Author Topic: I've been doing some calculations...  (Read 2258 times)

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Offline wheels5894

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Re: I've been doing some calculations...
« Reply #87 on: April 07, 2014, 09:38:59 AM »
Well, it contains 100% of the humans...

How do you know that? With the numbers of planets in the universe at number I can't even understand they are so large, it is highly likely there are other intelligent beings out there, probably with their own view of a creator. Some might well be like us on a planet just like ours.

We can't exclude this as a real possibility and, could we ask them, they would say their god created them and that their planet was the special on and ours just and accident.

All swans are white...

Quite  ;D
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Offline screwtape

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Re: I've been doing some calculations...
« Reply #88 on: April 07, 2014, 09:40:54 AM »
I see this as very possible:

I don't think you believe this.  I think you are yanking chains, as you do.



eh, I'm not trying to prove the existence of gods; I'm just saying that the scope of the universe doesn't necessarily contradict the notion that it was created for humans.

Are you aware of the mudpuddle story?  Or the one about the barnacle on the hull of the ship?

The scope of the universe contradicts the ideas put forth by the early hebrews in the OT, which are supposed to be Divine Revelation and The Truth, in big capital letters.  If those ideas are not so, then the rest of the story - ie, jesus H and Jerusalem Mafia - is sufficiently undermined as to be irrelevant.  You have to do some serious reinterpretation to shoehorn the OT to make it work.



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Offline One Above All

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Re: I've been doing some calculations...
« Reply #89 on: April 07, 2014, 01:40:00 PM »
Your equations have some problems. Let me see if I can help.
<snip>

Yes, I noticed that after you pointed it out. However, I do have one small comment: the seminar I went to stated that, according to relativity, space-time is flat. It is the "shell" of a sphere. So, unless you're looking to disprove relativity, well... In addition, I have never heard of a spherical galaxy. Ever. Every galaxy I have ever heard of was more or less flat and disc-shaped, unless it collided with another galaxy or was somehow torn apart.
The truth is absolute. Life forms are specks of specks (...) of specks of dust in the universe.
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Offline Disciple of Sagan

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Re: I've been doing some calculations...
« Reply #90 on: April 07, 2014, 01:52:08 PM »
The cosmos is also within us. We are made of star stuff.

The only thing bigger than the universe is humanity's collective sense of self-importance.

Offline Grogs

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Re: I've been doing some calculations...
« Reply #91 on: April 07, 2014, 05:03:36 PM »
Your equations have some problems. Let me see if I can help.
<snip>

Yes, I noticed that after you pointed it out. However, I do have one small comment: the seminar I went to stated that, according to relativity, space-time is flat. It is the "shell" of a sphere. So, unless you're looking to disprove relativity, well... In addition, I have never heard of a spherical galaxy. Ever. Every galaxy I have ever heard of was more or less flat and disc-shaped, unless it collided with another galaxy or was somehow torn apart.

DoS covered the spherical galaxies. Assuming they're all spherical is the most conservative estimate. I just don't know off the top of my head how conservative it is. Factor of 5? Factor of 100? *shrug* You'd have to pull in data on the distribution of the different shapes, and it's probably not worth that much effort.

On the shape, the hyperspheroid is apparently old school, so you're right on that. As far as I can tell, being 'flat' means that you can use the standard (4/3)*PI*R3 for the volume, so my number would be a factor of 2*PI high. Here's a quote[1] talking about what cosmologists mean by 'flat'.

Quote

ESA: ‘Flat' seems to have a different meaning to non-scientists. By 'flat' we understand to be like a table, which has width. Does the Universe have width?

Joseph Silk: Flat is just a two-dimensional analogy. What we mean is that the Universe is 'Euclidean', meaning that parallel lines always run parallel, and that the angles of a triangle add up to 180o. Now, the two-dimensional equivalent to that is a plane, an infinite sheet of paper. On the surface of that plane you can draw parallel lines that will never meet. A curved geometry would be a sphere. If you draw parallel lines on a sphere, these lines will meet at a certain point, and if you draw a triangle its angles add up more than 180o. So the surface of the sphere is not flat. It's a finite space but it's not flat, while the surface of a torus is a flat space.

Another interesting bit I came across while researching:[2]

Quote
Just because the part of it we can see is indistinguishable from flat doesn’t mean it’s intrinsically flat in its entirety. But it does mean that the Universe is far larger than we’ll ever see. Even taking the minimum allowable estimate for the size of the Universe means that, at most, less than 0.0001% of the volume of the Universe is presently or will ever be observable to us. Once you put our knowledge about dark matter and dark energy in there, you’ll realize that we’ll never see more of the Universe than we can right now.

Bolding is mine. The 93 billion light year figure is just the observable universe. It's much bigger that that. In line with your original post, that means that, if there is a god who created the universe, it made at least 99.9999% of the universe forever unobservable to us. Make of that what you will.
 1. http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Space_Science/Is_the_Universe_finite_or_infinite_An_interview_with_Joseph_Silk
 2. http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/2012/07/18/how-big-is-the-entire-universe/

Offline Mooby

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Re: I've been doing some calculations...
« Reply #92 on: April 07, 2014, 05:25:26 PM »
"Ok, I want to design some humans.

Why would a god want to do this?
That, sir, is the central question of theology.

Quote
God is contingent on mechanisms for forming a world and making humans?! Surely, god doesn't need mechanisms as it can form a world and make humans however it wants. To need a mechanism, there must be some constraints on how worlds are formed and how humans are made - constraints that exist externally to god.
You realize that the quoted part was a hypothetical as if I was the one designing, right?  It contained no formal theology.

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Does this mean all these other creatures won't use the stars for light, or ever evolve to a state where they can study them and uncover more of the universe's "rules"? Does this mean that alien life forms will never reach the heights of human intelligence? Does this mean that the purpose of nuclear fusion is so that humans can see, even though other creatures use it to see too?
Um... no?  Why do you assume that a human-centered universe must be completely unusable to everything other than humans.

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You're right, it doesn't. It just makes this god look like an incompetent, wasteful, inefficient, weak and stupid designer. I don't know why you'd even call it god.
What exactly was wasted or used inefficiently?  What are the weaknesses?  Where is the stupidity?  Am I to understand that your position is that doing more than the bare minimum is evidence that one is incompetent and stupid?
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Offline Mooby

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Re: I've been doing some calculations...
« Reply #93 on: April 07, 2014, 05:29:42 PM »
Well, it contains 100% of the humans...

How do you know that?
Lol, well played.  I concede that point.

Are you aware of the mudpuddle story?  Or the one about the barnacle on the hull of the ship?
Nope.

Quote
The scope of the universe contradicts the ideas put forth by the early hebrews in the OT, which are supposed to be Divine Revelation and The Truth, in big capital letters.
Where does it contradict them?  I'm not aware of anything in the OT being super contingent on a small universe.

Quote
If those ideas are not so, then the rest of the story - ie, jesus H and Jerusalem Mafia - is sufficiently undermined as to be irrelevant.

How so?



