  (Read 39993 times)

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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #58 on: May 25, 2011, 11:55:41 AM »
Religion vs Empiricism

Religiious thought is not equivalent to empiricism.  Empiricism, by its nature, has a shared matrix of understanding (external reality) by which rival empirically-based theories/models of reality can be judged.  In other words, empiricism has a method of error-correction that makes it possible for holders of different theories or models of reality to test their theories (by comparing them with reality in systematic tests called "experiments" and/or "observations") and come to eventual agreement on which (if either) model fits reality better.

Thus, in science, while disputes may last for decades, eventually there is resolution, since scientists on both sides seek to discover experimental or observational proof that will validate their theory even in the eyes of members of the rival scientific camp.  The discovery of such proofs is the stuff of which Nobel Prizes are made. 

In contrast, religion has no error-correction method.  Gnostic Christians and Literalist Christians have been disagreeing over what "real" Christianity is as far back as we can trace any Christian writings.  Catholicism and Protestantism have been at each other's throats, often literally, for centuries.  The debate between Calvinism and Arminianism continues as it has since the days of Calvin and Arminius themselves.

And this is only within Christianity.  Which Islam is the "right" one?  Wahhabi?  Sufi?  Shiite?  Sunni?  Which Judaism?  Reform?  Orthodox?  And so on, for every large-scale religion on Earth.  The only way any religion has ever found to create "unity" in what is considered to be true is by force, through the violent suppression of "heresy."

There is simply no way to know, by means of "faith" or "religious thought" etc. which sect of Christianity has the most accurate model of the Christian God, what he really intended to say in the Bible, etc.  There is no way to know, by means of "faith" or "religious thought" whether Christianity or Hinduism or Islam is "the" true religion. 

If scientists were still arguing about whether the Earth orbited the Sun or the Sun orbited the Earth with no resolution in sight, and so far as we could tell, no resolution possible in principle, then scientific empiricism would be equivalent to religious thought.  Only when religion develops a method of error-correction that makes it possible for religious disputes to be settled to the satisfaction of the religious themselves could we start to compare religion to science.

The closest thing religion has to empiricism is the quest for mystical experience.  The mystical variants of different religions (e.g. Sufism in Islam, Qabbalah in Judaism, Gnosticism in Christianity, Yoga and Tantrism in Hinduism, etc.) do seem to have more in common with each other than with the Literalist/Fundamentalist segments of their own traditions--and are often persecuted by them as "heretics."  I think this is because these mystical/contemplative religious sects concentrate on practices rather than dogma.  These practices are designed to, in essence, hack the mind to see what's inside.  Since we all share the same type of brain, it makes sense that spiritual practices that generate the same sort of altered states of consciousness would generate similar experiences, with similar interpretations given by the experiencers.

Here is an interesting article in which atheist Sam Harris describes a mystical sense of oneness he experienced at the Sea of Galillee, and his reaction to it.  That atheists can have these experiences also shows that there is "something there" worthy of examination.  The difference between atheists and the mystics is that the mystics interpret their experiences as direct perception of reality (e.g. "We are all one/all is God/all is Love") while atheists interpret the experiences as phenomena taking place in the brain.  In other words, we have two different models of what's going on in these experiences.  Neither faith in materialism (it "must" be all just neurons on the fritz) nor faith in mysticism (it "must" be proof of the existence of a spiritual realm) can provide a resolution. 

Only further experiments, developments in cognitive neuroscience, etc. (i.e. empiricism) can provide us ways to enquire of reality itself and determine which model is the more accurate.

It is also known that these kinds of experiences can be generated at will through the use of LSD, psilocybin mushrooms, ketamine, DHT, implanted electrodes, etc.  Unfortunately, research in this area is being slowed considerably by the New Inquisition (aka the War on Some Drugs).  However, as cognitive neuroscience continues to advance, we will gain better understanding of what is going on during these brain-states.  It may well turn out that there is "more" to this than misfiring neurons.  There is some evidence that "psi" abilities exist,1 and may be related to a well-validated phenomenon known as quantum entanglement.  I do not think this evidence is entirely persuasive, since it relies heavily on statistical analysis to combine multiple studies in order to get a large enough sample size of "trials" to generate a statistically significant result.  It has been said (I don't recall by whom) that "there are lies, damned lies, and statistics."  Perhaps in the future as our knowledge of physics and cognitive neuroscience increases, we will be able to develop better tests for psi that will validate or rule it out for good.

In any case, religious methodology, especially Literalist/theological/dogmatic religious methodology has yet to provide a method for correcting its errors (the Fundamentalists of each religion assure us they have no errors to correct, and that their interpretation of their inerrant holy book of preference is the correct one), it cannot in any sense be rightfully compared with empiricism/the scientific method as a means of arriving at correct information about reality.

This is not an assumption of faith on the part of the scientist.  It is a quite demonstrable fact that different ideas held by faith cannot be compared in any way to demonstrate which is more correct.  "Faith" by definition is held in the absence of demonstration or proof.  Scientific models, on the other hand, are overturned all the time as better experiments or observations come in.  The scientific community, by applying the scientific method, can compare its members' theories to external reality and determine objectively which theory is the best model of reality.  The effectiveness of this method is as well demonstrated as the ineffectiveness of "faith" as a tool for understanding objective external reality (i.e. "spiritual" reality or whatever you wish to call the domain religion claims to reveal to us). 

Giannis summarized it well: Science works.  Religion doesn't.

NOTES:

1. See Entangled Minds by Dean Radin.
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #59 on: June 03, 2011, 03:02:11 PM »
Morals vs laws

Quote from: Davedave
Quote from: kcrady
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."

Great post.  The distinction between Christian legality and morality is a very powerful argument.  I would like a clarification from your perspective, kcrady, though.  Do you see the essential difference between a moral set and a legal set to be the existence of a dictating source with power to punish?  In other words, morals dictates by a higher power are more appropriately called "laws", whereas true morals are something that should spring from within the individual.  Is that what you are getting at here?

Yes.  "Law" depends on coercion.  Without police, jails, etc. "law" would be nothing but impotent words.  Morality would continue to exist.  A moral person is someone who chooses the good and refrains from the evil even if they could "get away with" doing otherwise.  Of course, law and the coercion it entails is necessary in any organized society.  But notice what it is necessary for: to deter--or failing that, to retaliate against and/or confine--those who would otherwise make evil choices. 

Morality, on the other hand, stems from choice.  Apart from choice, morality ceases to exist.  The person who refrains from embezzling money at work only because they're afraid they'll get caught is not considered morally praiseworthy.  The person who refrains from embezzling money even when they're certain they could get away with it, is.  Once coercion enters, morality vanishes.  If someone embezzles money because someone has kidnapped his little girl and threatened to kill her if he didn't, we consider him a victim, not immoral.  If you walk up to somebody on the sidewalk, say "I'm taking donations for the United Way," then pull out a gun and say "DONATE 50 BUCKS OR I BLOW YOUR BRAINS OUT!" the "donor" does not receive moral praise for her charity.

We assign moral credit or blame to others for their choices precisely because morality is inherently autonomous.  It is their virtue or vice.  A person who refrains from some evil act only out of fear of punishment has no moral virtue1.  They act "good" only because their free will has been violated by external coercion.  Christians commonly bring up the "free will" argument to explain why God does such a fine job of acting like he doesn't exist.  If God healed amputees, or did any other unambiguously miraculous or divine thing, they tell us, we would not be free to choose whether or not to believe in him.  This choice-to-believe then, is held as a moral act.  This is why Christians who believe that only Christians are "saved" think that atheists and believers in other religions "must" be immoral.  To disbelieve in Christianity is not merely a mistake, like thinking that the sun goes around the Earth or that a mirage in the desert is a pool of water, but a sin

If God's existence were self-evident, then the choice to believe and worship would cease to be moral and become legal.2.  Since A) God's existence is not self-evident3, and B) guilt-tripping is much more effective than threats of force4, turning the question of God's existence into a moral issue rather than a factual one is an extremely powerful adaptation of the Christian meme-set.  Hence the importance, to me, of depriving Christianity of the weapon of morality.   


NOTES:

1. Thus, when a Christian reflexively proclaims that if God does not exist there is no reason to refrain from doing horrific things, they debunk their own claim to morality.

2. In the Bible, this is in fact exactly what happens in "the Day of the Lord" when God finally does reveal his existence and power to all humanity.  Then, unbelievers are legally judged and punished for the sin of "rejecting God."  Then, free will and morality vanish and perfect, total Law is established.  In Heaven, we are told, there will be no sin.  Everyone knows as a self-evident fact that the omniscient King is always watching, and the permanent torture of sinners is a constant reminder of his total coercive power.  Those in Heaven will, of course, love Big Brother.  It says so in the Bible.

3. Many Christians echo the claim of the Apostle Paul that the existence of God is self-evident on account of the existence of Universe, which reveals his existence as Creator (Romans 1:20).  Note that this contradicts the "free will argument" explaining why God does not work lesser miracles like healing amputees.

4. Especially when those threats are made on behalf of a nonexistent entity.  As Ayn Rand put it (paraphrased from memory), "Whip a slave and he may be inclined to rise against you.  Make a slave feel guilty and he will beg to be whipped."
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #60 on: June 03, 2011, 03:08:05 PM »
Later in the Morals thread...

(for those who do not know, Jeremythewicked is our current member JTW.)

Quote from: Jeremythewicked
You still have yet to outline any immoral non violent or harm causing act as immorality.

In all of this it has been "harm" this or that. The altheist sees no harm in morally ambiguous problems. Only on very superficial levels like murder and theft. So when a holy text demands an adherence to a certain value (don't eat shellfish), the atheist complains "fool!" And when the religious then claim adherence to another value found in the same text (thou shalt not kill) the atheist complains "redundant fool!"

The moral relativity question still stands. You're not getting out of it that easy. How does one then account for hedonism? How about homosexuality?


Jtw

I'm not going to be able to answer every possible moral dilemna in two posts on a forum.  Having a faith-based acceptance of commandments issued by Iron Age theocratic barbarians doesn't make it any easier.  If anything, it makes it worse.  Not only do Christians argue over moral issues like homosexuality, whether Jesus' economics ought to be taken seriously (the Gospels and the Book of Acts make it quite clear the original "Church" practiced communal sharing of wealth) or what is or is not a "just war," they also get to argue about whether sprinkling or pouring count as "baptism," or whether it has to be by immersion; whether a baby can be baptized (and needs to be) or whether someone has to reach the "age of accountability" first (and what that age is).

Regarding issues like hedonism or homosexuality, the moral question revolves around the concept of harm to others.  If a hedonist or homosexual causes no harm to others, then the worst thing we can say about them is that they do not value their own survival and flourishing.  The same could be said of other risky behaviors such as skydiving or "extreme" sports.

It is not always easy to define "harm," once you get past the low-hanging fruit like murder and theft.  Do things like homosexuality or individual ownership of guns cause "harm" on a societal level (as opponents of both assert)?  Both sides of both debates can marshal statistics.

Regarding issues where threats or benefits to human life and flourishing (individually and as a society) are not obvious or indisputable, then "morality" becomes less absolute and more relative.  This is the same with any issue about which we do not have concrete facts.  Does the Earth orbit the Sun?  The answer is 'yes,' no 'relativity' of truth there.  Is string theory correct?  Are there nine extra dimensions or twelve?  Do apparently statistically significant results in ganzfeld psi experiments prove that psi exists as a real phenomenon? 

With debateable questions like these, you're going to get different views.  People seem to like to leap to extremes in respons: either we must assume that all morality is inherently relative, or we must get absolute and unquestionable commandments from God in Heaven or a totalitarian State on Earth.

What is needed instead is the ability to take different paths, and a mechanism of error correction.  The first we call "freedom."  This rests on the principle of self-ownership/self-responsibility.  If we are going to hold individuals responsible for their moral choices we have to acknowledge that the moral choices are theirs to make.  The second may be spelled out in an acronym: C.I.T.O.K.AT.E.--Criticism Is The Only Known Antidote To Error. 

CITOKATE is implemented in various ways to correct error in what we can call "Arenas of Accountability."  Peer review and criticism by rival scientists of theories provides CITOKATE in the realm of science.  The adversarial system of jurisprudence provides CITOKATE in the realm of criminal and civil justice.  The free market (the ability of individuals to choose what to buy and who to work for) provides CITOKATE in the ream of the production and use of goods and services.  Representative democracy provides CITOKATE in the realm of politics and law.  We do not yet have an effective way to provide CITOKATE in the realm of ideas, i.e. a "Disputation Arena" in which debates on important questions can be held and moderated in such a way that bad ideas can be decisively defeated before all.

Representative democracy does give us the ability to experiment with what happens when certain ideas or moral practices are sanctioned or forbidden in a society, though the sanctioning or forbidding are themselves law/coercion rather than morality.  None of these systems are perfect.  They're just better than anything else we've tried so far.

These "Arenas of Accountability" work because they replicate the evolutionary process.  Variety (different products, court evidence, scientific theories, moral precepts, etc.) is generated.  "All paths are tried," in that different companies can try different versions of a given product, teams of scientists compare different theories to reality, etc.  Then during the accountability phase, the various approaches are compared with reality to see how well they work.  In the court system, each side's witnesses get cross-examined, each side presents its evidence, etc.  After the Prosecution rests, the Defense supplies the reality test.

Testing in reality then provides new data.  The process is repeated until the verdict of reality is clear enough for most of us to get the message.  It's a messy, gritty process in which many wrong turns are taken.  But it's also the only one that works well enough for us to make real progress.

Religious "morality" on the other hand may change (shellfish is no longer an abomination before the Lord, but eating meat on a Friday is) but, lacking CITOKATE, religion has no way to compare rival theologies, sets of Commandments, and so on to determine which is better.

What religion does offer is the promise of Quick, Easy Answers.  It's a false promise, since religious "moral absolutes" depend on which holy book you're using, and whose interpretation thereof.  Since God or the Gods do not step in to provide clarification in doctrinal or moral disputes within a religion (Calvinism or Arminianism?  Sufism, Shiism, or Wahhabism?  Does the prohibition against boiling a calf in its mother's milk really mean you can't have pizza or cheeseburgers?) what you get is moral relativism, but with each relativist assuming their position is absolute and all those other guys are immoral fiends.
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #61 on: June 03, 2011, 03:15:09 PM »
By their fruits

this was a long discussion where he obliterates zacchaeus post after post.

Kcrady’s post is in response to this wall of text:
http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/forum/index.php?topic=4181.msg69632#msg69632

Rather than writing an epic reply to yours, let me try to cut the Gordian knot instead.

Among the words attributed to Jesus is the statement, "By their fruits ye shall know them."  You can know what a person (or a movement) is by what they do, just as you can know what species of fruit tree you're looking at by the fruit it produces.

Now, we could debate for ages on whether or not an ideology can "cause" people to do good or bad things, or whether free will means a person can be good in spite of holding an evil ideology, or vice versa.  Likewise, we could come up with all sorts of creative ways to explain how the Catholic Church can order and carry out tortures, exectutions, and brutal wars for centuries, following in the footsteps of tortures, executions, and brutal wars carried out in the pages of the Bible at express divine command, without any of that actually being "official" Christian doctrine or practice.

However, Jesus offers us a much simpler and quicker way to the root of the problem.1

By their fruits ye shall know them.

Christianity, Catholic and otherwise, claims to represent the foremost moral authority on Earth.  Christianity (Catholic and otherwise) is supposed to be superior to all other religions and belief systems when it comes to morality or having a the right sort of relationship with God, Who is supposed to be the epitome of moral perfection.
Christianity claims to have at least some degree of supernatural assistance from God in the preservation of its authentic teachings and in empowering believers to live more moral lives.

By their fruits ye shall know them.

Jesus himself is portrayed making this point, claiming that it would in fact be possible to recognize his true followers by their behavior.

By their fruits ye shall know them.

Christianity (Catholic and otherwise) has a long and horrifying record of atrocities, wars, suppression of science, thought, and dissent.

By their fruits ye shall know them.

Christianity (Catholic and otherwise) has a record of brutality with few peers in pre-modern times (e.g. Genghis Khan and the Aztecs).

By their fruits ye shall know them.

The historical record as well as present-day statistics make it absolutely crystal clear that Christianity does not, in general, uplift and enlighten humankind in any way that suggests the presence of supernatural power.  We see no evidence that it is inherently superior to other religions and philosophies, and it is arguably worse than some (e.g. Buddhism).

By their fruits ye shall know them.

Since tortures, executions, and brutal wars are portrayed in the Bible taking place at the command of the biblical God, it is no surprise that those who profess to follow this god should act in similar ways.

By their fruits ye shall know them.


Until these evil passages in the Bible are de-canonized and denounced by Christians (Catholic and otherwise) they are still part of Christianity, waiting to motivate the next generation of Inquisitors and Crusaders.  With access to modern weapons and the power of the modern State, there is no reason that Christianity could not match or exceed the atrocities of modern totalitarianisms.

By their fruits ye shall know them.

It's really very simple.  Because...

By their fruits ye shall know them.

NOTES:

1. Am I presuming too much to say that pronouncements attributed to Jesus in officially-canonized Gospels qualify as Christian doctrine?

