Author Topic: Kcrady - old school  (Read 41816 times)

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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #145 on: September 24, 2012, 03:00:10 PM »
More on morals

Quote from: QuestionMark
Your complaining about supposed evils and injustices of God is falling on deaf ears. God, if He exists can do no wrong, he could do whatever he wanted to you and be perfectly right in doing so.

If this is so, then you have no basis on which to praise your god for his goodness.  You have declared him to be exempt from morality.  Since he would be fully justified in throwing all the Christians in Hell and saving only gay sado-masochists while laughing at the Christians for trusting in his promises.  Since he can do no wrong (no act of his may evaluated as immoral, because it's him doing it) he can do no right, either.  He is, by your standards, simply pure, unrestrained power, unbounded by any ethical principles.

Interestingly, one of the reflex critiques of atheism we often hear is "Without God you have no morality!  What keeps you from just running amok killing and raping?!"  In other words, what Christians fear most about atheism is that, having no God to threaten us, we will consider ourselves free to act like God.  Another thing to notice along these lines is how the phrase "playing God" is never applied to acts of great goodness, but only to horrifying abuses of unaccountable power (e.g. Dr. Frankenstein or Dr. Mengele).

Why worship such an amoral beast?
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #146 on: September 26, 2012, 11:55:52 AM »
Dueling Mythology


Centaurs, sphinxes, griffins, and other chimaeras of ancient Greek religion = mythology.
Creatures with heads of bull, lion, eagle and man, with wings and hooves = Bible truth (Ezekiel).

Mohammed flying to Heaven on a winged horse = silly mythology.
Elijah flying to Heaven on a flaming chariot = history.

Canaanites sacrificing firstborn children to Moloch = horrific atrocity.
Israelites killing the rest of the Canaanites' kids for Yahweh = righteousness.

Talking animals in Native American shamanism = mythology.
Talking snakes and donkeys in the Bible = fact.

Movie graphically portraying a man being brutally tortured to death = great inspirational film.
Movie graphically portraying a man making love to one or more nubile women = atrocious filth.

Line drawing of a 5-pointed star in a circle (pentagram) = Really, really spooky!
A t-shaped symbol representing an instrument of torture/execution = wholesome symbol of faith.

Man who hears the voice of God through a hairdryer = crazy.
Man who hears the voice of God without a hairdryer = safe to trust with the worlds largest arsenal of WMD's. (analogy from Sam Harris)

Pulling the plug on brain-dead Terry Schaivo = major threat to the Culture of Life.  Resulting huge outcry, Congressional intervention, wall-to-wall media coverage. 

Killing 600,000+ Iraqis = barely newsworthy, not worth protesting or objecting to.


Some more behaviors a visiting Martian anthropologist might find a bit odd:

Janet Jackson's breast seen on TV for a fraction of a second causes a huge outcry and a $500,000 fine for the network.  Dead Iraqis shown lying in pools of blood with flies crawling on them during coverage of the invasion of Iraq is acceptable family television and stirs no reaction from the righteous save higher ratings (I saw this on CNN in the afternoon, i.e. when kids would be watching).

On the other hand, National Geographic can publish photos of naked Africans and Amazon tribes without stirring the slightest controversy.  Only Western breasts are terrifying.

People taking advise on sexuality, child-rearing, marriage, etc. from celibate clergy whose only experience in the area (for those who have any experience at all) comes from molesting kids.

Permitting the use of mood-altering drugs that cause hundreds of thousands of deaths and other assorted mayhem each year (alcohol and tobacco) while throwing people in jail for using marijuana to cure nausea while they take chemotherapy, or just using it for fun.  Then electing a President who used it--who perpetuates this status quo without volunteering to go to jail for his own publicly-admitted "crime."

And so on.



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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #147 on: September 26, 2012, 12:30:33 PM »
genesis


Quote from: QuestionMark
Let me clarify your position. You think that the author of Genesis 1-3 thought that God was lying, and that Satan was telling the truth?

As I understand it, scholars have fairly conclusively demonstrated that the Pentateuch (including Genesis) is compiled from at least four different sources (JEDP) that were incorporated and redacted later.  If this is correct, then there is no such thing as "the" author of Genesis 1-3.  I think attempting to mind-read the author(s) and then use that speculation as a basis for interpreting the text is to go at it backwards.  Better, I think, to just read the text to see what it says, and use that to inform whatever guesses we might make as to the authors' intent.

What you're getting at here (I think) is that, since the authors were obviously pro-Yahweh, they would not portray him as a liar.  That makes perfect sense, if you assume that the writers of Genesis, and the OT in general, had the "High God" of later, Greek-influenced Christian theology in mind when they wrote.  This "High God" is the one Christian theologians usually describe: an "omnimax" (endowed with the "omni-" attributes) Being who is the embodiment of absolute moral perfection, infinite wisdom and knowledge, etc..

To me, it seems abundantly clear that the OT writers did not have such an entity in mind.  They had no qualms about portraying their god commanding genocide, sending demons to possess and torment people (e.g. King Saul), having a friendly wager with Satan over how much capricious torment they could inflict on one of Yahweh's loyal servants before the servant cursed Yahweh, and so on.  While there are plenty of propagandistic blandishments about how righteous Yahweh's judgments were, and so forth, the OT writers made no effort to portray him in action as a moral paragon.  They had no concept of a systematized ethics by which to articulate a concept of moral perfection to begin with.

To them, Yahweh was The King, magnified to cosmological dimensions.  Just as the most powerful entities visible on Earth were kings, it made sense to assume that a Divine King would be the most powerful entity in the cosmos.  Just as the ministers of a human king will praise his wisdom, goodness, might, the profundity of his decrees, etc., without ever considering that their king was omnipotent and morally perfect, so the ministers of the Divine King would be eloquent in their praises without needing to believe that He was really a morally perfect omnimax. 

They didn't even have (so far as we can tell) anything approaching a systematic concept of ethics comparable to those of Plato or Aristotle.  "Good" was what the King (and the king) commanded.  The role of human subjects was to obey the King.  I don't think the authors of Genesis would have thought of it as a problem to portray Yahweh lying any more than the writers of the books of Samuel had a problem potraying Yahweh sending a demon to possess Saul.

I think the Genesis story was probably a polemic against the worship of the goddess Asherah, which was very popular at the time the OT was being written (the divided monarchy era).  From archeological evidence, it appears that Asherah was the consort of Yahweh, until the Yahweh priesthood sought and achieved exclusive worship of Yahweh.  Asherah was often portrayed as a lissome, naked young woman holding a snake in each hand, and sometimes as a tree.  The OT features frequent condemnations of people worshipping "Asherim" (sacred pillars of the goddess--naming the pillars instead of the goddess herself allowed the OT writers to use the masculine ending, so that they could refuse to acknolwedge the goddess, even in condemnation) "under every spreading tree."

So the "Serpent/Eve/Tree" images would have been clearly recognizeable as references to the Asherah religion.  The main theme of the story in Genesis is that Yahweh is more powerful than the Serpent and Eve (demoted from goddess to human woman), and that men have divinely-granted authority over women.  The core of the polemic is that the punishment for disobedience was that men would have to toil to produce food, and that women would be subject to their husbands and have painful (and dangerous) childbirth. 

In other words: "Everything that's wrong with the world--it's all Asherah's fault!"  Since the religion of Asherah was centered on female clergy who performed sexual rites (the Hebrew word is "qadoshin," literally "holy woman," but it is translated "prostitute" or "temple prostitute" in English), the subjugation of women as property of males and the control of female sexuality in general were important elements of the Yahwists' efforts to destroy the Asherah religion.

The Yahwist priests had no need to portray Yahweh as an epitome of perfect honesty any more than the priests of Zeus needed to portray him as a faithful husband to Hera.  Nor did they bother trying to portray Yahweh as omnipresent (he wasn't there when the Serpent was talking to Adam and Eve, and he comes "walking" into the Garden, just like a person), omniscient (he doesn't appear to see the whole fruit-eating thing coming, along with other reverses he suffers, such as the collapse of antediluvian society), or omnipotent (he doesn't appear to have other options, such as un-doing the effects of the fruit, etc.). 

Just as they saw no need to address questions like, "If Yahweh is omnipotent, why did he have to resort to a Flood instead of just making the bad people vanish, or using his perfect foresight and infinite intelligence to prevent things from getting that bad in the first place?" they saw no need to defend a philosophical doctrine of Yahweh's moral perfection.

What they did need to do was turn the people against the core ideas and symbols of the Asherah religion by representing them as the source of all the world's ills.  Needless to say, they succeeded brilliantly.   

The sort of systematic, philosophical thought that makes such questions possible did not exist in ancient Israel at the time of the writing of the OT.  The creedal description of "God" as an omnimax and the epitome of moral perfection did not take place until well after the writing of the canonical books of the Bible.  It is very easy to see the difference between the way the official Creeds of the Catholic (and later Protestant) Church talk about "God" and the way the Bible writers do.  The former are systematic and philosophical, while the Bible is neither.

The "High God" of the theologians is basically the God of Platonic philosophy shoehorned into Jewish scripture.  This lofty conception of Deity did not exist in OT times, any more than it did for the writers of the Illiad.  The Early Church was a merger of Jewish dogmatism and Greek philosophy, in a spectrum ranging from the Ebionites on the Jewish extreme to the Gnostics on the Greek philosophical extreme.  The Gnostics taught that Yahweh was an evil Demiurge who had forgotten his origins as an emanation of an emanation of the sublime High God, who was the "Father" from whence Jesus came.  Some Gnostic texts portray the Serpent and Eve as avatars of the Messiah and the Goddess Sophia (Wisdom), emanated from the true God, providing Adam with the "divine spark" and the "gnosis" (direct knowledge of the Divine) so that humans could be set free from Yahweh's trap.

The Catholic Church was more or less in the middle between the Jewish end of the Christian spectrum, and the Greek Mystery Religion (Gnostic) end.  I think it won out basically because it was able to tap the intellectual and emotional appeal of the Mystery Religions, but then wield the power of Jewish dogmatism (and practical implementation of the doctrine of an angry, punishing Monarch in the Sky in the form of persecutions and holy wars) when the opportunity presented itself.

This dichotomy of the Greek "High God" (with all of his sublime omnimax attributes and claims of moral perfection) and the Jewish Sky King (who is just the biggest and meanest kid on the block) can still be seen in the contrast between liberal theology and fundamentalism.  Liberal theologians basically toss the Bible overboard, but still call themselves "Christians" by embracing the God of the Philosophers dressed in Christian terminology.  Fundamentalist theologians cling to the Bible while offering lip service to the God of the Philosophers; however, when pressed, many fundamentalists will argue that whatever Yahweh does is "good" because it's him doing it.

This is basically the position of the Bible writers, especially those who wrote the OT.  Under this premise, Yahweh can lie, or cause demon-possession, or do any conceivable atrocity, and he cannot be critiqued on a moral basis.  In other words, I don't think the writers of Genesis 1-3 would have found the idea of Yahweh lying to be a problem, if they even noticed.  Mainly, they couldn't have Adam and Eve die as promised Yahweh and create new people, otherwise the story stops and they have no way to explain the origins of the ills of the world.
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #148 on: October 08, 2012, 12:46:19 PM »
Science and ID



The whole edifice of ID rests on the natural human tendency to give "Goddidit" an automatic mulligan from any further explanation, while demanding that any naturalistic explanation be fully validated at each step from beginning to end.

As humans, the pattern-detectors of our brains are wired to easily spot the human, even where it doesn't exist.  Lightning?  Obviously, the weapon of Zeus, who looks a lot like a Greek athlete throwing a javelin.  OK, Zeus is out of fashion, so clearly Yahweh operates the Department of Lightning. 

In order to convince people that lightning is not the weapon of some "person in the sky," scientists starting with Ben Franklin had to demonstrate experimentally that lightning is electricity in motion, provide complete theories of how clouds generate lightning, how "electricity" works, and so on.  No one ever had to provide any description of how Zeus or Yahweh went about generating lightning, how they aimed it, etc.

Being human ourselves, we have a pretty good implicit understanding of how humans do things.  Ask how the light bulb came to be, and it's easy to understand "ThomasEdisondidit" as an explanation, even if we have no idea how we'd go about constructing a light bulb from scratch ourselves.  We've all made things ourselves, so we have what seems to be a pretty good understanding of how "ID" works.

So, ID'ers bring up a case like bacterial flagella or bombardier beetles.  If the evolutionists can't explain in exhaustive detail every single step of the evolutionary process with complete fossil documatiation, then there's a "mystery."  So, when they say "Evolution can't explain this!  God must have did it!" it seems to make sense without further explanation.

"God" is basically a human with magic powers.  We all know you don't have to explain how magic works, it just does.  The wizard waves a wand, and *bling!* stuff happens.  That's what makes it "magic" instead of physics or engineering.  So, when the ID'er says "Goddidit," it's very easy for the human mind to imagine a Merlin in his lab drawing up plans for flagellum motors, stirring some bubbly potion with his wand, and *kazaam!* flagellum motors exist.  As humans born with a tendency to assume humanness first ("What's that sound?  A burglar!  No...just the wind--whew!"), the "human explanation" seems almost self-evident.  Flagellum motors were made by a super-human.  End of story.

Evolution, being a non-human, naturalistic process, is not automatically, intuitively understood by humans as human action is.  In order for a human to accept it, a whole lot of scientific explanation is necessary.  This applies equally well to any other natural process.  Explaining the movements of the planets of the solar system scientifically required the Principia Mathematica.  The theory that the planets were carried around by angels or held aloft on the shoulders of Atlas needed no explanation at all to seem credible.