[/quote]
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Offline screwtape

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Re: I've been doing some calculations...
« Reply #94 on: April 07, 2014, 07:28:51 PM »
The puddle analogy:
Quote
This is rather as if you imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, 'This is an interesting world I find myself in — an interesting hole I find myself in — fits me rather neatly, doesn't it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!' This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, frantically hanging on to the notion that everything's going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for.
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Offline screwtape

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Re: I've been doing some calculations...
« Reply #95 on: April 07, 2014, 07:59:39 PM »
The OT describes a world covered by a solid dome (the firmament) which holds back a celestial sea (the water above), and upon which the stars are more or less glued.  Genesis is wrong in a way that is similar to the way any other primitive creation myth is wrong.  Flat out wrong.  Unless, as I said, you do some serious mental gymnastics to try to square it. But I don't find any way to do that and maintain intellectual integrity or avoid delusion.

If the OT is wrong about that, and it is, there is no reason to think it is right about anything else that cannot be verified.  Even Greek stories occasionally got historical stuff right, but we don't go around defending Zeus from nonbelievers.

Jesus H and the whole NT is predicated on the OT being valid.  It ain't, so yhwh Jr falls apart.

If you'd like to posit some other omnimax god, that's fine.  But you're working without even the shabby help of the bible.  It will look a lot like just dreaming stuff up.
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Offline Ataraxia

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Re: I've been doing some calculations...
« Reply #96 on: April 08, 2014, 02:18:03 AM »
"Ok, I want to design some humans.

Why would a god want to do this?
That, sir, is the central question of theology.

I was hoping for an answer, rather than an acknowledgement that it was a question.

Quote
Quote
God is contingent on mechanisms for forming a world and making humans?! Surely, god doesn't need mechanisms as it can form a world and make humans however it wants. To need a mechanism, there must be some constraints on how worlds are formed and how humans are made - constraints that exist externally to god.
You realize that the quoted part was a hypothetical as if I was the one designing, right?  It contained no formal theology.

I presumed you were taking on the role of god. I don't really see it as a useful analogy if all you were doing was saying what mere mortal Mooby would do, rather than trying to best mimic god. Of course, you were trying to mimic a god of sorts as you were claiming to be omnipotent.

Quote
Quote
Does this mean all these other creatures won't use the stars for light, or ever evolve to a state where they can study them and uncover more of the universe's "rules"? Does this mean that alien life forms will never reach the heights of human intelligence? Does this mean that the purpose of nuclear fusion is so that humans can see, even though other creatures use it to see too?
Um... no?  Why do you assume that a human-centered universe must be completely unusable to everything other than humans.

I'm not assuming that. What I'm saying is that if the purpose of the universe is so that humans can exist, then everything that isn't human in the universe is geared towards that purpose. The problem is that some of those things (like light for example) are used by other things that aren't human, so it can be argued just as easily that these other things are the purpose of the universe.

Like I said in my previous post, taking your approach, you can make a case for anything being the purpose of the universe.

Quote
Quote
You're right, it doesn't. It just makes this god look like an incompetent, wasteful, inefficient, weak and stupid designer. I don't know why you'd even call it god.
What exactly was wasted or used inefficiently?  What are the weaknesses?  Where is the stupidity?  Am I to understand that your position is that doing more than the bare minimum is evidence that one is incompetent and stupid?

From our perspective, matter is wasted and used inefficiently. It's an age old saying, but why didn't god just fill the universe with humans?
It appears weak from our perspective because we are told that god is omnipotent, yet it appears it had to create a universe where humans took up an infinitesimal percentage of the total of the universe, when it didn't have to. Conclusion - it did have to, therefore god doesn't appear omnipotent, and staying within the context of that, god appears weak.
As for stupidity, I should've used that as an alternative to weak, because god could have all this power, but be too dumb to use it properly, and therefore create all of this unnecessary universe baggage for the existence of humans.

But as you said, none of this precludes a universe being designed for humans, but there is no justification to say that this universe was designed by a god.
"God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh." - Voltaire

Offline Foxy Freedom

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Re: I've been doing some calculations...
« Reply #97 on: April 08, 2014, 04:55:39 AM »
There is also the quantity of time.

The universe spent most of its existence without any humans at all. The universe almost spent all of its existence without humans at all.
How is the amount of time relevant?

Quote
It is only luck that our ancestors evolved and survived.
Those who believe the universe was created for humans generally don't believe that our evolution was "only luck."

Exactly, the idea that the universe was created for humans is just a belief, which has to deny reality.

Was the asteroid which killed the dinosaurs purposely pushed into the Earth?

Who will the universe be for after the next asteroid kills all humans?
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Offline wheels5894

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Re: I've been doing some calculations...
« Reply #98 on: April 08, 2014, 06:30:38 AM »
Even more interesting, if the whole universe was created by a god - I'm not sure the god of the bible counts for this as he appears to have only created a flat plate with a fixed dome on top - then is this god the god of all the planets so that, should we find another planet with humanoids on it would they also be worshipping the same god? If anyone does not think this likely (I mean the worshipping part - as we know that given the number of planets out there it follows there must be a humanoid filled one) then the god is neither universal (in its proper sense) nor does he exist.

We can bring this down to earth too, of course. If the YHWH chap is the god of earth, then how come different areas of the world came up with differing collection of gods? Why would YHWH not have made sure everyone knew about him from the start? Again, this suggests he is made up.
No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such that its falshood would be more miraculous than the facts it endeavours to establish. (David Hume)

Offline Foxy Freedom

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Re: I've been doing some calculations...
« Reply #99 on: April 08, 2014, 06:33:58 AM »
The atheists here are talking about a top-down belief ("the universe was created for humans") from a bottom-up perspective.  From a top-down perspective, I see this as very possible:
"Ok, I want to design some humans.  They'll need somewhere to live, let's start with a ball suspended in empty space.  Cool, that works, I'll call this the universe.  And let's make the universe self-sustainable so the humans can learn its rules.  So I'll need a mechanism for forming the world and a mechanism for making humans. I know, I'll start the universe with an explosion and put stuff in there that reacts and and eventually forms the ball, and have those same reactions lead into an evolutionary mechanism to make life!

"Ok, now I've got my template.  I'll just tweak this setting here and this setting there... ah, now I have initial conditions that will make a universe that runs by its own rules that'll form my ball AND evolve my humans.  And this will also make a whole bunch of other creatures for them to interact with and a whole bunch of other stars and galaxies.  That works, too: in their earlier years, the humans can simply marvel at the stars and use them for light, and in their later years they can actually start to study them as they uncover more of the universe's rules. 

"Sure, it'll be big, but since I'm omnipotent, size isn't a resource for me.  Sure, it'll take billions of years for the humans to form, but since I'm omnipotent time isn't a resource for me.  So we're good!  One... two... three... BIG BANG!"

So no, I don't think the size of the universe precludes a universe designed for humans.

That is just you making up an imaginary universe the way you want it to be. The universe is not a mechanism with a purpose, nor can the universe be imposed upon. You are either ignorant of how the universe works or in denial of how the universe works. The kind of universe you want is not the one we live in.
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Offline Foxy Freedom

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Re: I've been doing some calculations...
« Reply #100 on: April 08, 2014, 07:03:09 AM »
Even more interesting, if the whole universe was created by a god - I'm not sure the god of the bible counts for this as he appears to have only created a flat plate with a fixed dome on top - then is this god the god of all the planets so that, should we find another planet with humanoids on it would they also be worshipping the same god? If anyone does not think this likely (I mean the worshipping part - as we know that given the number of planets out there it follows there must be a humanoid filled one) then the god is neither universal (in its proper sense) nor does he exist.