« Last Edit: June 03, 2011, 03:35:42 PM by screwtape »
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #62 on: June 03, 2011, 03:20:54 PM »
By their fruits 2

OK, OK, I finally get it!

All of your responses serve one single purpose: to explain how it is that the existence of an all-powerful, omnibenevolent deity who guides and empowers the Roman Catholic Church has no observable effects whatsoever on reality, including the aforementioned Roman Catholic Church.  As you have explained, omnipotent supernatural power has no effect on "sin" (which is apparently even more powerful than omnipotence) or "free will," even that of people who profess to choose to have the omnipotent power help them overcome "sin," even sometimes.

Which is why we cannot expect God's chosen Holy Mother Church to be any more godly than the Buddhists or the Mormons or a religion I decide to start tomorrow.

Whenever these sorts of issues come up, Christians like you keep mentioning "free will" as if by reflex.  Why should this be?

"Never bother to examine a folly.  Ask yourself only what it accomplishes."

What does this particular folly accomplish?  Why does "free will" even matter in relation to the truth-status of Christianity?  No one asks whether the compelling evidence for the heliocentric model of the Solar System or the evidence against the phlogiston theory of heat transfer violates "free will."  Why?  Because these are aspects of external reality.  In relation to external reality, your choice does not affect what is true, it only affects whether you choose to take the approach necessary to discover truth.  Do you apply the scientific method, or just guess?  Do you critically examine the method you used to develop your model of reality to find and correct errors?  Do you compare your model of reality with reality to find and correct errors?

Reality is what it is.  "Free will" is only relevant in regards to how we relate to reality.  The goal of the scientist is to either falsify or validate a given theory so conclusively that choice is irrelevant when it comes to the truth or falsity of that theory.  If a person was made aware of the facts supporting the heliocentric model of the Solar System and still "chose" to believe in the geocentric model, or that Earth was a flat disc sitting on the back of a turtle, we would consider that person either silly or delusional.

But with Christianity it's different.  As you've admitted, there is no difference whatsoever in reality between the hypothesis "The Roman Catholic Church is the heir to the Apostles, the Body of Christ, supernaturally guided and protected by an all-powerful, omnibenevolent deity" and the hypothesis "The Roman Catholic Church is evil at its core, founded and ruled by false teachers through most of its history, and no better or more divine in origin or nature than any other religious institution."

In short: observation of reality (in this case the history and present-day behavior of the Roman Catholic Church as an institution) is irrelevant.  What does matter?  Choice.  "Free will."

Christianity is something we "should" believe in not because it's a fact of external reality, but because we want to.  If we don't make this choice, then we are, to some extent at least, immoral.  To believe in Christianity or not is an arbitrary choice, like deciding to "wait until marriage" or have sex out of wedlock.  We are to choose it not in the name of truth but in the name of morality, as the "proper" preference

Why make this choice?  Well, the answers come up as a visceral reaction to atheism:  "If there is no God, your life has no meaning!"  "If there is no God, you can have no morality!"  Etc.  We are to believe in Christianity not because of its objective truth (there is no fact of external reality that matters1) but because it offers us other benefits, such as a feeling that our lives matter, a code of ethics, and so forth.  For those who practice prayer and meditation, it can also provide altered states of consciousness in which one can "experience God." 

However, all of these things, including "experiencing God" are benefits that every other religion or spiritual practice worthy of the name can offer.  The descriptions of mystic bliss given by St. Teresa of Avila are not so different from those given by Buddhists, Hindus, Sufis, Gnostics, or people using DMT, Ketamine, or the Persinger helmet.

In a nutshell: Christians believe in Christianity because they like it.

Hmm...  I kinda like the idea that Faeries exist.  Sexy girls in flower-petal dresses with butterfly wings fluttering around in the fields around my apartment complex, with magic powers.  Yeah.  That's kinda fun as a belief.  Sure, I'll never actually see them under anything approaching normal circumstances, and I could never prove them to be an aspect of external reality.  But it's kinda nice to imagine them.  And, if I really mediate and visualize hard enough, maybe supplementing my efforts with some psilocybin mushrooms or LSD, I could probably get my brain to conjure a vision of them at least as good as any apparition of the Virgin Mary.

The Faeries dress sexier, and no doubt have a lot more personality.  Plus there's no gruesome image of some poor guy getting tortured to death in the background.  If I assume that the Faeries are at least as civilized as, say, modern Europeans, I'm sure they'd at least offer a basic "Bill and Ted Ethics" ("Be excellent to each other!").  And that's better than Christianity has practiced through most of its history.

So, can you give me a single reason why I should choose Catholicism over Faeiriism?  I mean, it's not as if you can provide any evidence that Catholicism is true in external reality.  As long as it's a matter of taste...  I pick the Faeries!


NOTES:

1. The one objective claim that Christians still make is that God is necessary to explain the existence of Universe and life.  People who actually research the issue, i.e. scientists disagree.  Even if it were so that some divine agency or other were the only possible explanation, there is no fact of reality that substantiates the Catholic God over the Muslim God, the Hindu Gods, the Deist God, the ancient Egyptian Gods, a super-advanced alien species from another universe capable of creating Big Bangs, etc. etc.
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #63 on: June 03, 2011, 03:27:02 PM »
By their fruits 3


So what we really have here is a reversal of the issues of truth and morality.  In relation to truth, i.e. facts of external reality, free will is irrelevant.  Does Earth orbit the Sun?  That's a question of fact.  An important thing to note is that I have no choice in the matter.  If I choose to believe that the Sun orbits the Earth, or that Earth is a flat circle mounted on the back of a giant tortise, the Earth goes on orbiting the Sun utterly indifferent to my choice.  I can be mistaken about the Earth (say, if I live in a pre-Copernican age) or I can be mentally unbalanced abou it (say, if I'm a member of the Flat Earth Society today), but for most people, in relation to an issue of fact like this, both choice and morality are irrelevant.  But to Christians, choice and morality are paramount and epistemology (how we know what we know and whether a given conclusion is justified) is unimportant by comparison.

As an analogy, consider someone living in Germany in 1941.  Does Adolf Hitler exist?  Does he rule Germany?  In relation to these questions of fact, the person has no choice.  Hitler exists and rules Germany.  If the person chose to disbelieve in Hitler, and claim that Kaiser Wilhelm II ruled Germany, they would be considered delusional.  However, the person does have a choice in how they respond to the fact of Hitler's existence and reign over Germany.  This is where morality comes in.  Do they join the Resistance, hide Jews and Allied pilots from the SS?  Or do they eagerly spy on their neighbors between Nuremburg rallies?

With regard to the question of fact (Does Hitler exist?) they have no choice.  When it comes to evaluating that fact (Is Hitler good?) they have a choice.  Christianity reverses this order.  Notice that the question "Do you believe in God?" is universally considered synonymous with "Do you worship and serve God?"  Whenever someone asks "Do you believe in God?" they never expect to hear an answer like, "Yes, but I'm with the Spiritual Resistance.  When Jesus and his heavenly host show up on horseback they're gonna be sooooo surprised when they see F-22's and Abrams tanks coming at them!  Hahahaha!"

To the contrary, it is assumed that if you believe in God you will automatically serve and worship him as a matter of course.  One of the Christians on this forum (I don't recall which one at the moment) claimed that to assume God's existence for the sake of argument (followed by an evaluation of whether his "Plan" as described in Christian belief is "perfect" or not) means assuming the Christian evaluation of God (that he is in fact perfect, good, etc.), and therefore one must also conclude that God's "Plan" is "perfect" even if it looks otherwise.  Once you accept the existence of God, you're "locked in" to a positive evaluation of his character and a decision to worship and serve him.  By the time you become aware of things like the massacres in the Old Testament or the doctrine of Hell, you've already been led to accept that these things "must" be part of a morally perfect God's perfect plan, which your puny mortal mind cannot comprehend. 

In other words, from the Christian point of view, we have free will when it comes to the question of God's existence (i.e. whether he is a factual part of reality or not), but not when it comes to evaluating his character and deciding how to respond to his existence (if he exists).

Why is Christianity set up this way?  What does it accomplish?

First of all, it defines the question of God's existence as a moral rather than a factual issue.  If you do not believe in the Christian God, and/or believe in some other god(s), you are not merely mistaken or uninformed about the facts, you are morally wrong.  To disbelieve in the Christian God is an act of wickedness, a sin.  This enables Christian evangelists to bypass critical thought and appeal to guilt, peer pressure, and the like instead of validating their position with reference to facts in reality.  "Jesus died for your sins.  He loves you so much!  How could you disbelieve in Him?"  If guilt-tripping doesn't work, this approach has the benefit of legitimizing punishment for disbelief.  After all, if disbelief is evil (rather than just mistaken or uninformed) then it is perfectly legitimate for God--or his appointed Spokesmen, from Moses to Torquemada--to apply threats or punishments, just as with any other crime.

We would never consider punishing someone for being wrong about the position of Earth in the Solar System or the existence of phlogiston.  The very idea is absurd.  But when it comes to religion, it is virtually universally accepted that having the wrong religion or none is a moral offense.  Even in countries with vaunted rights of freedom of religion, atheists are inherently suspect (according to a recent survey, we are considered less trustworthy than Islamic suicide bombers), and people who hold to sufficiently foreign religions are criminal.  To test this latter proposition, try parading a giant carving of a penis through the streets of New York as part of a fertility rite (as is done in Japan) or starting a church in which magic mushrooms or LSD is taken as a sacrament in order to commune with the Divine.1  Even in the "land of the free" and "secular" Europe, "freedom of relgion" is limited to "religions that Christians can tolerate." 2

And so we come back to the original topic of this thread.  By defining the quesiton of God's existence as a moral choice rather than an issue of fact, Christians have implicitly legitimized punishing people for not being Christians.  Even those who piously claim that we do not have the authority to do so on Earth3 still hold that God is entitled to punish unbelief with literally infinite severity.  With a single stroke, Christians have relieved themselves of the burden of proof they would bear regarding any other claim4 while entitling themselves to use not only guilt manipulation and peer pressure, but force or the threat of force (even if it's just Pascal's Wager) as tools to manufacture assent.

How diabolically clever!



NOTES:

1.  If I recall correctly, the Native American Church did win the right to use peyote as a sacrament after a prolonged court fight and activism, but this exception is racially based.  Whites, Blacks, Asians, etc. cannot legally use peyote. 

2.  This is not to argue in favor of religions practicing human sacrifice and other forms of brutality.  Such religions violate the human rights of their victims.  Animal sacrifice is debatable issue.  Since "animal sacrifice" is carried out on an industrial scale to provide us with meat, leather, and other goods, to me it seems harder to make the case that animal sacrifice ought to be forbidden, as compared with rites of human sacrifice or torture.  If Tyson can kill thousands of chickens every day--after keeping them cramped in inhumane conditions for their whole lives--what is so horrifying about a Santeria shaman sacrificing a chicken to the spirits he worships?  The answer is that Santeria is a foriegn faith, well beyond the Abrahamic pale, and thus spooky and evil.  The same distinction appears when we consider a couple having recreational sex after meeting in a singles' bar vs. a couple having sex as part of a Pagan rite.  Perhaps you can get away with doing the latter in secret, but don't try to set up a "Pagan Church" with a sign out front announcing an upcoming sexual fertility rite!

3.  Even those who hold to this position must agree that it was legitimate for Moses, Joshua, the Judges, and the Israelite kings to punish unbelief, even by death.  They merely claim that God has withdrawn his permission to do this because "we're under the New Covenant now."

4.  Most Christians would probably agree that in other situations where a claim is being made (such as a physicist promoting a new theory, or a prosecuting attorney making the case that a defendant is a murderer) that the claimant has the burden of proof.
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #64 on: June 03, 2011, 03:34:47 PM »
By their fruits 4

Quote from: zacchaeus
Quote
Whenever these sorts of issues come up, Christians like you keep mentioning "free will" as if   by reflex. Why should this be?
Because the subject of our reasoning here is God. So that reasoning has to be consistent with the definition we are using of God, i.e. a Christian definition. The free will of human beings is not only an assertion about the world, it is also an assertion that relates to the nature of God, because God's attributes of perfect love and perfect justice etc. are related to free will. A quantum physicist would probably not entertain a theory which was not consistent with the Heisenberg principle. Likewise a Christian, such as myself, would not entertain an assertion which was not consistent with the nature of God as defined in Christianity. That's why free will is important to many Christian discussions.

LOL!  Where, exactly, do you get this "definition" of yours?  Since it is prior to and takes precedence over the portrayal of the Christian god in the Bible (you evaluate what God is portrayed doing in the Bible in terms of your definition rather than deriving your definition from what sort of being God is portrayed as in the Bible), where do you get it?  The Pope?  Augustine?  Plato?  Or do you just create it as an act of conjuration?

Very well, since, according to your view of things, defining a thing speaks it into being and determines its attributes...  I hereby define the Christian God as a mythic father/king figure that exists only in the imagination.
>thunderclap<  Now, since we're talking about the Christian God, and the definition says he's a mythic father/king figure that exists only in the imagination, it doesn't matter what the Bible, or Church tradition, or the Catechism or anything else says.  All of those things have to be evaluated and re-interpreted in terms of the definition of the Christian God, which says he's a mythic father/king figure that exists only in the imagination.  CHECKMATE!!!  :)

Can you see how silly this "definition game" of yours is?

Quote from: zacchaeus
Quote
In a nutshell: Christians believe in Christianity because they like it.
  Evidentialism  strikes again. It's inevitable I think that it basically comes down to: A non theist refusal to  accept any approach to truth which is not evidentialism, and a theist refusal to accept evidentialism as the only approach or at least the "best" approach to truth. I think we agree in one respect though. Choosing between these approaches to truth is just that, a choice.

Not if you want to get at the truth, instead of just making stuff up in your head.  You would never apply this nonsense to any other area of life.  Would you go to a doctor who used a "non-evidential" approach to medicine?

"Well, Zaccheus, see this MRI?  It shows you have a cancerous tumor in your brain.  Why are you alarmed?  I define 'cancer' as the perfect manifestation of life, since life is growth and cancer cells grow much faster than non-cancer cells.  So it's a wonderful thing to have a tumor in your brain.  Congratulations!  In fact, I've scheduled you for surgery to remove all that imperfect, non-cancerous brain tissue." 

Would you fly on an airplane with a "non-evidential" pilot?

"You don't expect me to read all of these silly 'instruments' do you?  That's evidentialism striking again!  Why, a perfect pilot could fly this plane with his eyes closed!  And since I would rather be a perfect pilot than one of those silly rationalist types, I'm going to fly this airplane with my eyes closed.  It's a choice, and I choose the non-evidential path to truth."

Or how 'bout this:

"Welcome to Honest John's Used Cars.  I've got the perfect car here for you, for only $50,000!  Look at her, isn't she a beauty!"

"It's an old Yugo.  It's rusted through.  I can see the engine without even opening the hood.  And the rear window is broken.  You've got to be kidding me!"

"No, you see, it's the perfect car!  And just because it doesn't look that way to you, doesn't change the fact that it's the perfect car.  These things you call flaws are merely attributes of Perfection in relation to cars."

"Huh?!  What is this, some kind of con?"

"Of course not!  That's impossible!  Look at the sign: it says 'Honest John's Used Cars.'  I'm John.  By definition, I'm honest, so I'm telling you the truth.  It's the perfect car.  Now let's say compared to other cars, the perfect car seems too slow. How can this be? Isn't being too slow an imperfection. The question is can we logically say that the perfect car is too slow? No. Because none of its individual attributes can compromise its collective perfection, because then it would not be the perfect car. Its speed therefore has to be considered perfect in relation to perfect safety and perfect comfort, not necessarily in relation to simply being the fastest. An inanimate object clearly cannot lock us into a positive evaluation of it. Yet we are still forced to make a positive evaluation of the perfect car, by necessity of logic, even in light of something (slowness) which seems like an imperfection. So it is logic which dictates the necessity of a positive evaluation, because given the definition, anything else would be illogical.  You wouldn't want to be illogical would you?  So, whaddaya say?  Are you ready to buy the perfect car?"

If you wouldn't accept this nonsense in relation to the purchase of a car (a relatively minor decision) why would you accept it when it comes to determining your whole worldview, by which you will guide your entire life?   

Quote from: zacchaeus
Objectively speaking, I am in no way compelled to accept evidentialism as the sole approach to truth, as you are in no way compelled to think there is another approach to truth. The difference I think is while I can recognise the usefulness of evidentialism as an approach to truth, particularly where science is concerned, non theists are loathe to accept any other approach to truth, because of the belief that any such approach is not rational.

Well, I suppose you're not "compelled" to consider evidentialism as a better way of approaching truth than Tarot cards or just claiming that you can define truth into existence.  You can define yourself as "Napoleon Bonaparte" if you want, nobody will stop you.  Of course, that doesn't mean you get to have a second go at conquering Europe, since that's kinda hard to do from the inside of a padded room.  Reality is truck-like.  If you're standing in the middle of a freeway and you define that onrushing 18-wheeler as "soft, cuddly, and harmless" it will still flatten you regardless of what definitional incantations you sputter.  Reality is utterly indiffernt to our definitions, or any other contents of our consciousness.  If we want to deal with reality effectively, we have to make our definitions, beliefs, etc. consistent with reality as much as we are able, rather than deluding ourselves that we can determine what is real by defining it as we choose!