ID'ers and Creationists are able to take advantage of this limitation of human consciousness by adopting a one-sided uber-skepticism with regard to naturalistic theories.  "OK, Mr. Evolutionist, explain the bacterial flagellum!  Well...um...alright, but what about the metamorphosis of the Monarch butterfly?  Betcha can't explain how that 'just evolved!'"  And so on, until they find something evolutionists haven't explained yet.  Barring the achievement of human omniscience, sooner or later they'll stumble upon an unanswered question.

Then, it's "Ha!  Evolution can't explain that!  Therefore, Goddidit!"  Triumphant, their uber-skepticism immediately vanishes, replaced by unquestioning acceptance.  However, if their own theory were held to the same standards as a naturalistic theory, its emptiness would be immediately evident. 

Scientist: "You propose an 'Intelligent Designer' as the central explanatory mechanism of your theory.  Is this a human being?"

ID: "No, of course not.  We...ah...don't really like to talk about our Designer much.  We just...you know...sorta hope you'll automatically assume it's the Christian God without really thinking about it."

Scientist: "So your Designer is not an entity that is a part of this universe, like an extraterrestrial being?"

ID: "Well, no, because the Designer created the Universe as well.  Look at those finely-tuned cosmological constants!  Don't know how those got to be that way, do you?  A Designer must have done it!"  >does victory dance<

Scientist: "So your Designer exists in some other dimension.  Where is this other dimension?  How does it interact with our universe?  Can you provide any equations or physics experiments showing how the existence of this other dimension fits with quantum mechanics and relativity?"

ID: "Um..."

Scientist: "If this other dimension is not a universe like this one with the same physical operating principles, what is it like?  How do things work there?  What is your Intelligent Designer made of?  How does it perceive events taking place in our universe?  We know that when we observe quantum particles, the act of observation affects the particles.  Can you provide a mathematically rigorous description of how your Designer can observe quantum particles in a way that does not affect them (since we cannot detect any effects of your Designer's observation of quantum events)?

ID: "Er...the Designer is outside of time...um...we just don't ask stuff like that.  There's a real nice church a couple blocks down the street from here..."

Scientist: "How would such a being select and set cosmological constants for a universe it was going to create?  Can you provide a rigorous mathematical description of how something like that would be done?  Are there creatures with "motors" in the Designers dimension?  Are there proteins and acids, or lipid-walls?  If not, how did your Designer come up with things like that in the first place?  I mean, could you design a device that would work in some other dimension where all the principles of physics work differently than they do here?"

ID: "What part of 'Goddidit' don't you understand?!"

Scientist: "All of it.  You want me to specify exactly how every single protein of a bacterial flagellum could evolve in mathematically rigorous and evidentially validated scientific papers.  That's fine, it's my job.  But if you want to call yourself a scientist, then you need to do the same with your theory.  You haven't provided anything like a scientific model of what your 'Designer' is supposed to be, what his, her, or its native cosmos is supposed to be like, how that cosmos interacts with ours so that your 'Designer' can do anything here to begin with, where your 'Designer' or its cosmos came from, how your 'Designer' can design things like cosmological constants and flagellum motors for a cosmos entirely different from its own...or for that matter, why there's only one Designer!  How do you know there's not ten of them--or billions?"


Intelligent Design "theory" rests on two pillars, without which it would not exist at all:

1) "Designer" is used with a capital-D and in the singular, counting on you to automatically assume "the Christian God" without the ID'ers having to come out and say it.

2) Scientists must rigorously explain and validate their theories against a steep ramp of hyper-skepticism, but ID'ers get an auto-mulligan: their explanations are sufficient if they consist of only four words: "The Designer did it."
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #149 on: October 16, 2012, 02:29:40 PM »
Why isn’t the Supernatural more powerful?


Christians:

Remember the great magicians' duel between Moses and the Pharaoh's court magicians?  Or the confrontation between Peter and Simon Magus?  Or the passage in Ephesians where Paul urges the faithful to don "the full armor of God" in order to wage spiritual warfare, his references to the conflict between believers and "principalities and powers" in heavenly places?

All of that sounds so wonderfully exciting.  Certainly, given the Christian cosmology of a battle between an omnipotent God and his angels vs. a not-quite omnipotent Devil and his demonic legions, we would expect supernatural power to be well-nigh ubiquitous.  People in the Bible certainly seemed to do so.

"Yeah, we know Moses wiped out the greatest empire in the world with divine plagues and then wiped out a whole army by standing a sea on its head a little over a month ago...  Meh.  We want something new!  Make us a golden calf!"

In the New Testament era, Jesus repeatedly had to deal with disciples who, moments after seeing him calm a storm with a word or feed thousands of people out of a lunchbox, lacked faith.  It's almost as if miracles and magic are so commonplace that such powers as Jesus and Moses possessed didn't even impress anybody.

If any of these things in the Bible are real (i.e. not "metaphor" or "allegory" or some other sort of fancy interpretation that renders them something other than supernatural events), where did all that power go?  Even if God doesn't want to work miracles anymore for whatever reason, that wouldn't hold Satan back, would it?  And then there's all those "principalities and powers," whoever they are.

Remember all the controversy around Harry Potter?  Christians getting HP books banned from school libraries and so forth, fearing the occult influence--but why?  Sure, a kid might read Harry Potter, then get a stick and start waving it around saying Latin words in imitation of the characters in the story.  But it's not as if anything will really happen, is it?  Eventually, the kids will get bored of that and go back to pretending to be Spider-Man and Storm.  No one need worry that a Harry Potter fan will conjure an evil spirit than that a kid fresh from Vacation Bible School will unleash a plague of locusts or turn the local river to blood.

Now, I'm sure you can claim many times that you feel that supernatural forces have intervened in your life.  Maybe something like a remission of cancer, or the voice of God speaking to you in your head, on down to having a parking space open up just when you need it to.  Of course, the one thing all these sorts of things have in common is that skeptics like most of the people that hang around here can attribute them to "coincidence" "delusion" "luck" and other prosaic causes that fit within a scientific/atheistic world view.

But if there had been a James Randi in Pharaoh's court, or among the Pharisees, he wouldn't really have been able to chalk things like sticks turning into snakes and resurrections of people dead for four days up to "coincidence."  Biblical protagonists are never confronted with debunkers.  It never occurs to anyone.  That's because the supernatural is so obvious and powerful (if the Bible is to be believed) that no one even thinks to say it's not real.

And Christianity is not the only supernaturalist world view this happened to.  Virtually every culture of that day had its own magical and spiritual practices and its own tales of grandiose supernatural power.

So what happened?  Why are things so different now?  To have such a powerful and ubiquitous aspect of daily life just cease to be would be like having electricity stop working all of a sudden.  One thing all religious traditions agree on is that the supernatural is powerful.  It is, in fact, the true reality, the most important facet of life.  And yet...

Let's compare it with an aspect of science, the ability of an electron to "leap" from one orbit in an atom to another without crossing the distance between.  The so-called "quantum leap."  Now, this sounds interesting, but really not that important.  The sort of thing that would be discussed in scientific journals riddled with frightening equations, but not the sort of thing you or I would encounter outside of a NOVA documentary.

And yet...

It is the basis for much of our technology.  Without it, there would be no transistors.  No compact electronics, no computers, no lasers.

Or how about something like the Weak Nuclear Force, that only exists within the nucleus of atoms, at a scale so tiny the human mind cannot conceive of it.  Without it, there would be no X-ray machines, no smoke detectors, no nuclear power plants, or nuclear weapons.

So why is it that these comparatively minor aspects of physics are so much more ubiquitous and powerful in our world than God, Satan, all the angels, all the devils, all the "principalities and powers," all the gods and goddesses, devas, spirits, and magic spells of all the religions and spiritual traditions of the world combined?
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #150 on: October 16, 2012, 02:33:24 PM »
Christians: Is it time for a New New Testament?


Christians:

Many times in discussing the Bible with you, we will receive as an answer to some question or argument we present, that the part of the Bible we're discussing was meant for the people of those times and applied only to that culture.  Or we'll have it explained to us that the verse is a cultural idiom of some sort that requires scholarly knowledge of the ancient culture, without which it is either inexplicable or seems to mean something completely different than it was intended to mean. 

In other words, even according to most of the Christians we debate with here, most of the Bible is obsolete.  The whole Old Testament is often placed in this category.  But even many New Testament passages (such as the ones where Jesus or Paul accepts slavery) are also explained in this manner.

So, doesn't that mean it's time for a New, New Testament, one that isn't culturally obsolete, that doesn't require scholarly commentators with knowledge of ancient cultures, traditions, idioms, etc.  and the meanings of words in dead languages?  One that speaks to us, now, telling us what God wants of us, what doctrines are to be believed, what proper morals and social structures we should have, etc., that is suitable and comprehensible for our time?
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #151 on: October 16, 2012, 02:37:33 PM »
Christians: Is it time for a New New Testament?  Part 2

Blaize, you seem to be missing the point of the question.  Judging by many of the Christian responses we get here, it takes a PhD in theology and/or Near Eastern Studies to be able to understand what the Bible is talking about.  This was not the case for the people to whom it was written.  When the Corinthian church was reading Paul's letters, no one had to say, "Now, here is what this Greek word meant," followed by an explanation of some word in its cultural context, describing what it conveys in the aorist tense, and so on.  They just understood it.  When Paul talked about slavery, they could accept that he meant slavery, since it was an everyday reality for them.  When Paul told women to shut up and bear children, there was no need to interpret around that to make it fit with post-Susan B. Anthony attitudes.  When Jesus said "some now standing here will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds in glory" there was no need to postulate that maybe some of his disciples would be alive 2000+ years from now, or that he didn't really mean "some now standing here" when he said it.

And so on.

Based on the Christian responses we get, it seems that it's time for a New, New Testament that doesn't sanction slavery (e.g. Philemon) and doesn't use slavery as an analogy of what the Kingdom of Heaven will be like (Jesus' parables), becuase, nowdays, we know that God didn't really mean any of that, he was just limited in what he could say and how he could say it by the culture of those days.  In the post-Appomattox era, we now know that slavery was something God would not sanction.  What he really meant was "welfare" (since there wasn't a better way to deal with poverty in those days than slavery).

Think about it.  A person from the (alleged) time of Moses or Abraham could get along alright in the time of Jesus, once they figured out the language.  Farming was still farming, sheepherding still sheepherding, etc..  Aside from political changes (Rome instead of Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon), life was pretty much the same.  And yet, the changes were sufficient to bring about a New Testament that replaced the Old.

Now, try to imagine someone from Jesus' time transported to ours.  The world would be completely unrecognizeable.  Culture and society are completely different.  All of the Bible's instructions on how to deal with slaves, and how to behave if we are slaves, out the window.  The passages explaining how we should submit to the king--no longer applicable, since we elect our leaders, and criticizing them (e.g. the Sunday talk shows, editorial cartoons, blogs) is part of how the system works.  Jesus' financial advice--things like "give no thought to the morrow" and his talk about God providing for us like swallows or lilies of the field--all obsolete in an era where carreers must be chosen and planned for in advance (e.g. going to college, building a carreer that looks good on a resume'), where it's necessary to enter into long-term financial commitments (car loans, home mortgages) and plan for the kids' college funds and for retirement. 

And good luck getting women to wear head-coverings and refrain from braiding their hair and wearing jewelry and nice clothes (as Paul instructed) in most churches today.  For that matter, having the woman stay at home is likely to result in temptation, since the kids are at school, appliances do most of the work that made running a home a full-time job, clothes can be bought at Wal-Mart instead of made by hand, etc.--and there's nothing but racy soap operas on TV.   

And so on.

Sure, there are some "timeless" passages in the Bible, just as there are "timeless" passages in Shakespeare.  But the Bible is supposed to be more than great literature.  It's supposed to be a guide for our lives as individuals and as a society.  Since the majority of its text is now crammed into a mental attic as obsolete, even by Christians who profess to adore it as God's inerrant Word, it can no longer function as it was intended to.

The very fact that theologians and scholars are needed to make the Bible comprehensible seems to me a very strong indication that we need a New, New Testament.  Remember Paul's comments about the "philosophers" and "wise men of this age?"  That we now need such men to explain the Bible to us, and re-interpret so much of what it says to make it "fit" the present seems contrary to the general Biblical attitude toward intellectuals and scholars.
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #152 on: October 16, 2012, 02:48:05 PM »
Christians: Is it time for a New New Testament?  Part 3

Quote from: blaize on July 05, 2007, 12:25:18 AM
Not necessarily. I was saying that skeptics will be skeptics even in light of really good evidence, or even personal appearances, such as they did in Jesus' day. Even if Jesus healed amputees, there would still be those who doubted.

The blame for this lies with Judeo-Christian theology.  First, we are told that we must accept the exact right set of beliefs, or Yahweh will smite us and our descendants (OT) or condemn us to eternal torture (NT).  Then we are told (in Christianity and late Judaism) that there is an alternative spiritual force--Satan and his demonic legions--that is also capable of working miracles and intends to decieve us and lead us away from that exact right set of beliefs.  Virtually every book in the NT contains dire warnings against heretical Christianities (people with "another Jesus and another Gospel," "wolves in sheep's clothing" etc.).  Since heretics burn as well as heathens and infidels do, outsiders must approach Christianity with considerable intellectual paranoia.

We are told to 'test the spirits' to see if they acknowledge that Jesus came in the flesh.  But then, the other guys could issue their own spirit-test in which it is the ones that say Jesus came in the flesh that are the Vile Heretics.  Even if one sect or another manages to pull off what appears to be a miracle or two, that alone cannot convince us, because we are warned of "lying signs and wonders" worked by the servants of the Dark Side.

