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The Forum > Article Comments > Is God the cause of the world? > Comments

Is God the cause of the world? : Comments

By Peter Sellick, published 16/10/2009

Belief does not rest on evidence; it is a different way of knowing than that of scientific knowledge.

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"An utterly fanciful idea".Is Mr Sellick's response to the cosmological argument.

What a relief! Philosophers the world over can retire and tend their garden full time.

The thought that Mr Sellick might do serious business with the cosmological, teleological (design/fine tuning), moral, or historical argument for Christianity he has proven now is the truly 'fanciful idea'. Mr Sellick as responsive to criticism as a black hole, ought now be treated as a hostile witness to Christ.

Of Christian orthodoxy he in effect says:

"God would never work THAT way! How vulgar! Too simple too innocent. Much more respectable is if God conformed himself to my understandings, complexifications, and theological obfuscations. Then everyone who wishes to approach God would have to go through me!"

There is no contradiction between orthodox Christianity and science (see David B. Hart's 'Atheist Delusions' or Ed Feser's 'The Last Supersition') it is a secular myth that Mr Sellick persistently repeats. Orthodoxy in his schema must assimilate itself into a spiritualised physicalism; but this is just a philosophical prejudice and one Mr Sellick is simply allergic to expressing in plain language.

That thundering chariot wheeling through the ages we know as orthodoxy is a frightening thing to be on. In a moment of cowardice we might be tempted to leap off. Seeing its trajectory utterly unaffected by our absence, and refusing to face up to our cowardice our guilty conscience will need rationalisations. It will prompt our active recruitment to our rationalisations for a 'comfort in numbers' (an aping of authentic repentance and return to the moral community.)

Proposing this new tradition -a Christianity/Mumbo Jumbo theological obfuscation - utterly at odds with western biblical tradition is placing obstacles in the paths of Australians. IMO it is not a proposal that should be considered any viable part of Australia's future.
Posted by Martin Ibn Warriq, Friday, 16 October 2009 10:57:17 AM
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Is a god the cause of the world? No. But belief in it of one kind or another is the cause of most of the pain and suffering in the world. That's the one after another thing..cause and effect.
Posted by E.Sykes, Friday, 16 October 2009 10:58:57 AM
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One could argue that the Creator did not create the world until you read the fairy tales pseudo science offer as an alternative. It is nothing short of foolishness to suggest that a big bang took place. The evolution fantasy will continue to change as men continue to deny the obvious.
Posted by runner, Friday, 16 October 2009 11:27:22 AM
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"What is created by Word and Spirit is nothing less than a new heaven and a new earth. This means that creation is an ongoing activity towards a goal that the Bible calls “the kingdom of heaven/God” when every heart will be transformed by the love of God..."

I hear the message Peter, it sound beautiful until you start to think about the implications. Peter, please tell me how you visualise your "Kingdom of God", with everyday people trying to feed their families, competing on the job market, being stuck on the Freeway to work. The way I see it, a kingdom of God could only work for a person unconcerned about making a living, unaffected by troublesome neighbours and with no social ambitions; it could only work for an omniscient, all-powerful (no competition) endity. The moment a second identity is introduced, conflicts are bound to become part of it. So with multiple needs and multiple ideas it cannot prevail in the idealised condition.

For two thousand years this Utopia has demoralised humanity in its inability to bring it about. Peter, isn't it time the vision was demystified and put on a practical footing?
Posted by Alfred, Friday, 16 October 2009 12:12:58 PM
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An interesting article that makes some sense, I would think, from the Christian perspective. Certainly, when the bible was written contemporaries had no idea of modern cosmology, though they had their theorists, no doubt, who speculated (hypothesised) upon the causes of natural phenomena. Those today who take an objective interest in observing nature, for instance cosmologists, are just as few, per head of population, as they were back then; but today they form a dedicated cohort and their peer-reviewed conclusions are documented and circulated rather than burned.
During biblical times, I do not believe that communities accepted tribal lore/explanation unskeptically. Human beings are nothing if not inquisitive; and then, as now, there would have been individuals obsessed with explaining astronomical wonders, and dissatisfied with supernatural explanations. But these individuals were unable to form a cohort, compare notes, or circulate their ideas; moreover, like Galileo, they were no doubt constrained by the dominant ideology from airing them.
Christianity began as an obscure sect whose beliefs could only have been nonsense to those versed in other traditions. But of course Christianity spread and was gradually taken up or imposed around the world, its scriptural "truths" adopted willingly or by force. Free-thinking was severely punished and Christian ideology was draped syntagmatically over all phenomena--a tyrannical idealism still with us today among the masses for whom free-thinking is either dead, dormant or effectively suppressed.
Peter's idea has the virtue, at least, of releasing the wonders of the phenomenal universe from the dreary purview of sequestered and primitive thought.
A futile exegetical revisionism, but an improvement on universal religious arrogance.
Posted by Squeers, Friday, 16 October 2009 12:38:32 PM
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Faith is a funny thing. Once we can accept that faith means belief in something that cannot be proven (or disproven), then we have no need to explain or rationalise it.

Physical science allows us to know more and more about our world and our universe. The more we know, the better we can understand how things work, and the better we can explain how the universe is.

The "big bang" demonstrates well. We now have models which explain and predict the behaviour of the universe down to a very short time after it's creation. Even if we were to explain how the universe evolved down to nanosecond after matter/energy were created, we would still be no closer to knowing how it came into being. This is something that we will likely never "know", as it is outside our universe, which means we need to know something about what is outside our universe to explain it.

The only difference between the Biblical account(s) of creation, and the big bang theory is the sophistication of explanation. While the Biblical accounts are easy to disprove as matters of pure fact, it remains that scientific accounts will always remain unprovable as well, if certain assumptions are not taken on "faith".

To explain the mechanics of God's hand in the universe, using the Trinity or the Big Bang Theory, or anything else, will always require faith.

So, is God the cause of the world? If you reckon.
Posted by lilsam, Friday, 16 October 2009 12:45:32 PM
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God is not the cause of the world.

But will probably be the cause of the end of it.
Posted by Shadow Minister, Friday, 16 October 2009 1:34:03 PM
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OK faithful, here is the question I asked as a 7 year old:
If God created all. From whence came God?
If God has always been...why not the universe?
If Universe cannot always be...how can God (much bigger) come first?

I find the 2000 year old textbook concept baffling. They couldn't even dress a wound in those days yet we "believe" they know about the highest truth? Something else is going on and it has little to do with God...(hint...why is *other peoples* religion so scary?)

Existentially it is better to know the Tao (way of things)
Start with "Why not Nothing?" and go from there.

For morals and ethics...start with knowing your culture add awareness of others and avoid "us and them" traps.
Religion is existential issue + morals + culture.
Culture is the one you need to be careful of as it is invisible unless inspected. Nature has given us a bias for teams, tribes.
Constant mindfulness will eventually get you there...no dogma required!
Posted by Ozandy, Friday, 16 October 2009 1:40:17 PM
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Peter often uses the claim "Belief does not rest on evidence; it is a different way of knowing.." to back his arguments.

Assuming the "belief" he is referring to is his particular brand of Christianity he would probably refer us to the Bible as the source of his faith/belief(knowledge). (please correct me if I'm wrong here Peter)

So far so good.

So we can expand his claim to "Belief does not rest on evidence; it is a different way of knowing based on the Christian Bible"

ergo, "Belief is based on the Bible"

Belief = Knowledge, ergo "Knowledge is in the Bible".

Biblical knowledge is truth, ergo "The Bible is true".

....except where it is written by people without modern scientific knowledge in which case it is allegorical....but still true....except for the bits that we all agree are not true but simply reflect the ignorance of the times.....notwithstanding the bits that are demonstrably untrue, don't actually reflect the ignorance of the times but are written for political motive...but still true........
Posted by Priscillian, Friday, 16 October 2009 2:10:02 PM
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>> that unbelievers scoff at the primitive notions of the creation stories and relegate them to the realm of quaint fairytale.

pretty strawmanish. maybe some unbelievers scoff, but many do not. i'd suggest the scoffing is not much at the works per se, nor of the people of a different era. but one can validly scoff at those who act and think as if the era hasn't changed, who *do* in fact read the stories as fairy tales. perhaps sellick does not, but many, i'd suggest the overwhelming majority of christians, do.

>> The love that exists between men and women ... is at the centre of creation.

Well, yes, in a grouply narcissistic "me and my hetero pals are at the centre of creation" sort of way. Makes millions of years of dinosaurs seem a bit extravagent.

>> This is not cosmology

o.k., we know what it's not. what isn't obvious is what it *is*.

>> The love that exists between men and women ... strikes at the heart of what it means to be human.

well, it strikes at the heart of what it means to be a caring (hetero) animal. no shortage of non-humans to which this applies.

>> Likewise the evolutionists mock [creationists] because they are plainly not scientific.

which may not be nice, but is not unfair.

>> that world of husband and wife being paramount.

not for all. you saying they're wrong? why? because it's in a dusty book? argue the damn point, or give it up.

>> One would hope that the above would disarm the critics of Christianity who use natural science as their weapon of choice.

horses for courses. anti-science nonsense gets blasted. fluffy nonsense gets "meh". fluffy nonsense hiding dubious moral axioms gets blasted.
Posted by bushbasher, Friday, 16 October 2009 2:25:57 PM
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Well said Bushbasher!

"Fluffy nonsense hiding dubious moral axioms gets blasted!"

Fluffy: lame : unsubstantiated : arbitrary.
Nonsense: Not sensible : not in accordance with senses: unreal.
Hiding: Talk, talk, talk but never accountable or repeatable.
Dubious: Dodgy: dishonest.
Moral Axioms: Ethics start with facts. Morals start with "I say..."

The less polite version:
"lame, dishonest garbage constantly blabbed on to cover moral blindness and inexcusable actions by arrogant ignoramus."

See, we are normally really are quite polite given how badly religion treats others and how unspeakably lame the "arguments" are.

Natural science is not a "weapon of choice". Nature is merely shorthand for "the real world, free from human lies".
The faithful who reject what "natural science" teaches are merely pandering to the childlike desire to ignore the parts of the world they disagree with.
Faith gives one the right to think dishonestly and to make stuff up...then kill or persecute people who don't agree.

Christians: Of the many Gods people believe in, the Atheist only believes in one less God than you do!
Posted by Ozandy, Friday, 16 October 2009 2:48:34 PM
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While the scientific arguments are strong against a literal reading of the Bible, I find the moral arguments to be more persuasive:

The idea that it is okay and desirable to transfer guilt and punishment to an innocent. (Redemption through Jesus)

The idea that responsibility for crimes can be passed on from parents to children, and that seeking knowledge should be a crime. (Original sin)

The idea that infinite punishment is just for finite crimes. (Hell)

Even if the Christian god did exist, with philosophies like these, he deserves scorn not worship.
Posted by SilverInCanberra, Friday, 16 October 2009 4:11:22 PM
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"Is a god the cause of the world? No. But belief in it of one kind or another is the cause of most of the pain and suffering in the world. That's the one after another thing..cause and effect."

E Sykes, the only serious question which any intelligent person could reply with, would be this: What is more apparent from the above statement, ignorance or stupidity?

And that leads to another another question: Should I educate you or pity you?

Perhaps I will just give you some empathetic pity, as that will require less effort of me on a lazy Friday afternoon. It truly must be difficult for you to be as utterly deluded and uninformed as you are. I truly feel for you.

Although admittedly I need to add a caveat. I can't hope to truly empathise with you, as true empathy requires putting myself in your shoes. And since I sincerely doubt I've ever said anything as dumb as this whilst speaking seriously, (which I assume you actually were, in the absence of any pointers towards sarcasm, other than the ludicrous content of your comment), it is obviously difficult for me to do so.
Posted by Trav, Friday, 16 October 2009 4:41:41 PM
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Gee Trav you sure know the meaning of objective, rational debate! ( low level sarcasm intended)
Trav, the idea is to address our comments to the argument, something which you have failed to do in your entire post. If you think the argument presented is false give us some evidence to the contrary. For this particular argument the favourite response by believers is to mention bad atheists like Stalin or (incorrectly) Hitler.
Off you go then!
Posted by Priscillian, Friday, 16 October 2009 4:54:56 PM
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The late Douglas Adams wrote -The Jatravartid people believe that the Universe was sneezed out of the nose of a being called the Great Green Arkleseizure. They live in perpetual fear of the time they call "The Coming of the Great White Handkerchief".

Why is this nonsense any less valid than some of the other stories (yes stories - not theories) mentioned above?

Priscillian, before Stalin became a Marxist, he attended a Seminary.
Posted by rache, Friday, 16 October 2009 10:57:32 PM
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This is Sells' sixth article on OLO in seven months. Does anyone else find this excessive?
Posted by Candide, Friday, 16 October 2009 11:01:22 PM
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Dear SilverInCanberra,
Perhaps I could help you understand the true meaning of the examples you chose:
Myth #1. The idea that it is okay and desirable to transfer guilt and punishment to an innocent.
Truth #1: Christianity never demands to transfer guilt or punishment to an innocent individual. Jesus WILLINGLY took on OUR sin (yours, mine and the world’s) so that we could be free to have a relationship with our Father in heaven.
Myth #2. The idea that responsibility for crimes can be passed on from parents to children, and that seeking knowledge should be a crime.
Truth #2: Each of us are responsible for our own decisions in life. We are not pre-destined for doom by our parent’s bad choices. For a pathway to freedom, see Truth #1. Secondly, a loving parent denies their immature child knowledge that is not useful. All knowledge carries responsibilities... and consequences.
Myth #3: The idea that infinite punishment is just for finite crimes.
Truth #3: No-one is forced to go to hell. It is a free choice for all, but entrance to heaven is not on your terms, so get over it. Just as the government, education dept, our parents et al determine the rules we must follow on this earth, God looks after the rules after we die.
Myth #4: Even if the Christian god did exist, with philosophies like these, he deserves scorn not worship.
Truth #4: Perhaps if you focussed more on the multitude of positive things Christ-followers have done you may see that God is in fact worthy of praise, not scorn. The abolition of slavery, much of the foreign aid work in third world countries, care for the sick and homeless, founding of many universities and many, many more great achievements... all done as acts of worship to a God who cares. Even for those who might presently scorn Him.
Posted by MartinsS, Friday, 16 October 2009 11:23:27 PM
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Candide: << This is Sells' sixth article on OLO in seven months. Does anyone else find this excessive? >>

It's worse than that, Candide. As a part-time cleric, he's been recycling his sermons almost monthly on OLO since 2002. The site wouldn't be the same without him.

And of course he has a few of his own disciples, like Trav:

<< Should I educate you or pity you? bla bla bla >>

I usually don't feed their narcissism... enough.

Wouldn't you hate to share a common room with Sells or Trav?
Posted by CJ Morgan, Friday, 16 October 2009 11:49:36 PM
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On reflection, it'd probably be quite fun, in a mean sort of way ;)
Posted by CJ Morgan, Saturday, 17 October 2009 12:09:05 AM
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Peter Sellick, your remark: “Faithful Christians, thinking that science cannot contradict the faith, attempt to produce a common narrative that includes the activity of God and, for example, the big bang. The question inevitably arises, did God ignite the big bang, a completely fanciful idea” reminded me of a brilliant YouTube posting at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L9EVMzVQKTk.

Martin S, you’re post was a prime example of pure sophistry.