If you think otherwise, then by all means, define yourself as "Superman" and try jumping off a building. 

Now, either God is an aspect of reality, or he isn't.  If he is, the only way we can know this is to observe and/or experience him, or effects he generates in reality.  We then define him based on whatever we perceive him to be, in reality.  Since our perceptions can sometimes be wrong, we have to keep checking, and revising our definitions and concepts accordingly.  Only if "God" is an entirely made-up entity like an "elf" or a "Jedi Knight" does our definition itself determine his nature.  Since a "Jedi Knight" is an imaginary entity, and by definition a "Jedi Knight" uses "the Force" (another imaginary construct), it would be illogical to propose the idea of a "Jedi Knight" who does not use "the Force."  This "non-evidentialist approach" of yours works here only because in reality there's no such thing as a "Jedi Knight."  We cannot go anywhere to see real, live Jedi Knights in action to determine whether the definition of a "Jedi Knight" as a "Force-user" is consistent with reality or not.

What is an "elf?"  The definition used by the Keebler company proposes tiny, pointy-eared people who live in hollow trees making cookies.  The definition used by J.R.R. Tolkien shares the pointy ears, but differs on just about everything else.  His "elves" are tall, beautiful humanoids who are immortal and have groovy names like "Arwen" or "Galadriel."  Santa's "elves," on the other hand, are intermediate in size between Keebler and Tolkien, but live in the frozen North and make toys rather than cookies or lembas bread and magical items.  The "elf," being an imaginary, made-up concept, is created by whatever definition we're using at the time.  There is no existing entity in reality to compare these concepts with to test for accuracy.

You appear to approach the subject of "God" in the same way.  "God" is what you define him to be.  You define him as "perfect," so whatever he is portrayed doing in the Bible is "perfect" by definition.  We can no more debate this than we can argue over how tall an "elf" "really is."  Using this same logic, an Asatruar could define the Norse gods as "perfect" (regardless of how they're described in the Sagas--that is perfect, by definition), a Hindu could define the Hindu gods as "perfect," and so on.  And, as is the case with "elves" and "Jedi Knights," the "evidential approach" is useless.  There is no evidence to evaluate in relation to imaginary things.  Therefore, by your own logic, "God" is indistinguishable from an imaginary concept.
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #65 on: June 03, 2011, 03:44:24 PM »
By their fruits 5



Quote from: zacchaeus
Quote
Really, Kcrady's response, although nothing new, is so solidly organized that leaves no room for refutation . . .
lol, don't count your chickens . . .
Quote
LOL!  Where, exactly, do you get this "definition" of yours?  Since it is prior to and takes precedence over the portrayal of the Christian god in the Bible (you evaluate what God is portrayed doing in the Bible in terms of your definition rather than deriving your definition from what sort of being God is portrayed as in the Bible), where do you get it?  The Pope?  Augustine?  Plato?  Or do you just create it as an act of conjuration?

Very well, since, according to your view of things, defining a thing speaks it into being and determines its attributes...  I hereby define the Christian God as a mythic father/king figure that exists only in the imagination.
>thunderclap<
  Now, since we're talking about the Christian God, and the definition says he's a mythic father/king figure that exists only in the imagination, it doesn't matter what the Bible, or Church tradition, or the Catechism or anything else says.  All of those things have to be evaluated and re-interpreted in terms of the definition of the Christian God, which says he's a mythic father/king figure that exists only in the imagination.  CHECKMATE!!!  :)

I'm disappointed in that. Saying that maintaining the consistency of an argument based on the definitions of its terms is "silly" or a "game" is the same as saying that logic is "silly" or a "game".

When it is divorced from reference to objective reality into an entirely self-referential "consistent" circularity based on arbitrarily asserted "definitions" then logic is a silly game.

1. Every cat has one more tail than no cat.

2. No cat has eight tails.

3. Therefore, every cat has nine tails.

Or how about this one:

"This statement is false." 

Or perhaps a historical example:

"The heavens, being above the Earth and the realm of the Divine, are perfect, by defintion.  The circle is the perfect shape.  Therefore, the heavenly bodies must move in circular orbits."

The result of this was the pre-Copernican Ptolmaic geocentric model of the Solar System.  It was entirely logical and internally consistent, and could be used to predict eclipses, solstices, equinoxes, and so forth.  It was also factually wrong.

Logic is like a computer.  In fact, computer architecture is based on what are called "logic gates," circuits that flip to 1 or 0, On or Off depending on certain inputs.  As anyone involved with programming or entering data into a computer knows, there is a simple phrase that describes how computers work: GIGO--Garbage In, Garbage Out.  It is the same way with logic.  You are inputting your garbage arbitraily-asserted definitions and "logically" producing consistent garbage.

Quote from: zacchaeus
I'm also disappointed because you are evaluating my argument on the basis of your assumptions, which will only tell you that our assumptions differ, which I think we all ready know. If that's something you want to establish then I agree with you. End of discussion. However, if you want to look at the consistency of my argument you have to judge it against the premises and assumptions of my argument. after all, that's what consistency is. Unless of course you are saying that Christianity is completely consistent with the premises it is based upon. I am happy to accept that, but I'm surprised if you are actually admitting that also.

>rolls eyes<  You're trying to establish the validity of your argument by naked, arbitrary decree.  "If you wish to address my argument, you must accept my assumptions, therefore I'm right!"

Nonsense on stilts!  Your arguments are false and foolish because they're inconsistent with reality, and reality doesn't give a tinker's cuss about your assumptions or your definitions.  Since you have, by your own blatant admission, completely separated your worldview from any relation to objective reality you are delusional, by definition:
Quote from: dictionary.com
Delusion: Psychiatry. a fixed false belief that is resistant to reason or confrontation with actual fact: a paranoid delusion.

Go ahead.  Define yourself as "Superman."  Since "Superman" can fly and is bulletproof (by definition), and you are "Superman," therefore you can fly and are bulletproof.  Pefectly logical and internally consistent with its definitions.  Since your worldview empowers you to define Almighty God into existence as long as your circular reasoning is internally consistent with the definitions you create, Superman ought to be a piece of cake.  So get yourself a cape and tights and jump off the nearest skyscraper.  Gravity vs. your omnipotent, God-creating power of definition and circular reasoning.  We'll see who wins.  As long as we're talking about "Superman" we have to accept the definition of "Superman" which includes the ability to fly.  So once we make the assumption that "Zaccheus = Superman" then "Zaccheus" can fly--by definition.  Go on, I'm sure flying will be loads of fun! 
Quote from: zacchaeus
Only your assumption that human beings created God supports what you have posted,

My assumption?  You're the one who thinks that defining "God" as "perfect" makes him so.  I think the idea that a person like you can actually create a perfect, omnimax God by the incantatory magic of pronouncing a definition is utterly silly!  That doesn't stop you from thinking you can do it though.
Quote from: zacchaeus
Can a doctor address the question of why I exist? Not what I'm made of, not how my body works, not what my body is, but why I am, indeed what existence is.

The "why" questions are important.  That's why using a "method" that is idiotic in relation to lesser issues like used cars or medical treatments is even more idiotic when applied to the central questions of life.  It's like agreeing that if you want to fly to New York from San Francisco that you should use an airplane instead of flapping your arms real hard--while claiming that flapping your arms real hard will give you warp propulsion for interstellar travel.
Quote from: zacchaeus
However, when I want to know what existence is, or why I am here, or what the nature of God might be, I reach for metaphysics and other forms of philosophy. Science (which is also a philosophy) is a useful tool but only for get at particular kinds of truth, namely descriptions of the world. Other forms of philosophy are useful tools for getting at other kinds of truth, namely the human condition and question of God.

Circular reasoning and argument by arbitrary made-up definitions are just as invalid in metaphysics and philosophy as they are anywhere else.  Furthermore, any concept of "metaphysics" or "philosophy" that is entirely disconnected from objective reality, finding its validity in whatever definitions you decide to make up is--by definition--a delusion.
Quote from: dictionary.com
Delusion: Psychiatry. a fixed false belief that is resistant to reason or confrontation with actual fact: a paranoid delusion.

Quote from: zacchaeus
Quote
Well, I suppose you're not "compelled" to consider evidentialism as a better way of approaching truth than Tarot cards or just claiming that you can define truth into existence. You can define yourself as "Napoleon Bonaparte" if you want, nobody will stop you.
The Christian assumption about the nature of God is part of a logically consistent system of belief. You would be right to say that consistency does not necessarily mean something is true. I accept that completely. But it does not follow that something which cannot be proven in a way satisfactory to evidentialism is necessarily false, or even indeed irrational.

Sure.  Pharaoh Khufu's magicians were not able to prove Einstein's relativity or Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle.  Within the contex of knowledge available to them they would have been perfectly rational in not accepting relativity and quantum mechanics as true.  They couldn't disprove them either, but then the don't have to.  The burden of proof is on whoever wants to persuade them of the truth of relativity and quantum mechanics.

Likewise, the burden of proof is on you to show that your God exists as something more than an idea in your head.  Until you (or someone else) can, it is perfectly rational for us not to believe in God as it is for us not to believe in leprechauns, magic broomsticks, and the Invisible Pink Unicorn (p.b.u.h.h.h.).
Quote from: zacchaeus on January 23, 2007, 05:43:30 PM
There are things which you believe in which cannot be proven in any way satisfactory to evidentialism, yet your belief in those thing is considered perfectly rational. Take "the problem of the mind". You believe (I assume) that I have a mind, that other people have minds, yet there is no evidence of the senses which prove other peoples minds exist.

Bollocks, sir!  Two words: Cognitive neuroscience.
Quote from: zacchaeus
Quote
You appear to approach the subject of "God" in the same way.  "God" is what you define him to be.  You define him as "perfect," so whatever he is portrayed doing in the Bible is "perfect" by definition.  We can no more debate this than we can argue over how tall an "elf" "really is."  Using this same logic, an Asatruar could define the Norse gods as "perfect" (regardless of how they're described in the Sagas--that is perfect, by definition), a Hindu could define the Hindu gods as "perfect," and so on.  And, as is the case with "elves" and "Jedi Knights," the "evidential approach" is useless.  There is no evidence to evaluate in relation to imaginary things.  Therefore, by your own logic, "God" is indistinguishable from an imaginary concept.

As I suspected you have moved on from trying to suggest that Christianity is logically inconsistent, which proves difficult because it is not, to falling back on the position of saying that there is no evidence for God that is satisfactory to evidentialism. Well I agree. However, unless you can show me that evidentialism is the only valid meaningful way to justify belief, then your assertion that there is no evidence can only prompt the answer: yes I know. An answer which I believe reflects the significance of the assertion, but I hope I doesn't any of the fun out of being a non theist.

Of course Christianity is logically consistent!  Because you say so!

Assumption: Christianity is logically consistent.

Assumption: The Christian God is perfect, by definition.

Assumption: The Bible is God's perfectly inspired word.

Therefore, all these contradictions cannot be contradictions, by defintion.  Since we're talking about Christianity, that means we have to assume Christianity is true, that God is perfect, and that the Bible is God's perfectly inspired Word.  Therefore, the Bible can't contradict itself no matter what the text actually says.

Quote from: dictionary.com
Delusion: Psychiatry. a fixed false belief that is resistant to reason or confrontation with actual fact: a paranoid delusion.

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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #66 on: June 03, 2011, 03:51:34 PM »
By their fruits 6

Quote from: zacchaeus
kcady,

Do you really see no errors or problems in John's argument after critically evaluating it?

Yes.  If you can refute it with anything other than incantatory arguments from a priori "definition," do so.
Quote from: zacchaeus
Do you accept the "cat has eight tails" example is logically invalid?

Go back and read my post again.  You asked if I thought logic was a silly game.  I posted that as an example of how it can be, when it is not grounded in external reality.  Same with the "this statement is false" bit.  You then pounced on them to refute them as if I had proposed them as truths.  However, I noticed a very interesting thing about your reply:

A deafening silence in regard to the third example I gave, the historical example of Greek and Medieval philosphers and astronomers establishing "by definition" that the heavenly bodies "must" possess only pefectly circular motions, resulting in the Ptolmaic geocentric model of the solar system.  This model was logically consistent and based on the exact same form of reasoning you use--starting from an a priori definition, erecting a system of logic thereon, and claiming that this can determine the truth about something without requiring any evidence from reality.
Quote from: zacchaeus
Is every belief we consider reasonable, fully justifiable by the terms of evidentialism?

Just so you can't move the goal posts again (as John demonstrated you have a tendency to do), why don't you specify exactly what you mean by "evidentialism."
Quote from: zacchaeus
I mentioned other minds before and you mentioned neuroscience (it's actually one word), but uncharacteristically you did not elaborate or support your view with any reasoning. As you always usually try to, I assume this was because of time constraints or other restrictions, or perhaps you intended to come back to it and forgot, hence this reminder.

By that point in our discussion, I understood that for me to provide citations and evidence from cognitive neuroscience that "minds" exist would be a waste of my time.  Suffice it to say that scientists are not only getting a much better understanding of how the human mind works through the use of more advanced scanning and imaging technologies, researchers in the AI field are using this accelerating flood of new discoveries to begin the process of reverse-engineering it.  The days when "mind" was an inexplicable mystery philosophers could debate endlessly with no possibility of resolution are past.  Do a little research on the subject before you go claiming that "mind" is something we have to believe in by faith or by philosophical decree as an arbitrary choice.  Google is your friend.  See also http://www.kurzweilai.net and Ray Kurzweil's book The Singularity is Near.

it peters out here.
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Offline Graybeard

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #67 on: June 03, 2011, 05:30:18 PM »
Have you access to the form for proposing people for Nobel Prizes?

Seriously, there is a book here waiting to be published.
RELIGION, n. A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the nature of the Unknowable. Ambrose Bierce

Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #68 on: June 04, 2011, 04:19:24 PM »
No kidding.  He has some very unorthodox perspectives which, once he articulates them, seem totally obvious.  I read these and think, "duh.  Why did I never see it that way?"
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #69 on: June 07, 2011, 11:43:14 AM »
General xianity essay
from the same thread as By Their Fruits

Quote from: zacchaeus
The exact nature of that perceived difference is irrelevant. It's enough that that group is not this group. In other words, it's based on "otherness".

So I think negative behaviour runs deeper than religion and political ideology. I think it is a fundamental part of humanity. Why is this the case? The nature of the answer I think will be either an evolutionist one, or a theological one, depending on your worldview; But in a nutshell that's why I don't think it's accurate to suggest that Christianity causes negative behaviour and that it's more accurate to say that membership of any group which can be differentiated in any way from another can cause negative behaviour. Christianity happens to be part of that set, as do political ideologies and other groups.

+1 for making some good thought-provoking points.  I agree that negative behavior runs deeper than religion1 and political ideology.  And I'm sure the issue of whether or not a given ideology causes people to commiit atrocities would be a worthy debate in itself, requiring input from cognitive neuroscience, and probably including some degree of discussion of determinism vs. free will.

However, the structure of an ideology can, I think, either aid or impede this negative part of human behavior.  If an ideology teaches that We are right, period, and They are pure evil (exploiters of the Proletariat/degenerate races/vile heretics, and agents of the Devil, etc.) then it gives its permission to Us to go out and liquidate lots of Them in the name of hearth, home, and all that is good and right.  If that ideology also teaches the people to obey without question, that makes the large-scale atrocities possible.  For example, I think it would be much harder to get people to commit mass atrocities in the name of radical market-anarchist libertarianism than in the name of Islam or Nazism.  It's virtually impossible to get market-anarchist libertarian types to do anything at all as a group, much less pull off a mass-scale violation of individual rights.

The doctrine of unquestioning obedience (based on a rejection of rationality and critical thought in general) is a key ingredient in all mass atrocities.  Maybe Stalin did what he did because he was a psychopath.  But the collectivist State-worship in Soviet Communist dogma made it possible for him to rule a continental empire and kill people by the tens of millions.  Maybe Torquemada would have been a serial killer torturing people in his basement if not for Christianity or some similarly dogmatic religion to torture for.  But he would not have had the ability to strike terror into the hearts of an entire nation, gather for himself the evil intellgence necessary to invent "Pears of Anguish" and other fiendish devices, and do it all in plain sight without being stopped or hindered (rather, helped) by the forces of law and order.  The Inquisitor who tied a "witch" to a stake to be burned was only a focus.  The true evil, the true monstrosity, is that which led all those ordinary, "good people" who worked hard each day and loved their kids to stand by and cheer as she twisted in the flames.

Maybe the guys who wrote the Malleus Malificarum would have wrote gruesome books under any ideology.  But it was Christianity and its holy book sanctioning violence against Pagans and unbelievers that paved the way for the horrors of the witch trials.  Perhaps instead of focusing on Christianity's effect on the monsters we know by name (Torquemada, Richard the "Lion-Hearted," Hitler, Stalin, etc.), we should turn our attention to the common people who, as a result of their acceptance of collectivist ideologies like Christianity and Communism, vaulted those monsters to heights of total power instead of calling whatever equivalent of the police they had to see them behind bars.