Simply adhering to traditional orthodoxy is no protection either.  According to the Gospel narratives, Jesus came teaching a radically unorthodox (from a Judaic perspective) doctrine of the Messiah.  Whereas the Jewish Messiah was supposed to come as a conquering king to establish Jerusalem as the capital of the world, restore Israel and uphold the Law (which is repeatedly referred to as "eternal" in the Books of Moses), Jesus taught submission to Pagan rule (paying Roman taxes, carrying packs for Legionnaires, etc.) and repealed at least some of the Law, claiming himself as a superior authority ("it says in your law X, but I say Y").  Furthermore, Christians interpret some of his words as claiming to be God incarnate on Earth.  This was (and still is) foreign to Judaism.

The Pharisees are portrayed adopting the natural response: that he was a Satanic wonder-worker sent to lead people away from the truth of Judaism.  Of course the Gospels tell us we are supposed to take Jesus' side and scorn the Pharisees. 

But think about it for a moment.  Let's say you started hearing reports of a young woman who claimed to be the Only Begotten Daughter of God.  She works powerful miracles, but also teaches strange and unorthodox doctrines.  "It says in your Bible that there is no other name under Heaven by which you must be saved, than the name of Jesus.  But I say unto you, God is too big to fit in a single religion.  He speaks forth to all peoples; to the Christians as Jesus, to the Hindus as Krishna, to the Buddhists as the Buddha."

No matter what miracles she was able to perform, you and most Christians would likely disbelieve her.  Perhaps she would even face persecution as a Vile Heretic and a worker of Satanic wonders.  Christians would still be "skeptics" despite the "good evidence" of her miracles.  Outsiders like us, who are not predisposed to adhere to orthodoxy, would have no way to know which of the competing claims to accept, especially if the orthodox believers were working miracles as well.

So, Christianity presents all who would approach it with a nasty intellectual bind:

1) You must believe the right theology or be tormented forever

2) God can change the "right theology" at will, regardless of what older Scriptures say

3) There is at least one other miracle-working force out to trick you into believing in the wrong theology

4) Under normal circumstances no proof, miraculous or otherwise, will be offered to validate the right theology

Thus, even if we were predisposed to adopt some form of Christian belief, we would still have a difficult time solving the problem of which version of Christianity to adopt.  Skepticism of miraculous claims would still be in order.  The only possible way we could have would be pattern detection.  A one-off amputee-healing could well be a Satanic deception, or the work of some other rival deity, like the magic performed by Pharaoh's magicians in the Exodus story.

However, it does stand to reason that if the followers of "the right Christianity" really do have an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent Being as their Parent, Co-Pilot, and Best Friend, that some sort of consistent effects not attributable to anything other than an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent Parent, Co-Pilot, and Best Friend ought to manifest themselves.  It need not take the form of "True Christians" coasting easily through life with their every wish materializing instantly for them.  It need only match the predictions offered by their doctrines.  For example:
Quote
And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

--Mark 16:17-18

Now, if this prediction actually worked for "True Christians" and only "True Christians," then the rest of us would know they had the inside track to the Divine, and would be able to sort out who the "True Christians" really were.  Since there is no body of Christians who can guzzle Drano with impunity and heal leukemia with a touch, either this prediction is false (and Christianity with it) or there are no True Christians left.
Quote from: blaize on July 05, 2007, 12:25:18 AM
The critique wasn't against Christians, but against the way Christians are often spectacles over nit-picky things in the Bible. It's a Catch 22. If Christians offer explanations, they get criticized for "cherry-picking", yet if they don't then they are left to accept the critics response.

Then it is unfortunate that you do not have a set of Scriptures that comprehensively fit together.  Not our fault, we didn't write your book. :)
Quote from: blaize on July 05, 2007, 12:25:18 AM
I would also contend that Christians agree on a lot more than you are giving them credit for. I certainly don't think that all Christians agree on everything, but consider what we are dealing with: practically every facet of life.

Yes, but Christians are not claiming to be mere philosophers.  They claim to have direct guidance from the omniscient Creator of Universe.  It is this claim of superhuman assistance that places Christians on a higher standard than the practicioners of merely human disciplines like paleontology or philosophy.  Likewise for every other religion and "spiritual practice" whose adherents claim access to superior channels of knowledge.

We would be perfectly willing to accept that Christians are just normal people trying to muddle through like the rest of us, and just as prone to mistakes.  It is Christian theology that forbids this, because it claims Christians have a direct channel to Omniscience, and that anyone who rejects True Christianity (whichever one that is) is doomed to eternal torment.  Honest mistakes still get you in the barbecue pit.  It is your own theology that demands Christians be held to a higher standard.  Not our fault, we didn't write your book.

It should also be pointed out that Christians do not disagree on only minor matters.  Some Christians claim that God predestines who will be saved and who will not be (Calvinism); others hold that we have a responsibility to choose Christ (Arminianism).  Some Christians claim that salvation, once attained is permanent and guaranteed.  Others claim that you can loose it if you stray from the straight and narrow.  Some Christians claim that it is necessary to be baptized in order to be saved; others say it is the choice to accept Jesus that matters, with baptism being an external manifestation of an internal truth.  Some Christians claim that their particular sect is the right one and the others are all Vile Heretics.  And so on.  These disputes and others have existed from the very beginnings of Christianity.
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #153 on: October 16, 2012, 02:57:07 PM »
Top 3 objections to xianity

Quote from: Brokentogether on July 03, 2007, 12:26:21 PM
Can you please list your top three objections to Christianity? And please let me know if these objections stand for all religions or if they are distinct to Christianity.

Oh, I just noticed this part.  The objections I gave earlier were specific to Christianity.  In relation to other religions, I have other objections specific to them (e.g. objections to the concept of 'reincarnation' and widow-burning in Hinduism).  Here are some more "generic" objections that cover most extant theistic religions I'm aware of:

1) The concept of "knowing" anything by "faith."

2) The concept of "the supernatural."

3) What happens when any religion gets political power.


Clarification:

1. "Faith" (as I use it here) is an alleged way of "knowing" things that cannot be validated through rational and/or empirical means of any sort.  Faith is pernicious because it offers no method of error-correction, no way for people who hold different conclusions by faith to come to agreement about which, if either, of them is correct.  An astronomer who holds to the heliocentric solar system model and one who holds to the geocentric solar system model can look at data from reality--astronomical observations, mathematical equations that accurately model what we see going on (or fail to do so) and so on.  Though the debate may be fierce, and all of the human limitations of ego, faulty perception, etc. do not magically disappear in scientific discourse, the method of scientific inquiry includes protocols designed to root out errors and get at the facts.  Once the data is conclusive, the more accurate theory will inevitably win out.  In religion, there is no such method.  A faithful Muslim and a faithful Christian have no method by which they can resolve their differences, other than force.

2. The concept of the "supernatural" is meaningless, or perhaps more accurately, obsolete.  "Supernatural" means "above nature," and the meaning of this was once obvious.  Stars and planets "up there" seemed to abide by different operating principles, i.e., they did not fall, and moved perpetually, unlike "natural" things down here on Earth.  Spirits, gods, and goddesses were everywhere--in trees, rivers, the Sun and stars, in storms, and embodied in principles such as fertility.  The "supernatural" was beyond human understanding because there was no concept of the continuous expansion of human understanding.  What people couldn't know then (such as what the far side of the Moon looked like), people could never know.  The "supernatural" made sense as a concept.  The Rennaisance and Enlightenment eras put an end to that.  The Copernican Revolution revealed that Earth is a "heavenly" body (and not "down" at the bottom of the cosmological totem pole).  Newtonian celestial mechanics established that the same operating principles applied everywhere.  In response, theologians redefined the "supernatural" as an invisible realm and claimed that it would remain unknowable regardless of how much human science and technology increased.  As a result, the term has ceased to have any meaning beyond "not anything humans can know" (which says nothing about what it is).  Furthermore, it is a claim to know the unknowable on the part of the theologian, hence self-refuting.

3. As explained above, "faith" provides no way to reconcile disputes between different religious dogmas.  Any time a religion is married to political power, atrocity results.  Other religions and "heresies" (differing interpretations of the official religion) are suppressed, as is scientific and philosophical inquiry in general.  Wars of conquest are justified by the need to convert others to 'the True Faith,' or by leaders invoking divine sanction.  Even if the true motives for the war are not religious in nature (a ruler's ambition, the desire for 'glory,' or greed for new territory and war booty), religion provides a cloak of moral sanction without which the war would be a harder sell for the population in general (most of whom do not benefit even from victory).  This is most dangerous in religions that make exclusive truth-claims rather than just syncretizing other people's religions into the imperial pantheon.  Examples include Genghis Khan (he believed that 'just as there is one sun to rule the heavens, so should there be one man to rule the Earth' as an aspect of his religion), the Pharaoh Akhenaton (who launched the first known religious persecution in history in the name of his monotheistic worship of the Aten), militiant Hinduism in India, and of course, the Abrahamic religions.

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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #154 on: October 16, 2012, 03:10:40 PM »
He died for you.  (No, he didn’t)


Quote from: ty on July 05, 2007, 11:28:32 AM
i know this is a little off topic, but some of you do not know this, and really need to.
Jesus Christ Died for your sins.

No, he didn't.  According to post-Nicene "orthodoxy," Christ continued to exist after his bodily death and continues to exist now.  He didn't die--he went from being a mortal that had to wipe his butt every day to being omnipotent, omnipresent God.  Not exactly a bad trade.

Quote from: ty on July 05, 2007, 11:28:32 AM
He bled for you, hung on the cross, nails in his hands and feet, and died.

I think it is more likely he was a mythic "spiritual" being who never existed as a man on Earth. 

Quote from: ty on July 05, 2007, 11:28:32 AM
He went through TORTURE to SAVE YOUR SINS!

I presume you mean "SAVE YOU FROM YOUR SINS!"  Alright, so Jesus was tortured "for my sins."  What, exactly, made the torture necessary?  It is said that "the wages of sin is death."  Well, if so, Jesus could "die for our sins" by getting run over by a chariot or having a heart attack.  Or even by having his throat cut like the sacrificial animals in the Mosaic Law.  This latter actually makes more sense, as Jesus is supposed to take the place of that sacrificial system.

So why was this torture necessary?  Why couldn't Jesus have had some quick, painless death?  You can't say "God's justice," because Jesus is supposed to be an innocent man being punished for the crimes of others--by definition, unjust. 

Why, for that matter, was any sort of death really necessary to begin with?  Either Yahweh is sovereign (he makes the rules) or he is not, and must abide by rules external to himself.  Christians seem to try to sit on both sides of this fence.

If Yahweh is sovereign, then as Absolute Monarch of the Cosmos, who can change even his own Law at will (see Jesus' repeal of the Sabbath Law, the breaking of which was a capital offense), then neither torture nor death is necessary to forgive sins.  Who could force a sovereign Yahweh to torture anyone?  King Yahweh can simply choose to forgive, and none can stay his hand.  Any human king can do this.  Even a President (far from absolute in his power) can issue pardons.  Therefore, if Yahweh is sovereign, he could have set things up so that repentence from sin and accepting him as Lord and Savior brought about forgiveness of sin--without any gruesome torture and death involved.  So whence cometh the torture?

Perhaps Yahweh is not sovereign.  Perhaps, as some Christians imply, the shedding of blood is necessary to atone for sins, and even Yahweh cannot change this.  He himself cannot endure the presence of sin (something to do with his "perfection," which apparently doesn't include omnipotence or a perfect ability to forgive sins).  And so, thanks to that moment of inattention to his little pets in Eden, Yahweh suddenly found himself in a bind.  His creatures had sinned, and so he would be forced to torture them for all eternity!

But wait!  Yahweh came up with a daring rescue plan!  Thousands of years after Eden, Yahweh was finally able to put it in motion, "incarnating" himself in a guerrilla raid into the Devil's kingdom.  Tricking the Devil into crucifying Jesus, Yahweh won his planet back and made it possible for some of his creatures not to be tortured forever--but only if they accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  Not the best plan imaginable--after all, there's all those ancient Egyptians, Chinese, Indians, Greeks, Minoans, Native Americans, Africans, etc. who never got to hear about any of this, or even take advantage of the stopgap animal-sacrifice program that made salvation possible for some members of a small group of tribes called "Hebrews." 

Yahweh had to make do, and it was the best plan he could come up with under the circumstances.  So, in this latter model, we can perhaps blame the torture--both for Christ, and the eternal torture of those who don't become Christians--on external circumstances.  The Devil, the inherent power of sin, the requirement of blood-sacrifice for sin (a rule Yahweh himself is forced to abide by, thus is more powerful than he is), and so on.  Yahweh couldn't help it, he did and does his best.  Of course, this leaves us with the quesiton, if Yahweh didn't set things up this way, who did?  Is there a God above Yahweh the Bible doesn't tell us about?  Or is Satan the Decider?

I have heard Christians talk as if the second model (external circumstances) were true, even though they will also claim absolute sovreignty for Yahweh.  Since the Bible writers all claim sovreignty and never once try to make any excuses, I am going to proceed on the basis of the "Yahweh is sovereign" model.

If Yahweh is sovereign--and is thus capable of setting up the operating conditions of his creation (what effects "sin" would have, what would be necessary to forgive it, etc.)--then there can be only one reason the Christian world-view is up to its neck in blood and torture: that is exactly how Yahweh wanted it.  We are thus being called upon to worship a god who revels in torture, both of his own "Son" and of all humans who do not grovel before him in just the right way.  With such a god, who needs a Devil? 