>>Truth #1: Christianity never demands to transfer guilt or punishment to an innocent individual.<<

You’re right. Christianity never demands the transfer of guilt or punishment to an innocent individual, because individuals are already born into sin by default through the concept of original sin.

>>Jesus WILLINGLY took on OUR sin (yours, mine and the world’s) so that we could be free to have a relationship with our Father in heaven.<<

In other words, a superior being is pacified by the bloody death of his son. Why couldn’t he just forgive every one? That would be more appropriate considering it was his failings that were the cause of the whole mess in the first place. I’d be very annoyed if my father put me through such pain because of his own mistakes.

>>Truth #2: Each of us are responsible for our own decisions in life.<<

An omnipotent god would know what was going to happen in advance and therefore, we are not responsible for the decisions in our lives since the existence of this god would mean that our actions were already pre-determined because of this god’s superior and all-seeing mind.

>>We are not pre-destined for doom by our parent’s bad choices.<<

But we are “pre-destined” for doom because of Adam and Eve’s bad choices, which are allegedly passed down to us through our parents and ancestors.

>>For a pathway to freedom, see Truth #1.<<

The Bible is not proof of anything and referring to it as though it had some authority is pointless when talking to someone who has the critical thinking skills to question it.

(Cont’d)
Posted by Gravitationalist, Saturday, 17 October 2009 2:17:06 AM
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>>Secondly, a loving parent denies their immature child knowledge that is not useful. All knowledge carries responsibilities... and consequences.<<

This point of yours is self-refuting.

If the consequence of not believing in your god is hell, then this invisible “loving parent” has an obligation to make his existence undeniable knowledge. Otherwise, he is negligent.

>>Truth #3: No-one is forced to go to hell.<<

Those who find it impossible to believe without sufficient evidence are forced to go to hell because of their inability to believe in something that is not apparent in any way.

We do not choose what we believe in. No one can make themselves believe in something they don't. Not everyone can be indoctrinated into a religious belief; not everyone is going to hit "rock bottom" in life to find solace in this imaginary figure you're promoting.

The flaw in your comment here is the same as one of the major flaws in Pascal’s Wager.

>>It is a free choice for all<<

When there’s a severe punishment for those who don’t believe, it’s not a “free choice”. That’s like the ATO telling us that we have the “free choice” to not pay our taxes, but that we’ll go to jail if we make this choice.

With this sort of threat, the ability to choose does not make it a “free” choice.

>>Truth #4: Perhaps if you focussed more on the multitude of positive things Christ-followers have done you may see that God is in fact worthy of praise, not scorn.<<

'Good' does not necessarily equal 'True'.

And it is questionable as to whether or not the acts of Christians are always worthy of praise since the ulterior motive of conversion always seems to be there; along with an encouragement/discouragement of certain acts such as not using contraception; which has proven so hazardous in Africa.

There are terroroist organisations that provide aid to their people too. Does this mean their beliefs are true as well?

>>I suggest you go back to the drawing board on your beliefs because as they stand, they make no sense.<<

Ditto.
Posted by Gravitationalist, Saturday, 17 October 2009 2:17:11 AM
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Another article that will split the readers. No one is going to change their interpretation of the the world after reading one article.

I just don't see why we need all these vague interpretation when science is so obvious.

A couple of points:

1) Recent studies translate genesis as God separated heaven from earth. Just google Ellen van Wolde for the new interpretation.

2) The Nicene creed and the trinity are not proven facts but ideologies established by force. The concept of the trinity was invented in the 4th century. The bishop Arius and had a different interpretation and the church was split. (A bit like the reformation) Emperor Constantine tried to find a compromise. Three successions later and the emperor Thedosius was a hardliner who fought the Arians with the sword not with the word. By this time the roman empire was split. Thedosius took his eastern half down Nicene track while the west roman empire remained 'multicultural'. Arianism in the western lands and North Africa disappeared with the advent Islam.

Islam treats Jesus as the prophet Issa (The Prophet of Love), conveniently not requiring the need for a trinity and centuries of hair splitting.
Posted by gusi, Saturday, 17 October 2009 4:47:28 AM
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Peter what you are trying to do is like a physicist trying to explain what an atom is.Matter is really just another form of energy.We can only see the effects but never reach it's essence.Trying to define the forces of the universe in terms of your god concept,is just as futile.
Posted by Arjay, Saturday, 17 October 2009 11:24:08 AM
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My username will tell readers where I'm coming from, but I'm not posting to join an essentially sterile and ever-repeated "mass-debate".

I just want to draw attention to the work of Georges Lemaitre, a Jesuit priest and noted theoretical cosmologist early last century. He developed a theoretical model - a precursor of the Big Bang - which led Einstein to say in 1927, "your mathematics are correct, but your physics is abominable." Six years later, however, Einstein had changed his mind and said to Lemaitre, "This is the most beautiful and satisfactory explanation of creation to which I have ever listened".

Of his own cosmological work, and the tension some thought should exist between it and his role as a Catholic priest, Lemaitre had this to say:

"Hundreds of professional and amateur scientists actually believe the Bible pretends to teach science. This is a good deal like believing that there must be authentic religious dogma in the binomial theorem."
Posted by The Godless, Saturday, 17 October 2009 1:21:36 PM
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Is it just me, or is Sells getting mellow, in his old age? This article doesn't seem quite as deliberately offensive as his previous offerings.
Is it possible the Christian has learnt the value of good manners from dealing with us barbarian heathens?
I welcome the views of some posters I personally haven't encountered before; lilsam, SilverinCanberra, Gravitationalist.
I doubt Sells will.
Posted by Grim, Saturday, 17 October 2009 3:16:40 PM
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Shadow Minister wrote:

"God is not the cause of the world.

But will probably be the cause of the end of it."

Well said Shadow, LOL
Posted by stevenlmeyer, Saturday, 17 October 2009 3:31:40 PM
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How much unrest and ignorance is caused by religion ?
The world will one day come to the conclusion that religion is the cause of wars.
If religion was for real every one would be the same sect.
It's a power struggle between different beliefs.
Some people clean their souls on a sunday, and by monday they are as filthy again. I don't know how they can live with that.
I am glad i don't have to worry about that.
Religion is based on fairytale.
When ya dead ya dead, no one is going to save ya from turning to compost, like anything else that dies.
Posted by Desmond, Saturday, 17 October 2009 3:46:39 PM
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God is the cause of the world...the theory of the big bang...has two applications...one big bang...or many...clearly every action...has an equal/and oppisite reaction

so what are seen/has its opposing in the unseen...lok at your computer..on/or off...its a totally different beast/..yet seemingly..it looks identical...till you turn it on

see turning on the juice...animates...makes the computer work..take away the cause...it dont work...god/holy spirit...is that unseen cause[like e;ectricity...that makes dust live

we are undeniably dust and water..just as plants eat the dust..cows eat dust..in the form of grass...all the way up the food chain..dust[and life]

now see pre bigbang...if we could see..it would be the apparent dark deep of nothingness...then bang[releasing light]...as the matter expands outwards the back presure is like water[so the word reveals...till in time..matter emerged from the waters

in the next time period...plants/etc...then animals..see its a primitive yet logical record...of what science is saying[with big bang]

so multiple big bangs is self fullfilling...from the deep big bang..to the eventual pure light energy..as the universe expands into E=mc2...then there comes the big collapse...then when all the..'E'..into the space of a fullstop[.]...a change of state...reversing the big contraction...and bang...as god]s voice...sets up vibration in voice...and the light etc

see that the story..preceeded the science...science has never made any life/nor any living cell...let alone recorded a verifyable science fact as to the cause of the big bang...from nothing/by accident..or their other natural selectors

science can give life...isnt the aether..spirit..has no idea..has not ever evolved anything into a new taxonomic genus...the evolution faithfull..have faith..in the science...lol...its the same/same

but not science/nor believer in evolution..can repeat the science..of first life/living..

acience..needs t cells..to let god do..what god does..so seamlesly..

science calls it natural/nature...that unseen science simply hasnt and cant duplicate...

that living breath..
god breathed into goyam/adam..
and adam/man has put..living sperm..
into the deep..of the mothers egg..eve-r since

know god..is love/light/logic/life
Posted by one under god, Saturday, 17 October 2009 4:15:00 PM
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'Belief does not rest on evidence; it is a different way of knowing than that of scientific knowledge.'

If you don't have good evidence for something then don't believe it!

Or, to put it another way - Why believe in something just in the off chance that it may be true? That's really dumb.
Posted by TR, Saturday, 17 October 2009 4:57:46 PM
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God was supposed to have created the world, as the bible and other religious texts would have us believe, and he was supposedly a wise Creator who cared about human life.

Was this the same God who supposedly sent plagues to Egypt, tormented Job, killed all the first sons of Egypt, and drowned all the world's people in a flood except Noah and his family. The rainy season must have come to both hemispheres at the same time that year!

It also follows that this Creator either created or allowed to evolve, the organisms responsible for causing leprosy, smallpox, TB, a choice set of sexually transmitted diseases and many other scourges on humanity.

How is it that this Creator gave us all the ability to reason and think for ourselves, allowing many to not believe in the Creator stories written by men in religious texts? It just doesn't make sense.

If there is a special God or Creator, then he/she/it didn't do a very good job!
Posted by suzeonline, Saturday, 17 October 2009 7:02:14 PM
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Desmond: I would argue that most of the wars are fought over secular reasons: greed, power, territory and that religion is often used to cover it up. The Crusades anyone?

And Gravitationalist, sophism: a deliberately invalid argument displaying ingenuity in reasoning in the hope of deceiving someone.
Clarification, not deception is the go.

Clarification #1: Man chose to disobey God, but God paid the price. That’s what real fathers do - pay the price for their children. God didn’t mess up/fail... we did.

Clarification #2: God DOES know everything but life is pointless without freedom of choice. You’ll just have to ask the Big Fella yourself how that works.

"The Bible is not proof of anything and referring to it as though it had some authority is pointless when talking to someone who has the critical thinking skills to question it."
Clarification #3: Critical thinking does not invalidate the Bible either. Tell the millions of people who have experienced a miracle that it is not logical.

"If the consequence of not believing in your god is hell, then this invisible “loving parent” has an obligation to make his existence undeniable knowledge. Otherwise, he is negligent."
Clarification #4: So what do you think God is doing right now? Your choice.

"We do not choose what we believe in."
Clarification #5: Sorry, but that’s just nonsense.

"That’s like the ATO telling us that we have the “free choice” to not pay our taxes, but that we’ll go to jail if we make this choice."
Observation #1: Well, last time I read the papers, hundreds of people still freely choose jail by trying to dupe the ATO.

"'Good' does not necessarily equal 'True'."
Observation #2: Give me good any time over bad.

"There are terrorist organisations that provide aid to their people too. Does this mean their beliefs are true as well?"
Observation #3: Christian relief organisations help ANY country or people-group, even those contrary to their own beliefs. I don’t think you’d see any terrorists sending money for the tsunami victims.
Posted by MartinsS, Saturday, 17 October 2009 11:03:44 PM
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Martin S

Your patience with those who wave puny fists at God is really something to be admired. Well done
Posted by runner, Saturday, 17 October 2009 11:55:29 PM
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its quite funny

athiests are attacking religion..despite..their claim..only to not believe in god...no god is their claim of concensus...yet they spend all their time getting down on religion...

god being present or absent..real or imagined..dont come up in their debaits

but it gets more funny..every one of the retards..must have..come accross a rebutttal..of the 6 day creation thing..yet thats their central theme for their mal-borne party

then you got the retards..that blame god for the vile...men ascribed to him..yet.. jesus came to reveal the personal living loving grace[god]..

just because some men say something..it dont mean its so

most of the deception of the athiests..is in their hearts..which is funny..because thats where god interfaces with man...that they do..[we do..to the least..we did to god..sustaining all life into living

just because children..have a hard time believing..amasing things..dosnty mean the most amasing things cant happen....

and god is the amasing thing we could concieve...but like landing on the moon..some simply cant see/believe

its sad that people who can read
...dont bother checking the facts for them selves..

god dont judge...get over yourselves...see something bigger..[more noble...untainted by the matters of the meat/flesh...

something..more vital/loving..more important..than your selfishness insisting on dumbly...being/remaining,....so ignorant
Posted by one under god, Sunday, 18 October 2009 1:08:49 AM
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under one god,

now it is not what I expect of a person who claims moral superiority via religion to label people 'retards' as people who 'blame god for the vile'. As far as I know people who are retarded are also capable of sharing your beliefs or mine. Please apologize to people who suffer from mental retardation.

On another topic, you have still refused to present an alternative theory to evolution in a previous discussion after accusing me of discontinuing our debate on evolution.

Only a hypocrite would preach higher morals after offending the mentally retarded and then ignore debate on a topic you claim to have significant evidence to present.
Posted by Stezza, Sunday, 18 October 2009 2:14:53 AM
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Perhaps Thomas Aquinas had reality a bit more right when he accepted scientific reasoning of the time from Hellenistic travellers.

In fact, the way he suddenly placed his feet squarely on earthly soil, lifting himself out of the Dark Ages one wonders how he ever became a Saint.

Even to this day, it is so interesting that we find many Christian fanatics, not prepared to talk much about a great personality said to be a philosopher as well as a preacher.

Regards, BB, WA.
Posted by bushbred, Sunday, 18 October 2009 1:56:30 PM
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MartinS
Your “clarifications” do not clear up anything, nor do they offer any kind of answer to the points made above; the only thing they demonstrate—as if we needed more evidence—is yours and your brethren’s profound obtuseness. God is also supposed to be “incomprehensible”, is he not? Yet you lot blithely “clarify” for us—who concede our ignorance and insignificant place in the universe—both God’s purposes and his motives. Moreover you blunder into philosophical questions, such as freedom of choice, that still haven’t been resolved after centuries of earnest thought.
Some of the great philosophers do predicate their thought on a God, but he/she/it is accorded the respect owed to a transcendental postulate. That’s what God is, if she exists. Cosmologists don’t pretend to any knowledge of what triggered the big bang (though they do postulate). But you lot of “retards” (apologies, Stezza) patronise your personal God as if you have direct knowledge of her divine plan. Miraculously, you transform the sheer brute pointlessness of so much human misery into something cosy to yourselves while you prate about miracles—none of which has ever been substantiated. Why on earth would God suspend the physical laws she ostensibly created to perform party tricks in your neck of the woods (a priest I read about recently calls on God when he has car problems), rather than, for instance, preventing children from innocently triggering land mines, or being molested by priests, or being brutalised in all manner of ways? This kind of asinine logic adds insult to the injury that so many have to patiently endure.
Posted by Squeers, Sunday, 18 October 2009 2:41:04 PM
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By all means, follow a code of conduct and morality; seek to transcend the mean existence most of us follow. But do it with humility; don’t try to extrapolate from the bible a cosmology that conveniently comprehends everything in your complacent universe. In saying this, I’m echoing Sellick’s argument; concentrate on the riddle of your own inconsistencies, rather than wasting time trying to comprehend (in the full sense of the word) the incomprehensible. Leave it to science to figure things out in its modestly piecemeal, dialectical fashion. Science doesn’t say “THIS IS HOW IT IS”, it looks at evidence within its ken and tests hypotheses and says, “the evidence so far indicates that this is how it is”. I know that what science tells us about ourselves is generally not very flattering, no eternal life and all that, but what can one say? ... sorry about that. Science has no interest in God; it only leaves the lab to confront creationists because they retard the enlightenment process and continue to infect emerging generations with their voodoo.
Self-improvement, on the other hand, is a worthwhile occupation that should give you more than enough to be getting on with for your earthly span.
Posted by Squeers, Sunday, 18 October 2009 2:42:43 PM
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You are right under one god, us atheists _are_ wasting out time arguing on these forums. We'd be much better off lobbying politicians to end the tax exempt status of churches and the closing of schools with a religious affiliation.
Posted by gusi, Sunday, 18 October 2009 3:07:34 PM
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"Belief does not rest on evidence; it is a different way of knowing than that of scientific knowledge."