A Torquemada or a Pope Innocent or a Hitler is not a danger to millions if no one obeys them.  Christianity, for 2000 years, has provided all those "good people" with motivation to obey, and to accept the premise that disobedience in itself is sin.  If all those disobedient Pagans, heretics, witches, infidels, Muslims, Jews, etc. deserve to be punished in Hell forever, then a mere burning at the stake or a breast-ripping is just a little prelude that will be utterly forgotten after the first thousand years of fiery torment.  And if it causes even one soul to repent and be saved from that eternal torment, wouldn't it be worth it? 

Historic Christianity has taught an Us vs. Them concept.  Catholic Christianity "is" Right, Gnosticism, Catharism, Manicheanism, Docetism, Arianism, Paganism, Islam, etc. are wrong and it is right and proper to combat them with violence.  You may not find this in your Catechism, but it's there in the statements and commands given by Popes throughout the centuries and written in blood by Catholics operating with the full sanction and support of their Mother Church.  Now, either those Popes and the Mother Church were right to do as they did, or they were wrong because the Catechism doesn't specify that these things ought to be done. 

If they're right, then your Catechism is only part of "official" Catholicism (other things such as Church tradition, Papal statements made ex cathedra, the Bible, etc. also having comparable or superior importance).  If they're wrong, then the Catholic Church has been wrong throughout most of its history.  Why then, would you accept a Catechism it produced, or a biblical Canon it produced as the foundation of your spirituality?  And, as Giannis has pointed out, if the God of Catholicism exists, and all of these horrific atrocities are unacceptable in His sight, why has he never acted to stop this spilling of blood in his name?

The simple, inescapable fact of history is that Christianity (not just Catholicism) has empowered some of the worst psychopaths in history.  It did not stop them, it greased the skids.  And of course (once again to emphasize Giannis' point) not once did we see the alleged omnipotent, omnibenevolent God do a single thing to keep all of these horrific evils from being done in his name.


NOTES:

1. To say as you do that negative human behavior runs deeper than religion is, as I see it, a striking concession.  "Religion" (at least the true one, presumably yours) is supposed to "run deeper" than anything else, going all the way to the transformation of the human spirit and even the creation of Universe itself.  While Catholicism does teach the doctrine of "Original Sin," it also, presumably, offers an effective remedy.  Otherwise, what did Jesus die on the cross for?  Of course, Christians do teach that "sin" continues while we are in the flesh, even as Christians.  But again, the divine spiritual power upon which Christianity claims to be based is supposed to be stronger than "Original Sin" in the sense that God is omnipotent and "Original Sin" is not.  At a bare minimum, the "true religion" ought to elevate the spiritual and moral level of its members to some noticeable degree.  If it is no better/more spiritually powerful than a mere human ideology, on what basis do we call it the "true" religion? 
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #70 on: June 07, 2011, 11:45:30 AM »
Spiritual elite

Skitch:

Granting for the sake of discussion that these sorts of experiences happen to you fairly regularly (that does seem to be what you imply), I can understand why you would believe in God.  A couple questions:

1. Why is God an everyday reality for you, while he plays hide-and-seek with everybody else, even most other Christians?  As you have probably gathered, many of us here are former Christians who would have been delighted to have God active in our lives.  If God doesn't want people to be atheists, all he has to do is be real.1 

2.  Some believers in other religions have experiences of comparable power to what you have related here.  A familiar example would be UFO abductions that leave unusual marks or scars on the person in addition to the memories of the event itself.  How is a neutral observer, for whom neither flying saucers nor the Biblical deity shows up to decide which spiritual elite2 to believe?



NOTES:

1. A bright supernatural light and a voice saying, 'George, George, why do you kick against the goads?  Hearken thou unto thy wife, for she is My disciple!' would probably go a long way toward bringing harmony to GenerousGeorge's home.  If not for his sake, then for the sake of his devout wife, their children, and the large faithful congregation she has praying for him...   

2. Since only a comparably small percentage of believers in other religions have visions of Krishna, conversations with the Virgin Mary, visitations by poltergeists or UFO aliens and the like, it would appear that "paranormal stuff" of any description only happens to a certain segment of the population, hence a "spiritual elite" for whom this stuff is something they experience rather than reading about other people experiencing.
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #71 on: June 07, 2011, 11:49:18 AM »
Debunking xianity
Ends the thread


Welcome.  Here is a thorough debunking of Bible prophecy from the Skeptic's Annotated Bible:

http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/proph/long.html

Many of the so-called "prophecies" of Jesus were not prophecies at all, if read in context.  The "virgin birth" "prophecy" is an example.  If you read it in its context, it is clear that the prophet is talking about a child conceived and born in the normal way (as I recall, he "went to the prophetess" and conceived the child himself!) as a sign to King Ahaz that Syria and Israel (the northern kingdom) would not defeat him.  Interestingly, in Chronicles, it says that those countries pwned him anyway, LOL.

Another thing to note in reading the OT is that the prophets who ended up getting books written about them weren't the only prophets.  Here's an example:
Quote
And Zedekiah the son of Chenaanah made him horns of iron: and he said, Thus saith the LORD, With these shalt thou push the Syrians, until thou have consumed them.  And all the prophets prophesied so, saying, Go up to Ramothgilead, and prosper: for the LORD shall deliver [it] into the king's hand.

--I Kings 22:11-12

Here we see a whole corps of prophets speaking in the name of the Lord.  What this means is that there was a larger 'sample size' of 'prophecies' to choose from than the picture we get in church of there being only a few prophets of the Lord, all of whom have Biblical books named after them.  And, since all of the "prophets of the Lord" did not predict the same things (as this story makes clear), then we end up with a process of selection in which those prophets whose predictions came closer to the truth, or who just had enough followers to see that their words were reinterpreted to fit (think: Nostradamus) ended up in the Bible.

In this case, if the king had won the battle of Ramothgilead, then this other fellow with his metal horns would be remembered as a godly prophet who could tell the future, and Micaiah as a fool.  In other words, no matter what happened, somebody claiming to be a "prophet of the Lord" would be able to point at a "prophecy" that was "fulfilled."  Given the existence of entire corps of "prophets" making all sorts of different prophecies, it's not too surprising that a few of them would guess right.  Stopped clock.  Twice a day.

Even more fascinating is the rest of this story:
Quote
And he said, Hear thou therefore the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left.

And the LORD said, Who shall persuade Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramothgilead? And one said on this manner, and another said on that manner.  And there came forth a spirit, and stood before the LORD, and said, I will persuade him.

And the LORD said unto him, Wherewith? And he said, I will go forth, and I will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt persuade [him], and prevail also: go forth, and do so.  Now therefore, behold, the LORD hath put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets, and the LORD hath spoken evil concerning thee.
--I Kings 22:19-24

Here we see the astounding claim that God sends evil spirits to lie for him in order to trick humans he doesn't like into marching to their doom.  This story serves the immediate purpose of providing "spin control," explaining why the royal prophets' corps can get it wrong from time to time: God's just a little more pissed off than usual, and he sends one of his demonic horde to give his prophets false prophecies in his name.

However, it also knocks out one of the main props of Christian belief: namely, the notion that "it is impossible for God to lie" (Hebrews 6:18).  Even if the verse in Hebrews is accurate, God is sneaky: he can just send an evil spirit to do the lying on his behalf. 

In other words: God cannot be trusted.  If God will send a "lying spirit" to "inspire" his prophets with false words they think are from him, then you have no way to know when he is or is not doing this.

One of the primary reasons Christians believe it is right to trust "the word of God" (whether it be the Bible or their own inner "spiritual promptings") is that they believe him to be an inherently trustworthy source.  If God exists, is omniscient, and inherently honest at all times, then of course it would make perfect sense to trust whatever he said.

But if God does not exist, or is not omniscient (note how often he seems to be surprised by events in the Bible, e.g. humanity turning bad just before the Flood, or the Tower of Babel narrative), or is capable of deceit, then the whole notion of "God said it, I believe it, that settles it" collapses.

Even if you could prove that a given message was from God, you cannot prove he didn't send a lying spirit to deceive you.  And as the Book of Job reveals with blatant clarity, the god of the Bible simply cannot be trusted.

Just imagine the following scenario:
Quote
And Satan came before the Lord, and the Lord said, "Have you seen my people Israel?  Do you see how they obey my commands and perform my sacrifices in their time?  They do these things even though I do not lift the yoke of the Romans from their shoulders.  Is this not the faith of Job?"

And Satan said, "Yea, they do these things waiting in hopes of your promised Messiah.  But I say, if you send unto them a false Messiah...a man working great miracles who teaches them to turn the other cheek and to render unto Caesar what is Caesar's, and with the lie on his lips that the Covenant you made with Moses, which was to be an everlasting covenant throughout their generations has been 'fulfilled,' so that your laws and statues may now be ignored and all may eat and live as the Gentiles do, behold, thy people Israel will abandon the Covenant which you made with their forefathers, and shall join hand in hand with the Gentiles, and be turned aside to follow a false religion!"

And God said, "You're on!  Since you lost the bet on Job, want to go double or nothing?"

And Satan said, "Alright--on one condition: We destroy the Temple, and I get to tell the followers of the false Messiah that any Jews who do not follow him are of the 'synagogue of Satan,' and that they deserve to be persecuted.  And I want the false Messiah to look like an effeminate hippie."

And God said, "You got it."

And so it came to pass that "Christianity" was born.

Do you have any way to know that something like this isn't so?  That "Christianity" isn't just a test to see if people can be lead away from the truth of Judaism?

After all, it is written:
Quote
And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken?  When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.

--Deuteronomy 18:21-22


By this standard, Jesus is a false prophet, since his claims that people living in his time (e.g. his disciples, the High Priest Caiaphas) would see his return, that he would come "soon," etc. 

The term "Antichrist" really means "anti-Messiah," since "Christ" is simply the Greek translation of the Hebrew word "Messiah," meaning "anointed" (a concept derived from the fact that Israelite kings were anointed with oil as part of their coronation).

Now, the Jewish concept of the "Messiah" is that of a triumphant king, the Son of David, who would re-establish Israel and gather the people of Israel from the far corners of the world and restore them to the promised Kingdom.

And here we have "Jesus," clearly cast in the image of the dying and resurrecting Pagan godman (conceived by the union of a human woman with a god, works miracles/heroic feats, dies, rises again and ascends into the heavens), who, by an act of human sacrifice sets aside the "everlasting" Mosaic Covenant so that the true founder of Christianity--the Apostle Paul--can urge Jews to abandon Judaism and merge with Gentiles into a Hebrew-flavored Pagan Mystery Religion.  Nothing could be further from the Jewish concept of the Messiah!

So, Christians: How do you know that Jesus isn't the Antichrist?
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #72 on: June 07, 2011, 11:50:40 AM »
Jesus Myth

David Fideler's excellent book, Jesus Christ: Sun of God provides powerful evidence that the Gospels were mythic allegories.  He uses two of the more famous "miracle stories" (the "miraculous catch of fish" and "the feeding of the 5,000") to demonstrate that Jesus is the Solar Logos/Godman myth for the Piscean Age.  These stories are coded tales that contain gematria which can be used to construct geometric diagrams that reveal the Hellenistic cosmology.

The name "Jesus" (Iesous in Greek) doesn't sound a bit like the Hebrew "Yeshua" from which it is supposed to originate, but it does add up to 888 in Greek gematria.  888 is the number representing the whole tone in music, and it represents the "Logos" or mathematical proportion that mediates between the spiritual realm and the material realm.  This concept of the "Logos" was not invented by the writer of the Gospel of John.  It existed in Greek thought for centuries, but was associated in gematria with the Greek gods Zeus, Apollo, and Hermes.

Christianity replaces these with new concepts, e.g. Jesus as the Solar Logos, Cephas/Peter as the Omphalos/Stone representing the axis of the cosmos, etc..  Fideler spells this out in clear detail, showing how the Christians replaced the various Pagan gematria systems around the Greek gods (Apollo, Hermes, Zeus), Mithras, etc. with the Christian deity ("Christ," "Jesus") Christian heroes (e.g. Peter/Cephas), and Christian concepts ("Fishes" "the Net") to express symbolically and mathematically the nature of the Cosmos. 

The way these systems of gematria work make it seem as if "Jesus" and the Christian myth cycle is inscribed in the very nature of mathematics itself, just as it did for the Greek deities.  It's really quite brilliant.   These were the secret Mysteries of the Christian religion, which it lost when the Literalist Roman Church married itself to the Caesars and became an institution of power instead of a Mystery Religion seeking to lead initiates to direct experience of God via mystical states of consciousness.

Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy also provide a compelling case that the Gnostic Mystery Religion was the original Christianity in their books as well. 
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #73 on: June 07, 2011, 12:00:30 PM »
Kcrady vs evangelist Donald Perkins via Skitch

Quote from: Evangelist Donald Perkins, posted by Skitch

>snip<
Who created Hell?
Many today have a false idea about Hell. Some think that Satan created Hell and has control over it. But in fact, Satan did not create one flame in Hell. Hell was created by God. That's right, Hell is a creation of God! Are you surprised? Don't be. The Word of God declared that this place was prepared for Satan and his angels (Matthew 25:41). Many think that Satan will be down in Hell with a red suit and pitch fork in hand. Not so. In Hell Satan will suffer the judgment of God.

It's about time "Satan" stopped getting the blame for Hell.  It's the Biblegod's eternal Auschwitz oven, not his.

Quote from: Evangelist Donald Perkins, posted by Skitch
"And the Devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night forever and ever." - Revelation 20:10, Isaiah 14:9-19

God created Hell to destroy the rebellion of Satan and to put an end to sin. In the beginning, Hell was not created for man, but when man first sinned in the Garden of Eden, God had to accommodate man's fall. Hell was created to rid God's creation, (meaning God's heavens and the perfect earth,) of sin.

He had to do it!  Poor, omnipotent God just didn't have a choice!  Adam made him torment the vast majority of the human race for eternity because he ate a fruit!  This is a lot like an abusive husband and/or father saying "Don't make me beat you again!"  It's not his fault!  If his wife and kids would just respect his authoritah (like the Bible teaches) he wouldn't have to beat the crap out of 'em!

Quote from: Evangelist Donald Perkins, posted by Skitch
Hell is the eternal home of all sin and rebellion. Is Hell a place of pain? Today, it is taught that Hell is not a place of actual suffering. The reasoning behind this is that many do not want to believe that the God of love in which we serve would ever make a place of suffering such as this. But we will see that Hell is a place of sorrow, weeping, torture and torment. There are many who teach that when a person dies, without Christ, he goes to the grave and that's it. But not so. Those who die without Christ will face the wrath of God in the pains of Hell.

Notice that this author does not attempt to provide an explanation of how a "God of love" can want to torture people forever because they didn't grovel before him in the right way.  The obvious answer is to teach that God is hate, too.  That passage in Isaiah where God says "I form the good and I create the evil" makes sense from this perspective.  God is not "pure goodness, love and light"--at least not without also being "pure evil, hate and darkness."  Taken as a whole, the Bible does not teach that God is an epitome of moral perfection.  It very clearly and blatantly attributes to him every vice as well as every virtue.  As the Book of Job makes especially clear, the Bible teaches that God is simply pure power and domination, unrestrained by anything whatsoever

I've had Christians accuse me of becoming an atheist so I could do evil things without fear of divine punishment.  But if I ever wanted to really turn to the Dark Side and build an evil empire that would strike fear into the hearts of humanity, I would become a Christian and preach the Biblegod as he is, not as generally nice people (i.e. most Christians) wish he was.  There is no possible atrocity for which I could not provide Biblical sanction.     

Quote from: Evangelist Donald Perkins, posted by Skitch
Luke 16:19-31, The Rich man and Lazarus

>snip<

There are some who would call this account a parable, thus trying to explain the suffering of the rich man in more symbolic terms. But I submit to you that in this account, Jesus, used real people not ficticious ones. He spoke of father Abraham, Moses and the Prophets, none of these men are ficticious. This is not a parable. This is a real account of a man in Hell! Here are other Scriptures that declare the truth about the pains of Hell.
  In fairness to the "parable view," the Apostle Paul uses Sarah and Hagar as allegories for Christianity and Judaism (the "free" wife vs. the "slave" wife), and they're "real historical figures"...or are they?

An argument against this passage being literal could be the "fact" that the Last Judgment has not taken place, hence the condemnation of the wicked to Hell has not happened yet (and so, could not have happened in the story of the rich man and Lazarus).  Another example would be the repeated formula in the OT when a Hebrew king (good or bad) died:  "And [king's name] went to rest with his fathers, and [next king] reigned, and did [good/evil] in the sight of the Lord].  Since death is portrayed as a "rest" even for "bad" kings, this would seem to rebut the idea of hellish torment as a present reality.  Also, the various references in the Book of Ecclesiastes to the effect that "the dead know nothing" and so forth could be seen as opposing the idea of the dead as presently conscious.

Another good question is, if Abraham can hold a conversation with a person suffering in Hell, then obviously the "good guys" could hear the other people screaming in torment.  Wouldn't that get bothersome after awhile?  I mean, even if you had no compassion on the suffering of people who are there because they happened to be born in some other place (e.g. North America or Austrlia at the time Jesus gave the parable) and never had a chance to grovel before God in the right way, wouldn't all that noise at least be annoying?  Or is delighting in the suffering of others one of the pleasures of Heaven?