Quote from: ty on July 05, 2007, 11:28:32 AM
He died for the whole world.  If it would have been just for you, he would have died.

I think it's time to look at the Cross from the other side.  "For God so hated the world, that he demands nothing less than the most savage torture imaginable, as punishment for the smallest disobedience to his arbitrary commands."

I submit to you that the vast majority of human beings have done nothing deserving of crucifixion (i.e. that they should need to be crucified for their own sins before being permitted into Heaven), much less eternal torture in Hell.  Tell me why some little Midianite girl whose family was murdered before her eyes by the Israelites, who was then condemned to a life of sex slavery (Numbers 31:17-18) deserved also to burn in Hell, should she have died in childbirth before converting to the religion of the people who killed everyone she loved.  Why should her little brother, killed for the crime of being a boy born in the wrong time and place, suffer in Hell forever?

The god of the Bible is the ultimate archetypal projection of tyrannical, sadistic evil.  He demands absolute obedience from humans, even in their thoughts (and why should an "omnipotent" being need human slaves?), and tortures them forever for the slightest imaginable failure.  This is so even if their failure consists of being born in a culture where no one has ever heard of him or his rules.  Yahweh offers only one alternative to eternal torture: an eternal church service in which you spend aeon upon aeon stroking his magnificently shriveled ego.  Eternal Auschwitz or eternal North Korea.  Some choice.

And to get the North Korea option, you must prove your own evil by choosing to profit from the torture/murder of an innocent person.  If you are willing to stand in the place of Jesus' torturers and executioners, to eat his flesh and drink his blood (ether metaphorically, as in Protestantism, or literally as in Catholicism), to wash yourself in his blood...  And thus, like a vampire or that psychopathic queen who bathed in the blood of virgins in hopes of preserving her youth, [you can] seek to gain immortality as a blood-sucking parasite.

Could there be anything more...
SATANIC ...than this? 



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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #155 on: October 16, 2012, 03:17:59 PM »
Is torture evil?


One important dividing-line I see with regard to these types of situations is: who is the initiator of force?  In the scenario where a gang kidnaps my family but I capture one of them, the gang are the initiators of force.  I have a moral right to retaliate.  In this case, to use torture if necessary to get my family back safe.  The "if necessary" is an important criterion, since I should act on the premise that I will be held accountable by my civilization--IOW, I should accept, even welcome the fact that I will stand before a jury of my peers.  If I have to shoot off toes or whatever, it should be with only a single goal in mind: getting my family back safe.  Not to "get back at" the gang member, but for a single, practical purpose of getting my family back.

Notice that in this scenario there is certainty.  The gang breaks into my house, abducts my family, and one of them doesn't get away for whatever reason.  The guy's in my living room.  But what if instead they all get away, but one of my security cameras gets a blurry image of one of the men?  Not good enough to recognize his face, but good enough to pick out his ethnic group and style of dress.  So I drive down to a neighborhood inhabited my mostly people of that ethnic group/economic class, march into a bar, whip out a big hogleg Dirty Harry style and say to the bartender (who I'm pointing the gun at) "I know you know where they are!  Tell me or I start shootin' off toes!"

In this case, I would definitely not be justified.  This is standard cop-movie fare, but life isn't a movie.  Cops don't have automatic and inerrant knowledge of who the bad guys are, and they are not inherently virtuous themselves (otherwise, we would not need Constitutional safeguards).  This second scenario is more like what goes on in places like Iraq.  Soldiers grab a bunch of guys in a sweep, then start interrogating them. 

Allow me to wax nostalgic for a moment, and remember the days when conservatives knew that soldiers aren't cops and shouldn't be employed in "nation-building" with no end in sight.  >looks off into the distance<  Why, I remember when conservatives railed against Clinton's little operation in Bosnia, rejecting the idea that the U.S. military was supposed to be an instrument for making the world in our image by force, championing "a more humble foreign policy" in which the U.S. acted in defense of herself and her allies.  What a concept!  "But 9/11 changed everything!"  OK, so maybe 9/11 somehow made Clinton's foreign policy the right one.  Then we should have brought the Clinton team back in to plan the next great stage of American Empire.  The war in Yugoslavia was fought with international support, without a single U.S. casualty, and with seeming success (what's going on there now has disappeared from American news, less important than Paris Hilton's legal difficulties, so who knows?).  The Democrats are obviously much better at liberal internationalism than conservatives are.

I think the portrayals of torture as a moral and successful technique in cop movies is probably a major reason American has sanctioned torture in Iraq.  We're all familar with the story.  The Bad Guys are on the loose, and the "system"--all those paper-pushers with their naive lace-panty notions of "the Fifth Amendment" "due process" "innocent until proven guilty" are helpless to stop them because the Bad Guys use the protections "the system" offers to get away with murder.  But then, the Man With A Gun comes.  He's played by Clint Eastwood, or Charles Bronson, or Jean-Claud Van Damme, or Mel Gibson and Danny Glover. 

The MWaG "breaks all the rules," and in an exciting display of machismo with a high body count and lots of explosions (we don't care about all those innocent people who get smashed up in the car chase either), gives the Bad Guys what for.  In these movies there's usually a scene in which the MWaG starts shooting off toes.  The Bad Guy appeals to "the system:"  "Hey!  You're a cop!  You can't do that!  I got rights!"  The MWaG replies, "Well, I guess I wasn't paying attention in police academy that day.  If you live, maybe you can sue me." >cocks gun<  The Bad Guy whimpers and gives in (after maybe losing a toe or two), tells the MWaG where the hostages are being held, the day is saved, roll credits.

This sort of thing may be OK for popcorn cinema, but it's lousy foreign policy and an even worse way to conduct a Fourth Generation War (4GW).  In a 4GW, the state side (in this case, the U.S.) can only win if it can dry up popular support for the insurgents and deliver political goods (law and order, a viable economy where contracts are legally enforced and things like banking can take place, utility services, the ability to travel in safety, etc.).  If it can't do this, it will lose, regardless of how many tactical victories it wins against poorly-armed insurgent forces.

This means that the most important factor in a war aganst a 4G opponent is the moral level of war, capturing and maintaining the moral high ground.  It is arguable that given the dubious basis for the invasion of Iraq, that the U.S. never really had a chance at the moral high ground, especially after the Betrayal of 1991 (where we encouraged Iraqis to rebel, then let Saddam slaughter them).  When the Americans did go in promising to act as liberators and end Saddam's reign of terror, it was of the utmost importance that the U.S. live up to those promises.  Instead, the U.S. protected oil fields while allowing the city to be looted.  During the invasion they were able to deliver thousands of gallons of fuel each day to the mechanized military forces, but could not do the same to keep generators at Iraqi hospitals running.

The abuses at Abu Gharaib and Guantanamo, along with things like air strikes (the absolute worst thing you can do in 4GW) and people getting shot at American checkpoints that made a trip across town into a dangerous epic journey, insured that the insurgents had the moral high ground.  Combined with the failure to deliver political goods, this guarantees American defeat.  Every "terrorist" (or guy who just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time) we kill has family and friends who then have motive to aid or join the insurgency.  Every time bloodied children are pulled out of a crater after a U.S. air strike, whole neighborhoods join the insurgents.

Thanks to its overwhelming advantages in technology and firepower, the U.S. will win every tactical battle, but that won't stop it from losing the war.



[replaced original broken link to 4gw with wiki link]
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #156 on: October 16, 2012, 03:27:03 PM »
Supernatural and chemical reactions

Quote from: raygarrettjr on July 04, 2007, 12:24:30 AM
Yes it is irrational to derive meaning from love if it is simply a chemical used to trick you into propagating your species.  By the way, why is it rational for you to help the species survive?  It doesn't benefit you in any way; unless of course you ascribe meaning to your progeny.  How does evolution go from a model used to explain human existence to a model used to describe human behavior?  Which evolves first the behavior or the chemical?

There's two ways to take your argument:

1) If "love" is a chemical reaction, it's irrational to do it, but if it's supernatural >cue harp-string *bllllllllllliiiinnnng!* and sparklies< then it makes sense to love.

2) "Love" is irrational, but believing in the supernatural grants an automatic right to be irrational, so we can love.

I don't agree with either interpretation.  Let's start with the first.  This assumes a kind of double-standard in which the same phenomenon is either dismally meaningless or wonderous and magical, depending on which category it's listed under.  If I'm eating some Godiva's dark chocolate, but it's just a chemical reaction, then it's really pointless, irrational, existentially angst-filled, [insert favorite depressing, negative evaluation here]. 

But what if if I define it as a supernatural act?  Dark Chocolate is a sacrament, the Holy Host, the Heart of the Goddess, and by partaking of it I become one with Goddess.  So now eating chocolate is full of meaning, wonder, magic, spiritual truth [insert favorite glowing terms here].

Either way, the chocolate tastes exactly the same.

Calling the chocolate "supernatural" does not make it glow with haloes and prismatic sparkles.  Nor does calling love "supernatural"--or calling it "a chemical reaction"--change what it is or how it feels.  The only difference is how we feel about the labels.  We tend to consider "a chemical reaction" to be mundane and prosaic, if not dismal and boring--even if it is really a dance of energetic quantum wave functions which, if we could see it on the scale it's really happening at, would look exactly like magic.  But call something "supernatural" and we see clouds, rainbows and singing angels.  Take the exact same chemical experiment, but have it done by Abramelin the Mage in his alchemy lab, and suddenly it excites wonder and a sense of mystery.

So, as I see it, the whole thing reduces to the fact that scientists (after Nicola Tesla) are lousy showmen.  If they did the exact same things while wearing embroidered silk robes with sonorous chants and swinging censors of incense, I wonder if the argument you make would even exist.

"How could you believe that love is supernatural?  That's so depressing, believing that we're puppets of inexplicable spirits and spells.  We believe that love is something wonderful and beautiful--it's a chemical reaction!"

Which brings me to another interesting facet of your double-standard argument.  You imply that love manipulates us, so if it's a chemical reaction we should want to cure it so we can spend more time at the office.  But if love is supernatural, then it's OK to be manipulated by it and waste our time taking long walks on the beach with an attractive and beloved member of the gender of our preference. 

"If love is a chemical reaction, it's the same thing as an LSD trip.  Why be 'on drugs' like that?"

"If love is a supernatural force, it's the same thing as demon possession.  Why not have an exorcism?"

Why would it matter which category we put it in?  Either we want to love and be loved, or we don't.  Love feels exactly the same whether we call it "a chemical reaciton" or "cupid's magic arrow."

This brings us to the second way of looking at your argument, which is an attack on rationality itself.  You propose that the rational thing for us to do would be to live loveless lives toiling away in cubicles.  If love is "just a chemical reaction" then we ought to make anti-love pills so we can get back to work.  But if it's supernatural--and therefore, the supernatural exists, giving us permission to abandon rationality--then we can, at least once in awhile, tear off our neckties and go running joyfully through the woods dancing with the satyrs and nymphs and wood sprites, loving, being loved, and raising children.

One way to answer this is to offer the lyrics to Rush's song "Hemispheres."  In particular:
Quote
Let the truth of love be lighted
Let the love of truth shine clear
Sensibility
Armed with sense and liberty
With the heart and mind united
In a single perfect sphere

Another way to answer it is to question your concept of "rationality."  You seem to be getting your idea of rationality from Star Trek, but even the Vulcans were also white-robed mystics with ceremonies and ritual combat and "katras" and meditation practices and games (e.g. "kalto").  I don't recall ever seeing Vulcans slaving away in cubicles.  Unless you're imagining the Borg as the epitome of rationality--never mind the fact that Borg don't think at all.

This notion of rationality leading to a dismal live of loveless toil can be dismissed with a single question:

Is it rational to want to be happy? 

I think you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who would say no, outside of a clade of sad-sack wet-blanket malaise-obsessed 1970's Existentialist philosophers.  If it is rational to be happy, then your whole caricature of rejecting love in favor of work falls apart.  Love is that which gives us the most happiness.  Therefore, it is eminently rational to want to experience love, both giving and receiving, and irrational to do otherwise.

The source of love--chemical reaction or supernatural sparklies--is irrelevant to the question of whether or not it is an experience we would rationally want to have.  Obviously it is.  Compare how many rationalist philosophers and scientists take up vows of celibacy, vs. how many clergy (Catholic priests, monks, and nuns, Buddhist monks, etc.) do.  Richard Dawkins married Lalla Ward for goodness' sake!  It's the supernaturalists who forsake love for their jobs.

And regarding the "rationality" of giving up everything for work, that too can be dismissed with a single question:

If Warren Buffet walked up to you and gave you $50 million, would you continue to go to work as usual?  If yes, then congratulations--you have a career you love.  And if your job is really "work" for you, then once again, the answer is obvious.  Of course, the supernaturalists also tend to idealize vows of poverty as well...

You have to be a supernaturalist to reject both love and prosperity.  Things, BTW, that supernaturalists have tended to characterize as being "of this world," i.e. not supernatural.


[did not link to Rush song.  I hate Rush.  Look it up yourself]
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #157 on: October 16, 2012, 03:32:17 PM »
Supernatural and chemical reactions part 2



Quote from: john on July 04, 2007, 11:52:18 PM
Your life is part of an incredibly intricate tapestry of existence that connects you to ancestors who walked the Earth a million or more years ago and whose significance connects you to every other human and every other living thing on this planet.  It is not necessary to invent or add to the physical universe to understand or appreciate how beautiful it is.

