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Offline velkyn

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meaning and any lack thereof
« on: December 03, 2008, 02:07:45 PM »
Just read Greta Christina's blog today "Atheist Meaning in a Small, Brief Life, Or, On Not Being a Size Queen" http://gretachristina.typepad.com/.  It has one of the oldest arguments from Christians (and any other theists) in it, namely, "atheists don't think life has any meaning".  Of course, any attempt of an atheist to show how we do indeed find life to have meaning will shut down a discussion like bringing a dog turd to a tea party. 

It's likely that most atheist find Greta's blog as pretty much as their own opinion.  We make our own meaning.  But I want to turn this back on the theists.  What "meaning" does life have for you?  From my experience, the only meaning that a Christian, for example, seems to have for life, is that it's a stopping point on their way to paradise, a chance to ask forgiveness for something that they didn't do. 

Any takers for giving an explanation on what you really think life means, in the context of your belief?
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Offline niceties

Re: meaning and any lack thereof
« Reply #1 on: December 03, 2008, 02:09:42 PM »
there IS no meaning if u ask me.

ur v.lucky 2 have life.  just enjoy it & pass it on!
Chef! What would a priest want to stick up my butt?

Offline Samantha

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Re: meaning and any lack thereof
« Reply #2 on: December 03, 2008, 02:22:07 PM »
Ok here goes what life means to me in the context of my beliefs, first I suppose I am a Christian maybe not in the typical sense of the word. I don't attend a church or bible thump or try to push my belief on others. The way that it effects my life would be that I try as hard as possible to simply be a good person which I also believe the majority of atheists do as well maybe for differant reasons, maybe basically for the same.
My first priorities and what means the most to me is my family and their welfare. As probably with most atheists.
I don't believe we're as far apart in our thinking as most posts on here infer. I've been reading all thru this site and am actually enjoying the differant opinions. Some very intelligent people on this forum. I haven't felt the need to post much or at all for that matter till now guess I was summing up the room.
The true meaning of life to me its pretty basic try to be happy and make others happy try to live as full a life as possible. And every day find something good in it everywhere you look, as with people as well. Kind of mushy I know but the meaning of life is, and as far as I know we only have one simple really............... "don't f it up."

Offline voodoo child

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Re: meaning and any lack thereof
« Reply #3 on: December 03, 2008, 02:43:47 PM »
hold right hand in air if your left handed  pound chest repeatedly and say
I am the meaning of life  :o
The classical man is just a bundle of routine, ideas and tradition. If you follow the classical pattern, you are understanding the routine, the tradition, the shadow, you are not understanding yourself. Truth has no path. Truth is living and therefore changing. Bruce lee

Offline cruguru

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Re: meaning and any lack thereof
« Reply #4 on: December 03, 2008, 04:04:33 PM »
first off, velkyn, how can you complain about atheists being unfairly stereotyped, then turn around and mock a stereotypical 'Christian' view?

Anyway, I liked Greta's piece, especially about getting focused on the people around us.  My beliefs and faith center around serving others (Sometimes I do a decent job of living that out...and sometimes I do a phenomenally sh**ty job, but, so it goes).  I find meaning in connecting to other people and thinking and asking questions (and in watching Dr. Who while eating B&J's ice cream).  In my experience, the search has been more about the search itself than the answers that I've found.

And I really liked this quote:
The meaning of our lives isn't handed to us by someone else: we get to choose the meaning of our lives, based on the wiring of our brains and the values of our culture and the experiences that we and we alone have had.

Offline velkyn

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Re: meaning and any lack thereof
« Reply #5 on: December 03, 2008, 04:13:43 PM »
first off, velkyn, how can you complain about atheists being unfairly stereotyped, then turn around and mock a stereotypical 'Christian' view?

Anyway, I liked Greta's piece, especially about getting focused on the people around us.  My beliefs and faith center around serving others (Sometimes I do a decent job of living that out...and sometimes I do a phenomenally sh**ty job, but, so it goes).  I find meaning in connecting to other people and thinking and asking questions (and in watching Dr. Who while eating B&J's ice cream).  In my experience, the search has been more about the search itself than the answers that I've found.