Quote from: Evangelist Donald Perkins, posted by Skitch
>snip>

My friend, Hell, is not a comforting message. For so long, we have watered down this message. When our Lord preached Hell, He preached the agony and horror of this place.

So much for "Sweet Jesus meek and mild" and all of that nicey-nicey milquetoast Christianity, eh?  Wouldn't it be interesting to see a movie of Jesus angrily preaching some of this New Testament fire & brimstone...in German?  Maybe with some good marching music in the background, you know, something you can burn books to.  The Biblegod had this Will To Power stuff down, long before there was a Nietsche!

Quote from: Evangelist Donald Perkins, posted by Skitch
Hell is so horrible, that it caused Jesus to leave Heaven and come down to earth to die for us, so that we could miss such a place. Hell's judgments will never burn out! Such watered down teaching takes away the desired result that God wants this message to have. Hell is an eternal place, and the flames of Hell are eternal also. Here's proof:

* Mark 9: 43-48 "...and the fire is not quenched." * Matthew 18:8 "...to be cast into everlasting fire."
* Matthew 25:41 "...Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels" * Matthew 25:46 "And these shall go away into everlasting punishment..." * Revelation 20:10 "...and shall be tormented day and night forever and ever."

* Revelation 14:10, 11 "And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up forever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night." * Isaiah 66:24 "...neither shall their fire be quenched;"

* II Thessalonians 1:7-10 "Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord,..."

Man in his wisdom and reasoning tries to explain away the judgment of God. But, if God can cause a bush to burn and not be consumed like he did in Exodus?, and God can place a sun in space to give us light and warmth, surely He has the power to keep Hell burning for eternity, and cause those who rebel to burn forever.

Man, this stuff is great!  God can't heal an amputee, but by Jingo, he's got the powah to torture people forever!  Wait...maybe God doesn't heal amputees because that's too wimpy, compassionate and liberal.  I mean, if he just went around healing to show off his love, everybody'd think he was gay. 

To be more serious, have you Chirstians ever really thougt about what it actually means to say that Hell is eternal?  Hell is a reflection of God's wrath, its fires an ongoing manifestation of his directly-applied power (otherwise the flames would run out of fuel and oxygen).  Which means: God will always be angry.  Which means: God will never, ever be at peace in his own heart.  What does this say about his own level of spiritual development?

Quote from: Evangelist Donald Perkins, posted by Skitch

Who goes to Hell?

The Word of God gives us the answer to this question in such detail that there should be no doubt as to who goes to Hell.

* The wicked (Psalm 9:17). * The harlot or prostitute (Proverbs 7:5-27, 9:13-18, 2:18). * Those with a lack of knowledge (Isaiah 5:13, 14). *

That's right folks!  You can go to Hell for the sin of lacking omniscience, or at least psychic powers.  If you happen to lack the right item of knowledge--say, by never having heard of it, or not knowing that it should be classed as "knowledge" (i.e. honestly thinking it isn't true).
Quote from: Evangelist Donald Perkins, posted by Skitch

Those that have transgressed against God (Isaiah 66:24)
* The fearful,

The fearful?  The fearful?!  You can go to Hell for being scared?  After the Biblegod goes to so much trouble to threaten and terrorize us, he'll then condemn people for being afraid?  Maybe he's talking about cowardice here--so if you don't march bravely off to war in the name of the Prince of Peace, then, that's right: you're a shrimp on God's barby.

So: Why is there a single able-bodied member of the Religious Right who is not in uniform joining the divinely-appointed Holy Crusade against the Infidels in Iraq?  What, are ya chicken? 

Quote from: Evangelist Donald Perkins, posted by Skitch
unbelieving, abominable, idolaters, murderers, sorcerers and all liars (Revelation 21:8).

Yep.  Sorcery is real!  No wonder Chrisians are scared of Harry Potter!  I mean, a kid could pick up a stick, wave it around and say something in Latin, and turn somebody into a toad! 

Of course "unbelieving" is another reason to be tortured forever.  Though, ironically, if we saw more working sorcery, there would probably be less atheism... :)

However, to me the most striking thing about the doctrine of Hell in the Bible is what a mentioned a bit earlier:

Have you Chirstians ever really thougt about what it actually means to say that Hell is eternal?  Hell is a reflection of God's wrath, its fires an ongoing manifestation of his directly-applied power (otherwise the flames would run out of fuel and oxygen).  Which means: God will always be angry.  Which means: God will never, ever be at peace in his own heart.  What does this say about his own level of spiritual development?

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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #74 on: June 07, 2011, 02:58:14 PM »
Hiddeness of god  Part 1

Quote from: KevinH
As a Christian, I think this is an excellent question. Among others, it brings up these issues:

1). The Problem of Evil (How can God and evil co-exist coherently?)

2). The Hiddeness of God (Why isn't God more obvious?)

3). Christ's Teaching on Prayer (What is the full context of his teaching?)

Notice that all these are internal questions. That is, they assume the God of Christian Theism. In fact, "Why won't God heal amputees"? is an internal question given one's belief in Christianity.

Not so.  What these sort of questions ask is, "If X exists, why do we not see effect Y, which we would if X existed, based on the description given by proponents of X."  Let's say I proposed the existence of a new sub-atomic particle called the "khion" that would split off from a U-235 atom when it was hit by a high-energy proton.  Then, physicists set up a particle accelerator with a U-235 target and fire protons at it, and no khions appear.  These physicists would be fully entitled to ask "Why won't khions split off from U-235 atoms?" without accepting the existence of khions.  I could hardly argue that their question was an "internal" matter that only made sense if one accepted khion theory as true.

The "God theory" proposes the existence of an omnipotent trans-cosmic entity who allegedly works "miracles," i.e. causes events that do not result from instances of generalized operating principles of Universe (what we sometimes mistakenly call "laws" of physics).  Asking "Why won't God heal amputees" is simply a way of pointing out a certain fact that is inconsistent with the "God theory."
Quote from: KevinH
I not only think that the Christian Faith is supported evidentially, I think there are good answers to these good questions.  Obviously, I will need to be brief.

1). The Problem of Evil does not disprove God. It just may be that God has sufficiently moral purposes for allowing evil. It may be that God is allowing evil to run its course in the process of destroying it. In fact, this is the biblical testimony. Free will allows the potential for evil. Free will is important enough to God for him to have given it, fully knowing the evil that would result.

Given how incomparably vicious "God" is portrayed as being in the Bible (e.g. ordering all manner of war-crimes and atrocities in the OT and threatening everlasting torture in the NT), the existence of good is a greater conundrum than the existence of evil.  The Ebola virus dissolving the flesh of a child--perfectly consistent with the existence of Biblegod.  The beauty of women, kittens, the Hubble Deep Field and orgasms?  Much more troublesome!
Quote from: KevinH
2). God is an immaterial being who desires personal relationship with us, the objects of his creation. Being the God of the universe, he knows how to best reveal himself in order to best facilitate a filial relationship with us.

Then the very existence of atheism--not to mention the belief among Christians that the vast majority of people are said to be headed for Hell ("broad is the way that leads unto damnation, but narrow is the way that leads to salvation") indicates failure; hence no omniscience (God "knowing best" how to relate to us) and omnipotence (God being able to implement his knowledge successfully).  Therefore, the "God theory" is falsified.
Quote from: KevinH
This entails that God apparently is not as interested in us knowing he exists as he is us knowing him on a personal level. Mere knowledge of his existence does not necessarily garauntee our humble love relationship with God (even "the demons believe - and tremble").

How, exactly, can you know him on a personal level if you don't know he exists?  The first is a precondition for the second.  Interestingly, Christians here have been claiming that proof of God's existence would "violate free will" (since faith would not be necessary to accept that he exists), now you're saying that proof of his existence would basically have no effect--that proof of God's existence would not convince anyone that he existed.  Proof works for neutrinos and black holes, why not for God?

To Be Continued...
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #75 on: June 07, 2011, 03:06:05 PM »
Hiddeness of god  Part 2

Part Two...
Quote from: KevinH
This entails that God apparently is not as interested in us knowing he exists as he is us knowing him on a personal level. Mere knowledge of his existence does not necessarily garauntee our humble love relationship with God (even "the demons believe - and tremble").

Why, exactly, does a trans-cosmic superduperbeing so incredibly vast, powerful, etc. etc. that he can create tens of billions of galaxies full of stars and planets on a whim, need humility and subservience from us?  What could any number of human slaves possibly offer such a being?  It is very easy to see why an iron age king, a 19th Century Confederate plantation owner, or a modern dictator would need lots and lots of obedient minions.  Having such minions gives them wealth and power they could not have otherwise.  The Iron Age king could never build palaces and temples and giant statues of himself without them.  The 19th Century slaveowner could never harvest all that cotton himself, or maintain his palatial home and lavish standard of living with only his own strength and effort.  The modern dictator could not have his war machine without millions of obedient citizens to provide the tanks and the soldiers to man them.

So what does God need, that humble, unconditionally obedient human slaves can provide for him?  If he is really as powerful as his propaganda claims, what can a few puny humans offer him that he needs so badly he'll torture them forever if he doesn't get it?
Quote from: KevinH
Secondly, the biblical record shows that big flashy "special effects" miracles such as sea-partings only go so far in promoting relationship God desires. Miracles, in fact, are rare in biblical history and tend to come in clusters in association with specific revelation for crucial periods.

This is the common "one-off premise" Christians assume with regard to miracles.  It goes something like this:  "If God were to heal an amputee, you'd all just say, 'Meh.  That's just an anomaly.  Who knows what caused it?'  So God doesn't heal amputees because he knows you guys would disbelieve anyway."  And it's true.  It's very difficult to establish the existence of any phenomenon on the basis of a single, one-off event.  The same principle applies to one really good UFO photograph or one really baffling NDE or poltergeist account.  When scientists set out to understand reality, they look for patterns--repeated or repeatable events that make it possible to discover a generalized operating principle of Universe.  A one-off "WTF?!?!" anomaly like fish raining from the sky or claims that thousands of people saw the sun swoop around the sky at Lourdes doesn't really offer the prospect of learning anything new about reality, except perhaps, that sometimes weird stuff happens, or at least seems to.

However, if God existed and behaved in any non-random manner, then a generalized operating principle could be discovered that required and included his existence.  Take James 5:16:
Quote
Confess [your] faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.


This is from a letter to a church, so it's not something that only applies to Jesus' disciples.  Now, if such prayer really did "availeth much," and it only worked for the "righteous" (e.g. non-heretical Christians who are "right with God") then there would be a definite statistical correlation between anomalous healings/cures and devout practice of a certain brand of Christianity.  This, in turn, would indicate that these Christians were on the right track regarding their understanding of God.  If intense prayer in a collective setting worked about equally well for all religions (e.g. the prayer of a Hindu sage, Muslim Imam, etc. "availeth much" as well as that of the Elders of a devout Christian church) then we might explain it differently--say, in terms of a God that embraces all religions, as each "different deity" is just one of his/her masks, or in terms of psi powers inherent in the human being.  If intense prayer in a collective setting does not "availeth" anything noticeable for anybody, regardless of religion (as seems to be the case), then the generalized operating principle would appear to be that there are no gods or other Mysterious Forces that respond to prayer.
Quote from: KevinH
But Jesus said that even if someone "comes back from the dead" there will be those who will not believe.

Again, you're talking about a one-off here, namely the idea of one guy (the "rich man" of the parable) making an apparition to his brothers.  But what if necromancy worked?  What if anybody could get a ouija board, meditate a little, and watch the planchette float across from letter to letter spelling out communications from the dead?  Obviously, if whenever the user sought a non-Christian (or a heretical Christian), and the messages consistently came out something like, "Oooooh, it hurts, it hurts!  Please, if you value your soul, listen to [members of the "right" Christian sect]!" people would believe in that brand of Christianity.  Especially if they could also consult the dear departed and devout pastor of ["right" Christian sect's church] and hear him describe the bliss of Heaven, the wonderful conversation he had with the Apostle Paul yesterday, and so on.

People would derive generalized operating principles of the afterlife.  It would be obvious who among the dead were joyous, and who were in torment.  Maybe you'd have a few liars, people in Hell trying to trick humans to their doom out of spite, but then they'd be the odd one-offs that no one would take seriously. 
Quote from: KevinH
And the Pharisees could not refute Christ's goodness and miracles, they just rationalized that they were "of the Devil".

Again, this is something of a one-off: one guy who can (supposedly) work astounding miracles.  Except that there were other examples--they just did not follow a pattern (i.e. only "true followers of Jesus" can work miracles).  The other miracle-working godmen the Pharisees would have been familiar with included Pagan Greek sages like Apollonius of Tyana (an alleged contemporary of Jesus), Simon Magus, or legendary miracle-workers like Orpheus, Dionysus, Bacchus, Pythagoras, Hermes Tresmagistus, Pharaoh Nectanebo, or the Egyptian magician Djedi whose feats included the ability to resurrect a goose after reattaching its severed head.1 

Given the company Jesus was in (following in the footsteps of legendary Pagan wonder-workers) and his non-standard teachings (e.g. repealing the Sabbath Law, which was so serious for Moses that picking up sticks on a Saturday was a capital offense enforced by stoning to death), the idea that he might be a deceptive magician actually made sense.  Let's say you started hearing stories of a young woman who went around working miracles claiming to be the Only Begotten Daughter of God, and teaching new ideas that contradicted your church's concept of orthodoxy (Say, she said something like "Truly I say unto you, God is too big a target to miss, and His love is too powerful to fail!  Just as He could not fit within Solomon's Temple, neither can She fit within only the Christian Church; but indeed, God will meet you wherever you turn, for God will wear whatever mask you need to see.  Look under a rock and you shall find Him; chop wood, and there She is.").  No matter what miracles she worked, you would reject her, perhaps even cheer as the forces of orthodoxy killed her.  Rumors that she rose from the dead afterward would likely prove unpersuasive.

However, an ongoing pattern--the ability of believers in religion X to generate a consistent effect that believers in other religions could not produce--such as a statistically-measurable correlation between prayers for healing when the procedures outlined in the Book of James were followed--would provide compelling support for that religion's claims.

Furthermore, it should be noted that there are considerable problems with the notion that Jesus' miracles (or those of Apollonius of Tyana, et. al.) actually happened as literal historical events.  Just taking the "Feeding of the 5,000" as an example, that miracle alone would have produced thousands of eyewitnesses who would have excitedly told their tale to anyone who would listen, passed it down to the grandkids, etc.  The Gospel of John claims that Jesus worked so many miracles that "the whole world could not contain the books" needed to record them (John 21:25).  Consider the fact that Roman Judea sat on the strategic crossroads and trade routes linking Europe, Asia, and Africa.  Thousands of literate people lived there at the time.  It was right next door to the greatest center of learning and inquiry in the world at the time--Alexandria, Egypt.  Alexandria also had a large and prosperous Jewish community responsible for the translation and preservation of the Septuagint (the translation into Greek of the Hebrew Bible).  Philo of Alexandria was a noted writer living in the time Jesus was supposed to have lived and worked his miracles, and he wrote about other events and religious/spiritual developments taking place in Judea at the time. 

If there was really a wonder-working God-man performing astounding feats like feeding thousands from a lunchbox, controlling weather, healing people by the thousands and so on, it would have been the most noteworthy and important thing going on in the world at the time.  Accounts by Christian and non-Christian sources would have been ubiquitous.  The Roman Empire would have needed to produce an "official spin" and distribute it widely in hopes of dispelling the notion that the Jewish Messiah had arrived.2

The Jewish and Herodian elite would have had to produce and distribute a rebuttal ("he's a Satanic magician!").  Any efforts at censorship and suppression of the Jesus movment would have been reported by writers like Josephus, and perhaps bragged about in Roman monuments and inscriptions ("And Pilate put down the insurrection of the diabolical Jewish magician Yeshua in the days of Tiberius Caesar, upholding the strength of Roma Aeterna.").  To use words attribtued to Jesus, "A city on a hill cannot be hidden."  All those thousands and thousands of eyewitnesses--traders and pilgrims and seekers of wonder from all over the known world (see the Pentacost narrative in the Book of Acts) would have returned to their homes with tales of the great Jewish God-man.  Even if they ended up being wildly distorted and exaggerated, they would provide lots of corroborating testimony to the historicity of Jesus.  Wherever Christian missionaries went, they would have found Jesus-cults founded by eyewitnesses to miracles, or people who heard the stories fourth-hand. 

Instead, we have a deafening silence punctuated only by a bad forgery (the "Testimonium Flavium") and responses to Christian belief after it had already become popular.  "But no Jesus movement would have ever arisen if not for a real, miracle-working Christ!"  Not so.  Mithraism, a Mystery Religion centered on a mythical Persian3 God-man (whose "biography" matches that of "Jesus" in several important details) rose to great prominence in the Roman Empire in the Third Century, receiving the patronage of several Roman Emperors, just as Christianity would a century later.

More To Come...


NOTES:

1. After demonstrating this feat at the command of Pharaoh Khufu (the one who had the Great Pyramid built), Djedi courageously refused to perform it with a human slave--having one's head chopped off would surely be a traumatic experience even if the sage could restore him or her to life!