+1

300 million years ago, a trilobite crawled through Cambrian seas, finding food, avoiding predators.  Somewhere along the line, she found a male trilobite, and together they made more trilobites, bequeathing them with the wherewithal to survive and begin the drama anew.  Because they succeeded in their quest--and their children, and their children's children through an astonishing geneology of forms over hundreds of millions of years, a little baby named Ray was born, heir to an ancient dynasty of winners in the game of life.  So now when you think of your wife and unborn child, do not credit some spook you make up in your head.  Think of all the ancestors whose struggles made it possible.  300 million years from now, what sort of being, as unimaginable to us as we are to trilobites, will look back wondering about what it was to be merely human, knowing that it was your human life that made his possible?

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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #158 on: October 18, 2012, 12:35:32 PM »
The power of god


Quote from: QuestionMark on July 21, 2007, 10:01:21 PM
You know whats fun :D a minute or three of googling found several studies on the effects of prayer on one's physiology, especially concerning stress which is one of the most important factors in predicting a person's long term health.

You know what you guys' biggest problem is?  Your advertizing copy.  You've got this book full of grand-scale, Cecil B. Demille stories about parting seas, pillars of fire, sticks to snakes, instantaneous magic healings, the blind seeing, the lame walking, resurrections from the dead, and a God that nukes cities when he gets mad, stops the rotation of Planet Earth in response to a prayer so his favorite little genocidal villain can finish a battle in daylight.  This book, you tell us, is the "Word of God," inerrant or otherwise, but certainly it's supposed to give us a pretty good idea what this god is supposed to be like.

Then, when asked for evidence of this god's existence, you say, "Well, praying to him gives me this warm, fuzzy feeling in my heart and helps reduce stress."  Please don't be surprised that we don't respond with ooh's and ah's of amazement.  Listening to Mozart, or spending some time doing deep breathing and saying "ohmmmmmmm" over and over again does the same thing.

You guys would have a better chance of selling prayer as stress-relief if you didn't have the Bible hung like a millstone 'round your necks.  Reading the book gives the impression that prayer is supposed to have more impressive results than providing a little relaxation.
« Last Edit: November 15, 2012, 11:23:37 AM by screwtape »
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #159 on: October 18, 2012, 12:52:31 PM »
He died for you


Quote from: QuestionMark on July 25, 2007, 12:17:10 AM
Jordan,
     God was pleased to display His mercy by receiving in Himself the due penalty for your sins.

Here we see the evil core of Christianity laid bare: First, there is the claim that torture, even eternal torture, is legitimate, a "due" penalty.  You claim that Jordan "deserves" to be tortured, forever, without any knowledge of his/her life.  The fact that you can make this claim, without even being able to specify any particular crime of Jordan's that's worthy of torture, and offer it as a generalized principle that applies to everybody means that you believe that any "sin," no matter how slight, makes a person deserving of eternal torture.  The only "sin" that can be so completely generalized is the "sin" of being human.

Notice that your god cannot simply be merciful and, like any civilized human being, refrain from torture.  No, if he wants to show any "mercy" at all, he's got to find someone else to torture instead of you, a scapegoat, a whipping boy--even if it's an aspect of himself.  His sadism is so complete, so total that the only way he can resist his urges to torture every human being ever born, forever, is to resort to masochism--torturing himself to appease himself.

Even at the moment when he is supposed to be showcasing his great love and forgiveness, any goodness in him is completely overshadowed by his absolute, total need--to torture, to cause suffering in an innocent being.  Such complete, absolute, all-encompassing hate and viciousness!  Any merely human king or president can show mercy by offering a pardon--without throwing some innocent person into the dungeon as a substitute.  Your god cannot do this.  He has to torture somebody.

Even this is not enough.  He must also spread corruption and wickedness of the darkest kind.  What is the passkey to this "salvation" he offers?  One must first accept that all of this bottomless sadism and cruelty is legitimate and right.  Then one must be willing to profit from the torture and murder of an innocent person.  Even that isn't enough.  You must be willing to willing to celebrate this in the dark, eldrich rite of metaphorically (or literally, if you're Catholic) eating the victim's flesh and drinking his blood.  Like some brutish savage in New Guinea who believes that eating the heart of an enemy gives him the enemy's strength, you must believe that cannibalizing Jesus gives you his "righteousness."

You must be willing to stand at the foot of the Cross like a starving vampire, lapping up the blood of your tortured victim in your quest for immortality and domination.[1]  Like a vampire, you must then spread vampirism by urging others to come, join your corruption by worshipping ultimate sadism and taking a drink of the blood of the master Vampire.

And what is the great crime, for which all of this monstrous sadism and brutality is unleashed?  The crime of a mythical ancestor eating a fruit.  But it was not just any fruit--it was the fruit of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  The offense against which all of this eternal torture is unleashed is: the discovery of morality.  Adam and Eve were presented with a test: would they choose to blindly obey the Dark Lord regardless of whether his commands were good or evil (because they couldn't tell the difference), or would they choose to discover the knowledge of good and evil

To become a true follower of the Dark Lord, one must be willing to abandon all morality.  The very nature of the "salvation" offered insures this.  If the Dark Lord commands that you sacrifice your child to him as a burnt offering, you must sacrifice your child to him as a burnt offering.  When he commands that you brutally execute someone for a trivial "crime" like gathering firewood on Saturday or having sex before marriage (but only if she's a girl), you must not pity them.  When you are commanded to massacre an entire civilization, men, women, children, infants, even their pets and livestock, you must do this without hesitation.  Even if you are not personally commanded to do this, you must accept it as a legitimate and "righteous" course of action.

And what is the reward you gain for becoming corrupted in the Dark Lord's image and doing his bidding?  Instead of being tortured forever, you are granted the privilege of offering sycophantic praises and worship to him forever.  Eternity spent trying to sate an ego so shriveled it has collapsed into a point and become a psychological black hole that can only hunger for more and more servility and praise from his subjects, and screams of agony from his victims.  Forever.  A totalitarian state the likes of which has never been achieved on Earth, one in which you are incapable of "sin"--that is, the capacity for morality--and can only live to obey and praise the Dark Lord, while delighting in the sufferings of the damned.

And you wonder why we're glad this monster of yours doesn't exist in reality?




 1.  Christians are promised that they will "reign with Christ," ruling "the nations" with an iron scepter, judging and rewarding the demo--er, "angels" of their savage god.
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #160 on: October 19, 2012, 08:55:36 AM »
Creationism


The biggest problem with creationism/"intelligent design" as an explanation for our existence, is that it doesn't even address the question.

The mystery we're trying to solve is, "How did Universe and intelligence (us) get here?"  Creationism proposes, as its "answer," that another Universe ("the Kingdom of Heaven"/"supernatural realm"/whatever you want to call it) existed, and that another Intelligence, vastly larger and more complex than ours lives there, and is responsible for creating us.  Rather than answering the question of where existence and intelligence comes from, this merely proposes some other form of existence (the "supernatural realm") and an even bigger mystery, i.e., where did the Creator's intelligence come from.

When confronted with this, the creationist says, "Well, God was always there.  Hey, look!  A butterfly!"  We still have no answer as to where intelligence and existence come from.

The creationist begins by feigning a deep, burning urgency to have an answer.  "Where did all of this come from?  Oh, come on!  It couldn't just 'happen!'  Complex intelligent beings like us, fearfully and wonderfully made, demand an explanation!"  Then, they marshall whatever resources they have to attack any proposed scientific model offered.

After going around that mulberry bush a few times, the atheist will eventually turn to the "Goddidit" hypothesis and point out that it leaves the question unanswered.  In other words, "Where did God come from?"  However, as soon as the theist reaches God, suddenly their desperate need to know where intelligence and an existence "fine-tuned" to be amenable to its existence[1] came from vanishes.

"God is outside of time, so I don't have to explain how he got there."

"What?  Could you explain what 'outside of time' is supposed to mean?"

"Umm... >mumblemumble, hand-wave<  ...can we move on to the Romans Road to Salvation now?"

The creationist's vast incredulity about the improbability of intelligent beings "just happening" to exist also disappears.  The incredulity, were it genuine, would be understandable.  Intelligent beings are highly complex entities, with lots and lots of component parts that have to be in the right places before they can "work" (live).  Obviously, you can't just put a bunch of chemicals and some water in a blender, turn it on for awhile, and produce a human being.  Human beings are highly improbable arrangements of matter. 

The theist would be right to ask how such an improbability came to be, if they were really sincere in their desire to know.  That they are not sincere is shown by the fact that they cease to care about the question at all if they can just be allowed to say "Goddidit."  "God," being far more intelligent, capable, etc. than a human being, would also be far more complex, hence, a far more improbable arrangement of whatever he's made of. 

The Bible itself is clear that Yahweh has component parts.  Even if we ignore the many anthropomorphic references to him having hands, arms, nostrils, a mouth, etc., there is still the passage where Moses asks to see Yahweh's face, but is shown his "back parts" instead.  Even if the distinction between Yahweh's "face" and his "back parts" does not mean the same thing for him as it does for humans, it is clear that seeing the different parts of Yahweh has different effects.

Since Yahweh has parts, he is not irreducibly simple.[2]  Since he is supposed to be far more intelligent than us[3]he would be more complex than we are, for the same reason that a Cray supercomputer is more complex than an abacus.  Therefore, he would also be more improbable than us.  If a mere human being can't "just happen," surely a God couldn't "just happen" either.  So, instead of answering how humans managed to "climb Mt. Improbable," the theist merely says, "the human summit got there as a landslide, from up there," pointing at a much, much higher mountain of improbability. 

The theist offers us no way to climb Mt. Improbable[4]  They can only imagine things coming down the slope.  By their premises, complex things can only arise from things more complex still, which leaves them unable to offer any explanation for the actual origin of complexity.

The discoveries of science, in particular the principle of evolution by natural selection (along with other examples of self-organizing properties of matter, such as the creation of complex snowflakes from simple drops of water) have shown us a way to climb Mt. Improbable--not by taking the forward cliff face in a single bound, but by climbing up the gentler back slope, taking one not-too-improbable step at a time over hundreds of millions of years.  Abundantly demonstrated in every relevant field of science from paleontology and genetics to anatomy and physics (radiometric dating), evolution shows us that the complex arises from the simple.  And the simple, by definition, is easier to explain.

Even though some questions about our origins remain, we have much good reason (based on what we already know) to expect that whatever lies at the source of existence will be something simple, yet all-encompassing, like the "equation that fits on a T-shirt" (and explains the behavior of all things in Universe) sought by those looking for the "Grand Unified Theory."
 

 1.  In this case, the intelligence is that of God, and the existence with "fine-tuned" cosmological constants suitable for the existence of complex life is the "supernatural realm" he and his minions lived in before creating our Universe.
 2.  This raises a whole new issue: what is Yahweh made of?  How does this "Yahweh-stuff" (assuming it's not any form of matter/energy we know of) interact with matter?  What equations model its behavior?  If the theist asks how we got our cosmological constants and other generalized operating principles (misnamed "laws") of physics, with Yahweh as the proposed answer, where did Yahweh get his physics from?
 3.  Apart from the claim that he's the "intelligent designer," he is never portrayed in the Bible behaving in a very intelligent manner.  There is no deed of his a Christian can point to which anyone reading it will say, "That is absolutely friggin' brilliant!"  Nothing comparable to Hannibal's tactics at Cannae, Newton's Principia Mathematica, or the music of Mozart.  To the contrary, he's usually portrayed acting like a spoiled two-year-old supervillain whose parents are too busy to pay attention to him.
 4.  This is from the title of one of Richard Dawkins' books (Climbing Mount Improbable).  I have not read this book, but I've seen a video in which he summarizes the argument that I'm using here.
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #161 on: October 19, 2012, 01:51:21 PM »
Why biblegod looks like nothing


Quote from: Think and answer on August 01, 2007, 11:07:10 PM
Quote
36Then Gideon said to God, "You say that you have decided to use me to rescue Israel. 37Well, I am putting some wool on the ground where we thresh the wheat. If in the morning there is dew only on the wool but not on the ground, then I will know that you are going to use me to rescue Israel." 38That is exactly what happened.

I know it sounds like a copout, but when I examine this question ans ask my self "IF this were true, why would God not do the same for anyone who asked" Logic dictates that in this case as well, God revieled him self for a reason. In order to make sure (As much as he could) that Gideon did what he was asked.

That's silly.  Why would an omnipotent deity need Gideon to do as he was asked?  Couldn't he massacre a few Iron Age barbarians himself?  Furthermore, look at what you're implicitly confessing here:  Your god will act in order to get one of his minions to kill lots of people, but he won't act in order to persuade someone that he exists so that their soul can be saved from everlasting torture.

Here's the bottom line:

HAL has created several threads, all asking the same question in different ways: How can I get this all-powerful, miracle-working deity who promises to act miraculously in response to human prayer, to the point of moving mountains, to do something--anything at all--that does not fit more parsimoniously into the atheistic world-view?  Every theist reply on all of these threads, every single one is an attempt to explain why there is no observable difference between "a Universe governed by the mystical power of a miraculous God" and "an atheistic, natural Universe without a miraculous God."

"God won't smite you dead because..."

"God won't cure kids with cancer because..."

"God won't heal amputees because..."

"God only acts in ways that look exactly like non-theistic natural causes because..."

"God won't do anything at all because..."

On and on, over and over and over again, you theists spin out rationalizations to explain why your god-hypothesis is no different in practical terms, than atheism.  You're like people claiming that the Harry Potter books are true, then, asked why you can't work magic or play Quidditch, explain, "Well, we're Muggles, and the magic people hide themselves from us."