And I really liked this quote:
The meaning of our lives isn't handed to us by someone else: we get to choose the meaning of our lives, based on the wiring of our brains and the values of our culture and the experiences that we and we alone have had.

How many Christians here have said the exact same things again and again?  I at least have those to point at. When theists claim that "all" atheists are "angry" or "sad" or whatever, they generally have no evidence to point to to support that claim.  The Bible indicates that one only needs to care about God, in the final analysis and you'll get into heaven singing praises of a being that by defintion shouldn't need them.  The idea that anyone should help/serve others is contradicted in the Bible.  Do we allow God to take care of them a la the lilies of the field, or do we help them in the spirit that anyone who helps the poor, etc, is really helping God?  Do you beleive that life has a meaning that is only tied to your religion?  Or as it seems, is what you do, what any decent human does?   This is the root of my question.   
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Offline cruguru

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Re: meaning and any lack thereof
« Reply #6 on: December 03, 2008, 04:24:08 PM »
I think my comment may have come across as an attack, so let me re-word it:  People will empathize with your position more if you don't immediately do exactly what you complained about.

"Do you beleive that life has a meaning that is only tied to your religion?  Or as it seems, is what you do, what any decent human does?   This is the root of my question."

Why does that matter?

Offline Frank

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Re: meaning and any lack thereof
« Reply #7 on: December 03, 2008, 04:27:31 PM »
The only "meaning of life" religious people have is the hope that they have done enough sucking up to their fictitious god to justify their idea of immortality in an afterlife.

Wouldn't it be great if all religion said was that after you die what ever kind of life you led, be it good, bad, or indifferent, you then get another immortal life. The problem is that humans being humans it was decided, at some point in the distant past, that immortality had to be earned. Now over the millenia this immortality has become ever more difficult to attain. the ever shifting criteria has become more and more complicated until immortality is just about impossible for us mere mortals to achieve.

Just about everything is a sin. So no matter how good you are somehow you will sin and be denied immortality by the army of self appointed arbiters who decide what god does or doesn't like.

Best bet is to stop worrying about it and just live your life as best you can. Because if there is a god I doubt he'd be the least bit interested in our piffling problems. After all, according to the bible thumpers he has a whole universe to run.
"Atheism is not a mission to convert the world. It only seems that way because when other religions fall away, atheism is what is left behind".

Offline Pale Rider

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Re: meaning and any lack thereof
« Reply #8 on: December 03, 2008, 04:40:47 PM »
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The only "meaning of life" religious people have is the hope that they have done enough sucking up to their fictitious god to justify their idea of immortality in an afterlife

It would go to assume that they do not cherish it either. I mean they are always wishing for this rapture.


Offline jynnan tonnix

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Re: meaning and any lack thereof
« Reply #9 on: December 03, 2008, 04:41:53 PM »
Ok here goes what life means to me in the context of my beliefs, first I suppose I am a Christian maybe not in the typical sense of the word. I don't attend a church or bible thump or try to push my belief on others. The way that it effects my life would be that I try as hard as possible to simply be a good person which I also believe the majority of atheists do as well maybe for differant reasons, maybe basically for the same.
My first priorities and what means the most to me is my family and their welfare. As probably with most atheists.
I don't believe we're as far apart in our thinking as most posts on here infer. I've been reading all thru this site and am actually enjoying the differant opinions. Some very intelligent people on this forum. I haven't felt the need to post much or at all for that matter till now guess I was summing up the room.
The true meaning of life to me its pretty basic try to be happy and make others happy try to live as full a life as possible. And every day find something good in it everywhere you look, as with people as well. Kind of mushy I know but the meaning of life is, and as far as I know we only have one simple really............... "don't f it up."
This is, maybe, a question for another thread, but since you are here :)...

I'll preface this by saying that I've been lucky enough, in the course of many moves to many different places, not to have landed in a particularly fundie hotspot (with one notable exception). In my experience, most Christians do, in fact, have the same attitude you seem to have here; a sort of "Chritisanity lite", wherein the fundamental principles and philosohies work for them, so they choose to live a life emulating Jesus in whatever way they understand him, but at the same time having a vague belief that good people will get to heaven regardless of their actual beliefs. In my experience, many people who identify themselves as Christian will, if pressed, say something along these lines.