2.  There were Jewish communities in important cities throughout the Roman Empire.  A widespread Jewish insurrection including "terrorist" acts (or "guerrilla resistance" if you prefer) in Judea and these communities would have presented considerable problems for the Empire.

3.  It should be noted that at the time of Mithraism's rise to popularity, Persia was an enemy of the Roman Empire, just as the Jews were during the rise of Christianity.  In other words, the "unlikelihood" of the rise of Christianity is equalled by the "unlikelihood" of the rise of Mithraism, yet no one asserts this as proof of a real, historical Mithras.

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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #76 on: June 07, 2011, 03:13:47 PM »
Hiddeness of god  Part 3

And Now, the Exciting Conclusion!
Quote from: KevinH
Thirdly, God has revealed himself in ways that cannot be faked. The atheist Carl Sagan suggested God put a "glowing cross" in the sky and settle the issue once and for all. The problem is, the glowing cross could always be attributed to natural phenomena, a NASA experiment, a hoax, a marketing ploy, or even aliens!

After a while, the glowing cross would be no more remarkable that the full moon. And generations born after the appearance of the cross would be so accustomed to it, it would have little transformative power.


On what do you base this assumption?  If "atheist Carl Sagan" cited such a thing as a proof he would accept, why do you assume no one else would accept it?
Quote from: KevinH
The issue is, God has done so much better! "The heavens declare the glory of God...and give knowledge" (Psalm 19). We don't need a "glowing cross", we have glowing stars! God has revealed himself in nature, in the human heart, in the Scriptures, and most fully in Jesus Christ.

The heavens are magnificent, but they do not validate the existence of the Christian god (as opposed to the Muslim god, the Deist god, the Hindu gods, etc.).  If anything, they're far too grand and glorious to be the work of a barbaric, jealous, petulant sky-king who needs the worship, praise, and obedience of the creatures inhabiting one little planet out of tens of billions of galaxies with hundreds of billions of stars in each, which have existed over a great span of at least 15 billion years (in contrast to the mere 4,000 years or less of Abrahamic religion).
 
"Most fully in Jesus Christ?"  Given the complete lack of historical evidence for a literal Jesus outside of the mythicised tales of a tiny upstart cult written decades after the events by unknown writers, that is tantamount to a claim of God's non-existence!
Quote from: KevinH
Fourthly, God's giving of the Comforter - The Holy Spirit - is God's great gift to those who seek him. The Holy Spirit's ministry and indwelling does more than any miracle or philosophical proof for God (though there is great value to both).


What effects does this have?  Anything at all that can be detected, e.g. a statistically measurable increase in happiness, health, family stability, rejection of criminal behavior, etc. for Christians or some particular (the "right") variant of Christianity?
Quote from: KevinH
Bottom line: imposing his existence on us via astounding "parlor tricks" is ultimately counter-productive to our free-will filial relationship with God.


Urrrr?  You just spent the last few paragraphs explaining how such "parlor tricks" would have no effect since no one would choose believe in God anyway, now you say they would violate our free will?  Which is it?
Quote from: KevinH
He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him (Hebrews 11:6).
In other words, if you accept his existence a priori and "diligently seek" to convince yourself, you'll succeed.  Well, that works just as well for any other belief system you could possibly name.  If you "diligently seek" Buddhist Enlightenment through meditation, or union with Brahmin through yoga, or "the Conversation of your Holy Guardian Angel" through "diligent" practice of Ceremonial Magick, I can assure you you'll "find" it.  An adherent of any religion that exists now or has ever existed will tell you the exact same thing. 
Quote from: KevinH
3). Jesus' teaching on prayer is specific to his disiciples, through whom he established his church, and general to all believers. His instruction to "ask anything in my name and I will do it" coupled with "pray according to God's will" gives a full-orbed theology on prayer. Namely, God does not give us everything we desire nor does he allow himself to be tested in this area.


That ought to be a dead giveaway right there.  "This is a great car, it'll last you for years--but don't take it for a test drive!"  "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!"   
Quote from: KevinH
When they thrust a man at Jesus who was deaf and unable to speak, "he took him away from the crowd" before healing him (Mark 7). God is not a circus.

You know, all of this spin-control would be totally unnecessary if not for the three-ring lion-taming (Daniel) ocean-parting (Moses) Sun-stopping (Joshua) water-walkling (Jesus) Earth-shaking (earthquake at Jesus' alleged crucifixion) Big Top extravaganza the Bible regales us with.  So God doesn't work miracles nowdays.  OK, we get that.  So why would God do circus acts in the legendary past (carefully insuring that no corroborating historical evidence exists, e.g. evidence of Egypt being laid waste by Moses, evidence of Joshua's conquest of Canaan, etc.) if he really hates this whole miracle business anyway and wants us to believe on faith alone, or because of an inner mystical experience of the Holy Spirit, or the profundity of Jesus' and Paul's teachings, etc.?

If God wanted a no-miracle relgiion, why not "inspire" a no-miracle Bible?  Buddhism does just fine without Cecil B. Demille circus-trick miracles.  Maybe there are some legends of Buddha-miracles (I don't know of any), but Buddha's teachings are far more prominent in Buddhism than "Buddha miracle stories"1
Quote from: KevinH
Finally, it may well be that God has healed amputees in history but I do not know of any. But I can only speculate as to God's purposes. I suggest that one consideration is the burden the recipient of such an astounding miracle would bear, along with those who witnessed it. What I mean is, an overwhelming, overt miracle could well be difficult to assimilate. Daily life could become mundane or a state of bliss could ensue preventing the person from daily function.


Yet another fine reason for God to have refrained from pulling stunts like the Exodus, or Jesus walking on water or the Resurrection.  Obviously these must be metaphors rather than real events!2
Quote from: KevinH
Buzz Aldrin, one of the first men on the moon, recalls the depression and dysfunction resulting in such an historic adventure. Everything in his life so paled in comparison to the moon landing that it almost destroyed his life.

On the other hand, Apollo astronaut Edgar Mitchell experienced his journey as a wonderful awakening that lead him to found the Institue for Noetic Sciences in order to study the deep and mysterious aspects of consciousness (e.g. psi, etc.).  What's your point?


NOTES:


1.  Compare this with the prominence of miracle-stories in Christianity, e.g. Noah's Ark, the walls of Jericho, etc..

2.  See David Fideler's book Jesus Christ: Sun of God for a fascinating explanation of how the "Feeding of the 5,000" is actually a code-story that generates a geometric diagram of mystical cosmology by employing gematria and sacred geometry.  Likewise for the story of "the Miraculous Catch of Fish" in which the seemingly meaningless mention of the number of fish caught--153--encodes the sacred geometry of the vescica piscis (Sign of the Fish, from which the "Jesus fish" is derived).  Take two circles of equal diameter and interlink them so that one circle's edge crosses the center of the other.  Between them is formed the vescica piscis, with a height-to-width ratio of 153:256, from which, via standard geometric construction techniques, all of the significant geometric Forms can be created (triangle, square, pentagon, the Platonic polyhedra, etc.).  In the Hellenistic cosmology of the day, these "Forms" represented the blueprints of the cosmos.
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #77 on: June 07, 2011, 03:16:36 PM »
Hiddeness of god, rebuttal

KevinH, you have offered four "principles" by which we are supposed to be able to discover the truth of Christianity:

1)  Humility: we must approach the issue with an attitude of submission.

2)  Do not seek to validate or falsify the beliefs (i.e. don't "test" God).

3)  A priori acceptance.  We have to accept the truth of Christianity first, then we'll have it "confirmed" for us (see #1 and #4)

4)  "Diligently seek" the Christian God.


If you apply these four "principles" to any other religion (say, Islam), I can guarantee you that you'll end up a believer in that religion.  If it doesn't work right away, I'll just say you're not "humble" or "diligent" enough.  And if you point out some absurdity, like Mohammed's flying horse, or something awful like Mohammed marrying a 9-year-old girl, I'll remind you of #2 and again point out that you're not being humble (who are you to question the Prophet of Allah?) or diligent (giving up so soon?  Have you made the Hajj yet?) enough.

These "principles" of yours will work to induce belief in anything if they're applied consistently enough.  Can you say "con job?"   
 
 
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #78 on: June 07, 2011, 03:23:11 PM »
Proof there is no god.

I'm willing to take a swing at your challenge, PM.  However, I do need you to specify what you are talking about when you say the word "God," i.e. what concept it is you want us to falsify.  Unfortunately, "God" is one of the most badly abused words in our language.  The "God" of Thomas Aquinas is very different from the "God" of Thomas Paine.  Most of the atheists here would probably not have much of a problem with the "God" of Baruch Spinoza, Einstein, or Buckminster Fuller.  On the other hand, that concept of "God" does not star in Cecil B. Demille epics, dictate books, save souls, demand faith (or anything at all), start churches or ashrams, etc., and would thus please few people of faith.

Since there are so many different and contradictory interpretations of the word "God" it is necessary to specify what you're talking about before it is even possible to discuss the subject.  Until you define your understanding of "God" (and of necessity it is your "God"-concept, and not Jerry Falwell's or Sai Baba's that we are being challenged to disprove), the word "God" is a cognitive blank.  It is not possible to prove that "Unie" does not exist until we have an agreed-upon understanding of what a "Unie" is supposed to be.

One more thing to bring up, is the fact that it is impossible to prove a universal negative.  I will agree with you that we cannot prove that a "God" is not orbiting Arcturus or hidden in the heart of a quasar 12 billion light-years away.  But then, believers cannot disprove that another "God" is not orbiting Tau Ceti, and another one hiding in the core of Jupiter, and another one snuggled deep in the Eagle Nebula, and so on.

In order to have a meaningful discussion of "God" (or anything else) there must be some positive claims to address.  For example, the "God" of the Bible is portrayed doing all sorts of things here on Earth within the period of written history.  Those represent positive claims we ought to be able to investigate and validate or falsify, or at the very least, assign some sort of "probability of truth" to.  Many things are not easily placed in the "absolutely true" or "absolutely false" categories.  The existence of Dark Matter as a major component of the universe, the extent to which aspirin prevents heart attacks, whether there is extraterrestrial intelligence...some of these things seem pretty likely to be true, but they do not rise to the level of certainty as, say, the roundness of the Earth.  So, it is possible that we could arrive at a conclusion like, "Based on this evidence, there is some chance that God, defined as [definition here] exists," and maybe we could assign some estimated probability.

If you wish us to falsify the existence of "God" (demonstrate that the probability of existence is zero or so close to zero that there is no practical difference), then you need to specify what (i.e. what concept of "God") and what positive claims about "God" we are to falsify.  Atheism is a default position, like a-dragonism, a-faerieism, etc..  Every infant is born an atheist--that is, someone who lacks a belief in a god.  Atheism: A- "without," theism "belief in a god."  You are asking us to substantiate the "strong atheist" position (the belief that there are no gods).  Which, again gets back to the question, "What to you mean by 'god?'"

If a "god" is anything that is astoundingly super-powerful to us, then an alien a few hundred years ahead of us technologically would qualify as a "god," and hopefully such beings exist.  If they do, that means intelligent life is not inherently self-exterminating, and so we have hope. :)

Regarding the use of the Bible, I think it can be used as evidence for and against, "Exhinit A," if you will.  The problem we have is that some theists merely cite Bible passages as if the absolute truth of the Bible were an axiom.  I consider the Bible to be functionally equivalent to the original newspaper account of the Roswell UFO crash1.  The newspaper is real evidence that the Roswell Army Airfield issued a press release announcing the recovery of a crashed "flying disc."  The "weather balloon" account that came out shortly afterward is also real evidence.  The various claims of alleged eyewitnesses are also evidence.  In evaluating the likelyhood that an extraterrestrial spaceship actually crashed at Roswell, we have to evaluate this evidence in the light of external evidence--e.g. (AFAIK) the lack of evidence for an impact site, the lack of material evidence for the extraterrestrial craft2 or alien bodies, the complete absence of whistleblowers or any of the hundreds or perhaps thousands of people who would have had to be involved in a cover-up (e.g. the soldiers who loaded up the crashed saucer and bodies, all of the people who would have examined these things since, etc.) and compare the efficacy of the alleged cover-up with that of other known cover-ups such as Watergate.

In the case of the Bible, its accounts propose what amounts to a full-on extraterrestrial invasion--parting seas, nations laid waste by miraculous power (e.g the 10 Plagues of Egypt, the conquest of Canaan), the stories of Jesus' astounding miracles and of cosmic events surrounding his crucifixion (the "great earthquake," the "darkness that covered the face of the Earth," the people emerging from their graves like Night of the Living Dead).  We can examine these biblical accounts, set out to determine when and under what circumstances they were written, etc. (i.e. taking the Bible as evidence), but then we also need to look at external evidence (or lack of same) such as the writings of people who would have witnessed or known about such events if they'd happened.  For example, the Egyptians would have known that their country had been destroyed around them, their Pharaoh and his army killed, and they would have had to deal with the effects, such as mummifying and burying all those dead firstborn children.  There would be evidence of this if it had happened.

So I reject the idea that "You can't use the Bible!"  On the other hand, you can't use the Bible as if it were sufficient proof in itself, because it's the Bible ("Of course there's a God!  Genesis 1:1 says 'In the beginning, God.'  CHECKMATE!!!").

Do these "ground rules" make sense to you as a basis for discussion of "God's" existence?

NOTES:

1. Though in comparison with that newspaper account, the Bible is weaker evidence, because it was written down long after the alleged events it relates, has gone through a long process of copying-of-copies, revision, redaction, and multiple translations into new languages, unlike the Roswell newspaper story.

2.  One of the alleged Roswell eyewitnesses claims to have seen and handled a box full of alien ship-parts his father (a solder at the RAAF) brought home, including an I-beam shaped piece with alien glyphs written on it, and a mysterious silvery material that could not be cut, could be crumpled in the hand, but would fold back out showing now creases.  I know that if I had been a little boy in that position, I would have wanted some small piece of it more than anything in the whole world.  Heck, as I grownup I would.  And, since it was a box of stuff that had not been inventoried, nobody would have been the wiser if I (either in the boy's shoes or his dad's) pinched one little piece of alien super-technology.  Maybe they were such Red-Blooded Americanstm that they patriotically made sure the Proper Authorities got every single scrap, but I find that a bit hard to believe.
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #79 on: June 07, 2011, 03:26:25 PM »
photo of Kevin Crady and astronaut Anousheh Ansari

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #80 on: June 07, 2011, 03:28:16 PM »
Standard model of god 1

Quote from: pastoralan
I'm a Christian pastor and church historian, and I've done a lot of theological reading.  One of my best friends, an atheist, pointed me to this site, an I read the Web page.   Now that I'm done, it seems to me that there's an obvious answer to "the question" that is completely consistent with the "Standard Model of God."

A: God does not reward or punish people in a consistent way.

This should be obvious if you consider point 5 of the Standard Model: "People believe that we have eternal life after death. When we die, people believe that our souls return to God in Heaven for eternity if we have accepted Jesus as our savior."

So our eternal fate isn't based on what we do, how much we love God or others, or anything else, but on "if we have accepted Jesus as our savior."  If you consider the fact that some people are born into societies where Christianity is widely taught, and others are brought up to learn that Christianity is a crock, it's obvious that the sole criteria of "accepting Jesus as savior" is wildly unfair.  In my experience, most Christians are not willing to go this far, and believe that God has some way to correct for culture so that everyone has the opportunity to choose life or death.  Even so, most Christian teachers have said that a person can live an externally good life of service to others and be damned, or live a terrible life and convert on their deathbed and be saved.  So even when you deal with salvation--which, according to the Standard Model, is infinitely more important than anything else--humans can't develop criteria that will determine who will be saved and who won't.

Given that eternal life is, for our purposes, arbitrary, why should it be any surprise that events on earth also unfold in an arbitrary manner?  You don't even have to talk about miracles to get this point--after all, God controls everything, so the real question isn't "why doesn't God heal amputees" but "why are there amputees in the first place?"  It's obvious that good things happen to bad people, and vice-versa--and you'll see this if you read Job, or the Psalms.  And even though you've put together a significant number of quotes from Jesus, you also note that Scripture as a whole doesn't give any indication that being a good Christian will get you out of suffering on earth.  In fact, the whole New Testament makes it clear that if you are a Christian, you should expect to be wading through crap the whole way through.  So my question is, "why do we get the idea that God would heal an amputee?"

Alan

I think that the reason is because for most people today, the "Standard Model" of God is based heavily on notions of sublime divine perfection that owe a lot more to Plato and Plotinus than anything that can be found in the Bible.  The Bible writers did not have any problem with the idea of an arbitrary god who acted like any other absolute monarch of their time.  See the Book of Job, the story of God killing tens of thousands of people in Jerusalem after he--or Satan, they're treated as interchangeable--caused David to take a census so he'd have an excuse to punish, Romans chapter 9, etc..

Due to the influence of Greek philosophy on Christianity[1]most Christians attempt to argue that all of those things "must" somehow be perfectly just, moral, etc. because God is perfectly good, moral, loving, etc.

However, the problem with an arbitrary or random god (that refrains from obvious, Cecil B. Demille special effects) is that it cannot be distinguished from a nonexistent god.  How do you tell the difference between a god that arbitrarily smites a devout follower's adorable child with leukemia and the child getting leukemia out of the unguided processes of nature?