I've read this claim from would-be theologians well over a dozen times now, and not once has anyone ever gone on to say just WHAT we are supposed to 'know' as a result of religion. As Pauline Hanson would say: 'please explain'.

So here is my challenge to you all: list just ONE generally accepted fact which religion allows us to 'know' which couldn't have been logically derived from observation, science, or common sense. One is all I need. Then I will be content that religion does have a place in the world.

Any time from now on will do...
Posted by Jon J, Sunday, 18 October 2009 5:57:39 PM
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Is God the cause of the world?

Obviously something or some type of someone was the catalyst for life, the universe and everything.

However, to claim that it was the Christian triumvirate is more than presumptuous, it is arrogant.

To expect that this 'godly' catalyst of such amazing powers requires celibate male priests, bans homosexuals, denies equality of females and commands us to worship him, her, it - is without evidence and complete nonsense.
Posted by Fractelle, Sunday, 18 October 2009 6:19:37 PM
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Hey, why not take a different course on this journey discussing if God is the cause of the world?

If some are believing Bible stories of the big bang and Adam and Eve etc, why not discuss the possibility that God (and thus the world) had a Mother?
The female form gives life, so it follows that a feminine form of one sort or another was the cause of the world.

There is plenty of archeological evidence of a Mother Earth God from way before the Bible was written.

I like this story best...

http://www.shematrix.com/sacredfem.htm
"Sacred Feminine is a term we use for that mysterious source of all life, the wellspring of creation. The Big SHE. The Feminine Force that births both male and female forms... She is by nature indefinable, yet her presence has been experienced so tangibly by peoples of the Earth from the beginning of time..."
Posted by suzeonline, Sunday, 18 October 2009 6:51:29 PM
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suzieonline..god gave life to the dust...but the earth mother nurtures/sustains it....men give living sperm...and woman grows it..into the living being...our mother is clearly earth,,,not mary

I..apologize to people who suffer from mental retardation.

Stezza<<<..you have still refused to present an alternative theory/..to evolution..in a previous discussion..after accusing me of discontinuing our debate on evolution>>>..let the records reveal..im the last one left in the room....at all the evolution topic's..but one

no facts were un/refuted...but..im fine....explaining..at an evolution topic...and/..in fact have...in the first one..from memory...my alternate..theory.....till we..get at the true facts..only theories prevail...much science is distorted

<<Only a hypocrite..would preach higher morals..after offending the mentally retarded>>>..lol...think on this...now your saying im talking about true retarded's...when i meant athiests..who unthinkigly diss-believe in god

<<and then ignore debate..on a topic you claim to have significant evidence to present>>>no bro i said i can refute their evidence...im still neutral on how god did it...but know..science hasnt.



bushbred<<..Thomas Aquinas>>>a great thinker...but there are so many greatthinkers


squeer<<God is also supposed to be..“incomprehensible”,>>not in the least...even a beast..in the stable knows his masters voice..gods...'voice'..is all loviong..all good...if its not goood...its not love...thus not..'of'..god/good

<<Cosmologists don’t pretend to any knowledge of what triggered the big bang..(though they do postulate)>>>..yeah the main postulation is two other..'oppisite/realms'..brushed together..[+/bang]...when i read that..i thought...yeah..heaven/hell...lol..positive/negative...light/darkness

gusi<<lobbying politicians to end the tax exempt status of churches and the closing of schools with a religious affiliation.>>good idea



"Belief does not rest on evidence; it is a different way of knowing than that of scientific knowledge."

Jon<<list just ONE generally accepted fact..which couldn't have been logically derived from observation,..science,..or common sense.>>..let there be light/...ie the big bang
Posted by one under god, Sunday, 18 October 2009 7:51:44 PM
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"God is also supposed to be “incomprehensible”, is he not?"
Not true. For Bible-believing Christians He has revealed Himself through the Scriptures and through His Son, Jesus. That doesn’t mean God is totally comprehensible, but most aspects of His character are abundantly clear.

"Moreover you blunder into philosophical questions, such as freedom of choice, that still haven’t been resolved after centuries of earnest thought."
I’m not blundering, I choose to engage in trying to understand this enigma. As I said before, from everything else I understand about the Christian worldview, unless there is true freedom of choice, life is pointless. I also do not understand whether light is wave-form or quanta-based, but I don’t lose any sleep over it. I know light "works" and that is enough.

"Miraculously, you transform the sheer brute pointlessness of so much human misery into something cosy to yourselves while you prate about miracles—none of which has ever been substantiated."
That’s just precious - an “absolute fact” from someone who believes there are no absolutes! I guarantee that you have never undertaken even a simple study into this topic of miracles for yourself yet "miraculously" you can state categorically that they cannot be!
Study the amazingly complicated process of the birth of a child and you’ll see how there are so many interactions with such small tolerances for error that it’s a miracle we even exist!

"Science has no interest in God; it only leaves the lab to confront creationists because they retard the enlightenment process and continue to infect emerging generations with their voodoo."
Again, dead wrong. Many of the first scientists/inventors of note were in fact Christians. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Christian_thinkers_in_science
Many Christians are PhDs in almost every current field of scientific endeavour, so that is just another ridiculous platitude offering no proof, just your own opinion.

So as far as offering no real answers (just personal attacks) on this subject, right back atcha Squeers!
Posted by MartinsS, Sunday, 18 October 2009 8:39:32 PM
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Oneundergod, with respect, how do you KNOW God gave life to the dust?
Why would anyone/thing decide he/she wants to give life to dust?
Doesn't sound very inspiring does it?

Who gave life to God?
I reckon it was his mother. Can you PROVE this is not so?
And no, I don't want to read any more holy websites!
Posted by suzeonline, Sunday, 18 October 2009 8:41:14 PM
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MartinsS: "many christians..."

...and for every one of those willing to publish, there is a working scientist named "Steve" who has a contrary opinion, the majority with a PhD. Look up "project Steve" sometime. That's not to mention all those not named "steve", including the vast majority of Nobel Prize-winners, particularly in the biological disciplines. Best of luck.

(Bronx Cheer).

Rusty.
Posted by Rusty Catheter, Sunday, 18 October 2009 9:58:33 PM
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Suze

Following on from your thoughts about god's mum, it is way past time she sat the nasty child down and explained that his behaviour is self centred, greedy and the celestial equivalent of pulling wings off flies; god is simply a very naughty boy, who shows every indication of growing to be a full blown psychopath.

To those who claim to speak for god - ego? MUCH! And therefore, you are vexatious and to be avoided as much as possible.
Posted by Fractelle, Monday, 19 October 2009 5:40:50 AM
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"That doesn’t mean God is totally comprehensible, but most aspects of His character are abundantly clear."
Agreed. Ruthless, vindictive, vengeful, jealous and cruel. What sort of a father allows his son to die slowly and horribly to demonstrate his loving compassion?
It appears God is very much one with the 'men of religion' mentioned in the parable of the Good Samaritan. He appears to spend all his time crossing to the other side of the road.
I would suggest even if the Christian God did exist, It is simply not worthy of respect, let alone worship.
Posted by Grim, Monday, 19 October 2009 6:03:48 AM
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Sells,

An interesting contribution. One problem though; you assume the Creator to be the Christian god, a priori. Tens of thousand of religions would have creation myths, I suspect. The case for the selection of this particular god is unclear.

As you very well know, the OT was written by various authors over centuries and the current Bible is a selected works (Mack). Is it really more valid to only compare this biased configuration, rather take a more generic stance of Creator and Science and have Christianity, an example, one of several religions?

Triadis notes that culture is a response to the environment and Skinner asserts "man isa product of his environment". What you have a penchant for doing in your aricles is, to qualify the environment according to a predetermined authority (Christian scripture), rather than face the environment, as it is, a hotch-potch of cultures developing societal constructs consistent with their ecologies and time-lines
Posted by Oliver, Monday, 19 October 2009 7:04:08 AM
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Dear suzie,
Some points of order...
God DID send plagues to Egypt, but before that Egypt had subjected the Jews to hundreds of years of slavery and oppression as well as killing THEIR firstborn males (Exodus 1). Had Pharoah heeded Moses’ warnings and not been so stubborn, Pharoah would have spared his people much suffering. Pharoah’s fault, not God’s.

God did not torment Job - satan (the adversary) did. As with all of the bad things that happen on earth, satan’s excellent PR department manages to attribute it all to God whilst he merrily avoids even being on the radar.

The deal is this: God (all-good) lives in Heaven. Satan (all-bad, ex-angel) became proud and decided he wanted to replace God. Mutiny in heaven. Satan and a third of all the angels get their butts kicked and thrown down to earth. God creates Man/Woman and gives them dominion over everything He has made. Satan tricks Adam/Eve and gets the kingdom for himself (with certain legal rights that even God cannot overturn). Jesus wins back many rights for Mankind and satan’s power is broken, but because so many people are unaware of the weakness of satan’s hold, he continues to reign almost unfettered.

Disease, hatred, war, violent weather, everything bad thing you can think of is an aberration of God’s original intent and design. When He created the world it was perfect. Adam didn’t even get bad breath! But satan (sin/rebellion/pride etc) has corrupted this original order.

So Grim, Fractelle et al, when you use such words as "Ruthless, vindictive, vengeful, jealous and cruel", "full blown psychopath" and "vexatious, two-faced and yet acts so illogically", direct your justified cursing to the REAL culprit, satan - not God.
Posted by MartinsS, Monday, 19 October 2009 7:27:20 AM
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Martins S,

Does an effective Creator create Satan with fore-knowledge? If so, it is problematic, so far as the skill or the morals of the Creator is concerned. If not, the Creator is not truly god.

Would you design a car knowing its brakes will fail after two years? What of the Christian God's design of Satan?
Posted by Oliver, Monday, 19 October 2009 7:46:37 AM
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"Had Pharoah heeded Moses’ warnings and not been so stubborn, Pharoah would have spared his people much suffering. Pharoah’s fault, not God’s."
I would suggest this argument has been used by bullies since year dot.
'If you make me angry and I beat you up, it will be your fault, not mine.'
You are suggesting God is a tool.
Posted by Grim, Monday, 19 October 2009 9:33:42 AM
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Grim: << You are suggesting God is a tool. >>

I've thought for quite some time now that the God described in the Christian Bible is a Righteous Tool.
Posted by CJ Morgan, Monday, 19 October 2009 9:42:00 AM
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God is not the cause of the world. The world is the cause of God. As consciousness evolved in the world to the point where it could deal with abstraction and wonder why there was anything here at all humans with consciousness generated creation stories. A prominent feature in those stories was that of an entity who brought it all into being. The ancient Hebrews were great story tellers and collected the myths common to the middle east in literature known as the Bible. The various myths were patched together. The patching is evident in the various stories in the Bible.

There are two stories of the creation of woman and man.

Genesis 1:27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

In the above God created man and woman simultaneously. A little later there is another story of the creation of woman.

Genesis 2:21 And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; 2:22 And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. 2:23 And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.

When enough people realise that the god of the Bible is as much a mythic creation as the Greek, Roman, Norse and other gods of earlier periods they will abandon the monotheistic religions and probably invent new forms of nonsense.
Posted by david f, Monday, 19 October 2009 10:25:46 AM
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suzeonline<<<..how do you KNOW...God gave life to the dust?>>>science hasnt...this i know...how do i know it the bible tells me so

<<Why would anyone/..want to give life to dust?>>>ask your mother

<<Who gave life to God?>>>see your body...consists..of millions of living things..living in on../and off..specific parts of it..further your body..consists of quadrillions of individual cell's...

that..'you'...you call me..is really we../us calling ourselves one person despite being many persinalities


re making god..<<I reckon it was his mother...Can you PROVE this is not so?>>..yes..collectivly all living is embodied of god...see the big bang...works on the physical...the big expantion/results in the big contraction...but the unseen essence/logic/light/life/love...the parts of the whole=..god...survives

us=seen...all of us are unseen/cause..till collectivly god says to his seemingly/oneness...let there be light


<<Does an effective Creator create Satan with fore-knowledge?>>of course...anything ANY..OF US collectivly know...god knows...thats why thast we do to the least we do to god..no freewill for us...none for our collective cause/good.god

<<What of the Christian God's design of Satan?>>proof god is not vile/judgmental etc..but fully loving..fully good...alowing even..the most vile..to live

cj<<..I've thought for quite some time now that the God described in the Christian Bible is a Righteous Tool>>>..god is not tool...he is cause of causes....

the good defining goodness...the grace in gracefull.the love in the act of loving...the living..in life..the light..in the darkness..[of the deep]...the reflection of god/..

when will we reflect

the true good...love god...love neighbour...
for this..is the new covenat...

quote from jesu/
new-test-i-meant..
Posted by one under god, Monday, 19 October 2009 10:47:34 AM
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LOL Rusty

I am indebted to you for introducing me to "Project Steve".

Steven (Steve) Meyer

CJ Morgan wrote:

"I've thought for quite some time now that the God described in the Christian Bible is a Righteous Tool."

If God exists I suggest that He? She? It? They? most likely resembles "God the Utterly Indifferent" as depicted in Kurt Vonnegut Jnr's marvellous SF story The Sirens of Titan.

See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sirens_of_Titan

Another possible "God model" is God the divine comedian.

Who but a divine comedian could create a scientifically advanced species that continues to believe that the bible and / or koran is a message from Him? Her? It? They? You'd think that if God dictated a message to humanity He? She? It? They? could at least get the basic facts about cosmology, geology, physiology, evolution and astronomy right.

Actually there is support on youtube for the theory that God is Divine Comedian. See the WONDERFUL Mr. Deity videos.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Clm6nlWxzc
Posted by stevenlmeyer, Monday, 19 October 2009 11:55:11 AM
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david f,
>>God created man ... ; male and female created he them.
In the above God created man and woman simultaneously<<
When I say Shakespeare wrote tragedies, Hamlet and Macbeth wrote he, I am not saying he wrote them simultaneously.

>>they will abandon the monotheistic religions and probably invent new forms of nonsense<<
How right you are here! Yesterday I watched on YouTube the six continuations of Richard Dawkins’ introduction of his God Delusion book at UC Berkeley, and although I would not necessarily call nonsense what he believes now (instead of what he abandoned), his performance reminded me very much of many evangelical preachers bringing their faithful into frenzy, although instead of “speaking in tongues” (glossolalia), his congregation was “speaking in laughters” (I do not know what you would call this in Latin), probably with the same effect on their psychological well-being.

Seriously though, I wish I had never watched this, my esteem of Dawkins as a matter-of-fact evolutionary biologist has unnecessarily suffered.
Posted by George, Monday, 19 October 2009 7:28:57 PM
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Dear Oliver,
Excellent question and one I wish I had an answer to myself.
I know that it will be one of the first things I'll be asking Him, when my time comes.