We can bring this down to earth too, of course. If the YHWH chap is the god of earth, then how come different areas of the world came up with differing collection of gods? Why would YHWH not have made sure everyone knew about him from the start? Again, this suggests he is made up.

The theist answer is free will, which is why religion looks exactly as it would if a god didn't exist.

I think it is interesting to think about the kind of intelligent species which would be on earth today if the asteroid had not killed the dinosaurs at exactly the time it did, or if it had not struck at all. In that case we would have probably evolved from a birdlike dinosaur. They were starting to evolve larger brains when they were killed. They would definitely be entirely alien in behaviour and appearance but not totally unrecognisable.
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Offline Foxy Freedom

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Re: I've been doing some calculations...
« Reply #101 on: April 08, 2014, 07:08:31 AM »

All this talk of omni gods is just you seeing what you want to see. Omni gods are not possible. Answer this question- can your omni god create a force stronger than himself ?
Of course.

Then he would not be omnipotent any more.
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Offline screwtape

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Re: I've been doing some calculations...
« Reply #102 on: April 08, 2014, 07:09:22 AM »
Of course.

Then he would not be omnipotent any more.

That's mooby fcking with you.
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Offline Mooby

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Re: I've been doing some calculations...
« Reply #103 on: April 17, 2014, 03:13:16 PM »
Sorry for the delay.  WWGHA is the first thing that gets the cut when I limit my online time, but this thread does have some great posts I wanted to reply to.  I'm also going to use a couple different posts because I tend to get errors when I take on too many quotes in one post.



The puddle analogy:
Oh, yes, I have read that.  And I agree that it appears the puddle drew a hasty conclusion that happened to be wrong.  However, the puddle wasn't wrong because it drew the conclusion, the puddle was wrong because its conclusion did not reflect reality.  I am not denying that some humans may have drawn an incorrect conclusion about the universe; I think it is quite possible that they have.  However, I am denying that the size of the universe directly contradicts the conclusion and that the conclusion should therefore be discarded on that basis.  My claim isn't that the conclusion is right, it's that we can't currently show that it's wrong.  It may incidentally be wrong, and I'm fine with that.

The OT describes a world covered by a solid dome (the firmament) which holds back a celestial sea (the water above), and upon which the stars are more or less glued[. . .]If the OT is wrong about that, and it is, there is no reason to think it is right about anything else that cannot be verified.
The Bible is a collection of books of various genres, and the creation accounts found within it use heightened, flowing language that is closer to what one would find in a poem or song than in a textbook.  We don't really have any historical indication that the original society considered the myth authoritative, even if they actually believed it to be true.  And even if they did, there's no real historical indication that they were ever used as a benchmark for discerning which parts of the Bible are literally true.

If you look back through history, I think you'll find that the idea of dogmatically adhering to the literal meaning of every story in the Bible is a rather recent invention of Christian fundamentalism (~150 years).  Prior to that, there were indeed discussions of whether events were historically true, but the events themselves were at least open to discussion.  For example, one of the most influential Christian theologians, Augustine of Hippo (300s-400s CE), discussed at length whether the Genesis myths were to be taken literally.  While he personally did end up doing so, he cautioned against simply taking everything word for word and suggested that we should be open to reevaluating our interpretations as new knowledge is gained.

With that in mind, I don't see the basis for your assumption that without a literal interpretation of Genesis the entire Bible's reliability as a source of truth unravels.  Perhaps you would be better off discussing the point with a strict literalist, but from where I'm sitting it looks like Christianity acknowledged from its early days that the myths were myths without it having any effect on the reliability of the Bible.

Jesus H and the whole NT is predicated on the OT being valid.
Which parts of the OT?  Every last literal word?  If so, can you show me where that's established?
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Offline Mooby

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Re: I've been doing some calculations...
« Reply #104 on: April 17, 2014, 03:40:08 PM »
Why would a god want to do this?
That, sir, is the central question of theology.
I was hoping for an answer, rather than an acknowledgement that it was a question.
The answer is that the question is a topic for exploration in various religions.  It's generally something one addresses after one has a belief in God and wants to explore further.  I could tell you what some specific religious belief systems say, but that would basically amount to me preaching to you and you pointing out that you're not a member of those belief systems, which is exactly my point.

I presumed you were taking on the role of god. I don't really see it as a useful analogy if all you were doing was saying what mere mortal Mooby would do, rather than trying to best mimic god. Of course, you were trying to mimic a god of sorts as you were claiming to be omnipotent.
I was positing myself as omnipotent within my own limited understanding of unlimited power.  I don't have the intelligence nor the language resources to completely work around linguistic barriers and concepts such as the word "mechanism," but at the same time I acknowledge that a true omnipotent being would not have such limitations.  I did not think this would be a pressing issue as I assumed that most people on this board are intelligent enough to understand the difference between a hypothetical illustrative example and a formal philosophical treatise.

I'm not assuming that. What I'm saying is that if the purpose of the universe is so that humans can exist, then everything that isn't human in the universe is geared towards that purpose. The problem is that some of those things (like light for example) are used by other things that aren't human, so it can be argued just as easily that these other things are the purpose of the universe.
You are correct.  However, the possibility that Theory B is true does not disprove Theory A until Theory B is proven.  In other words, it might be possible that the universe is really geared towards hydrogen atoms.  However, until we prove that the universe is geared towards hydrogen atoms, the fact that it's possible that the universe is geared towards hydrogen atoms does not remove the possibility that the universe is geared towards humans.

Like I said in my previous post, taking your approach, you can make a case for anything being the purpose of the universe.
As I've said before, I'm not trying to make the case for anything.  I'm rejecting the case against something.  If you go back to my first few posts in this thread, you will see that I'm questioning whether empty space in the universe is evidence against humans as the purpose of the universe.  I'm not pleading "innocent," I'm pleading "not guilty."  I am perfectly content to leave the question open; I am not content to say the proposition is negated.  Therefore, the above quote is totally, completely, 100% irrelevant to anything I have said in this thread.

From our perspective, matter is wasted and used inefficiently.
How exactly is it wasted and used inefficiently?  Is matter a limited resource for an omnipotent deity that is capable of being wasted?

It appears weak from our perspective because we are told that god is omnipotent, yet it appears it had to create a universe where humans took up an infinitesimal percentage of the total of the universe, when it didn't have to. Conclusion - it did have to
I do not see how the conclusion follows from your premise.  "We are told that Mooby could have skipped lunch, yet it appears that he ate a sandwich when he didn't have to.  Conclusion - he did have to."  How does that follow logically?

But as you said, none of this precludes a universe being designed for humans, but there is no justification to say that this universe was designed by a god.
That's fine, I'm not arguing justification, justification is a straw man of my position, so I have no issue with "no justification."



That is just you making up an imaginary universe the way you want it to be.
Obviously.  Hence it being in a hypothetical story format.

The universe is not a mechanism with a purpose, nor can the universe be imposed upon.
How do you know these to be true?

You are either ignorant of how the universe works or in denial of how the universe works.
Feel free to educate me.




All this talk of omni gods is just you seeing what you want to see. Omni gods are not possible. Answer this question- can your omni god create a force stronger than himself ?
Of course.

Then he would not be omnipotent any more.
Sure He would.  After He created the force stronger than Himself, He'd simply overpower it just to show it who's boss.