Correct me if I am wrong, of course, you may believe nothing of the sort...

But, for those who identify themselves as Christian while believing something akin to what I have outlined, what is the real difference, as far as the ultimate meaning of your life, between a belief in Jesus, the belief in some god, or the belief in no god?

Is it just the belief that there is some sort of afterlife? And, if it is, how does the existence or nonexistence of an afterlife affect how meaningful this life is? Wouldn't it stand to reason that if it's the only one we get, we should make the most of it?

For the record, I'm atheist-leaning agnostic who doesn't see that as necessarily negating an afterlife of some description, but doesn't count on the fact that there is one either.

Offline cruguru

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Re: meaning and any lack thereof
« Reply #10 on: December 03, 2008, 06:31:49 PM »
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what is the real difference, as far as the ultimate meaning of your life, between a belief in Jesus, the belief in some god, or the belief in no god?

Nothing really...depending on how people treat each other.  There's a great story here http://www.crosscurrents.org/CompoloSpring2005.htm between Tony Campolo and Shane Claiborne where Shane shares an experience he has serving in Kolkata with an atheist.  The atheist says he's frustrated by the evangelicals that come to Kolkata because he feels like they are only there because they are serving G-d or because G-d made them, not because they really care about the people there.  And Shane responds he cares about the people and God and doesn't really see where one ends and the other begins.  And he realizes that there's not a big difference between the way the two are serving G-d, even if only one of them feels like that is what they're doing (I love the irony in this story...the atheist, who ostensibly is only concerned with the real world, is bothered by 'why' people decide to serve, while the christian, who believes in the eternal and spiritual, is more concerned with what gets done in the real world).

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Christianity Lite
Oh man, it's so sad to read that knowing that you're (probably) implying that fundamentalist Christianity is 'real' Christianity.  Not that the horrible reputation that fundamentalist Christians have isn't well earned, it just sucks to see a great description of historical christian discipleship called the 'lite' version and the mass produced christian mythology called the real thing.

Offline jynnan tonnix

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Re: meaning and any lack thereof
« Reply #11 on: December 03, 2008, 08:07:08 PM »
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what is the real difference, as far as the ultimate meaning of your life, between a belief in Jesus, the belief in some god, or the belief in no god?

Nothing really...depending on how people treat each other.  There's a great story here http://www.crosscurrents.org/CompoloSpring2005.htm between Tony Campolo and Shane Claiborne where Shane shares an experience he has serving in Kolkata with an atheist.  The atheist says he's frustrated by the evangelicals that come to Kolkata because he feels like they are only there because they are serving G-d or because G-d made them, not because they really care about the people there.  And Shane responds he cares about the people and God and doesn't really see where one ends and the other begins.  And he realizes that there's not a big difference between the way the two are serving G-d, even if only one of them feels like that is what they're doing (I love the irony in this story...the atheist, who ostensibly is only concerned with the real world, is bothered by 'why' people decide to serve, while the christian, who believes in the eternal and spiritual, is more concerned with what gets done in the real world).

Quote
Christianity Lite
Oh man, it's so sad to read that knowing that you're (probably) implying that fundamentalist Christianity is 'real' Christianity.  Not that the horrible reputation that fundamentalist Christians have isn't well earned, it just sucks to see a great description of historical christian discipleship called the 'lite' version and the mass produced christian mythology called the real thing.

Not at all...since I don't believe that Christianity is "real" to begin with, I suppose you would have to say that I have more respect for people who DON'T live a blinkered existence, afraid to look beyond every literal word. But at that point, as someone pointed out on another thread, they are not "Christian" in the most fundamental usage of the word, ie that Christ died for our sins but that only those who believe in him will gain salvation.

I don't know where your beliefs fall as to the parameters of salvation, though, and that, ultimately, more than any particular degree of literal fundamentalism is where I get the "Christianity lite" definition...

Do you believe that only Christians are saved, or do you believe that there can be a choice of paths, and you simply chose to follow that of Christianity.

Offline Samantha

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Re: meaning and any lack thereof
« Reply #12 on: December 03, 2008, 10:57:21 PM »
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what is the real difference, as far as the ultimate meaning of your life, between a belief in Jesus, the belief in some god, or the belief in no god?