Given what I know of God from my understanding of the Scriptures (writings inspired by God Himself) and from my own personal revelations, I am convinced that God is not capricious or flawed in His thinking or planning. This is not a provable fact, merely my personal belief.

In line with that, I see far less difficulties in understanding the world order with both a good and a bad Power, rather than a single "vexatious, two-faced, psychopathic" being. That just doesn't make sense.

Christianity does not espouse Dualism (two equal and opposite forces) but the perceived tension in forces could be explained by a self-imposed (and not completely understood) restraint of God's omnipotent power. (See satan's aforementioned legal right over the world and its inhabitants).

As would be expected of God, His ways are not entirely explicable to lesser beings such as us. Could we be in awe of a God/Deity that we could entirely comprehend? Would we worship a Being that was merely a smarter version of ourselves? I don't think so.

God is God and some things we will never fully understand. But that doesn't mean we can't keep trying!

P.S. Grim. How is it bullying if the Jews are the ones being oppressed? Pure & simple self-defence.
Posted by MartinsS, Monday, 19 October 2009 9:36:23 PM
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there isnt anything to reply..but it seems were allgiving our idea of god...and rightfully none can know for sure,...but i will try,simply to put as i believe

the ab-origonals talk of the dreaming...at one time all the lands were one land...gobdwana[or something like that....well the timming of the first earth expansion...[see expanding earth theory]...was the time adam/eve were driven from eden

eden lies under the southern pole...driving out was done via pole shift...next one due 25 dec2012...when the next crack/expantion occures...the ab-origonals saw the last one...it looked like a fish..swinning through the earth...as the earth slowly expaned...like an earth sumami..etc

but i was to speak of god...he lives in our heart[is the life force..that science calls reflex.auto reponse/nature...but why am i casting pearl before swine

god is all loving...full stop
he dosnt do the vile...thats freewill...how xtianity was told to live with the living good...is by love of neighbour,...any not of love/not good...is not of god..

there is a clue there for you athiests...find that not good..then prove it were god that done it...you got no rreason to missjudge god who loves us all so intmatly...know its not god that punishes us for anything...we all get grace...from god

but the thing is everyone being forgiven...some of the forgiven..feel real peeved certain tyopes are forgiven their foul deeds

so god created a special place for everyone...you recall jesuis said i go to buoild your room in the fathers house...thats about realms...see every passion has its own room...everyone there has equal passions...its our passions that form the room real...all in the fathers house

im interested in the true sciences,,because gods house is in the egsact shape of human...and thus the realms/rooms...equate to the body...meaning the darker realms are within

but its easier to decry an amasing goodness god]..none can concieve
Posted by one under god, Monday, 19 October 2009 10:11:55 PM
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Can anyone explain how the same god went from being a vindictive psychopathic bully in the old testament to a touchy-feely-love-youse-all kind of guy in the new testament? Was he overwhelmed by the fact he had just allowed his son to be killed in a truly horrific and unnecessary manner, when as an omnipotent being all he had to do was make us think he was a good guy without hurting a fly? Was he just kidding in the OT - or is he just kidding in the NT? Why does sacrificing his son do anything other than evoke revulsion? Child killers are reviled today, so why not god?
Posted by Candide, Monday, 19 October 2009 11:40:49 PM
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Just where does satan fit in? Is he a naughty angel (as in islam)? Something else? Does satan have free will?
Posted by gusi, Tuesday, 20 October 2009 12:53:37 AM
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Dear George,

You are quite right. The statement "God created man ... ; male and female created he them." does not mean that they were created simultaneously. However, the presence of two separate creation stories does suggest that two stories were cobbled together.
Posted by david f, Tuesday, 20 October 2009 4:20:58 AM
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george,

>>When I say Shakespeare wrote tragedies, Hamlet and Macbeth wrote he, I am not saying he wrote them simultaneously.

does it matter? is the creation myth more or less mythical depending upon the timing?

>> Yesterday I watched ... Richard Dawkins ... and although I would not necessarily call nonsense what he believes now ...

your bringing up dawkins seems pretty gratuitous, especially given that in the video-meeting you wish to denigrate you don't actually seem to claim that he is promoting nonsense. but, there's nothing much else of interest on this thread. and you're sane (putting you well more than half-way ahead of others here). so, i'll bite.

if there's something of substance dawkins claims with which you disagree then please say so. if there's something from dawkins even as remotely nonsensical or special pleading as sellick's posts (not to mention the majority of christian responses), i'd like to hear it.
Posted by bushbasher, Tuesday, 20 October 2009 5:58:02 AM
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PETER SELLECK, it is NOT the creation legends that disturb me about the bible.

It is the flood, the sacrifice of Isaac, all that "putting to death". It is the killing of whole towns as in Dt 13:13-19. It is the idea of eternal hellfire for failure to believe that a first century itinerant Jewish preacher was God incarnate.

You presumably do not believe in collective punishment but that is what the deity depicted in the bible does all the time.

We are not only animals PETER SELLECK. There is a discontinuity between ourselves and even our closest primate cousins, the chimpanzees and bonobos. We do have something that could be described as a SOUL. We crave the NUMINOUS. We need the SPIRITUAL.

The trouble is that the Yahweh of the bible is anything but numinous or spiritual. On the contrary he comes across as a genocidal psychopath with a narcissistic personality. He is barely distinguishable from the foolish gods of the Greeks and the Romans.

I do not have easy answers for these existential problems PETER SELLECK. But the bible is not the answer. It is part of the problem.

I do not know whether there exists some being or entity that could be described as the creator of the universe. If such a creator exists I do not know whether he? she? it? they? is even interested in humanity. Maybe the real action occurs beyond our event horizon.

But this I do know. The Yahweh of the bible is not that creator. We have to go back to the drawing board.
Posted by stevenlmeyer, Tuesday, 20 October 2009 7:24:16 AM
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bushbasher,
>>does it matter?<<
No, it does not. My remark was not about creation or the bible, I just wanted to point out that statement A did not imply statement B. As you can see, David f understood.
>>if there's something of substance dawkins claims with which you disagree then please say so<<
In the very talk I watched Dawkins listed twenty books apparently containing many lengthy expositions where people explain where and why they disagree with him. I am sure that there are many more papers and newspaper articles written with the same aim. I certainly do not see any need to add my own list.

Besides, I have written quite a few posts also on this OLO in support of my belief in the compatibility of a contemporary interpretation of science with a contemporary interpretation of religion (notably Christianity), which is probably the main point where I disagree with him (as well as with biblical literalists).

So I will not analyse sentence by sentence Dawkins’ UC Berkeley appearance for the same reason that I will not analyse an evangelical preacher’s statements besides acknowledging, as I did, that - like those preachers - Dawkins knew how to hearten and reassure his congregation.
Posted by George, Tuesday, 20 October 2009 7:35:18 AM
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george,

re the myths, fair enough. if it was simply a little lesson in logic, sure.

re dawkins, what others have written seems to me to be entirely beside the point. you brought up dawkins as an example of nonsense (admittedly not your choice of word), so it seems fair enough for me to ask precisely what you regard of his to be nonsense.

yes, you have written a lot on the compatibility of science and (some) contemporary religion. on this you definitely would be in disagreement with dawkins, but that hardly in itself warrants describing dawkins generally, or even specifically, as a source of nonsense. and that disagreement is the end conclusion: it doesn't identify the purportedly nonsense reasoning by which he got to that conclusion.

for example, i disagree with much of what you write, and certainly i've thought a post or two of yours as predominantly nonsense. but i definitely think there is thought and sense in your posts. i definitely wouldn't dismiss your posts as a whole, or usually, as nonsense. you're no sellick.

so, i'll ask again, hopefully more clearly. let's deal with small claims, so it doesn't look like i'm asking you to analyse dawkins' whole book.

what is a specific argument of dawkins which you would describe as nonsense? this isn't demanding a line-by-line analysis. it's asking for one specific example. should be easy! and believe it or not, i may well agree.
Posted by bushbasher, Tuesday, 20 October 2009 8:53:49 AM
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"The insistence that God is the cause of the world creates all sorts of logical problems."

Couldn't have put it better myself.

Peter, get a life.
Posted by bitey, Tuesday, 20 October 2009 9:47:00 AM
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George,

Are you saying Dawkins and Sells are alike, except they have different causes?

What of the anthropolist whom classifies religions (including Christianity) as would an atomic chemist would assign characteristics to elements? Such a person has the religions figuratively on the table and sorts these faiths according some taxonomy in a fully detached manner. More detached than Dawkins or a theist.

O.
Posted by Oliver, Tuesday, 20 October 2009 9:47:04 AM
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The difference between the followers of a priest and the followers of Dawkins are that the first want to believe and the second want to know.
Posted by Shadow Minister, Tuesday, 20 October 2009 1:29:33 PM
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So,Sellick, God is the Creator of the world,he is love so and and soforth.You Anglican Godbotherers have all the answers. After you have projected all your human values and concepts on him you feel comfortablein telling us your version of God and you think we should take you seriously.

Well,Pete, let me tell you something. No one knows who or what God is beause he is beyond language. He is not a human prototype writ large. He IS. No sub set can ever hope to assume the whole.
That is all we need to know. So dont sound so all-knowing and so smug. You are nowhere near the truth. Those who have had the experience through interiority preserve the blessing in sacred silence in humility. They wont sound off like some intellectual know-all.
Back to your Bible and enjoy your delusional opiate.We have nothing to learn from you.

socratease
Posted by socratease, Tuesday, 20 October 2009 4:21:02 PM
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Pray tell, what are these "logical problems" with insisting that God is the cause of the world?

God deniers have two choices. 1. Claim that the Universe has existed eternally. Or 2. Claim that the universe came from nothing.

With Christianity, the claim is, and always has been that God has always existed. So, what "logical problems" could this possibly entail that are not also entailed by arguing that the universe has always existed, or that it somehow came from absolute nothingness?
Posted by Trav, Tuesday, 20 October 2009 4:31:39 PM
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Candice you write

'Child killers are reviled today, so why not god?'

I take it you vehemently oppose the murder of unborn children.
Posted by runner, Tuesday, 20 October 2009 4:37:36 PM
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Trav,

The difference is science endeavours to explain/know how the universe exists or may have always existed:

http://www.astrosociety.org/pubs/mercury/31_02/nothing.html

Just a working theory of course, above.

On the other hand, priests don't explain "how" god exists. If one put Zeus, Jesus or Diana into a particle accelerator, what would we learn? What predictions would clerics make? How is god fundamentally constitured? God "acts", herein, how does god transition - by what process?

Martins S,

Thank you for your reply. The existence of evil is a problem it seems even for a believer. Why god would create evil by proxy is a major issue.

Here's another one. Why does a supreme being require worship? A dire need for adulation is not consistent with a self-actualised personality or a sound ego.
Posted by Oliver, Tuesday, 20 October 2009 7:23:17 PM
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Oliver wrote: The existence of evil is a problem it seems even for a believer. Why god would create evil by proxy is a major issue.

Dear Oliver,

Evil exists according to the Bible because God creates it directly, not by proxy, as He creates everything else.

From the King James Version Isaiah 45:7 I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.

There's no problem.
Posted by david f, Tuesday, 20 October 2009 7:38:37 PM
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"Religious fundamentalism and atheism are both oh-so-19th-century. That was the golden age of "absolute" truths, and people of small horizons always will absolutize whatever is in front of them. Might be the local religion, might be the latest science, might be their own egos. Sadly, this problem has always been with us and likely always will be. People of broader horizons will be humbled by what they don't know -- and they'll try to keep science and philosophy, two useful human pursuits despite their sniping at each other, asking questions proper to their competencies. The problem with many premodern societies was that they tried to do science philosophically, and the problem with many modern societies is that they try to do philosophy scientifically. The first introduces too much mystery, the second not enough. Personally, I like the borderland between religion and science. It's a fuzzy zone -- which means to me they are strangely linked, like the crease of a paper folded back on itself -- and it's a place where belief becomes less important than thought and action."
Posted by Constance, Tuesday, 20 October 2009 8:08:08 PM
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bushbasher>>what is a specific argument..of dawkins which you would describe as nonsense?>>>thats easy..i debated him/..on his flatfish eye evolution/theory...

watch his you tube talk on the topic...he claims...that the fish..[by some unexplainable reason...or unexplained..by the theorisng dorkins....he states..the fish dragged his eye in the mud..till it gradually 'evolved'...both on one side

only one huge problem..with this THEORY...the small poiunt young flatfish..look like normal; fish..go figure

<<this isn't demanding a line-by-line analysis.>>thats good bbecause the dorkins deleted the 3 page debate on it..ay his forum..[that he lost]..then deleted

david

Isaiah refers..to the Oriental belief in two coexistent,..eternal principles,..ever struggling with each other,..light or good,..and darkness or evil, Oromasden and Ahrimanen.

God, here,..in opposition.. asserts His sovereignty over both [Vitringa].

create evil-not moral evil (Jas 1:13),..but in contrast to "peace" in the parallel clause, war, disaster..(compare Ps 65:7; Am 3:6).

Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary

45:5-10 There is no God beside Jehovah.. There is nothing done without him...He makes peace,..put here for all good; and creates evil, not the evil of sin, but the evil of punishment.

He is the Author of all that is true,..holy,good,or happy;..and evil, error, and misery,..came into the world by his permission,..through the wilful apostacy..of his creatures,..but are restrained and overruled to his righteous purpose.

as some would realise...

the buck stops with the creator...but fot him NEITHER..could egsist...just as the car designer/or architect...is held to account..for the designes he designs...

all credit...[thus too...all blame....is due to god..who set this amasing..freechoice/freewill into these realms
Posted by one under god, Tuesday, 20 October 2009 8:32:38 PM
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One of the universal human traits is the need to seek patterns in everything. This is so in the sciences, as well as in any beleif systems.

It is pointless to argue with somone who only seeks a pattern in sciences, as opposed to someone who seeks understanding in a particular beleif sytem to the exclusion of everything else.

We may observe a pattern of explanation that is unique to what we new before, - such as Pythagoras, Jesus, or Enstein have done.

Another important issue we ought to remember is that, when the sacred text were written, may people were either illiterate, or at best, semi-literate. Stories were often passed on verbally only. As happens with stories, over time they became myths, although a kernel of truth remains.

Regarding miracles, one is reminded of Shakespear's "Winter Tale". The language available at the time is used to describe a natural event. In the play, a remorseful king has a statue made of his wronged wife. The statue comes alive. This was a simple way of describing that the wife was sent away (perhaps to a nunnery), socially cut off, - dead to the world, - who was later received back.

Could the miracles in the Old and in the New Testament describe the power of inclusiveness, of being in touch?
Posted by Istvan, Wednesday, 21 October 2009 1:17:18 AM
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WTF

Welcome one under god, you have successfully logged on.