If your first thought is that what I just said is logically contradictory, that's because in order to ask the question you had to already assume God wasn't omnipotent[1]; therefore, your question is self-defeating.  I actually just wrote a lengthy analysis on omnipotence over on IGI, so I will link you to it.
 1. Due to the assumption that the laws of logic limit omnipotence
« Last Edit: April 17, 2014, 03:42:07 PM by Mooby »
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Offline screwtape

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Re: I've been doing some calculations...
« Reply #105 on: April 17, 2014, 04:14:09 PM »
However, I am denying that the size of the universe directly contradicts the conclusion and that the conclusion should therefore be discarded on that basis.  My claim isn't that the conclusion is right, it's that we can't currently show that it's wrong.  It may incidentally be wrong, and I'm fine with that.

That's a "can't prove it isn't so" argument.  Which, as far as that goes, would be true.  I suppose I cannot prove the universe wasn't created for humans.  But that's a whatchacallit, misplacement of the burden of proof.  Neither can I prove there is not Loch Ness Monster.  Why should I suppose the universe was created for us?

What, in your mind, would establish that the universe was not "created for humans"?  Because to me, it looks ideal for tardigrades.

The Bible is a collection of books of various genres, and the creation accounts found within it use heightened, flowing language that is closer to what one would find in a poem or song than in a textbook.

Yeah.  That often get trotted out.  "the bible's not a science book".  It sure isn't.  It is full of wildly fantastical stories that are so obviously untrue. Jonah and the whale.  Babel.  Sodom and Gomorrah.  Eve and her slow witted mate.  So why believe any of it?

there's no real historical indication that they were ever used as a benchmark for discerning which parts of the Bible are literally true.

So the whole yhwh thing could just as easily be intended metaphorically? 

With that in mind, I don't see the basis for your assumption that without a literal interpretation of Genesis the entire Bible's reliability as a source of truth unravels.

I just reposted an old post of DTE.  He makes an excellent point about how the OT is an albatross around xians' necks which they cannot run away from.  He mainly stuck with Noah and the flood as his example, as it is clear that jesus thought the OT flood was literally true.  And if JHC was wrong about that, it has all sorts of horrible implications for xianity.  DTE also included jesus' geneaology.  It is laid out in the NT (in two places, and they conflict, of course).  It goes all the way back to Adam and includes some of the more fantastical characters.

Which parts of the OT?  Every last literal word?  If so, can you show me where that's established?

- there must be a yhwh.  he's the star of the show. 
- there must be an Eve and her slow witted mate.  Without them falling from grace, jesus H is superfluous.
- there must have been various jewish figures, as they are included in the jesus family tree.  Also jesus referenced several of them as if they had been real.
- at least some of the jewish adventures had to have been true.  You cannot have a new covenant without an old one.
- There must have been a flood. jesus referenced it as if it were fact.

If you want to say all that was metaphorical, well, fine.  On what is NT then based?  Plus, there is no indication the pre-Roman jews or jesus, if he existed, thought of it any of that as metaphorical. 

So tell me, just what parts of the OT do you take literally?
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Re: I've been doing some calculations...
« Reply #106 on: April 17, 2014, 04:41:29 PM »
After He created the force stronger than Himself, He'd simply overpower it just to show it who's boss.

You really talk -!?&@-shit. I read your debate where you basically say that a god will purposely misunderstand what I say to win an argument. Of course it is really you who are purposely misunderstanding the argument. Now, two can play at that game. What I didn't tell you about this force, which the god created, was that it was so strong that the god was immediately killed and permanently crushed to death.
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Re: I've been doing some calculations...
« Reply #107 on: April 17, 2014, 05:56:06 PM »
Good come back, i like it. the theist could counter but then god will just will himself back from the uber-god heaven gods go to when they die thus proving his awesomeness.

the theists have got it easy they csn just make any shit up any timd they want cos they feel no obligation to have make any sense at all.

i guess to believe in OT and other such primitive myths you have already accepted that you can believe in the non-sensical and be self satisfied.


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Re: I've been doing some calculations...
« Reply #108 on: April 17, 2014, 06:45:09 PM »
That's a "can't prove it isn't so" argument.
Correct.  I would invite you to read the OP of this thread.

Quote
Why should I suppose the universe was created for us?
You shouldn't, as you are not a theist.  Some theists do on religious grounds, and I am not in a position to prove them wrong.

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What, in your mind, would establish that the universe was not "created for humans"?
You know, I've never really thought about that.  I honestly have no idea what such evidence would look like, and consequently am not confident that such a proposition is possible to establish.

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Because to me, it looks ideal for tardigrades.
Tardigrades are pretty awesome.

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Yeah.  That often get trotted out.  "the bible's not a science book".  It sure isn't.  It is full of wildly fantastical stories that are so obviously untrue. Jonah and the whale.  Babel.  Sodom and Gomorrah.  Eve and her slow witted mate.  So why believe any of it?
It appears that you are trying to push me towards a false dilemma.  Not all of it is literal therefore all of it is non-literal, or something similar.

I believe in the Bible because I think it has some very true spiritual insights that can teach believers a lot about God.  I do not rely on it as a historical text, but I do rely on it as a religious/spiritual/theological text.

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So the whole yhwh thing could just as easily be intended metaphorically? 
Which "Yhwh thing" are you speaking of?  Abraham?  Moses in the desert?  The existence of God Himself?

Quote
I just reposted an old post of DTE.
Oh, I am sorry.  I missed that before.  Not surprisingly, I disagree with him on every point.  If you'd like, I can go through each one, or I can answer specific ones, or we can even go to a new thread and thoroughly explore it in detail.  Really I'm game for whatever direction you want to go in with this.

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- there must be a yhwh.  he's the star of the show. 
I agree.

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- there must be an Eve and her slow witted mate.  Without them falling from grace, jesus H is superfluous.
I partially agree and partially disagree.  I agree that the act of an "Adam and Eve" falling from grace is necessary to Christian theology; I disagree that the specific, literal Adam and the specific, literal Eve had to partake in the specific, literal actions in the exact way that they were specifically, literally outlined in the story to meet that requirement.

Quote
- there must have been various jewish figures, as they are included in the jesus family tree.  Also jesus referenced several of them as if they had been real.
I don't think that the figures are an absolute necessity, nor that the fact that Jesus mentioned them means they had to literally exist.  Jesus adapted a lot of things from rabbinical teaching during his ministry, and much of this involved interpreting and referencing events from Jewish religious tradition.  Thus, I do not take Jesus referencing Jonah in Matthew 12:39-41 as saying, "Hey guys, Jonah was literally in a fish's belly and you must literally believe this to be a Christian," but rather as saying, "You guys all know the story of Jonah, right?  Good, now I will use it to illustrate this point."

I personally believe that many of the Old Testament figures were probably historical (the patriarchs, judges, prophets, kings, etc.), but I do not consider the degree to which individual ones can be proven as a particularly important concern for my faith.

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- at least some of the jewish adventures had to have been true.  You cannot have a new covenant without an old one.
Again, I don't think they are an absolute necessity.  I see the absolute necessity as being the narrative of "sin and salvation;" the rest is just icing in the cake.  Like the above, I think many of the OT events are probably true to some degree, but I am not particularly concerned with establishing to what degree any particular event literally happened as described.