Nothing really...depending on how people treat each other.  There's a great story here http://www.crosscurrents.org/CompoloSpring2005.htm between Tony Campolo and Shane Claiborne where Shane shares an experience he has serving in Kolkata with an atheist.  The atheist says he's frustrated by the evangelicals that come to Kolkata because he feels like they are only there because they are serving G-d or because G-d made them, not because they really care about the people there.  And Shane responds he cares about the people and God and doesn't really see where one ends and the other begins.  And he realizes that there's not a big difference between the way the two are serving G-d, even if only one of them feels like that is what they're doing (I love the irony in this story...the atheist, who ostensibly is only concerned with the real world, is bothered by 'why' people decide to serve, while the christian, who believes in the eternal and spiritual, is more concerned with what gets done in the real world).

Quote
Christianity Lite
Oh man, it's so sad to read that knowing that you're (probably) implying that fundamentalist Christianity is 'real' Christianity.  Not that the horrible reputation that fundamentalist Christians have isn't well earned, it just sucks to see a great description of historical christian discipleship called the 'lite' version and the mass produced christian mythology called the real thing.

Not at all...since I don't believe that Christianity is "real" to begin with, I suppose you would have to say that I have more respect for people who DON'T live a blinkered existence, afraid to look beyond every literal word. But at that point, as someone pointed out on another thread, they are not "Christian" in the most fundamental usage of the word, ie that Christ died for our sins but that only those who believe in him will gain salvation.

I don't know where your beliefs fall as to the parameters of salvation, though, and that, ultimately, more than any particular degree of literal fundamentalism is where I get the "Christianity lite" definition...

Do you believe that only Christians are saved, or do you believe that there can be a choice of paths, and you simply chose to follow that of Christianity.
Yes, I realize after following this forum for some time I'll get slammed and probably called delusional for this, but, yes, I believe the only way to be saved is thru the belief in Christ. The scriptures make it very clear the only way to God the Father is thru Christ His Son. Yet I won't and don't believe in faulting anyone who wishes not to follow this belief system. Although I've never exactly been an atheist, my beliefs haven't always been this strong. As a rational person I think the atheists make a lot of good points on this forum even if I can't agree with a lot of them.

Offline velkyn

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Re: meaning and any lack thereof
« Reply #13 on: December 04, 2008, 10:27:51 AM »
I think my comment may have come across as an attack, so let me re-word it:  People will empathize with your position more if you don't immediately do exactly what you complained about.

"Do you beleive that life has a meaning that is only tied to your religion?  Or as it seems, is what you do, what any decent human does?   This is the root of my question."

Why does that matter?

As I said, I don't make baseless assumptions about Christians.  I can show how they act by their own actions and words.

It matters because if you only do what any decent human being does, your worship of this God has no meaning, as far as I can see.  If people can act decently without any fear of punishment or action by God, there isn't much reason for your God to exist. 
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Offline cruguru

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Re: meaning and any lack thereof
« Reply #14 on: December 04, 2008, 11:38:24 AM »
"I don't make baseless assumptions about Christians" followed by...a baseless assumption.

Should I assume that all white people are racist because the KKK exists and has a website?  Or maybe I should assume that all black people care about is smokin' weed and tappin' hos because that's what I hear on BET and MTV.  At least you'll concede that I should definitely assume that all US citizens are fat and drive tractors, because I saw that on a new piece somewhere.

If you want to base all of your arguments against religion and faith on caricatures and stereotypes, you're more than welcome to.  But your ideas probably won't be very relevant or accurate.

As an example, there was a news article today that talked about a rift in the episcopalian church.  One group said the other group wasn't conservative enough and didn't represent 'real' christianity.  So they formed a new branch of their chruch.  Now, you could look at the splinter group and say, 'that's what episcopalians think and I'm going to make all my arguments aginst the episcopalian church based on that group'.  The problem is that that group represents less than 1% of the episcopalian church.  So your arguments would be relevant to that 1% and totally irrelevant to the other 99% of episcopalians who believe different things.