 1.  Most of the best arguments or theism--the ontological arguments, the argument from the "First Cause," the "unmoved mover," etc. owe their origins to Pagan Greek philosophers, not devout Hebrew Prophets.  No Bible author makes any serious attempt to substantiate the existence of his god.
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #81 on: June 07, 2011, 03:32:49 PM »
Standard model of god 2

Quote from: pastoralan
I don't see that God acted "like any other monarch of their time."  The point of the Book of Job isn't that God punishes arbitrarily; it's that God is dealing with things that are beyond our comprehension.  I'd recommend On Job by Gustavo Gutierrez:  he points out two things about the book and God's answer that are vital.  First, Job expects that if he met God, God would crush and destroy him, and declare him guilty even though he was truly innocent--which is what a human ruler would do.  God doesn't do that.  He tells Job that Job can't possibly understand him, but he also affirms Job's innocence, and blesses Job (who said that God was behaving unfairly) while chastising Job's friends (who said Job must have deserved his punishment).

Problem with this theory is that God is not portrayed appealing to Mystery ("Well, Job, you see, I work in mysterious ways.  Incomprehensible to your puny human mind.  But you're good, so you'll get eaten last."), but to Power.  Starting in chapter 38, God provides a long "I am the Mighty Oz" rant, taunting Job because he can't control the climate and beat up giant monsters.  In a nutshell: "I can do whavever I want to you, puny human!!!"  This sentiment is echoed in Romans 9.  "Who are you O man, to answer back to God?"  If the Biblegod spoke in Zen-like koans and described relativisitc time dilation in obscure poetic language, then perhaps we could argue that he's not evil, just so incredibly alien that he doesn't grasp the idea that murdering someone's family and then torturing them to win a bet is not a nice thing to do.     
Quote from: pastoralan
Second, God spends a lot of time talking about his care for things that are outside the human world--the ostrich in the desert, the jackals, the stars, and so on.  God is making it clear that (unlike a despot) he cares for all things; his relationship to the world isn't just rulership, but concern.

So I do believe that God is good, loving, etc.  But that doesn't change the fact that the standard model of God defines a being who will not punish and reward people in a manner that we can reconcile with fairness.

Ummm...  How to say this politely....

A priest, a minister, and a rabbi walked into a bar.  The bartender looked at them and said, "What is this, a joke?"[1]
 
So I guess that's all I can say in reply to the above: What is this, a joke?

On the one hand, you claim that God is so utterly incomprehensible and alien that he apparently thinks replacing the family he murdered with a set of super-hot daughters is a great way to show "concern."  You admit that he is a ruler "who will not punish and reward people in a manner that we can reconcile with fairness."  In other words, he's either unjust, or he comes from a Lovecraftian dimension where triangles have five sides, and everything is so horrifyingly incompatible with the human mind that simply to see one of the meeping Things that dwell therein will drive one to utter madness--and being what he is, the Biblegod has a commensurately inhuman concept of "fairness."

Then you go on to claim he is "good, loving, etc."  By what standard?  If murdering a man's family and torturing him to see how much unjust suffering he will endure, for no apparent reason whatsoever beyond winning a bet with someone the "Standard Model" of God says is his mortal enemy is God's idea of "good, loving, etc." then it is obviously a very bizarre concept of "goodness" and "love."  So bizarre in fact that the most we can say is that all of the claims of God's goodness, love, justice and so on have no meaning in human terms.  Of course, it's love and goodness by the standards of R'lyeh, but in this dimension it's utterly demonic cruelty.
Quote from: pastoralan
Oddly enough, Stephen King summed it up pretty well: "faith isn't believing in God--faith is believing that God is sane."

How perfect!  To quote from the modern master of horror, saying that believing God is sane is an act of faith.  Any hint of reason would regard such a being--if it existed--as barking mad, and psychopathic to boot.  Why on Earth would you want to worship such an entity?  How can you stand up each Sunday in good conscience and tell other people to worship and serve The Thing That Should Not Be?  Sure, he loves you.  And he'll be happy to show you, by rending your mind and reducing you to gibbering insanity and torment...for eternity!

You expect an eternity of bliss spent with him.  But, by your own admission he is either A) insane, or B) so completely inhuman that his idea of "eternal bliss" need not match yours any more than his idea of "love and concern" ("It's OK Job, I'll give you a new set of kids.  That makes it all OK, right?  Oh, and now that you know you can't trust me not to inexplicably destroy your life and torment you on a whim, you'll feel much, much safer under my protection!  See!  I love you!") matches anything you could recognize.

In reference to God then, words like "love" "justice" and "concern" are emptied of all meaning.  They become empty sounds referring to "whatever inexplicable and usually brutal things God wants to do."  By your own admission, you cannot expect to find "love" "concern" "mercy" "justice" "goodness" "joy" or any of the other things God is supposed to provide you in response to your faith, love, and obedience.  For that matter, being as strange and utterly inhuman as he is, "love" "faith" "obedience" and so on, as understood by humans, are probably no more likely to be accepted by him as "love" "faith" and "obedience" than "killing your family and smiting you with boils" would be received by you as an act of goodness, love and concern--even if he did let you make some really sexy daughters afterward. 

In short: based on your claims about the inexplicable nature of your god, you have absolutely no way to know that what you understand as "faith in Jesus" or "love" or "obedience" will be understood and accepted by him as such.  And even if they are, you have no way to know that his concept of "eternal reward" represents something you would actually want.  For all you know, it could be worse than Hell.  Sure, you can have faith that he's sane.  And maybe he is, according to the way thing work in the Bizarro Dimension.  But it's pretty obvious from his behavior that "sane" by his standards is not in any sense "sane" by ours.  And you're planning on spending enternity basking in his presence!  Isn't that grand?

I understand it's your job, but still...can't you see what utterly absurd lengths you're going to in the attempt to rationalize the Biblegod's behavior?  Can't you see that if you applied this same "standard" of discernment to anything else whatsoever--say, the moral stature of Genghis Khan, Torquemada, the Marquis de Sade, or Stalin--that you would be able to declare them perfectly "good, loving, etc." too?  Can you name any conceivable atrocity this sort of rationalization could not excuse?

Can't you see that this sort of "thinking" can only serve the interests of the evil, at the expense of the good?[2]
 1.  Another poster posted this on a thread titled "Joke."  Don't remember who, but I found it funny.  Wish I'd thought of it. :)
 2.  No one would ever say Gandhi or Martin Luther King strove so hard for peace and nonviolence because they were incomprehensible beings and we mere mortals cannot judge their actions.  We call them "good" and leave it at that.  Only evil can benefit from the ultimate moral blank check.
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #82 on: June 07, 2011, 03:36:23 PM »
Standard model of god 3


Quote
I have one nitpick:  the Standard Model doesn't say that Satan is God's mortal enemy; in fact it doesn't say anything about Satan at all--and in Job, God and Satan are obviously not mortal enemies.
(I think I corrected the quote properly.  ~Screwtape)

Just curious, where do you get your concept of the "Standard Model" of God?  I thought you were referring to the theology accepted by the more "orthodox" variants of Christianity.  You're the first Christian I've met who does not think "Satan" is God's enemy.  Generally, he is conceived of as an evil rebel angel who is out to overthrow God's kingdom, or at least do as much damage as he can.  I do agree with you that the Book of Job (and the Hebrew Bible as a whole) portrays "Satan" as being on much friendlier terms with God than most Christians I know of would care to admit. 
Quote from: pastoralan
I don't think that you're reading Job 38-40 with sufficient care.  Consider Job 38:4-7 “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone—while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?"  These are questions about knowledge, not power.

I don't see it that way.  God is bragging about how he oversaw Earth's architecture, while taunting Job because he wasn't there to do such things.  "I made the Earth!  Where were you, puny human?"  God is still bragging about his power, in this case his power as creator.  Besides, if this was about "knowledge," and (as you apparently believe) it was "inspired" by a superbeing actually responsible for Earth's existence, then it ought to at least be accurate.  Where is the Earth's "foundation?"  Where are the places where its dimensions were marked?  Where are the "footings" and the "cornerstone?"  Notice how his descriptions match those of an architect laying a flat foundation for a building.  It would take a lot of stretching and twisting to make this a description of creating a round Earth whose crust sits on hot liquid magma.

And before you go and say "It's poetry!  It's metaphor!" remember that you just claimed it represented "knowledge."

Quote from: pastoralan
Furthermore, the summary you give of the argument (climate and giant monsters) skips over huge sections about ostriches, donkeys, goats, deer, and plenty of other non-monstrous animals.  "I can do whatever I want" is not an accurate summary of God's reply.

The whole thing is a series of contrasts between God's claims of power and Job's relative weakness.  While God never comes out and says "I can do whatever I want," Job gets the picture, as is apparent in his response.
Quote from: pastoralan

You've passed by my original point, which is this:
Fairness is not one of the attributes of God according to the standard model.

Hmmm, you're the first Christian I've met who does not try to argue that God is "perfectly just."
Quote from: pastoralan
God is good, loving, and omnipotent, but God does not reward and punish people according to standards that are discernably fair.  God as described in the Bible does communicate about the human concept of fairness--and tells us, very clearly, that he's pitching it out the door.  God is good and loving, but not fair.  In fact, God's unfairness is a natural result of God's goodness and love.

You focus on "unfairness" as cruelty, when people get bad things they don't deserve.  But there's another side to unfairness--mercy or generosity, when people get good things that they don't deserve.  And if we start with the obvious fact that we didn't do anything to deserve anything we have, then the unfairness takes on a somewhat different appearance.  The way I see it, God's unfairness is the only thing that prevents God from unleashing Lovecraftian horror on us, because we certainly do a good job of unleashing it on each other.  So when I say that God is unfair, I say it with a sigh of relief--God is unfair, and so there is some hope that we won't be held responsible for the awful things we do to each other.

OK, so let's jettison the notion of God being fair.  How is it "good" or "loving" for God to murder a man's family and smite him with agonizing boils, as part of a bet with Satan?

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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #83 on: June 07, 2011, 03:41:48 PM »
Standard model of god 4

Quote from: pastoralan
kcrady
There's not much point in arguing about Job, because we've gotten to the root of the discussion already.  I'm acknowledging that God does not consistently reward people for doing good or consistently punish people for doing bad.  That doesn't mean God is unjust; it means that there's a gap between our standard of consistent reward and punishment and God's perfect justice.

Actually, I do not think God's "justice" is the only issue.  This also speaks to his ethics, i.e. his love, mercy, caring, etc..  He is portrayed murdering a man's family and torturing him—to win a bet.  Now, we have a choice here.  We can look at this and determine that God's "love" is as much of a lie as his "justice"[1] or we can do as you do--redefine the term to mean "whatever God does:"

"That doesn't mean God is unloving; it means that there's a gap between our standard of loving behavior and God's perfect love."

Taking the latter path renders all claims that God is "just" or "loving" meaningless.  We have no way to know what "justice" or "love" means in relation to God.  The words are emptied of content and applied to behavior that is capricious and cruel.  This is a kind of hypnotic trick in which we are supposed to gush with emotion at the idea of "God's perfect" love and justice, while closing our eyes completely to what he is actually portrayed doing.

It is interesting to compare this to the Genesis account.  God is said to have created humans and pronounced them "good" (i.e. complete, "perfect" as he intended them to be) even though they had no self-awareness (coudn't tell that they were naked) and lacked the knowledge of good and evil.  Notice that God does not teach Adam ethics--he simply gives him orders, promising him a comfy life and free fruit if he obeys.

It is the Serpent that makes it possible for humans to even understand the concepts of good and evil.  This, of course, is decried as "Original Sin."  In other words, God did not want good people--he wanted obedient people.  He wanted people who would obey regardless of whether his orders were good or evil, because they couldn't tell the difference.  We can see this quite clearly in the nature of the orders God is portrayed giving.  Often he tells his people not to love or show compassion.  In the OT we see the formula repeated, "Thine eye shall not pity them" when God tells his people to kill.  In the NT, Jesus tells his followers that if they do not hate their families, they are not worthy of him.

And, we see this reflected in your own posts.  You have found a way to completely shut down your faculty of distinguishing between good and evil when it comes to God.  If the Book of Job were in anybody else's mythology, say, written about Zeus or Odin instead of Yahweh, you would have no difficulty whatsoever in noting that it is evil to kill a man's family and torture him to win a bet.  If it was a human dictator killing and torturing to win friendly wagers with the chief of his secret police, you would grasp the evil of killing and torturing right away. 
Quote from: pastoralan
You made a really good point--if God's standards are alien to something as basic as "people should get what they deserve," why bother with God?  Isn't my God who is so alien that we can't have a relationship with it--or, worse, so alien that we can't predict what the consequences of our relationship with God might be?  If God is the way I describe, isn't our best bet to hope that it leaves us alone?

If that summarizes the point you've made so far, let's go forward with that.  If you'd like to correct my description of what you said, please do.

Alan

Again, "justice" and "people getting what they deserve" is only part of the issue.  You are also claiming that God is perfectly loving and merciful.  His behavior as portrayed in both Testaments of the Bible clearly contradicts any meaningful concepts of plain old ethical behavior, much less grandiose notions of "perfect love," "perfect justice" and the like. 
Quote
Isn't my God who is so alien that we can't have a relationship with it--or, worse, so alien that we can't predict what the consequences of our relationship with God might be?  If God is the way I describe, isn't our best bet to hope that it leaves us alone?

That is actually the most charitable way to look at it.  If you were sent as an ambassador a foreign culture that chose to give you their greatest honor--boiling you alive, slowly, so that your bones could then be gold-plated and placed in a temple and be revered as a symbol of your spirit liberated from the prison of flesh--perhaps you could accept that these people were not evil, just really, really weird.  That wouldn't change the fact that you'd be much better off not having been sent to have a relationship with them.

A simpler way to look at the God issue is to accept that if he existed, he would be, by any civilized standard, evil.
Quote
“Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness with which more than half the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we called it the word of a demon, than the word of God.” 

--Thomas Paine Age of Reason, Part I, pp. 18-19
 
 1.  If there is one thing the Bible is absolutely clear on, it is the claim that God is "King of Kings and Lord of Lords," the ruler of the universe.  You have admitted that God's "justice" ("perfect" or otherwise) is not consistent.  He does not consistently reward the good and punish the bad in any way we can tell apart from random chance.  This is incompatible with any claim to govern.
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #84 on: June 07, 2011, 03:46:48 PM »
On the ethics of tithing

Quote from: Mark_W
Here's some jumbled thoughts, some of it paraphrased from the writings of Tolstoy (again). These ideas may fit in with Buddhism, and therefore may be atheist-friendly.

Before we act we must establish a relationship with world, and have a theory for life, some reason for doing the things that we do. Upon entering rational life, nobody can escape this establishing of some sort of relationship to everything and everyone around him or her. Most people, both “religious” and “scientific”*, organize their lives around a philosophy that we have a right to our lives and should therefore live for our happiness and the happiness of those close to us (friends and family) and, if possible, for the happiness of everyone else too. However, when we try to live for the happiness of ourselves and of those close to us, we find (if we don’t ignore the fact) that the worldly advantages we get can only be obtained by taking away from others. Also we realize that the more worldly advantages we acquire, the less they satisfy us and the more we desire for new ones. And the longer someone lives the more inevitable becomes the approach of death, destroying all possibility of worldly advantages. So this is an irrational way to live. The only way to true happiness and a rational life is through a process of self-renunciation, where you do not live for worldly advantages but for the good of everyone and devote your life to this cause. This is living solely to serve your conscience, as you know through experience and reason that living any other way will ruin true happiness, since you must live conscientiously for your heart to be at rest.

* The only question for true science is to determine how we should live; what should we do in life. Or, how to practically carry out what we have determined is the right thing to do.

I reject this notion of a zero-sum game.  Within the concept of the zero-sum game, other people are inherently one's enemies, and one only has a choice of preying on them or "serving" them--i.e. voluntarily offering oneself as their prey.  Their interests and yours are inherently in conflict.  Both paths within the zero-sum game contradict themselves.  If you seek your happiness by preying on others, you have no moral basis to oppose their desire to prey on you.  Thus, you are constantly at war with all of humanity.  Furthermore, as a "taker," you are immoral (within the altruist moral philosophy) and thus can only enjoy your pleasures guiltily.  This life of perpetual conflict does not lend itself to either stable, meaningful relationships (all those "others" you would relate to are your natural enemies) or inner peace (freedom from guilt or worry).  The best way to "make it" as a "taker" is through some variant of the morality of altruism: to convince all those others that their moral purpose is to serve you.  Examples: The Pope, any king.  However, this requires the enshrinement of the principle that the moral purpose of the individual is to serve others, which is the very principle you violate--hence, the hypocrisy.

On the other hand, the altruist who seeks to serve others also contradicts himself.  If poverty is inherently moral (i.e. it's proof you're a giver not a taker--see Jesus' teachings on economics), then why would you seek to enrich others (even a little) by giving to them?  In order for you to give, someone else has to receive.  In order to make the moral virtue of giving possible, the moral vice of taking must exist.  Thus, the purpose of the good is to serve the evil.  And what sort of "goodness" is that?  Christianity sought to resolve this dilemna by decoupling the process of giving from any results in would-be recipients.