You will be automatically logged out after 120 minutes of inactivity.


under this new system im fairly sure..this is near my last posting

yet i must reply this one last... most interesting question

could the miracles..in the Old and in the New Testament describe the power of inclusiveness,..of being in touch?

in the new testiment...most definitly
in the old not allways

well thats it i guess

have a fun experience posting logging in each 2 hours..[lol]..on the forum

i suppose i should explain
but really believe as you wil

many miss the point of many writings...because satans many serving vile in ignorance..have simply been decieved...as many now know..not every spot or blemish is leprocy...nor nessesarilly a contagin...yet those who love power playus...love quoting their new interpritation of the rules...new rules for their neo way

rules often for rules sake
rules that have under lying reason...
but for reasons often hidden from us..the great unwashed..

i guess the neo forum rule has its reasons...but im losing intrest...in explaining anything to anyone...

logging in means this forum is making..new rules on the run...policy..or just a way..to make less postings...who knows...its not worth speculating...so its best that im gone...so yep

im gone
Posted by one under god, Wednesday, 21 October 2009 6:37:45 AM
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bushbasher,
>>you brought up dawkins as an example of nonsense (admittedly not your choice of word)<<
You are right, I would never use that word to describe other people’s world-views (and I am not going through Dawkins’ writings to find out whether he uses that word, although I think he is more into ridicule). I have to accept that some of my opinions expressed on this OLO do not make sense to you, and you are welcome to call them nonsense if that makes you happy. However, “nonsense” is usually not part of my vocabulary, whether or not Dawkins is involved.

I brought up not Dawkins as such but his UC Berkeley appearance as an example of what people can “invent” (again not my word) to make them happy when religion is abandoned. Therefore I did not compare Dawkins with other thinkers only with other preachers. Instead of “don’t worry, you will go to heaven not to hell, I can assure you” you have something like “don’t worry about faith and religion; I (and science) can assure you there is nothing you already don’t understand about them”. This, in both cases, has a soothing effect on the appropriate audience, and that is probably a psychological good; in both cases the actual contents of the talk/sermon will be accepted with satisfaction by some, and seen as a “blasphemy” or “nonsense” by others (who usually have had life experiences flying in the face of what the preacher is saying).

My criticism of Dawkins - as also expressed on this OLO a couple of times - concerns his “non-sequiturs”: In response to AJ Phillips I recently presented my world-view in a nutshell (http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?article=9389&page=0#150883). There I described two fundamental world-view alternatives with the comment: “There is no rational way to decide “logically” in favour of the one or the other ... There are only arguments and predilections that can support one’s preconceived preference.” Clearly, Dawkins believes in what I called here Carl Sagan’s alternative, most theists start from the other alternative. (ctd)
Posted by George, Wednesday, 21 October 2009 6:58:58 AM
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I don’t think anyone has all the answers to who created the world. I know I don't.
I was once a devout unbeliever but what changed my seemingly strong stance was just "a reasonable doubt".
What if I can't explain EVERYTHING? Does that mean that God MIGHT be real?
So here are some of the things that intrigued me:
- Most secular scholars agree that Jesus WAS a real person
- If we did have 100s of millions of years of dinosaurs and even millions of years of mankind... where are all the bones? We should be swimming in them!
- If rivers, like the Amazon, dump billions of tonnes of sediment into the ocean and they have been doing this for 100s of millions of years, how high must the South American continent been to start with? http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v278/n5700/abs/278161a0.html
- How did so many fully-developed and diverse languages appear around the same time? As a tertiary-educated polyglot, I wouldn't have the faintest how to develop grammar. So how would uneducated hunter-gatherers have achieved this feat?
- Many cultures in different parts of the world have a flood story
- The good old chestnut... how did complex organs like the eye develop gradually?
- Even better, how did complex sexual organs and processes that work in tandem in a male and female of any species spontaneously develop AT THE SAME TIME?
- One more. The human brain is the most complex thing in the universe. Man in all his wisdom has not been able to create anything even close to it, yet evolution demands that we believe it “just happened” over a period of time!
The skeptics and diehard atheists will always respond... chance and time. Explains everything but really explains nothing.
Skeptics have to prove that EVERYTHING in our universe could have occurred without a Creator. Christians only have to show that ONE thing is impossible.
Posted by MartinsS, Wednesday, 21 October 2009 7:17:50 AM
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Dear Oliver,
Unlike david f, I do not believe that God created Evil - directly or indirectly.

It is purely philosophical whether Evil was automatically "created" along with Good (as a logical counterpoint - freedom of choice allows for doing the opposite of Good)... or whether Good and Evil is a "created thing" at all.

The fundamental theological truth/understanding is that God is holy so that He CANNOT be involved in evil. In fact, evil is annihilated in His presence.

So rather than postulate that God created Evil allowing satan a choice to rebel, I would lean heavily towards the idea that all beings (eternal and mortal) have a choice in their values and that these values/ethics are intrinsic to life, not an "optional extra."
So God allowed freedom of expression in Heaven and satan, being puffed up with pride, chose to try to usurp God's rightful place as King.

Some theories exist that satan was insanely jealous that God had installed Man as ruler over the Earth rather than him (pure conjecture). Still, why did envy enter satan’s heart (if that scenario were true)?

In any case, I do not wrestle with how Evil appeared, since the ultimate solution to the problem of Evil/Sin is provided for in Christ's atoning work on the cross.

Why worry about where your debt came from if you have a billion dollars in the bank?

God does not require worship for His ego, but because nature demands it. It is just a natural response of created beings to bow down to that which they are overawed by. God created man for our own benefit (to experience life), not His.
Posted by MartinsS, Wednesday, 21 October 2009 8:20:37 AM
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(ctd) Dawkins’ non-sequitur consists in his insistence that science and/or reason COMPEL you to chose the one alternative, making the other world-view alternative - shared by thousands of intellectuals, philosophers or scientists, contemporary and throughout history - necessarily “anti-rational” and “anti-science” or worse. I know, Dawkins is not the only one who thinks like that, and until recently also most Christian theologians thought the same way (of course, in defence of the other alternative).

Oliver,
>>Such a person (anthropologist) has the religions ... in a fully detached manner <<
I do not know why an anthropologist could not be a theist, or even a Christian, but you are right about the detachment. In a recent reply to relda I wrote (about the sociologist of religion par excellence):

“You are right about (Peter) Berger: if he offered a judgement - positive or negative - on religion or faith, it would diminish the value of his findings and theories as a sociologist.” The same about the cultural anthropologist Clifford Geertz, the author of my favourite (anthropological) definition of religion.

Also, it never occurred to me to compare Dawkins with Sells who - as far as I understand him - denies or ridicules neither science’s nor religion’s merits.

>>The existence of evil is a problem it seems even for a believer.<<
Without the bad, there is no notion of the good, if you did not know darkness you would not recognise light; nobody spoke of positive numbers before they had the concept of negative numbers.

Lao Tsu in Tao Te Ching (translation by Gia-Fu Feng and Jane English) says it thus:

“Under heaven all can see beauty as beauty only because there is ugliness.
All can know good as good only because there is evil.
Therefore having and not having arise together.
Difficult and easy complement each other.”
etc.
Posted by George, Wednesday, 21 October 2009 8:21:22 AM
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george:

1) i agree entirely that one can adopt a religious-faith attitude without actually involving a religion. in particular, i'm no more thrilled with knee-jerk atheism than you are.

2) your answer to my request re dawkins was a non-answer. read your post: it definitely attacks the religious fervor of the meeting, but not just the religious fervor. you claimed that what dawkins believes, or at least believed, was nonsense. change the word if you like, but the substantive charge remains. you've given no evidence for that, not one teensy example. (paraphrasing dawkins obviously doesn't cut it).

by contrast, i can easily point to nonsense in any sellick piece, and argue clearly why it is nonsense. or choose your favorite religious leader or religious scholar. maybe i'll think what they write is nonsense, maybe not. but i strongly suspect the former, and i suspect that i can back it much better than you have backed up your swipe at dawkins.
Posted by bushbasher, Wednesday, 21 October 2009 8:52:18 AM
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MartinsS wrote: Unlike david f, I do not believe that God created Evil - directly or indirectly.

Dear MartinsS,

I don't believe that God created evil as I don't believe there is such an entity as God. I quoted the Bible. According to the Bible God created evil. I quote the Bible again.

From the King James Version Isaiah 45:7 I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.

Go argue with the Bible.
Posted by david f, Wednesday, 21 October 2009 9:05:19 AM
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It’s interesting to note how Richard Dawkins calls himself a "post-Christian atheist" and talks about celebrating Christmas. It would perhaps be more accurate to call him a pre-Christian atheist, because he has never understood what Christianity is about in the first place. It’s rather like Madonna calling herself post-Marxist - she’d have to read him first to be ‘post-him’. Dawkins does, in certain respects, ‘make sense’, however, the crass mistakes he make are about the superficial. A lot of the time, he's either banging at an open door or he's shooting at a straw target. One can certainly agree with someone like Christopher Hitchens who says that, from an objective viewpoint, most religion appears as fairly hideous and purely ideological. However, there are other potentials in the gospel and in the Christian tradition which are, or should be, of great interest to radicals, and radicals haven't sufficiently recognised that.

Alan Watts shows us the two mythical models (or basic ideas) on the nature of reality (The Nature Of Consciousness: http://deoxy.org/w_nature.htm) on which we base our thinking. He outlines these two models as currently prevalent within the western mind, i.e. ‘the ceramic’ and ‘the automatic’. He correctly suggests that the hypothesis of God doesn’t help in our ability to make predictions – whereas science does. Science is in the business of ‘prophecy’ (or the art of prediction) based on the physical and regular laws of the universe.

Science has certainly formed the concept that reality itself is blind energy or as Freud would put it, reality is libido i.e., blind lust. “..for you and I are flukes in this cosmos, and we like our way of life - we like being human, if we want to keep it, say these people, we've got to fight nature, because it will turn us back into nonsense the moment we let it. So we've got to impose our will upon this world as if we were something completely alien to it…” (A.Watts). Our colonial legacy (and brutal past) certainly pays tribute to this idea and hostility toward nature, and quite mistakenly taken as 'Christian'.
Posted by relda, Wednesday, 21 October 2009 12:44:39 PM
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In the world before Monkey, primal chaos reigned.

Heaven sought order, but the phoenix can fly only when it's feathers are grown.

The four worlds formed again and yet again, as endless aeons wheeled and passed.
Time and the pure essences of Heaven all worked upon a certain rock, old as creation.
It became magically fertile. The first egg was named "Thought".

Tathagata Buddha, the Father Buddha said "With our thoughts, we make the world".
Elemental forces caused the egg to hatch.
From it came a stone monkey.

The nature of monkey was irrepressible!
Posted by Houellebecq, Wednesday, 21 October 2009 1:11:02 PM
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“Belief does not rest on evidence; it is a different way of knowing than that of scientific knowledge.”

One has to wonder how we reached modern times whilst institutionalized religions and theology carry such fear and loathing of science from medieval times.

I am impressed however, with the slight of hand by which Peter Sellick slips in the word “knowing” as an extension of the word “belief”. He didn’t actually replace “belief” with “knowledge” but it’s tantalizingly close, he’s almost there.

It’s vital for theology to allude to “belief” as a form of “knowledge” because faith can then sit at the right hand of “science” on an equal footing.

Unfortunately, much as theology seeks to bastardise the use of the term knowledge, it remains a specific entity as part of a structure and cannot be separated without the word and function of knowledge being destroyed.

Data is all things stored, recorded and otherwise available. Information is Data distilled into specific topic by context and relevance. Knowledge is the application of information and actions to produce a result. For example, a list of ingredients (information) will not produce a cake. A recipe however (knowledge) provides the methodology, timing and sequence that will produce a consistent something from the ingredients.

If theology wishes substitute the words faith or belief with the entity “knowledge”, we would have a reasonable expectation that theological data could be distilled into information and applied as knowledge to produce a result. Knowledge is therefore a validation.

Can we please have an example of religious knowledge, or if you prefer it, “knowing”?
Posted by spindoc, Wednesday, 21 October 2009 2:28:42 PM
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- Greetings all:

Martins S,

David f’s citation of Isaiah 45:7 seems emphatic: According to scripture, the Christian god did create evil. George seems to concur, adding, if I represent George correctly, evil is needed, so we can appreciate good.

I wonder why god didn’t just create good and better? - I suspect the faithful will point to The Fall of Man. Yet, would a loving god punish all humanity for all temporal time based on one transgression by two people (more so Eve) under provocation & temptation allegedly) 6,000 years ago.

Besides, the evil Satan seems to predate Genesis. Against what good was Satan’s evil contrasted before the Creation?

No doubt other mythologies qualify evil: e.g. Pandora’s Box. Christian is just one of the pack. Try to explain evil is essential to common cultural histographies. Even before the advanced religions developed, animists would have spoken of "evil spirits".

David f,

Thanks. I was unaware of this verse. It appears the Churches don’t bring that one out when evil is discussed.

George,

Maybe there are religionist anthropologists, yet the methodologies of the Discipline might tend to class religions as a chemist would classify elements, as I previously commented. As, also mentioned before, humanity had the Axial Age and we read of H.G. Well’s Alexandrian God factories. Christianity is a carpet sitting on a dozen layers of under-felt. Moreover, Christianity is but one room in a Hilton Hotel of rooms.

Relda,

I have not previously read Alan Watts. I would have thought there are plenty of predictions made in the Bible or at least interpretations as predictions. The End Days being a case in point. The ancient Jews, the Christian Jews and Nicaean Christians have all exclained, “the End is Neigh”! Like Marx, who also made predictions by leveraging Hegel, the hypotheses were valid and disproved.
Posted by Oliver, Wednesday, 21 October 2009 2:58:31 PM
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Oliver,

As far as hypotheses go, it certainly has been and probably will continue as so, to give ‘God’ as a proposed explanation for an observable phenomenon – proof however, as to his existence, and also according to the theologian, Paul Tillich, will always be beyond us. The ‘predictions’, as pointed to, and as you correctly point out were literally false. The word prophet, to which we have now affixed a new idea, was , however, the Bible word for poet. The word ‘prophesying’ meant the art of making poetry. It also meant the art of playing poetry to a tune upon any instrument of music.

We are told of Saul as being among the prophets, and also that he prophesied, but not what he what prophesied. The case is, there was nothing to tell. These prophets were a company of musicians and poets, and Saul joined in the concert, and this was called prophesying. Now, what the writers of the NT had read into the OT was really a form of poetry, and really not validating at all an Old Testament prediction about the coming of the person, Jesus Christ, despite the wonderful poetry.

But it does remain, by examining the behavior of the past and describing it carefully, we can make predictions about what's going to happen in the future – this is also science, in perhaps as much for many at least, as it is common sense.
Posted by relda, Wednesday, 21 October 2009 4:10:25 PM
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reida, can you give examples of dawkins' crass mistakes?
Posted by bushbasher, Wednesday, 21 October 2009 4:32:10 PM
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bushbasher,
please reread what I wrote; I did not “attack the religious fervour” of any meeting, I just pointed out similarities between this particular meeting and meetings conducted by evangelical preachers.

I am sorry, but I cannot express more clearly what I dislike in Dawkins’ approach to other peoples’ world-views, and as I said, you are free to call that nonsense. I do not think it is possible to “unconvince” those who are convinced by his arguments. Again, the same with followers of evangelical preachers.

Please note, that there are also mirror images of you, people (e.g. some contributors on this OLO whom I do not need to name) who are also convinced that they have “evidence” for their world-view (based on faith in their case), and regard as blasphemy or nonsense contrary views. Some people are more antagonised by the one extreme, some by the other. I am trying to understand both. I mean, not so much the extremes but the people holding them, and I am sorry if you were offended by what I wrote about Dawkins.

Oliver,
Do you mean to say that one has to be an avowed atheist in order to be recognised as a scholarly anthropologist, (sociologist, historian etc)? Don’t you think the disciplines would suffer if you “excommunicated“ all non-atheists, past and present?