Oh and even if it wasn't based on vague assumptions, your point is still absurd.  Why do you care why I do what I do?  If I help people because  I like helping people, how is that any different or better than helping people because I'm convinced I'll recieve some sort of eternal reward for doing it?  If I were to pick up trash on the street because I believe that it honors G-d, would the street be less clean than if I picked up the trash because I 'just believed it was the right thing to do'?


Offline velkyn

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Re: meaning and any lack thereof
« Reply #15 on: December 05, 2008, 11:24:27 AM »
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"I don't make baseless assumptions about Christians" followed by...a baseless assumption.

Should I assume that all white people are racist because the KKK exists and has a website?  Or maybe I should assume that all black people care about is smokin' weed and tappin' hos because that's what I hear on BET and MTV.  At least you'll concede that I should definitely assume that all US citizens are fat and drive tractors, because I saw that on a new piece somewhere.
apples and oranges.  Christians claim a sameness.  All "white people", or "black people" do not. 

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If you want to base all of your arguments against religion and faith on caricatures and stereotypes, you're more than welcome to.  But your ideas probably won't be very relevant or accurate.

As an example, there was a news article today that talked about a rift in the episcopalian church.  One group said the other group wasn't conservative enough and didn't represent 'real' christianity.  So they formed a new branch of their chruch.  Now, you could look at the splinter group and say, 'that's what episcopalians think and I'm going to make all my arguments aginst the episcopalian church based on that group'.  The problem is that that group represents less than 1% of the episcopalian church.  So your arguments would be relevant to that 1% and totally irrelevant to the other 99% of episcopalians who believe different things..
See above.  Please show me the "real Christians".


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Oh and even if it wasn't based on vague assumptions, your point is still absurd.  Why do you care why I do what I do?  If I help people because  I like helping people, how is that any different or better than helping people because I'm convinced I'll recieve some sort of eternal reward for doing it?  If I were to pick up trash on the street because I believe that it honors G-d, would the street be less clean than if I picked up the trash because I 'just believed it was the right thing to do'?

Ah, nothing like being told a claim is "absurd" when you can't tell me why.  yawn. 

I care about what you do because of all of the harm belief in your deity has caused.  If you do things because you are simply a decent person, then there is no evidence for your deity being real at all e.g. there is no place for "good" to come from.  People kill for this "good" and this "good" seems to tacitly agree with what they do.  If one can show that God is not what its believers claim to be, then that is one less reason for idiots to harm others in "His Name". 

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Offline cruguru

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Re: meaning and any lack thereof
« Reply #16 on: December 05, 2008, 01:19:52 PM »
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Christians claim a sameness.

Seriously?  Even in the dictionary, there are four different definitions of what someone can mean when they sat that they are a christian.  That doesn't even cover the plethora of denominations found just in modern times.  So how exactly do Christians 'claim a sameness'?

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I care about what you do because of all of the harm belief in your deity has caused

I understand that you care about what I do.  I am intently concerned with what people do as well and I am deeply offended when people try to pass off their personal ambitions as religious convictions.  But here's my question for you: if your definition of a 'decent person' is a person who does decent things, am I a less decent person if I do decent things for different reasons than you?  Or conversely, if I did horrible things because that's what I wanted to do, would they be less horrible than if I did them in the name of G-d?

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Do you believe that only Christians are saved, or do you believe that there can be a choice of paths, and you simply chose to follow that of Christianity.

Sorry, I didn't see this earlier (and sorry to Hermes, who I blasted for not reading all of my post...).  I think salvation is a weird concept that got even more distorted after the early Christian church was absorbed by the Roman empire.  So if I were to answer your question, I'd probably say that I think there are multiple paths, but I also don't have any idea where those paths lead.  I'm not really concerned with saving people's souls; I think there are plenty of people living in hell right now from conditions that I can effect (poverty, disease, etc.) and that's what I care about.

Offline Wegotas

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Re: meaning and any lack thereof
« Reply #17 on: December 05, 2008, 03:10:08 PM »
atheist's haven't any book on which they throw basics of life (not like muslims, jews or christians). we live because we want live, we live to make everyone's life better, to work, to have familly, to make childrens, to grow them up. and in retirement to remember how much good we've done. if you believe in god, and you doing something good it means you doing good, but if atheist do the same it means he does bad thing? by your own thinking we must to not found second part of our life? we must to see life like agony which will end death whatever? life is good only then when you doing smth useful to others. and to be useful, dont need to believe in god
If bible's god does exist, than he is devil, for sure.