I think the old vs new covenant is more a semantic concern than theological one, but at the same time the Covenant that Christians term the "Old Covenant" is definitely a thing within Judaism.  Whether its formation happened word-by-word literally as described in the Bible is, again, not a huge concern for me.

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- There must have been a flood. jesus referenced it as if it were fact.
See above my comment about Jonah.  I don't think that Jesus referencing a Jewish event while teaching theologically binds a Christian to accept it as literally true.  There is no dogma that requires me to do that.

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If you want to say all that was metaphorical, well, fine.
No, I do not want to say it all was metaphorical[1].  I do not want to say none of it was metaphorical.  I recognize that there are values between 0% and 100%, and I think the OT's historiocracy lies somewhere in the middle.  As I mentioned above, I am not particularly concerned with finding out exactly what that percentage is as I do not use the Bible as a historical text.



You really talk -!?&@-shit.
Thank you for the complement.  I find it funny that you censored the one profanity and left the other.  Or is that due to the filter crashing posts error thing?  Ah well, I digress.

I read your debate where you basically say that a god will purposely misunderstand what I say to win an argument.
I don't recall saying such a thing.  But then again, I've been wrong before.

Of course it is really you who are purposely misunderstanding the argument.
Not purposely, no.  Perhaps you will be charitable enough to educate me so that I may better understand the argument.

Now, two can play at that game. What I didn't tell you about this force, which the god created, was that it was so strong that the god was immediately killed and permanently crushed to death.
I see.  So you are transforming God into a mortal being who can be killed and crushed.  In other words, you are first describing God as not omnipotent, and then are turning around and saying that God is not omnipotent.  Which means that you have already stopped describing an omnipotent God before turning to your analysis; you are now describing someone other than God.  I will call him Todd.  I agree that Todd is not omnipotent per your description.  This says nothing about the omnipotence of God, though.



the theists have got it easy they csn just make any shit up any timd they want cos they feel no obligation to have make any sense at all.
Unfortunately, as I have been examining my beliefs over the years, my chief concern has not been whether such beliefs would be easy for atheists to refute.  I don't hold beliefs on the basis that they will annoy you, personally.  I hold beliefs that I think are true.  If they happen to annoy you or are difficult for you to discuss... erm, tough shit?

And no, I am not making up just anything I want.  In fact, I have not made up any of it.  Even the things I've synthesized on my own over the years have turned out to have been thought up long before I was born by people far smarter than I.  Even my comment that God would "simply overpower it just to show it who's boss" is a variation of a common answer to the stone paradox that God would "lift it anyways."

So no, the suggestion that these things are simply being made up on the fly to piss off atheists is, at best, incredibly naive.
 1. Or allegorical
« Last Edit: April 17, 2014, 06:48:04 PM by Mooby »
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Offline nogodsforme

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Re: I've been doing some calculations...
« Reply #109 on: April 17, 2014, 07:15:56 PM »
C'mon, Mooby? "Real to some extent?" :o

How much of the bible can a Christian write off as not relevant before they are literally making up their own religion, taking a bit they like from here and another bit they like from there and relying on this or that writer or scholar's interpretation of some other bits?

The literal/factual vs poetic/mythical question is one that no Christian at WWGHA has ever answered clearly. We had the Catholic expert who was astounded that we would even need to ask. IIRC, since it was so obvious to her what a metaphor in the bible was, she did not think it was worth her time to enlighten the rest of us idiots. Everyone knows what a metaphor is from 4th grade reading class, she lectured. So, read the bible with a 4th grade mentality and it will be clear what is a fact and what is not. 

Yet, no Christian who uses the bible as a basis for their beliefs can give us the clear rule, metric or guideline for determining:
1) what was meant by the authors to be taken literally and factually as true--the earth was created in seven days? cures for leprosy?

2) what was meant by the authors to be taken as poetic license, or exaggeration--give away all your wealth and follow me? the garden of Eden? Song of Solomon?

3) what was meant as a story, parable or a metaphor to teach a lesson, with no factual elements--Jonah and the whale? the tower of Babel? temptation of Jesus?

4) what was meant to teach or describe a law or unbreakable rule for all time--thou shalt not kill? shrimp is unclean and forbidden to eat?

5) and the slipperiest one of all, what was meant to teach or describe a law or unbreakable rule only for a certain group-- a) maybe only the small crowd actually listening to Abraham, Jesus or Moses, b) maybe only the ancient Israelites, c) maybe only the modern Jews living in Israel, d) maybe only modern baptized Christians who have been born again, e) maybe anyone who tries to be a good person, f) maybe anyone who has faith in god and wants to go to heaven....

We here at WWGHA have heard all of these in reference to the stoning of misbehaving children, giving away wealth to the poor, dietary rules, Sabbath rules about work, and who gets their prayers answered.

So, take these OT stories: Adam and Eve; Noah and Ark; Abraham and Hagar; Moses and Pharoah. Do any of them fit into any of the above categories? Or are they something else? Biblical filler?

I am waiting for: "If you read the bible with the right attitude in your heart, god will speak to you and you will be able to tell." Because magic.
Extraordinary claims of the bible don't even have ordinary evidence.

Kids aren't paying attention most of the time in science classes so it seems silly to get worked up over ID being taught in schools.

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Re: I've been doing some calculations...
« Reply #110 on: April 17, 2014, 07:23:55 PM »
You really talk -!?&@-shit.
Thank you for the complement.  I find it funny that you censored the one profanity and left the other.  Or is that due to the filter crashing posts error thing?  Ah well, I digress.

I read your debate where you basically say that a god will purposely misunderstand what I say to win an argument.
I don't recall saying such a thing.  But then again, I've been wrong before.

Of course it is really you who are purposely misunderstanding the argument.
Not purposely, no.  Perhaps you will be charitable enough to educate me so that I may better understand the argument.

Now, two can play at that game. What I didn't tell you about this force, which the god created, was that it was so strong that the god was immediately killed and permanently crushed to death.
I see.  So you are transforming God into a mortal being who can be killed and crushed.  In other words, you are first describing God as not omnipotent, and then are turning around and saying that God is not omnipotent.  Which means that you have already stopped describing an omnipotent God before turning to your analysis; you are now describing someone other than God.  I will call him Todd.  I agree that Todd is not omnipotent per your description.  This says nothing about the omnipotence of God, though.

It wasn't me who killed the god. It was the force. You should have read the small print on the bottle. It said "kills all gods, known or unknown". If your god was not powerful enough to create a force so strong it would kill him, you should have said so. It is too late now. He is dead. Accidents happen, you know?

If I say more about your argument, you won't like what I say, but then.....can i resist a slow moving target?
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Re: I've been doing some calculations...
« Reply #111 on: April 17, 2014, 07:32:31 PM »
Mooby i call yr naive and raise you by yr insecure in yr faith and at best a fraud and if yr ideas dissapeared re theism the world would be a better place.
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Re: I've been doing some calculations...
« Reply #112 on: April 18, 2014, 12:23:55 AM »
How much of the bible can a Christian write off as not relevant before they are literally making up their own religion, taking a bit they like from here and another bit they like from there and relying on this or that writer or scholar's interpretation of some other bits?
Who said anything about "not relevant?"  "Not literal" and "not relevant" are two very different things.  For example, I think Genesis 3 is a highly relevant story for understanding Christianity, but I do not take it literally.