>>I wonder why god didn’t just create good and better?<<
It seems, you did not understand the quote from Tao Te Ching. This reminds me of the old joke “most of the casualties after train collisions occur in the last carriage, so why don’t they just leave out the last carriage?” It is not about train colisions but about the meaning of “last”, the same as the good-evil controversy: it is not so much about God, but about how we understand the concepts involved.

A different question is why did this rather than that person have to be a victim of evil. As you know, a Christian answer is that the affected will be “compensated” in afterlife, and there is no “scientific“ answer to compete with this answer.
Posted by George, Thursday, 22 October 2009 7:28:42 AM
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Dear david f,
Interesting translation. Most versions use the words "calamity" or "disaster" instead of "evil".

But context is everything. Just as Jesus said "if your hand or eye causes you to sin, cut it off or pluck it out", He was obviously using hyperbole.

The text does not say "I create(d) evil" as in "I originated it". It merely refers to the common person's perception regarding God's righteous punishment for the grievous sins of the nation.

Just as a young child does not see a parent’s punishment or discipline as "just" for their errant behaviour, so a wayward nation would declare that the actions of a righteous God are "evil". God merely inspired Isaiah to write in the common vernacular and viewpoint.

From people smarter than I is the following explanation:
Isaiah 45:7 contrasts opposites. Darkness is the opposite of light. However, evil is not the opposite of peace. The Hebrew word translated "peace" is shâlôm, which has many meanings, mostly related to the wellbeing of individuals. Râ âh, the Hebrew word translated "evil" in the KJV often refers to adversity or calamity. There are two forms of the word. Strong's (Concordance) H7451a most often refers to moral evil, whereas Strong's H7451b (the form used here) most often refers to calamity or distress. Obviously, "calamity" is a better antonym of "peace" than "evil."

Oliver, as for: "what good was Satan’s evil contrasted before the Creation?"
The perfect goodness of Heaven.

And relda, I don’t know where you got your definition of "prophetic" from, but it is fanciful to say the least. Prophecy is an inspired utterance, a divine revelation, a prediction. Saul's prophesying was a sign to the people that God was working through him. Merely singing or spouting poetry would be meaningless in the context of the passage.
Posted by MartinsS, Thursday, 22 October 2009 7:37:48 AM
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bushbasher,
CORRECTION:
In my last post, please replace

“people ... who are also convinced that they have “evidence” for their world-view (based on faith in their case), and regard ...”

by

“people ... who are also convinced that reason can support ONLY their world-view (where the bible often takes the role of science to support their claim), and regard ...”

since you probably do not claim to have “evidence” for your atheism. My apologies for the clumsy formulation.
Posted by George, Thursday, 22 October 2009 8:33:12 AM
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Seeing how we are talking on the bible and god thing I just thought that someone might like the following

http://au.news.yahoo.com/a/-/mp/6289679/nobel-winner-slams-bible-as-handbook-of-bad-morals/

Have a good life from
Dave
Posted by dwg, Thursday, 22 October 2009 9:14:38 AM
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On the question of evil, I think one of the aspects of religion in general which upsets many atheist/agnostics, is the related matter of 'fate'.
I think Dawkins mentioned in one of his books his distaste for a certain Hindu, and his callous disregard of a beggar. The Hindu's attitude was, the beggar must have done something terrible in his former life to deserve such a fate, and is thus not worthy of our compassion.
Similarly, I believe there are many midwest American fundamentalists who support Zion, simply because it is a prerequisite of the second coming.
Such people are clearly not too concerned about Global Warming, or land degradation or pollution, as these are trivial matters when the Lord's acomin'.
Many Americans, proud of the poetic words of the Declaration of independence, appear to indulge in 'doublethink'. While they take pride in their own achievements, they seem to think that since everyone is 'created equal', the unfortunate only have themselves to blame.
I've always considered the words 'rich Christian' to be oxymoronic, (I even wrote an article about it) yet they do exist in large numbers. Most seem to justify their wealth by the belief that “that's how God must want it”.
Is this attitude not evil?
More 'rational' Christians will no doubt claim such people are not 'true' Christians; that their interpretation is faulty. David f has explored this fallacy fairly thoroughly, and I won't reprise.
Once again, it all comes down to interpretation, doesn't it.
Posted by Grim, Thursday, 22 October 2009 9:49:20 AM
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bushbasher,
Conservative Evangelicals despise Richard Dawkins while actually believing in the kind of God he rightly rejects, as if the existence of God were, in principle, demonstrable, as if the proposition “God exists” were a hypothesis to be affirmed or denied, as if God were simply the hugest of individuals. The crass mistakes, however, made by not only Dawkins but also many others are that the arguments aren't just about God or just about religion. Both Dawkins and many Christians reject Thor and Vishnu and the Flying Spaghetti Monster and any other super-being you might care to imagine.

Essentially theology is like any other intellectual discipline - it is potentially an endless (evolving) process of argument. It is often counter intuitive and its ‘knowledge’ non-dogmatic. The task of the Christian apologist is certainly not to establish a deity.

Dawkins, however, makes the misinterpretation (and the mistake made by many) that theology doesn't need to conform to the rules and demands of reason, i.e., “Anything goes”, where theologians can say anything they like nor have to engage in reasonable argument, released also from the tenets of science. Traditionally, this is the Christian heresy known as fideism (the exclusive or basic reliance upon faith alone, accompanied by a consequent disparagement of reason). But all kinds of rationalities, theology included, have been non-scientific for quite a time and yet still conform to the procedures of reason.

MartinS,
The ‘prophet as fortune teller' has always been the most popular held conception for the ‘office’ of the ancient prophet – and remaining so today. This portrait actually demeans them as ‘vague fortune tellers'. They were poets, articulating in poetic imagery their faith in God, their hopes for the future, and their vision of the inevitable triumph of justice. The ‘seer-prophet’ apprehends not necessarily what is ‘smooth’, but emphatically that which is right. So, yes, there’s more to it than “merely” poetry.

I generally agree you, Grim – especially your inference regards the ‘prosperity gospel’ - particularly prevalent in fundamentalist America and one of its established clones here in Oz - i.e., Hillsong.
Posted by relda, Thursday, 22 October 2009 1:18:28 PM
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Dear Relda,

I don't know that the prophets believed in the eventual triumph of justice. I think they believed that they should speak out against injustice whatever the cost and hope that righteousness would triumph. Injustice will prevail if no one speaks to it. The prophets spoke for justice and hoped it would prevail.
Posted by david f, Thursday, 22 October 2009 1:44:14 PM
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george and reida, thanks. i think my questions and your responses to my questions make the status of dawkins "nonsense" and "crass mistakes" about as clear as one could imagine.
Posted by bushbasher, Thursday, 22 October 2009 1:49:14 PM
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George,

1. Any anthropologist, theist or otherwise, would classify civilizations, tools, myths and religions, often applying some kind of classification system. Christianity, for example would share a creation myth, direct and indirect (messengers) communications from God and a trinity with other religions. A suitably interested anthropologist could take Christian and its thousand-fold peers and sort religion markers, as one could sort cards according to colour, number and court or non-court set. What I think what would confront the examiner is that Christianity, along with many other alternatives, could readily be categorized like elements on the Period Table. It would be unclear whether the Christians are right about Jesus, the Romans about Diana or the Egyptians about Ra. What be evident is that advanced religions evolved in many forms from more primitive ones and that priesthoods and churches/temples/mosques evolved many with alters: The same game with different labels.

2. I did recognize the Daoism. I was suggesting that contrasts can exist without recourse to extremes. Because we might prefer have more savings rather than less savings, it does not follow we need debt.

When one programmes logically engineered generic units developing Artificial Intelligent software the designer can parameterise the allowable conditions so, the latitudes of movement are variable with constraint. If a lowly analyst-programmer can establish guided conditions with flexibility (too), why not god?

3. You might not have previously thought about it, but given you have had time to reflect, do you see similarities between Sells and Dawkins? Moreover, here, the Protestant and the (near) Atheist are opposed to the kernel of Catholicism. For example, neither two would hold to the five “extra” sacraments (I think the number is correct.)
Posted by Oliver, Thursday, 22 October 2009 1:51:39 PM
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George,

I liked the verse (which I understood) and enjoyed the joke :-).

Martins S,

Good reply on good-evil contrast discussion … Satan’s evil was contrasted with perfection in heaven.

George and Martins S,

You both seem to be settling-in on a "necessary" contrast having to exist between good and evil. Is evil "necessary" for the complete the fulfilment of a good god? If not god, then god's creation?

Was Satan evil in heaven?

Reflecting on my reply (2) to George, could God have not created Satan with (constrained) free will (it is not a tautology) and not have allowed evil to emerge? We have the capacity to run faster that an ant but a horse can run faster than us and cheetah is very swift indeed, but as fast as some birds.

Reference Bibles with many alternatives aside, I think you will find most translators use the English word “evil” in Isaiah 45:7 verse in common bibles.

Cheers,

O.
Posted by Oliver, Thursday, 22 October 2009 3:00:12 PM
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Dear david f,
Something from your heritage, which I find particularly applicable to the idea of justice and the consequence, if not spoken to:

“According to the teaching of the Torah and the Prophets, the People of Israel were expecting to demonstrate its loyalty to God not merely by worshiping Him, but mainly by practicing justice and righteousness. These are called ‘the way of the Lord’ (Genesis 18:19). In the light of that teaching, failure to walk in that way has brought untold suffering on the People of Israel. Unrighteousness is the offspring of pride, which takes the form of rebellion against God, or playing the god. Translated into universal terms, that teaching implies that the religion of a people has to find expression principally in the practice of righteousness in its political, economic, and social affairs. That is the divine law for every people. Violation of that law is bound to lead to failure and disaster.”
- The Greater Judaism in the Making, Mordecai M. Kaplan, p. 477

As you would say, expressed here is more a hope in the justice to be achieved through an ongoing battle (fought against “the offspring of pride”), if you like. But one would wonder the point of it all, where there is no ultimate 'achievement', at some point in time, rather than the eternal cycle of “failure and disaster”.

Justice, as a fait accompli, is promised by all manner of religion - one may even suggest empirical evidence, showing a deterioration of the human condition since the death of Christ, rather than an improvement. Redemption, as Martin Buber never tired of pointing out, will mean Die Vollendung der Schöpfung, a fulfillment of the creation which will amount to the re-creation of the whole world. And as you would agree, that particular redemption surely has not taken place.
Posted by relda, Thursday, 22 October 2009 4:49:55 PM
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Dear Relda,

The idea of individual or group reward and punishment may be comforting, but I don't believe it is true or even reasonable. It is denigrating because it puts righteousness on a childish level. "Be good, and you'll get candy." It is wrong because we are not atomised individuals. We are part of our family, the groups we are connected with, humanity, all life, the earth and ultimately the universe. If we behave righteously we may make everything a bit better, and that is reward enough. There is no reason we should get candy. We may make things a bit better, but we can't be sure of that because what we think of as righteous may be completely wrong-headed. We can only try.

I think Buber had grandiose ideas. I think it more reasonable to try to behave well to those we know than to concern ourselves with Die Vollendung der Schöpfung. I think the idea of an apotheosis of humanity or creation is a harmful one. The attempt to achieve messianic visions brings suffering whether it is the eventual classless society of Marx, the millennial visions of a dominant Nazi Reich or any other eventual pie in the sky.

Kaplan shares that arrogance. Who is he to prescribe 'divine law for every people'?

I believe we can try to show love for those we know, behave as righteously as we can and expect nothing for it.

Matthew Arnold said it well in “Dover Beach.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.
Posted by david f, Thursday, 22 October 2009 7:10:43 PM
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There must be a lot of Godly people on this site.Mention God and we have a plethoria of comment.Realise this.If you knew for sure ,life would not be worth living.

In truth we all live in this twilight world of harsh reality and the aspiration for a perfect existance.When we stop evolving,we stop growing,so the perfect world is unattainable.

Live for the moment.
Posted by Arjay, Thursday, 22 October 2009 8:20:30 PM
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Terry Eagleton criticised dawkins when the God Delusion came out, indeed lambasted him. Eagleton accuses Dawkins of setting religion up as a straw man in order to easily knock him down. That is, Dawkins paints religious thought as oxymoronic, as nothing but credulous fundamentalist swill that ignorant people subscribe to without ever considering the counterveiling arguments. I agree. None of the rabid beleivers I've ever argued with know the first thing about evolution, for instance; nor have they ever stopped to consider the tenuous foundations of their belief, retreating into their "faith" rather than considering its inconsistencies in a thoughtful manner--as though God might punish them for healthy skepticism.
In fact, Eagleton argues, most religions have had their great thinkers, whose theology cannot be so easily dismissed; but Dawkins doesn't address it, preferring to beat-up on the asinine fundamentalisms and narrow minded bigotry that seem to be overwhelmingly "popular" these days. The dark night of the soul has been a common discourse in the Christian tradition that is meant to be embraced as a prickly path to God. Yet today, like pop-culture in general, religion has all the significance and nourishment of a Big Mac with Fries. It's the headbanging Good News fundamentalism that's on the rise, and the non-thinking "the Bible's all I need" provincialism. On the other hand, the kind of positivism Dawkins presides over is also a kind of fundamentalism, in my view, in it's almost manic rationalism, that refuses to have any truck with philosophical considerations. For anyone interested, here's a link to Eagleton's article: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v28/n20/eagl01_.html
Posted by Squeers, Friday, 23 October 2009 11:44:53 AM
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Oliver,
Yes, satan was evil in heaven. Revelation states that he was thrown down along with his cohorts, but did from time to time ascend again to Heaven to revile God’s people (see Job).

I would have thought that constraining evil would by virtue of its intrinsic nature also constrain the potential for good, but maybe not since Adam & Eve were "protected" from the knowledge of good & evil in the garden and God proclaimed that everything He created on Earth was "very good". Is innocence is a higher state of being? Certainly God would have preferred that Man remained in this perfect state, but had planned for mankind's redemption right from the start. So the question still remains "Why?".
Much to ponder on for me. Thanks for the thought-provoking challenges.

By the way...
New International Version - disaster
New American Standard Bible - calamity
The Message (contemporary) - discords
New Living Translation - bad times
King James - evil
New King James - calamity
21st century King James - evil
Contemporary English - sorrow
Today’s NIV - disaster

P.S. So since physical beauty is also an intrinsic, non-created "thing", who decided what was to be deigned ugly (before women's magazine, of course!)? Do we all share a certain penchant for well-proportioned bodies/faces or is it totally dependent on our upbringing/external factors? Does this same inter-relationship apply for all intrinsic values ie the need for both extremes to be meaningful/significant?
Posted by MartinsS, Friday, 23 October 2009 12:31:52 PM
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For OLO Forum:

Squeers,
I agree with most of what you say. The cacophony is coming from the two extremes and tends to drown out any contribution from the more deeply searching people in the middle. (The statement is open to question of course. I don’t usually fall back on one-dimensional models, but I’m in a hurry just now.) I’ll return with more to say later.