For example, in the story of the Widow's Mite, Jesus praises a woman who gives away her last penny to the Temple, saying that she gave "more" than all the rich guys who showed off by dropping in bags of gold and blowing shofars (ram's horn trumpets).  Now, if results (i.e. actually helping the poor) mattered, then obviously the rich guys' donations did more good.  But Jesus is portrayed teaching that the purpose of giving is not to help anyone else, but to harm the giver.  The widow is praised because she gave away her last bit of wealth, and was left with nothing to live on.  One important thing to notice about this story is that we see no evidence that Jesus is concerned with her welfare in the least.  He does not interrupt her and tell her to get in the other line to receive charity, or work any "miracle of provision" like make her jars produce endless oil, show her how to do the loaves-and-fishes trick, or do anything whatsoever to help her.  I've had Christians tell me that Jesus helped her somehow "off-screen" and it just wasn't recorded in the Gospels.  After all, "God is loving and just," etc.  However, I think if that was a factor it would have been recorded in the Gospels precisely to portray Jesus/God as loving and just, etc.

This story has, in my opinion, had some incredibly pernicious effects.  First, it should be noted that we are talking about donations to the Temple, i.e. to the corrupt, wealthy theocratic aristocracy Jesus roundly condemns elsewhere.  "My house was meant to be a house of prayer, but you have made it into a den of theives!"  Through this story, Jesus has given every ecclesiastical establishment a blank check on the wealth of its "flock."  What, you still have a few bucks you're holding back from your Social Security check, Mrs. Robinson?  Don't you see that to be really virtuous, you have to give it all?  Don't worry, God is loving and just, so he will give you back lots more money "off-screen" (i.e. we don't have to know what happens to you afterward).

Furthermore, it attacks the very concept of philanthropy.  The rich guys were frowned upon because they gave big donations in exchange for plaudits, and didn't cause themselves suffering in the process (they gave from their "excess").  Now, it seems fairly obvious to me that once people have met all of their needs and wants, further "selfish" spending really amounts to status-displays.  A $2 million watch doesn't tell time that much better than a $100 watch, or even look much better (it may be garish with huge diamonds, and thus arguably look worse).  Likewise, I am very skeptical that $1,000-a-bottle wine tastes that much better than the stuff you get in a box at the supermarket.  And the person who has a gigantic, cavernous mansion modeled on Versailles is living in a five-star hotel with lots of rooms they most likely never use themselves, and thus derive no joy from.  As OkiMike put it so well:  "Regardless, those who purchase just for purchasing's sake, do indeed find that their objects bring them no comfort because their object was simply a symbol for something deficient in their characters, and in purchasing it, they tried to buy their happiness."

Instead, they build the mansion to impress other rich people who build similar mansions to impress them.  It's a social game.  Now, if the rich are going to play these sorts of social games to impress others, imagine the benefits that would accrue if philanthropy were the best way to show off: 

"I created the Wentsworth Space Program.  Our new Mars colony is proving to be quite the inspiration for the world's youth, if I do say so myself."

"Oh yes, but my Advanced Technologies Development Project has produced a house that generates its own power, treats its own water, and can be air-deployed anywhere on Earth for only $5,000 a unit.  And my geneticists tell me they're working on a gene-splice of plants and electric eels that produces solar electricity at 80% efficiency and can be grown in potting soil."

"Jolly good show, but my medical research grants provided the funds to cure AIDS and mass-distribute the medicine in Africa."

"Oh, smashing, old boy!  But I'm afraid Mr. Gates has us all beat, what with his Global Carbon Sequestration Program.  It's really hard to trump saving the whole bloody planet, I'm afraid."

"Hmmm, perhaps if we pooled our efforts..."

While philanthropy does exist, I think there would be a lot more of it if Jesus' denigration of it had not become the prevaliling mainstream thought in Western society.  "So what if you gave away a billion dollars?  Look how much you kept!  If you want us to be impressed, you've gotta give it all away!"  The result, in my opinion, is that a rich person can attract more awe and respect (without the subtle accusation of insufficient morality) by buying a Faberge' egg for a hundred million bucks (thus garnering awe and envy) than by giving away a hundred million bucks.  In other words, since philanthropy provides no cachet of moral goodness anyway and the would-be philanthropist will still be sneered at by the moralists for remaining rich, why not ignore morality altogether, buy a solid-gold bathtub and star on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous instead?

Thus, the Widow's Mite story effectively obligates the poor to unlimited charity while relieving the rich of any incentive to give (unless they are willing to give it all away and become poor themselves).  Furthermore, results are irrelevant.  It is obvious that the widow's penny would not provide much in the way of sustainence for the poor--she was the poor!  Jesus dismissed the very idea of helping the poor by saying "The poor you will always have among you."  Don't bother trying to solve the problem of poverty.  It's a permanent condition.

Except that this isn't true.  In the developed world we actually have virtually solved "poverty" as it was known in Jesus' day.  We still have "poverty," but we think nothing of the idea of a "poor" person owning a TV set and a car (wonderous things even Caesar could hardly have afforded, even if detailed plans for them were given to his finest craftsmen) and having lots of kids--rather than none because they've all starved to death before the age of 5.  This feat was accomplished through the replacement of labor and material with thought and energy--i.e. scientific and technological advancement.  What once required many thousands of slaves or indentured workers can now be done by a single worker with a crane.  The Trans-Atlantic Cable weighed many tons, and could only carry a relatively puny amount of bandwidth in Morse code and voice transmissions.  A communications satellite the size of a beer keg can carry thousands of channels of color video and audio, thus "doing more with less."  Virtual realms like EverQuest and Second Life create things like buildings and clothes that have no mass at all!

By continuing this process of "ephemeralization," we can create a positive-sum game in which the other people we share the planet with are our natural allies--potential discoverers and inventors, fellow creators of products and services with whom we can trade to mutual benefit, gaining access to things we could never make for ourselves.  Furthermore, the vast majority of the Solar System's resources are on the other eight (well, OK, seven) planets, and the asteroids.  We already know how to get there, in terms of science and technology.  We have just deluded ourselves into spending the money on F-22 fighter jets, Stealth bombers, and laying waste to Middle Eastern countries instead.

This is not to promote a naive techno-utopianism.   There is no such thing as "the perfect society" because each of us has a different idea of "perfect."  But we have already matched or exceeded the feats of ancient gods with our technology, so there is no reason we can't create what they would have considered "heaven on Earth."  We certainly have the capacity to junk zero-sum thinking for positive-sum thinking, and reject the false either/or "self vs. others" dichotomy for a both/and "self and others" harmony of interests, upon which a genuine benevolence toward others can be founded.


this goes on for a few pages.
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #85 on: June 07, 2011, 04:00:03 PM »
Response to a loon
One of the few times kcrady engages with an imbicile
(I hope you all appreciate this.  This has to be formatted manually, since you cannot use the quote function in the old forum.  Yeah, I put all the bolds, foot notes and quotes in by hand.  And this one was a freakin’ nightmare!)


Quote from: radical4him
1.Christianity is not a religion, but a relationship. Religion is rules & regulations made up by people. God RUNS from religion my friend! He wants relationship.

If this is so, then why doesn't your god...you know...talk to people?  "He speaks to us through his Word--the Bible"  Bollocks.  Even if your god dicated the Bible letter by letter, it's still just a book, and it isn't even really addressed to us.  More than half of it is treated as obsolete even by believers (the Old Testament), and as often as believers invoke "Jewish idioms" "Ancient culture" and so on in hopes of explaining things in the Bible, it's clearly not an effective form of communication to people who aren't experts in ancient languages and ancient cultures. 

Besides, I can read historical accounts about George Washington, letters, speeches, etc. that he wrote, make a pilgrimage to every "George Washington Slept Here" site, but that does not give me a personal relationship with George Washington.  Maybe if I try hard enough I can imagine what George Washington would be like as a person, put on a WWGWD bracelet and convince myself that the Father of My Country lives within my heart and guides my life...but then, you'd call that delusional, wouldn't you?
Quote from: radical4him
2.God will HEAL amputees according to YOUR FAITH.


So it's my power, not God's.  M'kay.  Guess that means that Imhotep, the Only Begotten Son of Ptah can heal amputees if I have enough faith in Him.  BTW, we do have real evidence that Imhotep existed.  He built the Pyramid of Saqqara.   
Quote from: radical4him
3.People who are starving is more important to God than for us together! His heart is more broken for them than our heart. WE have to do something about it. Not God. WE have dominion. Not God. Read the Bible. WE rule the earth. Not God. He gave US the authority. God is NOT  in control. You have to understand that.

LOL!  Poor God!  He's helpless!  So, since we have all the dominion and the power and the glory (amen!), I guess that means we can just tell your god to piss off, and he's gotta go, righgt?  I do agree with you that when starvation is finally abolished from the Earth, it will be humans that do it.  Likewise with healing amputees, or any other feat worth doing.  In that case...makes a lot more sense to have faith in humanity, doesn't it?  Oh, sure, we're not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but at least we exist and can do stuff.
Quote from: radical4him
4.The Letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. You can read the Bible till you blue in the face, and it will be just another book. Only the Spirit of God brings it alive. Also – READ THE BIBLE IN CONTEXT OTHERWISE YOU WILL BE DECEIVED.

>GenerousGeorge voice<  Out of context!  Out of context!
Quote from: radical4him
5.God's plan is to give you a future and a hope – Read Isaiah boet.

Since by your own admission, your god can't do anything, he can't implement any plans he might have.  Want real future and hope?  Go to Worldchanging.com or Ray Kurzweil's site at kurzweiai.net. 
Quote from: radical4him
6.Read the old testament alone and you'll get exactly howYOU are on the viseo, deceived and not thinking at all ! The reason why they got killed is because of their wickedness. God is HOLY and cannot have ANY sin near Him. All sin MUST be punished , and shall be punished when Jesus returnes.

Can you say that in German?
Quote from: radical4him
God already knew he would make a plan for the generations to come so He sent Jesus. Jesus took our death we deserve like in the old testament and He got killed for it! Now YOU can go free because GOD has paid your penalty. You don't wanna accept it, so the consequence is hell?

Pretty crappy plan.  Seriously!  Making it so that only people who hear about somebody getting cruficied in one, single part of the world--while making sure that despite the alleged grandiose miracles the guy performed, nobody noticed anything happening at the time except for a small band of followers--have a chance to be "saved" from a threat your god supposedly knew about "before the foundation of the world" (and did nothing to prevent)?  Sheesh, your god is no Gary Kasparov, that's for sure!  On the other hand, the premise that your god is an abysmal strategist and tactician explains how he could tell George Bush that invading Iraq was a good idea...
Quote from: radical4him
Put your hand on a hot stove and the consequence is burning hey bro?

7.Why do people have to be locked up if they drive over the speed limit? That silly hey? Because that's the government's RULE my friend. You just obey! No arguing with them. The same with God. His rules. His God, not you. Not me either.

Wait, wait, didn't you say up there at #3 that we have the dominion?
Quote from: radical4him
3.People who are starving is more important to God than for us together! His heart is more broken for them than our heart. WE have to do something about it. Not God. WE have dominion. Not God. Read the Bible. WE rule the earth. Not God. He gave US the authority. God is NOT  in control. You have to understand that.

Hmm.  Sounds like you have to understand that.
Quote from: radical4him
He made the rule to protect you, not to keep you in a box. His rules are simple and makes absolutely sence!


You mean, like the one where eating shellfish is an abomination before the Lord?  Or where we should kill a girl if she's not a virgin when she gets married (boys get a mulligan because god made them without a hymen-equivalent--and boys are just better anyway)?
Quote from: radical4him
Do not run in front of a truck otherwise you'll get mow down boy says the dad.
Exacly our Heavenly dad says: Dont kill, destroy be disobedient otherwise you gonna end up in hell...

You make it sound as if all this "sin" and "hell" stuff are external circumstances over which your god has no control, like a human parent has no control over trucks driving down the street.  Well, given that you've already declared him to be helpless and "not in control" I guess that makes sense, sortof.  I'd love to see you debate a Calvinist, LOL. 
Quote from: radical4him
Everything is about consequences. God is holy and we have to be holy to enter His presence. How do we become holy? ONLY through Jesus. Thats it. No other way.
God said it. Not me.

How do you know God said it?  How do you know Jesus really existed?  "It says so in the Bible."  But how do you know the Bible is true?  "It says so in the Bible."  Mmmm-hmmm.  Go ahead.  Peek out of your little reality-tunnel for just a moment.  No one will eat you.  Try to imagine you were born in another part of the world like India, and that the Bible is somebody else's holy book, and "obviously" not true, not like the Vedas!  Mom and Dad believe in the Vedas!  Everybody believes in the Vedas!  Except for Americans, and they're crazy foreigners!  Obviously, "The Bible is true because it says so in the Bible" isn't going to work in a case like that. 
Quote from: radical4him
8.You do not understand the things of the Spirit, because you do not have the Spirit. Just like the religious Pharisees.

The Pharisees were Literalists, like you are.  The Jesus story is an allegory of the individual's quest for Gnosis, for experiential realization of our divine nature, which frees us from the bonds of the 'god of this age,' the Archon Yahweh.  To see the Jesus story as biography is to kill its spirit and turn it into dead history.  It is as foolish to treat Jesus as a one-off event that happened a long time ago (rather than the inner path all of us follow--we are not to be Chrisitans, but Christs) as it is to think that the story of the Tortise and the Hare is about racing, and to make pilgrimages to a place you claim the racetrack once stood.  The Jesus story is spiritual--which means, pertaining to Consciousness, not to dusty History!

What's that?  You disagree with me?  You do not understand the things of the Spirit, because you do not have the Spirit.  Just like the religious Pharisees.[1]
 
Quote from: radical4him
9. You said 'The earth is not 6000 years old, Noah's arks story, Jonah and the fish...'
Where you there?

No, but there's plenty of life forms that were "there," living long, long before your "creation" took place.  Google "Catal Huyuk."
Quote from: radical4him
Why can it not be true?

Hmm...this sounds almost like a plea.  Why is a Literalist interpretation of these myths[2] so important to you?
Quote from: radical4him
How do you know all these things?

We call it "science."
Quote from: radical4him
How old are you?
Where's the proof why it did not happen??

Do you really want proof?  Would you honestly consider the evidence if we pointed you to it?  Or would you just ignore it and say, "Why, Mommy?  Why can't the Bible be true?"
Quote from: radical4him
10.Where did God put people in slavery?

BWAHAHAHAHA!!!  Does this sound familiar?
Quote from: radical4him
Exacly our Heavenly dad says: Don’t kill, destroy be disobedient otherwise you gonna end up in hell...

Of course, "Dont' kill, destroy" sounds good, except that in the Bible god tells people to kill and destroy.  So all that really matters is the obedience. 

BTW, why would an omnipotent god need obedience from people, anyway?  Oh yeah, that's right--we have the power and the dominion, not him.  So naturally, a parasite in his position would need to talk us into doing his bidding.  Otherwise, he's powerless.
Quote from: radical4him
11.What do you mean no evidence has been left behind? Why is people healed DAYLY including myself?
Why do people drive out demons?? Why is the sick cured, why does the blind see again?

Examples?
Quote from: radical4him
14.Q 10 – a Christian is a  little Christ. Someone who is REPENTANT, BORN AGAIN, AND BAPTIZED. Not a church go-er!
The pope is not a Christian!
Not Catholics!
Not Mormins, Not Jehova's Witnesses! All of them are manmade religions.
I'm talking about those who OBEY AND LIVE the Word of God.

So Catholics aren't Christians.  M'kaaaay.  Where do you think you got your "Word of God?"  Who decided which four Gospels, out of the many that existed at the time should be in "the Bible?"  Who picked which Epistles?  >Jeopardy music<

What is The Roman Catholic Church at the Council of Nicea, Alex!

So, by your own admission, the Bible was compiled as such by non-Christians.  Tell me again why I should consider it to be the "Word of God?"
Quote from: radical4him
15. God is  not a puppet master who rule a marriage. It's ALL choice mate. God gave US dominion

Really?  OK, let's say I see a girl I like.  I plan ahead, and hire a hitman, and tell him that if she doesn't go out with me, he is to capture her and slowly burn her to death.  Then I go to her, and tell her I love her, that I want her to marry me and submit herself unto me, as a wife should submit herself to her husband.  And that if she refuses, well, she'll be captured and burned forever.  It's all about choice, after all.  And I can't abide a woman who says no to me, that would be tolerating unholiness.  So she has complete free will, no coercion there, no sir!  But if she refuses, well, there are consequences to bad choices, just like sticking your hand on a hot stove.

Do you really think that would be an acceptable form of courtship?
Quote from: radical4him
Last thing:
You will NEVER know all the answers now although you've got the whole world behind you.
Now we only know in part, but one day we will know ALL the misteries.

Including the one about how to spell "mysteries?" :)



 1.  Do you notice how this works to support any belief whatsoever?
 2. They're myths.  Come on.  Talking snake.  Do you believe snakes can talk, and that they eat dirt?
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Offline Graybeard

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #86 on: June 07, 2011, 05:54:35 PM »
photo of Kevin Crady and astronaut Anousheh Ansari
I didn't imagine him like that at all.
RELIGION, n. A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the nature of the Unknowable. Ambrose Bierce