That being said, the theoretical answer is "all of it."  Christianity is about following Christ, not believing literal words in a book.  In a more practical sense, belief in Christ is likely to result in acceptance of at least some of the Bible.  Some more conservative Christians are comfortable declaring who is or isn't a "True Christian," but I am apt to accept anyone who claims to be one and purports to follow Christ at even the most basic level.

Quote
Yet, no Christian who uses the bible as a basis for their beliefs can give us the clear rule, metric or guideline for determining:
[. . .]
We here at WWGHA have heard all of these in reference to the stoning of misbehaving children, giving away wealth to the poor, dietary rules, Sabbath rules about work, and who gets their prayers answered.
The problem is twofold. 

The first is that there are multiple ways to read the bible, usually 3-4 depending on the source you read.  These form the basis of biblical hermeneutics and exegesis.  I'll use the four I was taught:

Literal - What does the text actually say?
This is the most basic level of reading and understanding, and is the foundation upon which the others are built.  This is the level where things like accuracy of the translation and contextual reading (avoidance of quote mining) come into play.  Things like parallel bibles (such as the Online Parallel Bible) help with the former, and Biblical commentary can help with the latter, but on the whole this level is pretty straightfoward.

More conservative Christians tend to be more interested in this area for non-spiritual understanding of a passage, with literalists asserting that this is the only way to gain such understanding[1].

Sociohistorical - What did the author mean to say?
This is the next level up, and the one that requires the most detective work.  It's the one where things like genres, figurative language, social/political contexts, historical events, etc. come into play.  The goal here is to take oneself out of the perspective of 21st Century 1st-world English speaker and place oneself into the perspective of the person who wrote the text.  You (and many atheists) reduce this to "literal vs. metaphor," but that is a rather shallow approach that doesn't really get to the core of it.

This is an area of much scholarship, and has grown in popularity over the past century.  Like many fields, there are different areas of study and different trends, such as the recent trend to view some miraculous Biblical accounts as the writer's spiritual interpretation of natural events.  As such, entire courses are taught in this area, and people spend entire careers studying it, secular and religious alike.

The average Christian tends to have a working knowledge of some of the more common themes and builds from there.  It's not really practical or necessary for the average Christian to have mastery at reading at this level, though I think it enriches one's understanding quite a bit.  More conservative Christians tend to minimize this level of reading to the most obvious examples or disregard it altogether out of concern that it detracts from the more de facto understanding gained from the literal level of reading.

Religious - What does the text mean for believers?
This is the level that is most important for building religious communities, and is really the meat and potatoes of Biblical reading.  This is the level from which dogmas/doctrines are drawn, the level at which preachers deliver sermons, and the level of mainstream scriptural interpretation.  This is also the focus of a lot of Biblical commentary, cross-referencing, and using scripture to interpret scripture.  This is where doctrines of faith, morals, and divine commands are read.

Spiritual - What does the text mean for me?
This is the most personal level of Biblical reading, and the one that is mostly out-of-reach for nonbelievers.  It's the level where one interprets a passage towards relevance in one's own life, often along with prayer and reflection.  Discussions between believers and sermons touch on this area a bit, but really this is more subjective for each individual person.  It's also the area for deepening one's own relationship with God.

Which level is most important?  For non-believers, it's top-down.  For believers, it's bottom-up.  That's a barrier.  Sure, it may seem like believers spend a lot of time discussing the top of the list, but in just about every case said discussion involves something secular.  That's not the core of Christian belief; the bottom two are.  Yet the spiritual interpretation is something I've never discussed with an atheist (I rarely even discuss it with fellow Christians), and most atheists only really seem interested in the third if it appears to them to contract itself or to contradict something in the first two levels.

You can see this in a classic critical response: "If you say that story is metaphor then you're basically just throwing out sections of the Bible you don't like."  Well, no.  That response lumps the first three levels of reading into the same thing and rejects them all: if the literal level is not taken as factually accurate than the story gets thrown out.  If there was no literal Eden then then Christianity has no basis.  And so on.

Of course, that's not how Christians read Genesis 3.  We read The Fall at literal face value to see what the text says.  We look at the genre (myth), current scholarly opinion on the historical background (Babylonian exile), the figurative language employed (allegory), and the events of the story to determine what the authors likely meant by including it.  We look at the theological message the story reveals and its role in Christian theology.  Lastly, we internalize it and look at how it relates to our own lives and understanding[2].  In this sense, the story is highly relevant and is in no way "thrown out," even though it is not taken literally.

The second part of the problem is that there's no single metric for determining the exact sociohistorical meaning of a passage.  Furthermore, those involved in these discussions are almost never experts and thus have more of a working knowledge than expertise.  Lastly, the critics tend to oversimplify by lumping everything into "literal" or "metaphor," and usually go a step further by equating "literal" to "true" and "metaphor" to "untrue."  But that's not really accurate at all.  "Metaphor," "allegory," "myth," "poem," "hymn," "psalm," "chiasm," etc. are all distinct from each other[3], and it doesn't really fit to confuse one for the other.  Genesis 1, 2, and 3 are all myths.  Genesis 1 contains poetic language; Genesis 3 contains allegory; the reductionist calls them both "metaphor" though the term really isn't even accurate.

But I digress.  My point is that there's not really a cookie cutter way of saying "this verse is historical, this verse is not."  Instead, you start with a working knowledge of the basic structure of the Bible, its historical background, the culture of the writers, the most common genres used, and you work from there.  If you want to delve in on a specific passage, you can look up commentary.  You can discuss with others.  You can listen to sermons.  You can take a course.  It's a process of discovery, not a dry formula.  It's not something that's going to easily be explained in a few sentences in a single post on a forum, which is likely why very few even bother.

And that's ok, because again whether or not the literal and sociohistorical levels match is not really integral to Christian theology.  Genesis 3 means the same thing to Christians who take it literally as it does to those who take it allegorically.  Which is exactly why I can say that I'm generally not very concerned with pinning down which events are completely historical vs those that are only partially historical or not historical at all, yet still consider the Bible as an important part of Christianity.  Because when I read the text, I'm not reading at only a literal level; I'm reading at multiple levels.

Quote
So, take these OT stories: Adam and Eve; Noah and Ark; Abraham and Hagar; Moses and Pharoah. Do any of them fit into any of the above categories? Or are they something else? Biblical filler?
The bold highlights exactly what I said above.  I take Abraham and Moses as historical figures, yet would not be highly concerned if they turned out to be non-historical.  I take Adam, Eve, and Noah as mythological figures, yet would not be highly concerned if they turned out to be historical.  I regard none of those stories as "filler."

Quote
I am waiting for: "If you read the bible with the right attitude in your heart, god will speak to you and you will be able to tell."
That's spiritual level.  It's not for you.

And holy shit, I spent way too much time on that post.  Ok, I'm off to bed an hour and a half ago.
 1. Often coupled with the assertion that such an understanding trumps all other forms of human knowledge, including science.  So most literalists would say that the creation accounts are to be both read and believed literally.
 2. Which is highly interesting for me and the reason why this is my favorite chapter in the Bible, but it's next to useless for me to discuss with you
 3. Albeit with some overlap.  Poems can contain metaphor and allegory, for example.
« Last Edit: April 18, 2014, 12:26:38 AM by Mooby »
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Offline Mooby

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Re: I've been doing some calculations...
« Reply #113 on: April 18, 2014, 11:45:34 AM »
It wasn't me who killed the god. It was the force. You should have read the small print on the bottle. It said "kills all gods, known or unknown". If your god was not powerful enough to create a force so strong it would kill him, you should have said so. It is too late now. He is dead. Accidents happen, you know?
Now you're talking in past tense; you're unraveling the paradox part of it.