Offline velkyn

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Re: meaning and any lack thereof
« Reply #18 on: December 08, 2008, 11:19:30 AM »
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Christians claim a sameness.

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Seriously?  Even in the dictionary, there are four different definitions of what someone can mean when they sat that they are a christian.  That doesn't even cover the plethora of denominations found just in modern times.  So how exactly do Christians 'claim a sameness'?

I'm curious what dictionary you found that has these defintions.  I've found these in the Merriam-Webster:
"1 a: one who professes belief in the teachings of Jesus Christ b (1): disciple 2 (2): a member of one of the Churches of Christ separating from the Disciples of Christ in 1906 (3): a member of the Christian denomination having part in the union of the United Church of Christ concluded in 1961
2: the hero in Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress"

In a dictionary, the most commonly accepted definition is placed first.  The first one hear appears to do that.  The others are rather curious, it seeming that these "Christians" were sure that they were the only "right" ones.  Would you disagree that all Christians profess beleif in the teachings of Jesus Christ?  Would this not be a "sameness"?


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I care about what you do because of all of the harm belief in your deity has caused

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I understand that you care about what I do.  I am intently concerned with what people do as well and I am deeply offended when people try to pass off their personal ambitions as religious convictions.  But here's my question for you: if your definition of a 'decent person' is a person who does decent things, am I a less decent person if I do decent things for different reasons than you?  Or conversely, if I did horrible things because that's what I wanted to do, would they be less horrible than if I did them in the name of G-d?
No, you are not less of a "decent" person.  However, your religion does not seem to be making any difference in what you do.  A person who does good or horrible things I can understand because they are just a person.  A person who does such things because they believe in some supernatural being either makes them do those things or approves of such things (with punishment promised) has a disconnect with reality that allows them to think that horrible things are "good" to their deity.  Does this make any more sense? 

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Do you believe that only Christians are saved, or do you believe that there can be a choice of paths, and you simply chose to follow that of Christianity.

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Sorry, I didn't see this earlier (and sorry to Hermes, who I blasted for not reading all of my post...).  I think salvation is a weird concept that got even more distorted after the early Christian church was absorbed by the Roman empire.  So if I were to answer your question, I'd probably say that I think there are multiple paths, but I also don't have any idea where those paths lead.  I'm not really concerned with saving people's souls; I think there are plenty of people living in hell right now from conditions that I can effect (poverty, disease, etc.) and that's what I care about.

I agree that "salvation" is a weird concept.  However, that's what your religion is based on.  Per your religion, there are no other paths to Jesus/God and that anyone in another path is damned.  Hell is not just a transient mortal condition. Per your Bible hell is an eternal version of the worst things we can think of as punishment for not getting belief "right".  I find it curious that someone can claim to be a Christian and not hold to what John 3 says.  I find your beliefs better than those I find in the Bible, I will admit. 
"There is no use in arguing with a man who can multiply anything by the square root of minus 1" - Pirates of Venus, ERB

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Offline Deus ex Machina

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Re: meaning and any lack thereof
« Reply #19 on: December 08, 2008, 03:25:30 PM »
That's an interestingly vague definition there. By that yardstick, I'd be a Christian - albeit a non-theistic one who interprets said teachings as allegory pretty much in their entirety.
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Offline jynnan tonnix

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Re: meaning and any lack thereof
« Reply #20 on: December 18, 2008, 12:47:36 AM »
That's an interestingly vague definition there. By that yardstick, I'd be a Christian - albeit a non-theistic one who interprets said teachings as allegory pretty much in their entirety.

I might agree with that myself...unless someone started trying to move the parameters to exclude more vague thinkers...but in my experience, many "Christians" do fall within that sort of definition...They are comfortable with Christianity as the touchstone they have grown up with, and prefer to believe in an afterlife and some sort of benevolent parental figure, but can't quite believe that honest believers in a different religion or "good" people of none at all are lost...