Look at your Bible.  The thing is chock full of stupendous miracles and magic, all of which would require a special-effects department to make as a movie. Unlike "God got me a nice parking space" or "God healed my back pain until it started hurting again a week later, but I'm still praying in faith!"  Bob and weave and "metaphor" and "mysterious ways" all you want.  The Bible is your advertizing copy.  The Bible is your hypothesis.

It does not teach, describe, or portray a god that is conveniently invisible and indistinguishable from that god's non-existence.  To the contrary, it claims, from beginning to end, that its god is powerful, that he can overthrow reality and does so for those who believe in him.  That is the moral of so many Bible stories, from Moses parting the Red Sea, to Joshua destroying the walls of Jericho with trumpets, to Joseph's triumph in Egypt, to Christ raising from the dead, to the many miracles of the Apostles.  Over and over again, the story is the same: a "man of God" (from Abraham to Jesus) gets into a hopeless situation.  Every single fact of reality points toward certain doom.  Sarah's a hundred years old, but she needs to have a son!  The Israelites are trapped beween the sea and Pharaoh's chariots!  Jesus is dead in his grave!  No possible escape, no normal course of action is available.  Only a miracle can save us now!  But if we just trust God...  And sure enough, God friggin' does something!   

Over and over and over again, the Bible urges people: in any conflict between reality (the way Universe works) and God, bet on God.  If you call yourself a Christian, that's your hypothesis.

But when it comes time to actually make that bet, every Christian here offers nothing but explanations of why we can't bet on God, why we should expect reality to keep workingexactly as the atheistic scientists tell us it does.

Over, and over, and over again.

In a nutshell: You're agreeing with us when it comes to how reality works.  And we're atheists.  For all practical intents and purposes, you're every bit as atheistic as we are.  You just cling desperately to belief in a god that is so shrunken down that there is literally no way to notice that he exists at all.     

So far, the best I've seen any Christian even try to offer as evidence for their god, is feeble "first cause" and "Pascal's Wager" arguments--over, and over, and over again.  I've debunked those--over and over again, and not once has any Christian offered any argument that made me have to bob and weave and try to rationalize my way around an irrefutable point of theirs, the way they do when it comes to HAL's challenges.

Bring it if ya got it.
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #162 on: January 02, 2013, 12:49:45 PM »
What about Paul?


The thing about Paul that I find most striking is the way he so completely overshadows Jesus in the NT.  If we were to take all of the sayings of Jesus and compile them together (merging redundant parallel passages in the Synoptic Gospels) all of the canonical recorded statements of Jesus would add up to maybe one good Pauline epistle. 

If Jesus really was an incarnate deity who walked on Earth, whose every word and deed would have been absolute Perfection in action, why is it that his followers recorded so very little of the Divine Life?  We cannot appeal to poverty and illiteracy, since Jesus is portrayed reading in a synagogue (and thus, literate), and receiving a fortune in valuable gifts (myrrh, frankinsense, and gold) as a child.  He's also shown conjuring money, having Peter catch a fish and find a gold coin in its mouth to pay a tax with. 

He's portrayed having women of substance who provide well for his minsistry, as having garments nice enough for Roman soldiers to want to cast lots over, his group has enough money in their common bag that Judas succumbs to the temptation to embezzle, and they can also afford to purchase swords, which were fairly expensive goods in those days.  Never mind that he's also supposed to be omnipotent deity in the flesh.

A flesh-and-blood, incarnate, literate Jesus imbued with supernatural powers including perfect Divine foresight would certainly have been capable of writing a few books.  Furthermore, books indisputably written by Jesus and copied with perfect fidelity (either by scribes inspired to perfection by the Holy Spirit, or replicated miraculously like loaves and fishes) would have saved the Church a history of schisms and heresies (didn't Jesus say he wanted his disciples to be one, as he and his Father are one?), and provided a Bible with a solid foundation, rather than dubious origins as something voted on by a bunch of bishops under the supervision of a tyrannical half-Pagan Roman emperor.

Instead, what we have is a collection of old mail, most of which is written by some guy who just bulled his way in and somehow completely overshadowed Jesus and his chosen Twelve all put together.  Notice that Jesus is never portrayed predicting anything of the sort.  "And soon, there shall be one who persecutes you for following me, but behold, I offer you a sign, for he shall repent of his sins and become the greatest among you, and ye shall name him Paul."  Instead, he promises that his own disciples will be "the big to-do," sitting on twelve thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel.

This would be an astonishing turn of events, if we are to believe that Jesus was an incarnate Deity who walked on the Earth and had his own appointed disciples/apostles.  We would expect the followers of Jesus to pass down more of the deeds, teachings, etc. of Jesus than they would of some johnny-come-lately like Paul.  Instead, what we have is Paulianity. 

Another interesting thing about Paul's writings is an almost complete absence of anything resembling the Jesus of the Gospels, even though he was supposed to have been alive and in the area at or near the time of Jesus' ministry and crucifixion.  For Paul there is no Mary and Joseph, no virgin birth, no miracle-working ministry in Galilee, no extended discourses of Jesus, relics of Jesus' life, no holy site where he once lived, no sacred hill of Calvary. 

In the Book of Romans he criticizes the Jews for failing to listen to the Gospel as taught by teachers like himself, but never mentions that they didn't listen to Jesus himself and had him crucified.  Instead, he blames Jesus' crucifixion on spiritual "principalities and powers" whom Jesus triumphs over through the Cross.  "For if they had  known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory."  The Book of Hebrews portrays Jesus' sacrifice as taking place in a spiritual temple in heavenly realms, rather than on Earth.


Quote
For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law

--Hebrews 8:4

These things make sense under the theory that Jesus was not a flesh-and-blood man on Earth, but a spiritual God-man figure like Osiris or Dionysus, experienced by people like Paul in visions or what we would now call "channelling."   

For a more in-depth explanation of this theory, with explanations of the handful of Pauline verses that do seem to hint at a Jesus similar to the one in the Gospels, see Jesuspuzzle.com.
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #163 on: January 02, 2013, 01:49:06 PM »
Miscellaneous argument


Quote from: theAuthor
The giants developed the scientific method.  It's like berating a child of four beacuse they cannot do algebra, to criticise sheppherds for notiicing things about the world in which they lived, but not having the scintific vocab to make sense of it.  They utilised what they knew.  In fact, our very first scientific lesson in school was in observation.

The problem with this is that we're being asked to believe that the Bible is not the product of primitive sheepherders, but that it was in fact dictated to them by an omniscient and omnipresent superbeing.  That the understanding of Universe presented in the Bible is fully consistent with what we could expect primitive sheepherders to believe provides a powerful rebuttal to claims that it is the "word" of an omniscient being, or even channelled by advanced extraterrestrials.

We have no problem whatsoever with the idea that the Bible was written by primitive sheepherders limited to the understanding of their times.  That is our position.  Of course we would not berate a people who were primitive and rustic even in relation to their own times (compare them with Egypt, Greece, Mesopotamia, and the Minoans) for not having a Hubble telescope.  But then, recognizing the limits of knowledge such people possessed, we would not seek to order our civilization by their writings.  It is only on the premise that the Bible is on some sense a magic book, written by a being infinitely superior to ourselves, that we would logically consider doing so.  Since you are implicitly agreeing that we ought to evaluate the Bible as the product of primitive sheepherders, rather than of a superhuman intelligence, we can agree to do exactly that, and reject the notion of its "divine inspiration."

But perhaps, though these people were scientifically ignorant, they could have had deep spiritual insights to which we should pay heed.  However, I think a good case can be made that the authors of the Bible were not merely pre-scientific and pre-philosophical, they were unobservant and incurious.  Consider this passage from Leviticus:


Quote
All fowls that creep, going upon [all] four, [shall be] an abomination unto you.  Yet these may ye eat of every flying creeping thing that goeth upon [all] four, which have legs above their feet, to leap withal upon the earth; [Even] these of them ye may eat; the locust after his kind, and the bald locust after his kind, and the beetle after his kind, and the grasshopper after his kind.  But all [other] flying creeping things, which have four feet, [shall be] an abomination unto you.

--Leviticus 11:20-23

Here we have a set of laws specifying which sorts of insects one may eat, and which are "abominations."  First, they are described as having four legs.  This obviously rules out the notion that these laws are the precepts of an Entity who created tens of thousands of species of insects.  Such a Being would surely know how many legs they have.  To know the number of legs insects have, no advanced scientific instrumentation is needed.  All you have to do is actually look at one closely.   

Notice that these are laws regarding the eating of insects.  To eat an insect, obviously, you have to get up close and personal with it.  Now, Biblical scholarship has shown that the texts of the Pentateuch went through an extensive process of editing and redaction ranging from the late Judahite monarchy through post-Exilic times.  Not to mention many more centuries of copying copies to produce the texts from which our modern Bibles were translated.  And none of the ancient Hebrew scribes, through centuries of eating insects, noticed that they have six legs and edited their text accordingly.  Notice also the clumsy phraseology.  The Hebrews never bothered to develop different words for "birds" "insects" and "bats."  They just lumped all flying things together under a single term, differentiating insects by referring to them as flying things that creep, as opposed to flying things that just fly. 

Now, look at this exquisitely-rendered Egyptian hieroglyph of a bee:



If you look carefully at the abdomen, you can see the rear legs sweeping backward.  Notice how well the artist captured the segmentation of the leg, its shape, and the shape of the foot.  The striping of the abdomen, the shape of the head, the fine details of the wings and antennae are all painstakingly portrayed.

In addition to portraying numerous animals with meticulous accuracy, the Egyptians also based much of their religious symbolism on careful observation.  For example, they used the scarab beetle as a symbol for evolution, regeneration, and rebirth based on observation of the way scarab beetles lay their eggs in balls of dung.  The newly-hatched beetles emerge from the dung, new life arising from waste.

Comparing the Hebrews with the Egyptians and other cultures of their time (such as the Babylonians with their mathematics and observational astrology, the Greeks with their geometry, discovery of the mathematical proportions of sonic waveforms using the monochord, etc.,) it becomes apparent that the Hebrews hardly bothered to observe their world at all.  If they were so incurious and sloppy when it came to trying to understand the things they could see, why should we grant them any special credibility when it comes to (alleged) things that can't be seen?


Quote from: theAuthor
Once again I fail to see how science and belief in some sort of Great Being are mutually exclusive.  In fact, science, by showing that things act in predictable ways points to order, and order to a creator (back to the watch idea- watches don't put themselves together, someone has to do it).  Even the chaos theory has order in it.


The attempt to establish the existence of one or more "Great Beings" by using philosophical argumentation like the Argument From Design, the Argument from First Cause, etc. is a product of Greek philosophy, rather than the Bible.  Plato's Prime Mover need not be considered the same entity as Yahweh of the Bible.  To the contrary, the Greek philosophers--even those with whom we might disagree--are clearly writing on a far higher level of "inspiration" than the Biblical prophets.

However, the argument that order requires a creator makes no sense because the creator itself is claimed to be a complex, orderly being.  Where did the creator's order come from?  "It was just there, eternally."  Well, if order can be "just there, eternally," then there is no point in positing a creator to "explain" it.  It is more parsimonious to simply accept that order is an emergent property of interacting entities/components behaving in accordance with their nature as specific entities.  To exist is to exist as something, rather than something else, i.e. to have a specific nature.  That nature determines what a given entity is capable of and how it will behave under various circumstances.  E.g., a bowling ball will fall when released within a gravity well (as on Earth), roll across a smooth surface, etc.

An intelligent "creator" would be a product of order, complexity, etc. (without these things it could not be a complex, intelligent, sensing being), so it cannot serve as an explanation for order, complexity, etc..  Here on Earth, we can observe complex entities like snowflakes emerging from simplicity (liquid water) as a result of self-organizing properties of matter operating within a thermodynamic gradient (the entropic dissipation of heat energy through which the water freezes).  We can also see how even more complex self-replicating entities can accumulate increased complexity through the process of evolution by natural selection. 

No "creator" is needed to explain order and complexity.  To the contrary, the creator would represent a greater problem of order and complexity than the Universe whose order and complexity he is being called forth to explain.
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #164 on: January 02, 2013, 01:58:22 PM »
Outside the box?


Quote from: knuperup
But about one question, nobody talks:
Who created the laws inside our box?


Natural "laws" are not legislation.  They are statments of the way things behave.  Or do you really think that a bowling ball wishes it could float up into the air, sing some Wagnerian opera, then crack open and hatch a purple elephant, but doesn't because the Cosmic King told it not to?

Even if we grant that the generalized operating principles of Universe were "created" in some sense, where do you get the idea that whatever does the "creating" has to be a "who" of any sort? 

Conscious, thinking "who"-type beings are not irreducibly simple.  In order for a "who" to exist, there has to be someplace for it to live.  In your analogy, there's got to be someplace outside the box.  If there's nothing outside the box, no "who" can be out there.  This someplace must be amenable to the existence of complex, thinking entities.  In other words, it's got to have "fine-tuned" cosmological constants suitable for the existence of intelligent life.

This "who" of yours must be a complex entity, composed of many interacting component parts, at least some of which can be organized to store and process information.  If it is supposed to be vastly superior to humans, it would also be vastly more complex, for the same reason a Cray supercomputer is more complex than an abacus.

In order for this complex arrangement of parts to be able to generate the emergent properties of intelligence, sense awareness, ability to interact with other entities, etc., the parts must behave in accordance with generalized principles, regularities of nature.  If it were otherwise, the interacting parts could not form a stable, coherent whole.  An abacus could not work if the beads could randomly turn to water, gaseous hydrogen, gecko lizards, sombreros, etc. and the other component parts behaved likewise.  Natural "law" must come before complex, conscious entities.