I did not choose to redefine God into something killable; you did.  You shifted that goalpost after I replied.  Perhaps you meant to ask if God could make a force that could wipe Him out of existence, in which case my answer would be once again that true omnipotence necessarily transcends the rules of logic.  With that in mind, my answer would be that, "Yes, He could make such a force, and then go on existing anyways just to spite you."

Quote
If I say more about your argument, you won't like what I say, but then.....can i resist a slow moving target?
I don't know, can you?



Mooby i call yr naive and raise you by yr insecure in yr faith and at best a fraud and if yr ideas dissapeared re theism the world would be a better place.
Thank you for your well-reasoned, considerate reply.  I gather from the fact that you chose to focus your post on arguing against my qualities rather than my arguments that you have high confidence and support for your position, which I respect[1].  Keep up the good work.
 1. You may note that I called a specific view naive, not you.
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Re: I've been doing some calculations...
« Reply #114 on: April 18, 2014, 04:42:51 PM »
Thank you for your thoughtful and well-informed response. I think that is the most detailed and clearest description a theist on this site has ever given on "how to read the bible". At least, the best that I have seen here.

I read your post carefully, thinking about how I used to read the bible when I was religious, and thinking about the campus Christian student groups I have interacted with in my career as a professor, and all the different Christians I have known in my personal life. I doubt that 1 Christian in 1000 thinks about the bible the way you presented it here.

Mooby, you are saying that the average person has virtually no chance of understanding the bible properly because in order to do that requires years of training, specialized study of ancient history, archeology, dead languages, etc. With 99% of Christians in history lacking all the time, money and intellect to devote one's entire life to reading one book, people are expected to entrust their eternal salvation to someone who claims that level of expertise and hope for the best.

Right there that eliminates most people in the world from knowing the bible accurately.  If most people's salvation is at the mercy of whoever is in religious authority in their community or village--maybe a semi-literate elder who reads the bible sporadically, speaks in tongues and has apocalyptic visions--that seems like a pretty lousy way for the one true god to communicate. 
 
What is clear to me from what you wrote, and from what I have observed is this: the bible has nothing to do with any god, if by god you mean some sort of all-powerful, loving, eternally existing, interactive supernatural being who wants every person to know about him.

There is no way such a being would produce a "sacred text" so easily confused with everything else written by ancient, pre-scientific-method humans. What possible purpose would such a work serve? So much in the bible has to be ignored or written off in some way due to being clearly made up for some contemporary (not eternal) purpose, useless unscientific "knowledge" about the world, tales borrowed from previous religions or information that is just plain wrong.

Interesting as a cultural artifact?  Certainly. Most impressive work of all time, full of eternal wisdom and insights found nowhere else, clear evidence of supernatural influence? No. In that respect the bible has much in common with every other ancient sacred text: the Quran, the Bhagavad Gita, the Egyptian Book of the Dead, what have you. 

I know that, as a JW all the four levels you presented were collapsed into the first one and meaning was interpreted accordingly. It was a similar situation among the various traditional people I have lived with in third world countries. Lots of folks try to interpret the bible literally as the word of the one true god, and do their best to shoehorn reality into that perspective (with limited success, since reality constantly fails to cooperate). What is interesting to watch is how people react to reality failing to match the the word of the one true god.

Some folks just take a few passages and try to live their lives by that, like the Seventh Day Adventists, or the people whose church revolves around hating shrimp, or is it gays? Others just constantly rewrite the most obvious wrong stuff, like "the bible is not contradicted by science, because a day for god is half a billion human years, so the earth was created in 7 days, so there." At the extreme there are the people who just lie and make sh!t up. They see science as the enemy because of the constant challenges to the word of the one true god.

They say that when science disagrees with the bible, the bible has to be right. So, people rode on dinosaurs and that the thousands of animals in the ark did not need to eat, drink or poop because they were in suspended animation, even though there is not even the suggestion of anything like that in the bible. And the sun revolves around the earth. When in doubt, close your ears and go lalalala. Pray for strength. Then read an anti-science apologist website.[1]

What most modern educated people do is take the liberal, pick and choose, "bible as template" outlook more exemplified by Old Church Guy. The one true god is hovering around the bible somewhere, but he did not dictate the book or have much to do with the writing of it. The bible is more a source of comfort for these non-literal Christians than a sacred text--it's like an old religious teddy bear. They are glad that it exists, even though it is not very useful in everyday life, and have faith that someday they will understand its mysteries. The bible might as well be the Tao Te Ching for all they rely on it. They are more likely to read popular books loosely based on the cooler parts of the bible, like the Purpose Driven Life.

Is the bible where people should be getting the information about how to live a good life and get to heaven or not? Is it important for a Christian to understand the bible or not? If the answer to these questions is yes, what level of education is a Christian expected to have in order to properly understand the bible? Why would a god[2] set up this situation so that almost nobody in history would be able to understand the most important thing about the religion?

The answer our Catholic expert gave was that, basically, direct knowledge of the bible was not needed. People did not need to understand or even read the bible to be saved. All you needed was a priest or scholar who did understand the bible properly to explain it to you. Of course, as the reformation wars showed, it is not possible to determine, with certainty,  what "understands the bible properly" means.

Thanks, all-powerful, loving, eternally existing, interactive supernatural being. I guess I'm not meant to know ye.
 1. The JW's do lots of that, and try to maintain a high level of ignorance about science by discouraging college among the younger members.
 2. Remember him? He's that all-powerful, loving, eternally existing, interactive supernatural being who wants every person to know about him.
Extraordinary claims of the bible don't even have ordinary evidence.

Kids aren't paying attention most of the time in science classes so it seems silly to get worked up over ID being taught in schools.

Offline Mooby

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Re: I've been doing some calculations...
« Reply #115 on: April 18, 2014, 09:27:44 PM »
Thank you for your thoughtful and well-informed response. I think that is the most detailed and clearest description a theist on this site has ever given on "how to read the bible". At least, the best that I have seen here.
Thank you for the feedback.

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I read your post carefully, thinking about how I used to read the bible when I was religious, and thinking about the campus Christian student groups I have interacted with in my career as a professor, and all the different Christians I have known in my personal life. I doubt that 1 Christian in 1000 thinks about the bible the way you presented it here.
I'm honestly not sure whether that's an accurate assessment or not.  It's doubtful many do it in precisely the same way because it's largely sourced from college classes I took 9-10 years ago that I've recreated from memory.[1]  My assessment is also offered from my own perspective per my own education and experiences, so I do not know to what extent it is representative of other Christians (particularly non-Catholic Christians.)  You can, however, find some similar stuff if you poke around online.

For example, the content I labeled "sociohistorical" relates to both the historical-grammatical and historical-critical methods of interpretation.  The former tends to be used by more conservative Protestant groups while the latter is used more by liberal Christians and secularists.  The former asks, "What did the author intend the original reader to understand?" while the latter asks, "What did the original text mean in the author's historical context?"  For instance, with the Red Sea example I gave in my last post, the historical-grammatical reader would check to see if the original audience understood the event to be a miracle or the product of an unusual storm, while the historical-critical reader would look to see whether the story was a product of the storm regardless of what the author himself believed about the cause.