George,
“Glossolalia” was actually derived from the Greek. If we were to coin a Latin term for the state-of mind you describe in the Dawkins audience, I would suggest “risomania” – insane with laughter.
Posted by crabsy, Friday, 23 October 2009 12:42:20 PM
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Dear david f,
The comedian Josh Kornbluth, a son of atheist Marxists who grew up in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, said he never really considered himself Jewish until he sifted through a series of hypercolored portraits and emerged, as he puts it, one of ‘Warhol’s Jews’(a 1980’s series of silk-screen prints called “10 Portraits of Jews of the 20th Century” depicting luminaries like Einstein, Kafka and Golda Meir).Despite an obvious aversion to the Warhol portraits, Konbluth was commissioned by the Jewish Museum in New York to comment on them. “I defaced my catalogue,” he said. “I put a Jewish beard and sidelocks and a yarmulke on [Warhol]...I began to look at the War-whole…Andy Warhol:Good for the Jews?”

“I don’t get it.” Konbluth shakes his fists at the portraits, “I don’t get the same feeling I get from the Rembrandt portraits at the Met. They’re resisting me, they’re pushing me away.” He looked closer and studied the colors “potchkied” over the face of Louis Brandeis, the crude scribbles outlining Gertrude Stein’s features and so on...Still, he said,“I get nothing.” Kornbluth then tried delving into the professional biographies of Warhol’s subjects in search of artistic substance: George Gershwin’s revolutionary mix of jazz, popular and classical music, the Marx Brothers’ films. Then he gets to the theologian and philosopher Martin Buber,“the one I know absolutely nothing about.” The comedian recalls his anecdote about a gay Presbyterian minister named Chuck who gave the teenage Kornbluth a brief lesson on “I-It” and “I-Thou” elements of Buber’s philosophy of human relationships.

“I-It” involves relating to a person as a functional object—“I objectify you,” as the Rev. Chuck put it;“I-Thou” involves relating to someone in a more engaged way. “When you feel ‘I-Thou’ you connect to the eternal… I-It’ is a monologue. ‘I-Thou’ is a dialogue.” “That’s what I have to do with these portraits to get inside them… I need to get from ‘I-It’ to ‘I-Thou.’ ”– his realization was the need to create a dialogue between his own experience and that of the subjects i.e.,the wide-ranging iterations of Jewish identity.

...Good comment Squeers.
Posted by relda, Friday, 23 October 2009 1:38:03 PM
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yeah, yeah you guys don't like dawkins. good for you. but:

1) to claim dawkins is simply attacking straw men is absurd. he is at minimum attacking the type of religious belief that the vast majority of religous believers truly ruly believe. he may be cunningly avoiding tougher targets, choosing easy targets, but to suggest he's merely inventing his own targets is blatantly false.

2) it'd be nice if you actually quoted dawkins, and argued with what he says. simply referring to other critiques is pretty empty, and pretty authority-appealing.

3) to suggest, as eagleton does, that dawkins doesn't know the minutiae of his target is neither here nor there. i don't know the minutiae of numerology, but i don't need to know that to argue that it is nonsense. if you want to claim that dawkins is throwing some grand thought, some grand way of knowing, in the garbage, then demonstrate it.

4) i am still waiting for even a single example of dawkins' nonsense belief or crass mistakes. really, you guys can't even cherrypick or nitpick something?

5) i have no doubt that all religions have had their great religious thinkers. that is not the same as their religious thinking being great. that is no proof that the religious element of their thought added anything to their greatness. but if you think so, please provide me the examples of such people.
Posted by bushbasher, Friday, 23 October 2009 4:09:44 PM
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I've avoided commenting because 'the Sells', in my 'umble opinion, really has little original to say... as with most of us.

But, as always, the original ark-tickle is but an excuse for others to say what they want 'irregardless' as St. Barnaby Rubble, Senator for Qld, and The Great Thinker For The Farmers, would say when challenged on... just about anything.

Being guided by God, albeit a 'Mick' one, St. Barnaby simply cannot be wrong. Nor Sells, of course, 'irregardless' of reality.

But I've read a little Eagleton, he is prolific beyond good reason, and certainly beyond doubt within his topic- a sure sign of fundamentalism, if ever I saw one.

Could this be true of Dawko? Possibly. But I tend towards Bushbasher here, and wonder if the, as I see it anyway, point of the Dawko onslaught has not been missed, as BB seems to suggest.

We are faced, those from the secular world- which does not imply atheist I hasten to add- with the complacency of the established Church, Canterbury and Rome, and to hell with the Greeks and 'others', who have no interest whatsoever in 'end times'... and the recent upsurge of interest in the maddog Hillsong, CoC, Baptist, Sydney Anglican, and various sects of the Roman sham, who are very keen for Israel to blow up Iran to hasten the 'end times'.

Included, of course, are all the school chaplains in Australia, mad as hatters, all.

And Dawko is, as I see it, simply trying to point out to those complacent nere-do-wells who sit in the centre and pretend to be 'average', such as 'crasby' alludes to, the Doctors Wives who feel pain but do bugger all to relieve it, continuing to vote Liberal, or ALP, or... no, none would ever vote Nat,and thereby assume, wrongly, that because they are not extremists, the 'others' are wrong.

News for you ladies... and the men amongst youse all, you are timid, too timid, and refuse to see the danger that Dawko alludes to.

Dawko raises hackles. Eagleton ponders his ivory tower pipe smoking safe from the madding crowd.
Posted by The Blue Cross, Friday, 23 October 2009 9:24:16 PM
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Squeers posted Terry Eagleton's critique of "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins. In Eagleton's article was the following:

"Dawkins thinks it odd that Christians don’t look eagerly forward to death, given that they will thereby be ushered into paradise. He does not see that Christianity, like most religious faiths, values human life deeply, which is why the martyr differs from the suicide."

Terry Eagleton is probably a Christian, and like many other religionists is ignorant of the history of his religion.

Values human life deeply? “Blood and Soil” by Ben Kiernan is a history of genocide from Sparta to Darfur. Included are many instances of genocide supported by Christianity. An excerpt:

Page 64 “In the “first great slaughter of Europe’s Jews by Christians,” errant Crusader bands massacred possibly 8,000 Jews in eight German cities in May-June 1096. Marching into Jerusalem three years later, according to the Archbishop of Tyre, Crusaders murdered “about 10,000 infidels” – both Muslims and Jews – in the Temple enclosure. They burned more Jews alive in the synagogue and butchered thousands of Muslims in the al-Aqsa mosque.”

There was a Christian sect which did look forward eagerly to death. The Donatists were a schismatic sect of especially rigorous Christians in North Africa from the fourth to the seventh centuries. After the Constantinian shift, when other Christians accepted the emperor as a leader in the Church, the Donatists continued to see the emperor as the devil. The Donatist movement came out of opposition to the appointment of Caecilianus as Bishop of Carthage in 312, because of his pro-government stance.

The Donatists became characterized by a cult of martyrdom. They longed for the final and greatest outpouring of Gods grace, the death of the martyr, and greeted one another with the wish "may you gain your crown." [McManners ed., Oxford History of Christianity p. 43). They even would stop people on the road demanding to be murdered or else they would kill the person who refused to murder them.

In reaction to the Donatists the Church made suicide a sin. It was not previously
Posted by david f, Friday, 23 October 2009 10:05:36 PM
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Oliver,
1. You still did not answer my question. I am not an anthropologist but I doubt many anthropologists - atheist or not - would be happy with your ideas on how they should go about their research.

2. Contrasts are qualitative, your examples assume also quantifiability of the property. She can be pregnant or not, you can a have temperature or not. However, she cannot be “a little bit” pregnant (because “being pregnant” is not quantifiable), however you can have just a low temperature, (because temperature is). The same about other examples involving graduation.

Nevertheless, you have a point. Theodicy - the problem of evil - is a branch of (Christian) theology that I am not an expert on, but as far as I know, there is no uniformly accepted explanation of this “why” of theology. I attempted at a partial explanation by pointing to the impossibility to understand or experience something without at least mentally being able to experience its lack or opposite. Another partial answer is that we could not have what we experience as free will if we could not choose to do what is regarded - by God or by our moral instinct implanted in us through evolution, (two not mutually exclusive alternatives) - as good (encouraged by God and/or beneficial to society) and what as bad (condemned by God and/or harmful to society).

3. Maybe in the sense that both Sellick and Dawkins tend to misrepresent those they disagree with, although they appeal to “congregations” of widely different sizes.

4. I do not know whether God could or could not have created this or that because He is beyond human comprehension. What is in the bible (or any other sacred text or mythology) has to be taken only either as
(a) His revelation to the “infinitely inferior“ human intellect or as
(b) an attempt of a particular cultural orientation to comprehend the incomprehensible, (again the two not being necessarily mutually exclusive).

In both cases I regard speculations - about what could or could not, should or should not, have been written - futile
Posted by George, Saturday, 24 October 2009 1:11:15 AM
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Oh dear, Blue Cross, I should not have tried to make a quick contribution with the five minutes I had at my disposal. As I parenthetically mentioned, I am usually loath to use one-dimensional schemata to portray my view of things.

By placing the participants in the debate on a bi-polar scale between Dawkinsians and Fundies I allowed many – perhaps most – other people to be labelled “average”. I gave you a perfect opening, didn’t I?

Labels like “average”, “moderate” and “middle-of-the-road” are very misleading. They also have a rather derisive connotation, as if those who cannot be placed at one of the two poles lack courage or conviction, or are, to use your term, “complacent”. Thus did the Fascists and Communists -- polar opposites on the everyday left-right political spectrum, but totalitarians both -- rail about the apathetic ignorance and degenerate weakness of the rest (bulk) of the population.

My point is that there are many people who are searching for meaning or truth or immaterial reality, but deliberately refrain from noisy or aggressive public display of their views. This is often because they are honest enough to accept that their views could be wrong and may change tomorrow as they explore their own and others’ inner experience. And a great many of them are active members of the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches, as well as some Protestant denominations. Such people are anything but “complacent”, as you brand them. They are treading the path which St John of the Cross described as the “dark night of the soul”, and which Squeers has already mentioned.

It is no weakness that they usually find it more useful to communicate with others on a similar quest than to get sensational headlines in the mass media from day to day.
Posted by crabsy, Saturday, 24 October 2009 1:16:42 AM
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Bushbasher,
I’m in an awkward spot!
1) I agree with you that Dawkins is attacking stereotypical religious belief, and so does Eagleton; but I’m wary of stereotypes. Who says Dawkins is “inventing his own targets” btw?
2) Will look at this. Eagleton was generalising Dawkins’ critique—that is, Dawkins doesn’t get into specifics either. As for appealing to authority, well that goes both ways; Dawkins is also an authority for positivism.
3) Why don’t you “need to know the minutia to argue that it [numerology] is nonsense”? How is that different to a fundamentalist critique of Darwinism? The rationalist perspective then has ultimate power of veto? Then what is the point in debating the matter further, if rationalism rests on absolute conviction? How is this different to high Catholicism? Is life, the universe and everything really so transparent—a mere jigsaw for science to piece together while it adopts the same sanctimonious position as the church took in “its” heyday? Dawkins’ ex-cathedra pronouncements apparently also have no tolerance for dissent?
Dawkins is not throwing out any “grand thought” or “way of knowing”, he “is” making light work of a straw man—even Eagleton doesn’t get into the nuts and bolts of theology, so I’m not going to. Dawkins is the one who labels his pet pathology the “God Delusion”, under which banner he implicitly condemns all thought that can’t evince its empirical credentials, as delusional. “God” means a whole lot of different things to different people—I mean outside the various franchises. Much as fundamentalism seems to be on the rise today, the term “God” signifies a diverse mysticism to many. Why should we throw the bathwater out with the baby? I have no time either for the narcissistic fervour of credulous evangelicals, or pietistic provincialism, full stop. But I’m not ready to profess the faux-objectivity of positivism either—to put my faith in the human senses, and its prized rationality, when they are so easily confounded. I subscribe to the tenets of perspectivism, rather than either extreme.
Shall have more to say.
Posted by Squeers, Saturday, 24 October 2009 5:45:25 AM
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Crasby... How can people with serious doubts about what they believe keep subscribing, voluntarily, to continuing their membership of a church?

"And a great many of them are active members of the Anglican and Roman Catholic churches, as well as some Protestant denominations. Such people are anything but “complacent”, as you brand them."

These are, no doubt, the Spongs of the franchises, as I see Squeers calls these cults, trying to have two-bob each way.

But, as the man said, if you do not believe in the Resurrection, then all else is dust. The simple secret of 'faith' is on display there, faith such as Sells invests his entire life in.

If these people who you say are 'struggling' so, yet remain active members of their church, then they have missed the entire point of their religion, as promoted by the cults- to 'believe' without question.

As I understand Dawko, he 'believes' to the extent that the theory-de-jour remains 'it', but he allows for it to be re-interpreted as new 'facts' emerge.

Not so religions. The Book is Writ, and shall always remain so...and never by 'man' by always by 'God'.

Do tap The Googles for the song 'why don't bees go to heaven?'

Dawko points out the futility of such blindness, Sells and his acolytes relish it, and draw income, power and prestige amongst the complacent in society on the way through.

Pondering 'why are we here?' can be done outside the framework of any religion.

In the end, of course, it really doesn't matter 'why' we are here, here we are.

Dogs know the answer that eludes us. Observe how they lope around the garden and sleep in dark corners 'waiting' for something to happen. The car door opens, doggie is encouraged to climb in, ears prick up, saliva drools from the jaw, woof, woof, goes Arnold for the entire journey, excited beyond reason.

Get to the other end, back at home maybe, and Arnold reverts to his normal routine, awaiting his next episode of the-purpose-of-life: the journey.
Posted by The Blue Cross, Saturday, 24 October 2009 9:35:49 AM
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Squeers has brought Terry Eagleton into the conversation – he “probably [is] a Christian” and some on this forum are Jews. Both labels, however, I find irrelevant in terms of the discussion here. From what I read of Eagleton he is far from being what I’d term a “religionist” where, “…Dawkins tends to see religion and fundamentalist religion as one and the same. This is not only grotesquely false; it is also a device to outflank any more reflective kind of faith by implying that it belongs to the coterie and not to the mass. The huge numbers of believers who hold something like the theology I outlined above can thus be conveniently lumped with rednecks who murder abortionists and malign homosexuals..”

Eagleton wrote a critique on the “Suicide of the West” by Richard Koch and Chris Smith. Here he says, and certainly contradicts those with a superficial view of “love” and the OT, “The Mosaic law IS the law of love, and as such is every bit as personal and interior as Jesus's teaching. Nor was Jesus a dry run for Paddy Ashdown; he was a thoroughly anti-individualist first-century Jew, steeped in the ritual and doctrine of his nation. Christianity for Koch and Smith means helping the underdog; for the Yahweh of the Old Testament, it means the poor coming to power..”

Also, “…the ideal of science, too, has been undermined - not by Nazi eugenicists or Los Alamos physicists, as it happens, but by "fashionable fancies" such as the theories of relativity and indeterminacy. For all their wide-eyed zest for postmodernity, Koch and Smith turn out to be nostalgic Newtonians.” Fascinating.
Posted by relda, Saturday, 24 October 2009 9:47:41 AM
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squeers:

>> Who says Dawkins is “inventing his own targets"?

either you or eagleton or both. what else is the point of using the term "straw man"?

dawkins' target may be "stereotypical" and only the stereotypical, but if so it is still ridiculous to trivialise his target, to pretend it is not a hugely important target. you may be wary of stereotyping, but the simple fact of the matter is that the majority of the world's religious adherents believe the kind of nonsense which dawkins (at minimum) attacks.

if they look like ducks, quack like ducks, forgive my stereotyping them as ducks.