Likewise, natural "law" must exist before any "who" can try to do anything.  For example, in the book of Genesis, Yahweh and co. (the "us" he's talking to) start speaking, and stuff happens.  Now, he may not be making sound waves--perhaps its something like coherent waves of quantum fluctuation--but if the phrase "And the LORD said" is to be meaningful in any sense, Yahweh must be emitting vibratory energy of some sort. 

That means the generalized principles governing the vibratory energy (Maxwell's equations, the equations that describe quantum wave functions, the pattern of harmonics discovered by the Pythagoreans and embodied in the 6:8::9:12 musical proportion, the mathematics of string theory, whatever applies) must already be operative before he can start "speaking."  Before he could "see that it was good," he'd have to have some means of perception analogous to eyes, and a system to process the incoming data and translate it into a working mental model of what he was seeing, something like a brain.  All of these things could not take place without the same sort of regularities you're invoking "God" to explain.

In short: any "who" is a capstone located high atop a pyramid of generalized operating principles, suitable spacetime geometry (a space in which its component parts can exist and interact), and "fine-tuned" cosmological constants.  You cannot invoke a "who" to explain things that must exist before any "who" can exist.

Then where do generalized operating principles of Universe ("laws" of nature) come from?  I think your #1 statement--that they're eternal--is ontologically "necessary" and inescapable.  In order for any entity (electron, bowling ball, hurricane, etc.) to exist, it must exist as something, i.e. be what it is and not something else.  Every entity, on down to whatever turns out to be the most fundamental constituent(s) of existence, has a certain set of characteristics, capabilities, limitations, etc. that make it what it is.  This is the principle of "Identity."  It is an inescapable, irreducible, axiomatic concept.  Like the axiom of Existence ("Existence exists"), it is inherent in any possible act of cognition, including the attempt to deny it. 

Existence (the sum total of all that is) exists.  Existents (things that exist) have Identity (they are what they are and not something else).  There is no alternative to capital-E Existence (non-existence doesn't exist), and no option of something existing, but as nothing in particular, i.e. having no Identity.  Since Existence and Identity are not optional, there is no need to ask "who"--or even what--created them.  They necessarily underlie any "who" (complex conscious entity) or even any "what" (existing entity with an Identity as itself).  Any entity ("God" or even something "natural" like a "quantum fluctuation") must both Exist and be capable of creating or causing a Universe (have an Identity that includes the capacity of Universe-creation/causation) before it can be proposed as a creator/cause for Universe and the generalized operating principles we have here.

The axioms of Existence and Identity precede any entity that has Existence and Identity.  If it does not Exist, and have Identity, there is no "it" (or "who") there to create Existence and Identity.  Existence and Identity must necessarily come first.  It is the inescapable, irreducible, necessary axiomatic concepts of Existence and Identity that underlie generalized operating principles (natural "law").  A "God" is not only unnecessary as an explanation, he/she/it could not exist (Existence) as "God," rather than something else, like "dog" (Identity) without the very sort of generalized operating principles you're invoking it to "explain." 
« Last Edit: February 28, 2013, 08:31:09 PM by screwtape »
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #165 on: January 02, 2013, 02:20:16 PM »
Libertopia

Quote from: dullhawk
Quote from: Jay
(And I'm interested also where you get that 8 times more wealthy claim)

When you add up all the taxes (federal, state, and local income tax; property tax; sales tax; etc.), that takes over half of your money.  Remember that businesses such as manufacturers and wholesalers also end up paying the same taxes for the things and services they buy in order to do business, and then passing the cost of their taxes on to you.  This, along with all the license fees and permits they must pay, doubles the price of goods and services.  Then the cost of complying with all the regulations doubles the price yet again (according to estimates).  These costs must be passed along for them to remain in business.  That comes to government taking 7/8 of the country's production - causing prices to be 8 times greater than they would be otherwise.  Don't ever forget that the cost of government, every cent, is eventually paid by the person who buys the final product or service.  That would be you.

You're forgetting that the services government provides would still need to be provided in Libertopia.  Governments provide the service of military defense (well, in the case of the U.S. and Britain, military offense too), police, courts, jails, contract enforcement, a system of currency, roads, dams, and other infrastructure, funding for scientific research, and so on.  Now, you can object that governments are lousy at this and that a free market would be better, but you'd still have to pay for some analogue of most of these services.

So instead of paying taxes for the roads, Mr. Baker would pay tolls to the road company.  Banks, in order to make profits issuing currency, would have to tack on a slight surcharge to the "cost" of gold coins, something like what Blanchard and Co. does when you buy a Krugerrand.  Griswold's Protection and Justice, Inc. would charge for its services.  Whatever company you register contracts with in order to insure that they're enforced would charge for the service.  The Golden Legion Mercenary Company would charge for defending your "nation's" territory.  And so on.

So if New Hampshire suddely declared itself to be a Libertopia, everybody there would not have their incomes go up by a factor of seven the first year.  If they realized any gains, it would be the difference between the costs of government, and the costs of the free-market alternatives.  Since we have never seen a Libertopia in action anywhere, I think we'd have a tough time judging exactly how much savings, if any, would be realized.  For example, in stateless Somalia, businesspeople have to pay about 30% of their income for "security."  What they get is guys with guns in jeeps who escort them around and fight off bandits.

If you pay 30 - 50% of your income to various levels of government in the U.S., you get a police force that's good enough to keep the roads virtually free of bandits, so that you don't need armed escort vehicles to drive from place to place.  And you also get all the other stuff, like roads, dams, sports stadiums, the Hubble Telescope, Medicare, schools, etc..  Since I know of no noticeable movement of libertarians heading for Somalia to take the "deal" offered there, it seems that they grudgingly accept that the United States offers a better "deal."

Then there's the costs of regulation.  Things like OSHA, the workmens comp system, the EPA and so on.  Perhaps free market alternatives would be better, but you've still got to pay for them.  Maybe a Libertopia would "regulate" by lawsuit, people suing corporations who pollute or carelessly injure their workers.  The costs of these lawsuits--or, to be more accurate, a kind of corporate "malpractice insurance" that would probably spring up--would still be passed on to consumers.  Again, this may be cheaper and/or more effective and just than government regulation, but it wouldn't be free. 

Even charity would probably be a passed-on cost.  If a company funds a network of hospitals to boost its P.R., it would pass the cost of those hospitals on to its customers.  If Mr. Baker tithes 10% of his income to his church, he would probably pass at least some of that on (as much as the market would bear), perhaps unconciously, since he's still got to make ends meet. 

Libertopians would receive the difference between the costs of government and the costs of privatized services, rather than receive a huge windfall.  Nor is there any guarantee that privatized services must all cost less than government services.  Unlike private companies, government doesn't have to turn a profit.  For example, roads, especially long roads like freeways would be much more expensive in Libertopia than they are under governments, because the Libertopian road company has to pay the landowners in the road's path whatever they want rather than resorting to something like "eminent domain" and compensating the landowners what their land was worth before the road proposal.  The road company would have no way to prevent landowners from raising their prices to the stars, except perhaps some form of skullduggery like having their agents pretend to be ordinary farmers wanting to buy a farm, rather than road developers.

Now, maybe this would be a more fair and just system, since it would not involve the initiatory force of eminent domain, but it would be much more expensive.  The road company would have to make up its costs in tolls.  Now, if the road company did not start out with huge piles of gold coins on hand, but raised its money through a loan, it's also paying interest, which it must pass on to its customers.  It has to pay that interest all through the process of negotiating to buy the needed land, and while constructing the road--i.e., when it's not making any money on the road at all.  Given the risky nature of road speculation (a small number of landowners asking for the moon could sink the project), the bank would have to charge high interest.  The road company has to recoup those costs.  Expect a very pricey commute. 

Then there's the factor of services you might not be able to get at all.  In the road example, freeways would most likely be an exception rather than a rule.  Small or medium-sized towns might not have access to them at all, since they wouldn't promise enough toll-payer volume to be profitable.  There might not even be any freeways, period.  If people got around in gyrocopters instead (which could actually be cool...) there'd be the extra costs of home insurance against the risk of one crashing into your roof because its driver had too many beers at the baseball game.  Gyrocopters would probably be more expensive than cars of comparable traveling range, because they're more difficult to make, so that would be another possible extra cost of living in Libertopia. 

Maybe living in Libertopia would be cheaper, but it wouldn't be free.     

[for more of dullhawk's anarchist rantings, see his blog, which is still active as of the time I posted this]
« Last Edit: January 02, 2013, 02:34:50 PM by screwtape »
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #166 on: January 02, 2013, 03:12:37 PM »
No Moses

Quote from: sestrian
((( And what makes you think God can't provide a reasonable explanation as to where He came from? It is foolish to speak your belief as truth if you have no idea what the truth is. Has anyone covered every inch of the universe to conclude God doesn't exist?  Has anyone ventured space and found the origin in which the supposed microorganism came from to know that such an organism is capable of evolving? You speak of that in which you believe. I speak of that in which I know.)))


What do you mean by "God?"  If you're defining "God" as the character Yahweh and/or Jesus in the Bible, then you don't really have the option of saying, "Weeeeelllll, maybe God is hiding in a quasar 13 billion light-years away!  You haven't searched all the quasars, so you can't conclude God doesn't exist."  Why?  Because the Bible makes some very specific claims regarding its deity.  The god of the Bible is portrayed doing things like creating Universe in six days a few thousand years ago, getting angry at a talking snake, unleashing plagues on ancient Egypt, causing a "great earthquake," a darkness "covering the land," and a zombie invasion in first century Jerusalem (a metropolis of about 100,000 people, which was also packed with pilgrims at the time).

Now, either these things happened, or they didn't.  If they happened, then in accordance with the principle of causality, there would be evidence (effects) on a scale commensurate to the proposed causative events. 

If Moses laid waste to Egypt with miraculous powers, leaving the country with its population decimated, its water contaminated, its livestock slaughtered, its king and army destroyed, then there would be evidence, especially in a nation like Egypt where history was kept fairly meticulously.  Even if there was an attempt to suppress the memory of the horrors, there would still be the mass graves, fallen cities and other evidences of a time of chaos and destruction.  There would be inscriptions in the tombs of overseers claiming credit for serving the Pharaoh in exterminating male Hebrew children, or for restoring order in the land after the time of troubles. 

After order was restored, there would have been execration texts and images carved into the walls of Karnak, to magically repel evil Hebrew magic in the future.  We have execration texts inscribed against real enemies of Egypt such as Ethiopia and the "Asiatics" (peoples of the Levant).  It is clear that the Egyptians believed in the existence of magic, and employed it for national defense.  Had there been a great Hebrew magician who had dueled the magicians of Egypt and defeated them, destroying the land in the process, the Egyptians would have felt an urgent need to re-establish their nation's magical defenses against such a threat.  They would have done this with images of an oversized Pharaoh triumphing over a miniature Moses or Hebrew magician character, with execration spells inscribed near the image.  We can know this because examples of this execration technique exist carved in stone on a gigantic scale, applied against enemies that actually existed.

There is simply no evidence of any great cataclysm in Egypt coinciding with the supposed time of Moses and the Exodus, and no evidence that the Egyptians ever had to respond to the real existence of a super-powered enemy magician.   

Likewise for the other great miraculous epochs described in the Bible, such as Joshua's conquest of Canaan, or the miracles of Jesus and those that followed his death.  The latter is especially significant because these things were supposed to have taken place in a highly strategic province of the Roman Empire, littered with prosperous Roman cities (Caesarea, Sepphoris, the Decapolis), within a few days' journey of the greatest center of learning and inquiry on the planet at the time (Alexandria).

And the Biblical account of origins fares even worse.  Since the Bible's positive claims are so thoroughly debunked by the evidence of history and science, we do not need to go searching distant corners of the Cosmos for the Biblical deity before we can accept that he doesn't exist, any more than we need to do so in the case of Zeus or Amun-Re.

Now, if you want to talk about some nebulous philosophical "God" of First Cause arguments, ID and so forth, maybe you could also claim that such an entity is hiding in a distant quasar or in some other dimension.  However, if you make any positive claims for "God," those claims can be compared with the evidence.  If you make no positive, testable claims for "God," then your particular version of theism ("God exists, but he hides so well there's no way to tell he's there") is indistinguishable from atheism, and a quick application of Occam's Razor can finish it off.

What positive, testable claims are you willing to make for your concept of "God?"

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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #167 on: January 03, 2013, 11:27:15 AM »
Magic, prophecy, miracles, the bible

Quote from: knuperup
1 Corrinthians 13:8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.

"When perfection comes" speaks of the completed scriptures. The Bible is filled with thousands of prophecies, most of which have come true, and NONE of which can be disproven (prophecies). It has been translated into thousands of languages (tongues). It is filled with all of the spiritual knowledge needed for rebirth and growth (knowledge).


That is a rather large theological mountain to sculpt from such a tiny Scriptural molehill.  We are supposed to believe, from this one cryptic reference to "perfection" that when Constantine slammed his gavel to close the Council of Nicea, that suddenly God stopped working miracles, and has refrained from doing so ever since.  Furthermore, it is clear in both Testaments that magic actually works.  In the Book of Exodus, we see Egyptian magicians able to replicate several of Moses' miracles (staffs turning into snakes) and plagues.  In the Book of Acts, Simon Magus is described as a powerful magician.  The magic of God's servants is said to be more powerful (coming, as it does, from a more powerful god), but pagan magic does work.  It is a real power that should be avoided by the faithful precisely because it is real, and comes from other spiritual forces hostile to God.