Also, bear in mind that I really only scratched the surface of Biblical hermeneuticsWiki in my post, mostly because I've only scratched the surface of it in my personal knowledge.  I think it's a pretty fascinating field.

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Mooby, you are saying that the average person has virtually no chance of understanding the bible properly because in order to do that requires years of training, specialized study of ancient history, archeology, dead languages, etc.
No, I am not saying that at all.  I do not have those things, and my own knowledge on the subject is close to novice, yet I was able to give you "the most detailed and clearest" description you have ever read.

Here is what I actually said:
The average Christian tends to have a working knowledge of some of the more common themes and builds from there.  It's not really practical or necessary for the average Christian to have mastery at reading at this level, though I think it enriches one's understanding quite a bit.

As I mentioned in passing, I think that non-believers and believers rank the approaches to reading the Bible quite differently.  For Christians, understanding the Bible properly means reading it as a holy book, not a text book.  All the things you mentioned are not necessary for doing that.  They can help someone gain a different perspective and enrichment from it, but it's not the point of the text. 

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Right there that eliminates most people in the world from knowing the bible accurately.  If most people's salvation is at the mercy of whoever is in religious authority in their community or village--maybe a semi-literate elder who reads the bible sporadically, speaks in tongues and has apocalyptic visions--that seems like a pretty lousy way for the one true god to communicate. 
Actually, I think exactly the opposite.  To me, the coolest thing about the Bible is that it can be read at nearly every level of inquiry.

I had a second major in philosophy in undergrad, so we read a fair amount of philosophical texts.  Many of them offered cool insights, but they weren't all at the same level of understanding.  The Greeks tended to be a bit better about it, particularly in their dialogues, but still, try reading Plato to a child.  Try reading Kant to someone who isn't academic.  Try reading Heidegger to anyone.[2]

Compare this to something like The Fall.  You can read the story straight from the Bible to most 5 year olds and have them understand it.  A tween can read it literally and still understand it.  A teen can read it allegorically and still understand it.  An adult can read it as an expression of their own life experiences and still understand it.  A scholar can read it via an analysis of the historical, social, and cultural contexts via which it was written and still understand it.  A theologian can read it as the key point in understanding Genesis 1-11 as detailing the nature, spread, and destructive power of sin as a prologue to the beginning of the story of salvation starting with Abraham in Genesis 12 and still understand it.  A spiritualist can interpret the story as an allegory for human life itself, with The Fall itself representing the innocence lost when one first realizes that they are someday going to die, and still understand it.  A strict literalist and a liberal Christian can have a meaningful discussion on the story's theological implications and still understand it.[3]

The Bible allows for people who have spent years of studying the entire text to still gain new insights, and for others to flip it open and get converted by a single verse.
 
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What is clear to me from what you wrote, and from what I have observed is this: the bible has nothing to do with any god, if by god you mean some sort of all-powerful, loving, eternally existing, interactive supernatural being who wants every person to know about him.

There is no way such a being would produce a "sacred text" so easily confused with everything else written by ancient, pre-scientific-method humans. What possible purpose would such a work serve? So much in the bible has to be ignored or written off in some way due to being clearly made up for some contemporary (not eternal) purpose, useless unscientific "knowledge" about the world, tales borrowed from previous religions or information that is just plain wrong.
Again, you appear to have missed some key points of what I posted. 

In this sense, the story is highly relevant and is in no way "thrown out," even though it is not taken literally

It's not about ignoring or writing off.

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Interesting as a cultural artifact?  Certainly. Most impressive work of all time, full of eternal wisdom and insights found nowhere else, clear evidence of supernatural influence? No. In that respect the bible has much in common with every other ancient sacred text: the Quran, the Bhagavad Gita, the Egyptian Book of the Dead, what have you. 
I haven't read the Bhagavad Gita or Egyptian Book of the Dead, so I can't compare.  I've read parts of the Quran, and from what I remember it made a lot of sense.  So... I don't know, am I supposed to be taken aback that you dared mention it?

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I know that, as a JW all the four levels you presented were collapsed into the first one and meaning was interpreted accordingly. It was a similar situation among the various traditional people I have lived with in third world countries. Lots of folks try to interpret the bible literally as the word of the one true god, and do their best to shoehorn reality into that perspective
[. . .]
Some folks just take a few passages and try to live their lives by that, like the Seventh Day Adventists, or the people whose church revolves around hating shrimp, or is it gays? Others just constantly rewrite the most obvious wrong stuff, like "the bible is not contradicted by science, because a day for god is half a billion human years, so the earth was created in 7 days, so there." At the extreme there are the people who just lie and make sh!t up. They see science as the enemy because of the constant challenges to the word of the one true god.

They say that when science disagrees with the bible, the bible has to be right. So, people rode on dinosaurs and that the thousands of animals in the ark did not need to eat, drink or poop because they were in suspended animation, even though there is not even the suggestion of anything like that in the bible. And the sun revolves around the earth. When in doubt, close your ears and go lalalala. Pray for strength. Then read an anti-science apologist website.

What most modern educated people do is take the liberal, pick and choose, "bible as template" outlook more exemplified by Old Church Guy. The one true god is hovering around the bible somewhere, but he did not dictate the book or have much to do with the writing of it. The bible is more a source of comfort for these non-literal Christians than a sacred text--it's like an old religious teddy bear. They are glad that it exists, even though it is not very useful in everyday life, and have faith that someday they will understand its mysteries.
Yes, exactly.  And like it or not, right or wrong, crazy or sane, nice guy or asshole, the Bible is available to all of them.  Even this afternoon, a couple of JW's came to my door, Bibles in hand, and tried to preach to me.  Will I be joining them in preaching the end times and refusing blood transfusions?  Absolutely not.  Do I think they should be able to come to a greater relationship with God through the Bible?  Absolutely.

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The bible might as well be the Tao Te Ching for all they rely on it.
Hey now, don't knock on the Tao Te Ching.  That's an awesome book.

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Is the bible where people should be getting the information about how to live a good life and get to heaven or not? Is it important for a Christian to understand the bible or not?
Yes and yes!

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If the answer to these questions is yes, what level of education is a Christian expected to have in order to properly understand the bible?

That's incredibly simple.

A Christian is expected to have precisely the level of education they are able to bring.

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Why would a god[4] set up this situation so that almost nobody in history would be able to understand the most important thing about the religion?
 4. Remember him? He's that all-powerful, loving, eternally existing, interactive supernatural being who wants every person to know about him.
Which is?

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The answer our Catholic expert gave was that, basically, direct knowledge of the bible was not needed. People did not need to understand or even read the bible to be saved.
I agree.  Salvation does not come from a book.  Salvation comes from God.
 1. The content is mostly accurate but I definitely improvised two of the labels.
 2. I had a professor with a PHD in philosophy teaching Heidegger who actually said something like, "I've been researching this paragraph for 20 years and I still don't understand it.  So feel free to skip over it."
 3. Hopefully concluding before they start arguing about whether it's literal again.
« Last Edit: April 18, 2014, 09:30:21 PM by Mooby »
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