It is clear that in the ancient world, belief in the efficacy of magic was widespread.  For the Egyptians, it was considered an important tool of national defense and the preservation of cosmic order.  The great temples, the gigantic statues of the Pharaohs, all arise from the Egyptian belief in the magical efficacy of imagery and word.  The Greeks had their Oracle of Delphi, to which people came from far and wide to seek guidance.  The temples of Asceplius (god of healing) were said to provide miraculous healings.  Magical amulets, spell scrolls, and other magical items were fairly commonplace throughout the Roman world.  Of course, magical beliefs and practices existed in virtually every other culture on the planet as well.

If we are to believe the Bible, these things actually worked.  Magic was a real and powerful force in common use, like electricity is today.  Since it is just as difficult to demonstrate the miraculous efficacy of magical spells as it is to demonstrate the miraculous efficacy of prayer to the biblical God, and it would make no sense for God to retreat fully from the world while giving the "principalities and powers" he was fighting against a free hand, your interpretation most likely includes the cessation of pagan magic along with Christian miracles.  According to your interpretation then, as Constantine and his bishops rose from their deliberations, there was a sudden, major change in the way Universe worked.  Quidditch teams fell from the sky.  Spells that were miraculously efficacious the day before, became utterly useless the day after.  All around the world, the magic died.

This would make the completion of the Bible a momentous event, comparable at least to the first coming of Christ, if not the Second, given its global scope.  Why then, is there no prophetic mention of this great, epochal change?  Why is there no mention even that Scripture is a thing in the process of being written, and that it will be completed one day, bringing major changes to the world?  The ad-hoc nature of New Testament "Scripture" militates against the idea that the NT writers even had any idea that they were writing special, canonical Scriptures that were to be passed down for centuries.  The NT is mostly a cobbled-together collection of old mail. 

Where is the historical evidence that such a great change occurred?  Where is the sudden shock and despair, all over the world, from wizards and their clients as magic ceased to exist?  Even the Catholic Church, which created the Bible, teaches no such doctrine to my knowledge.  To the contrary, they have a whole set of protocols for the investigation of alleged miracles before granting them Church sanction as genuine.  Not to mention the widespread Catholic belief in "apparitions" of the Virgin Mary, miracles at Lourdes, etc.  To my knowledge, there is no statement or acknowledgement among the Christians at the time of the Council of Nicea (or was it the Council of Trent, where the Church added the Apocrypha to the Bible?) that miracles and magic ceased to operate at that time.

Furthermore, how do you know the canon is complete even now?  The writers of the New Testament make no mention of the future creation of a New Testament (that is, a new set of Scriptures), with any statement as to how many new books there will be, when they will be completed, which books count, etc..  True, there is a 'write-protect' inscribed at the end of the Book of Revelation (22:18), cursing anyone who would add or subtract from "this book" (in context, the Book of Revelation itself).  However, there is a similar 'write-protect' in Deuteronomy 4:2:


Quote
Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you.


This did not prevent anyone from adding 61 more books after the Pentateuch was complete.  If you compare the formulation of Deuteronomy 4:2 with Revelation 22:28-29, it is clear that they are parallel passages.  Therefore, since the 'write-protect' in Deuteronomy did not signal the completion of the Scriptural canon with that book, we have no reason to assume that Revelation 22:18-19 signals the completion of Scripture with that book, either.  Neither Deuteronomy nor Revelation makes any reference to a compilation of books or a final canon of Scripture.  Nowhere in Scripture is a process of canonization of Scripture specified.  When it comes to figuring out which books are and are not "Scripture," we are really cast adrift, especially if we reject the authority of the Catholic Church to canonize Scripture.  Apart from that authority as exercized at Nicea, even "the Bible" has no basis on which to be considered canon.

The idea that something as grandiose as the cessation of all miracles and magic would take place at the completion of a special book--and that even the writers of the special book did not know of this or anticipate the great day--makes no sense to me, especially since miracles and magic are such a mainstay of the special book itself.  And we are to believe in this huge, cosmological change that renders obsolete a major component of the Biblical worldview--that both miracles and magic are real and efficacious--on the basis of a single sentence of Scripture, Paul's little comment about the coming of "that which is perfect."   

The meaning of this passage hinges on the interpretation of a single word, "teleios" ("that which is perfect").  Strong's Concordance defines the word as a reference to completion, or maturity.  At first blush, interpreting it as referring to the completion of a Scriptural canon seems plausible.

However, in context, Paul is not referring to written scriptures, but to oral prophecies and "tongues," i.e. "gifts of the Spirit."  In other words, he's talking about manifestations of God's presence in the lives of believers, arguing that love is a superior manifestation of the divine presence to miraculous fireworks.  If we continue reading in the passage, the "canon of Scripture" interpretation ceases to make sense.  As we read, we are seeking an answer to the question of what Paul means by "when that which is perfect comes."  Paul is speaking of an event he expects to happen in the future.  He goes on to describe the effects of this event:


Quote
When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.  For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.  (vs. 11-12)

Notice how Paul uses the formula of "now"/"then" to establish the contrast between the way things were at the time of his writing, with the way they would be after "perfection" came.  He says nothing of the writing of books, and makes no prediction about a bunch of Roman Catholic bishops getting together under the auspices of the tyrannical Roman Emperor Constantine to decide what is, and is not Scripture.  He does not even refer to Scriptures at all.

What he is talking about is the experience of God in the Christian's life.  It is very clear that Paul is predicting that the coming of perfection will produce a much more direct experience of God, not something as dry and remote as reading about him in a book.  He is predicting that things like prophecies and tongues will be obsolete because the presence and reality of God will be so immediate that such "childish things" are unnecessary.  Now--through a glass darkly; then--face to face.  Miracles, prophecies, and the like will be unnecessary after God returns to establish his kingdom, but love, Paul says, will remain even then.

Do you see God face to face?  Do you know him even as you are known by him?  If not, then "that which is perfect" has not yet come.  And if it has not, then we should still expect to see miraculous manifestations of divine power--and for that matter, magic spells ought to work--if the Biblical worldview is correct.     
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Offline screwtape

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #168 on: January 03, 2013, 12:49:48 PM »
reality and beliefs


Darnitol, it seems to me that your approach is centered on the idea of creating a hermetically sealed "Vessel of the Unproveable" (beyond the reach of science, logic, reason, evidence) into which anyone is free to place whatever beliefs they like.  Since these beliefs are contained within the Vessel, they cannot be analyzed for truth status, promoted, debated about, etc.  The most we can do is to accept whatever other people do or do not put inside their Vessels as what's "true for them."

In your posts here and in the "Square that isn't there" thread, you've used various things (Godel's Incompletness Theorem, the "Matrix"/Metaverse analogy, Schrodinger's Cat) to delineate the boundaries of the Vessel.  Once you have done so, you are free to insert your own personal version of the Christian God into your Vessel.  You have admitted that other Christians would not recognize your version of the Christian God as "the" Christian God, and you have also agreed that it is just as valid for us to have no gods, Christian or otherwise in our Vessels.

It seems like you're basically saying, "Here, beyond the realm of the proveable, we may put any beliefs we like or none, so long as we do not try to impose those beliefs (or lack of beliefs) on others."  And, as long as said beliefs remain hermetically sealed within the Vessel of the Unproveable, they have no points of contact with reality and are thus safe from collision with facts.  Beliefs within the Vessel may be accepted almost like a hobby or matter of taste.

If I say I enjoy the music of Within Temptation, it's a matter of taste.  I like it because I like it.  I could explain why I like Within Temptation, but it's not really the sort of thing about which debates could be won or lost.  It's not as if someone could present a syllogism that could make the music unpleasant for me to listen to.  Nor could they provide an argument that would convince me to like country music or gangsta rap.  It seems to me that your conception of God-belief is in the same ballpark.

If I was a huge fan of Harry Potter, to the point that I felt a "ring of truth" in believing that the magical people and creatures of those books really existed, I could say, in effect, "Godel's Incompleteness Theorem, therefore, Quidditch."  Some of the people mentioned in the HP books are real.  For example, Nicholas Flamel, the alchemist who created the Sorcerer's Stone (Philosopher's Stone) was a real historical figure who was said to have discovered the Philosopher's Stone.  Historians would not take seriously the claim that he actually discovered the Philosopher's Stone (the alchemical secret of immortality), but they can't disprove it.  And, since the magic people of J.K. Rowling's Gospels :) use their magic to hide themselves from us Muggles, their existence can't be disproven either.  The historicity of Nicholas Flamel provides as much of a stepping stone to belief in magic (and thus, Harry Potter) as the Bible does for believing in magic (e.g. the Egyptian magicians, Simon Magus) and thus, the Christian God.  Likewise, it is impossible to disprove that the Galaxy Far, Far Away of Star Wars fame exists out there somewhere.  So, if I wanted, I could entertain the belief that there were ("Long, long ago") and perhaps still are, Jedi Knights who wield lightsabers and the powers of the Force.

It would be possible to put all sorts of fun and interesting beliefs in the Vessel--but does that make them true in any sense?

This, I think, is the key distinction between your approach (as I understand it) and mine.

I approach beliefs as making a map of reality.  The validity of a given belief is measured in how well it corresponds to external reality.  Of course we can invoke Korzybsky and point out that "the map is not the territory and the menu is not the meal."  I see this as a warning not to be too attached to a map of reality.  Being only a map (and a map cannot contain all of the information about the territory, or it would be as large as the territory, and thus useless as a map), it is necessarily incomplete and potentially flawed.  Hence the need for a B.S. Detector that works well and is used often.  For me, if there is some patch of the map containing a Terra Incognita, something either unknown or unknowable, it does not make sense to draw stuff in there according to taste.  "Here be Dragons!"

In my model, whether a belief is appealing or not, or "rings true" (feels good to believe) is irrelevant.  What matters is how much evidence there is for or against it.  Since I'm making my map (set of beliefs) as a guide to getting around in reality, accuracy matters.  If a proposed belief is located within some region of the unknown or unknowable, and has no contact-points with reality, it is useless for navigation.  Even if I think it would be totally cool if the belief was true, that doesn't help it any.  To the contrary, emotional attachment to a belief is an excellent reason to treat it with skepticism, since the easiest person to fool is oneself. 

So, no matter how cool it would be to have there really be Wizards or Jedi Knights, so long as there is no actual evidence for them (points of correspondance between the belief and reality) there is no reason to do so, especially in the sense of a religion/spirituality (taking their existence as the guiding star of my life).  A belief that isn't accurate is likely to "steer you wrong" as you navigate through reality.  Often people try to solve this problem through "quarantining" segments of the belief system that are problematic in relation to real life. 

For example, I could declare myself to be a devotee of the great Jedi Master Yoda, finding inspiration in "Do, or do not; there is no 'try'" and "We are luminous beings, not this crude matter," while deciding that Yoda's teachings on attachments ("let go of what you fear to lose") as given to Anakin in Revenge of the Sith aren't "really" Yoda's Word, so I can still have a girlfriend.  To paraphrase DTE, this would be Self-Projection as Yoda (SPAY--how's that for an acronym!)

Christians do this quite alot.  Even Fundamentalists (with the exception of the scary Dominionist types) will "quarantine" the Old Testament ("Jesus has given us a new covenant, so now we can be nice") so they don't have to deal with the massacres, barbaric laws, etc..  More liberal Christians will also quarantine the malevolent teachings attributed to Jesus (e.g. Hell, division from families, exclusivity of salvation, etc.) while accepting the Sermon on the Mount and the Parables of the Good Samaritan and Prodigal Son.     

This approach is only valid if beliefs can be accepted or rejected on a similar basis to taste in music.  "This passage sounds good, I believe it because I believe it.  That passage is nonsense, and that one is disgustingly barbaric."  Ordinarily this sort of thing might be harmless as long as the beliefs in question are kept sealed tight in the Vessel of the Unproveable (they're not taken very seriously as guides to life). 

However, I think Christian belief in this sense (as well as belief in certain other religions) does carry an externality: it sanctions the Bible as "the Good Book"/"a collection of wonderful stories and moral teachings," etc..  Since it is readily apparent that the Bible is predominantly an "Evil Book," I think granting it moral sanction on a societal level is ultimately dangerous.  Religious moderates are arguably Typhoid Marys for a memetic virus that, when it goes "active" (people try to implement the ideas in "the Word of God") is a source of all manner of horrors.  Moderate "Vessel" Christianity also provides cover for Fundamentalism helping remove religious beliefs from the realm of critical analysis and debate.  With the Vessel of Unproveability as an impregnable fortress, religion can, when it feels strong enough, launch sorties out into the world, doing things like starting wars, cutting off funds for stem cell research, banning gay marriage, etc.  In the event of a counterattack, the Fundamentalists can retreat within the walls and have the moderates and liberals man the catapults, accusing atheists of "intolerance" and even "Fundamentalism" for attacking religious ideas.

From my perspective, the best policy is to employ Occam's Razor to turn the Vessel of Unproveability into a Quisinart, dicing and disposing of beliefs disconnected from evidence.
 
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Offline Chronos

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Re: Kcrady - old school
« Reply #169 on: January 10, 2014, 08:30:50 PM »
What does wwgha mean

For you Christians posting here, I would like you to take a moment to consider exactly what it is you're doing with the arguments you're offering, i.e. what, exactly those arguments are designed to do.

I have used this post as an introductory thread on the WWGHA subreddit
http://www.reddit.com/r/WWGHA/comments/1uxeaj/what_does_wwgha_mean/

It also serves to test the new (to me) formatting that reddit uses. Reply at will and test the way to link or bold or whatnot.

John 14:2 :: In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.