>> Dawkins is also an authority for positivism.

huh? i'm not using dawkins as an authority for anything?

>> How is that different to a fundamentalist critique of Darwinism?

if you look at darwinism, any science, a little, you see a little of how and why it works. if you look a little at miracles, at god as guy-in-sky-with-beard, you see nothing.

science works. people see science works. and life is short. i don't have time to investigate every supernatural belief. if you have evidence that religious thought works, in any sense, then produce it.

>> Eagleton doesn’t get into the nuts and bolts of theology, so I’m not going to

fine, but don't expect me to prove a negative. if the claim is that dawkins has thrown some gorgeous baby out with the undeniably dirty bathwater, then it's up to someone to show me the baby.

squeers, despite what it may seem, i'm not an overwhelming fan of dawkins. BUT, what gets up my nose is intellectual religious types who smugly and fact-freely dismiss him and his book as amateurish.

dawkins was gratuitously introduced into this thread. he supposedly believes or believed nonsense, he supposedly makes crass mistakes. he supposedly ignores the brilliant gifts of religious thought. maybe all are true. but i want someone to argue it, not simply claim it.
Posted by bushbasher, Saturday, 24 October 2009 10:52:08 AM
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the 100 or so posters here that deny the obvious and come up with ridiculous pseudo science certainly proves that a Creator is still by far the most rational explanation for this world. what puny minds the rebellious get caught in.
Posted by runner, Saturday, 24 October 2009 11:19:20 AM
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I invite commentators to re-read my article and come up with some material closer to the point. As it is we have had the same old bluster from those opposed and those for "religion". My article was really about the usefulness of Trinitarian theology in solving theological problems inherited from early modernity. In particular, the problem of how God acts in the world. If commentators could get over their own particular hobby horses and try to see what the real issues I am trying to engage are then we may get somewhere. The theology of the early church mapped out a language about God that is robust even to withstand the assaults of modern science. Part of the problem is that the theology we find in most churches is not Trinitarian in its roots but, as I keep repeating, more Greek, owing much to Aristotle and Plato. This mix between Athens and Jerusalem has always been a problem in the church and even more so now that the blowtorch of modernity has been applied to it.
The only hope for contemporary theology is to retrieve, in a radical fashion, the Trinitarian formulations. My frustration with the comments is that no one has wanted to discuss the Trinity!
Peter Sellick
Posted by Sells, Saturday, 24 October 2009 11:39:56 AM
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The Trinity,
A 4th Century concept completely alien to Jewish theology instituted under Constantine to account for the conflicting opinions about the nature of the god concept at the time.
Largely irrelevant to any serious discussion about anything.
Posted by Priscillian, Saturday, 24 October 2009 12:38:51 PM
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Dear Relda,

I am not sure what Jewish identity is. Christians are different from one another, and Jews are different from one another. Much of my identity has nothing to do with being Jewish. What is your Christian identity?

At the Queensland Mycological Society I don't believe religion or ethnicity has ever come up. I was talking with Yiyan Wang. She remarked, "You're very light for a Jew." My Jewish identity had been in her mind but not in mine until she said that.

Buber made dichotomies. Whether those dichotomies exist is moot. eg “I-It” and the "I-Thou". Relations with other humans are not that simple. One might think of a relationship with the person at the supermarket checkout counter as an “I-It” relationship. Yet occasionally one exchanges a few words with that person unrelated to our transaction, and we become 'thous' to each other. I love my wife. However, in some of our interactions we are 'its'. Anyone might have done these actions. I think real human interactions are in general a combination of “I-It” and "I-Thou". The greater the proportion of “I-It” the more one is divorced from humanity. The greater the proportion of “I-thou” one spends less time simply getting on with the business of life. Too much “I-thou”, and one becomes a pain in the ass. The optimum combination of “I-It” and "I-Thou" is different for different people. When Buber wrote his books he was either engaging in inductive thinking which is just an ego process or "I" or engaging in internal discussions which are "I-I".

Louis Brandeis and the Marx Brothers are a great combination. However, combining them because of their Jewishness objectifies them because one characteristic cloaks all others. Brandeis was in the legal world, and the Marx Brothers the showbiz world. However, Groucho was a complex fellow and enjoyed a correspondence with T. S. Eliot. They apparently found something in common. Groucho and Brandeis might also have corresponded. As far as I know they didn't. If they did it might have had nothing to do with them both being Jewish.
Posted by david f, Saturday, 24 October 2009 2:55:13 PM
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Bushbasher,
I have no taste for this. I find myself on the wrong team. However.
I actually said, "let's not throw the "bathwater" out with the baby".
I don't believe in a God, but I am persuaded that there is a real mystery around the whole human obsession with mysticism--for want of a better word. And while I acknowledge, indeed regularly champion, the determined impartiality of scientific method, it can be a little credulous in its "faith" in its own empirical foundations.
Dawkins' critique is most definitely "amateurish". While I agree that he's doing us all a service railing against junk-religion---I don't "pretend otherwise"---I'm not convinced that the "majority of the world's religious adherents" are necessarily deluded--though they're definitely fanciful in their rationalisations. And here is an important point; mystical experience is indiscriminate; it knows no class or educational barriers, and it is rife! The recipients of this experience will in all likelihood rationalise it according to their intellectual means, or particular bent. Since modern life is systematised and commodified, as never before, is it any wonder that the experience (the bath water) should manifest itself as apparently homogenous (popular)? Without the sceptical wherewithal to interrogate the experience, is it surprising that the majority enlist in one denomination or another by default? Of course this leaves the question, "was the experience genuinely mystical? Or was it delusion?"
Science has no patience with such a question; it was delusional, of course! But I would argue that the experience is too common to be dismissed out of hand as mass credulousness—see William James’ “Varieties of Religious Experience”. Could Catholicism have exerted such hegemony if there had been no “apparent” substance to its extravagant threats?
I have read three books by Dawkins and greatly admire his incisive intellect (and accessible prose). “I” haven’t belittled him; but I agree with Eagleton, his critique is simplistic. Indeed it reinforces modern censorship of religious experience—tantamount to religious censorship of reason, though not as bloodthirsty.
I’m on your side BB, but it’s not so black and white for me—or Eagleton.
Posted by Squeers, Saturday, 24 October 2009 7:18:58 PM
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One under God, re' your reply to my OLO, going by your OLO moniker, I was surprised that you should regard Thomas Aquinas as just another famous Christian Preacher.

Aquinas, in fact, is regarded by most academics as not only a Doctor of the Christian Church but also a Doctor of Philosophy.

It is so interesting that while he maintained his faith in the Christian Church he was prepared still to study and accept the concepts of Hellenistic Reasoning.

Thus being not over-spiritual with his feet on the ground he was able to merge both religion and earthly idealism creating the forunner of our present universities.

In fact many modern scholars believe he was given his Sainthood for not only lifting Christianity out of the Dark Ages, but starting to Break the Way for the fair and decent world we still all hope for.

Regards, BB, WA
Posted by bushbred, Saturday, 24 October 2009 7:38:03 PM
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The Blue Cross,
>>it really doesn't matter 'why' we are here, here we are. Dogs know the answer that eludes us. ... <<
I am not an atheist but I think - if I understood you properly - some atheists might be offended by comparing their attitude to existence, or their possible answer to the existential “why”, to that of a dog.
Posted by George, Saturday, 24 October 2009 9:26:13 PM
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George... if you are not an atheist, then I doubt you could possibly know the mind of one.

As for 'the existential why', why would an atheist, not that you would know one way or another from what you say, be the least bit concerned to hear that 'the journey' was all, if, indeed, it is?

But you did say 'some atheists'; quite so, and I am sure some might be. But what of it?

However, I also suspect that most atheists do not suffer too much existential angst at all, which is perhaps why they are happy to be atheists.

But, I could be wrong on this.

Let's resolve this by asking 'some' OLO atheists, shall we?

And, if you can be bothered, a few OLO dogs too.

Woof woof.
Posted by The Blue Cross, Saturday, 24 October 2009 10:39:58 PM
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Sells,
As I’ve acknowledged, theology is important and I’ll put some weight on one of the foremost theologians this century:

“We stand at a moment in history in which the openness of the situation is due to its urgency. Christianity is at present not narrow, but has become open to interpretation except in particular groups. And I believe openness is so much an element of Christianity itself, of its original meaning, that this may be the way in which it can be reinterpreted to make it fully alive. But I would not dare to prophesy the outcome.” Naturally, what preceded Tillich’s remark was that classical, traditional Christianity has lived in symbols — Creation, Fall, reconciliation, salvation, Kingdom of God, Trinity, are all great symbols, and he didn’t do wish to lose them. But the times are radically different, hence the urgency. Let people find ‘truth’ in the old symbols or, if able, to find new and better ones, but as with Tillich, I would not merely discard the ‘old’ at a whim.

I believe you should be perhaps a little more like Tillich, and not stifle the conversation, after all if you’re going to title a piece, “Is God the cause of the world? : Comments” - it’s open to interpretation. Perhaps, “Is the ‘Trinity’ the cause of the world: Comments”, may have been more appropriate to your need – but certainly far more obscure and less tempting for a genuine dialogue (a bit of a rarity here). You would perhaps merely tempt just a little more abuse, presumably.

Dear david f,
“Much of my identity has nothing to do with being Jewish. What is your Christian identity?” To answer your question – what I’ve posted here relates basically to how I identify: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?article=7816#12521
Posted by relda, Saturday, 24 October 2009 11:28:46 PM
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The Blue Cross,
>>if you are not an atheist, then I doubt you could possibly know the mind of one. <<
You are right, I cannot know the mind of anybody - atheist or not - I just thought some might not like having it compared to that of a dog, because that unfairly demeans them, their world-view, in the eye of a non-atheist. However, you are also right that it is rather for them to say if they like the comparison.
Posted by George, Sunday, 25 October 2009 1:58:04 AM
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I like the Blue cross analogy; the journey's the thing, or ought to be.

An interesting "Encounter" on RN this morning on race relations, church history and antisemitism.

David F,
I can assure you that Eagleton is well versed in "bloody" religious history.
For others, he's not a fundi, and not even a Christian in any sense Dawkins would understand. He's an unreconstructed Marxist first and foremost, and actually values the teachings of Jesus pre-eminently for their radical content.

While the carnage of religious history is spectacular, it is by no means clear that religion, per se, is responsible. It's much more plausible that human beings are essentially murderous fiends, regardless of the ideology they outwardly profess. A quote from the Eagleton article:
"Dawkins quite rightly detests fundamentalists; but as far as I know his anti-religious diatribes have never been matched in his work by a critique of the global capitalism that generates the hatred, anxiety, insecurity and sense of humiliation that breed fundamentalism. Instead, as the obtuse media chatter has it, it’s all down to religion."

Let's not forget too that what Eagleton calls "bloodless rationalism" has also presided, in recent centuries, over various purges and holocausts---via design, production, planning and execution.
There's nothing like a scientific stance for getting some objective distance between a brilliant new innovation and its unspeakable consequences.

Sorry, Sells; how about you initiate something on the trinity?
Posted by Squeers, Sunday, 25 October 2009 8:40:43 AM
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Sells et al, the question I asked was drawn directly from the articles’ title relating to religious knowledge. “Can we please have an example of religious knowledge, or if you prefer it, “knowing”?

Much effort is being expended by you on demanding justification for the perspective of others yet you seem incapable of explaining you own. Do we take your inability or reluctance to offer any answer to this very simple question as a “no can do”?

Strike one to the unwashed?
Posted by spindoc, Sunday, 25 October 2009 8:48:24 AM
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My point about the Trinity is that the understanding of the Triune God, far from being “Largely irrelevant to any serious discussion about anything” is the absolute centre of Christian theology that makes most of the comments on these pages irrelevant. The atheists want to stick with simple monotheism because it is such an easy target. The theists want to stick to it because they think that belief in a supernatural being is foundational.

Walk into any liturgical church and you will find that the first words said are likely to be “In the name of the Father, and he Son and the Holy spirit.” In Protestantism the Trinity was largely eclipsed until Karl Barth rescued it in the early 20th C. It was always a fixture for Catholics and the orthodox although in depth discussion about it was discouraged. (Relda: Tillich’s theology, as far as I know is not trinitarian and is therefore impossible)

Simple monotheism does not mesh any gears. It is almost irrelevant whether we believe in such a God or not. The Trinity, however is the basis of systematic theology that establishes the gospel in the hearts , minds and actions of believers. It structures the past, present and future of faith and is thus a solution to the problem of transiency. It places Christ as the object of faith, an historical figure who was “crucified under Pontius Pilate” and projects the effect of his life and death into the future by the Spirit.

Christian talk about God is always Triune, otherwise it is mere paganism. The reason I take a back seat in the comments is that I find so little to comment on. Theological discussion has moved on since it was all about whether God existed or not, that was what the death of God movement was all about. We are alone in the universe, but something happened in our history that is a source of real hope.
Peter Sellick
Posted by Sells, Sunday, 25 October 2009 10:21:03 AM
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Dear Sells,

The Trinity is simply a denial of monotheism. God has to share his role with two other personages - a quasi-human and a Holy Ghost. About 2,000 years ago there were Temples dedicated to gods like Apollo or Dionysus among the Greeks, Hercules among the Romans, Mithra among the Persians, Adonis and Attis in Syria and Phrygia, Osiris and Isis and Horus in Egypt, Baal and Astarte among the Babylonians and Carthaginians, etc. Many of the following features were common in those beliefs:

(1) They were born on or very near our Christmas Day.
(2) They were born of a Virgin-Mother.
(3) And in a Cave or Underground Chamber.
(4) They led a life of toil for Mankind.
(5) And were called by the names of Light-bringer, Healer, Mediator,
Savior, Deliverer.
(6) They were however vanquished by the Powers of Darkness.
(7) And descended into Hell or the Underworld.
(8) They rose again from the dead, and became the pioneers of mankind to
the Heavenly world.
(9) They founded Communions of Saints, and Churches into which disciples
were received by Baptism.
(10) And they were commemorated by Eucharistic meals

The Holy Ghost, like Zeus impregnated a human female.

You have chosen Trinity over belief in God. That's ok with me. One may choose to believe in any nonsense one wishes to as long as he doesn't hurt anybody else. Only common sense is outraged.
Posted by david f, Sunday, 25 October 2009 10:35:27 AM
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Peter,
I most sincerely suggest that you read the work of Daniel Dennett on "Intentional Stance".
In summary :-
"Here is how it works: first you decide to treat the object whose behavior is to be predicted as a rational agent; then you figure out what beliefs that agent ought to have, given its place in the world and its purpose. Then you figure out what desires it ought to have, on the same considerations, and finally you predict that this rational agent will act to further its goals in the light of its beliefs. A little practical reasoning from the chosen set of beliefs and desires will in most instances yield a decision about what the agent ought to do; that is what you predict the agent will do." (DD)

Of all the religious people I have had anything to do with you fit this scheme the best. Your god is the God(s) of the Trinity. You will squeeze this concept into any shape that you care to. If you wish it to fit then it will.

Thank you for writing your articles. You are giving me endless hours of entertainment and I (unlike others) encourage your efforts. You put your ideas out there and that is a thing I admire.
Posted by Priscillian, Sunday, 25 October 2009 10:53:06 AM
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george and blue cross:

i consider to compare my silly musings to the sense of a dog is an insult to the dog.

sells:

>> If commentators could get over their own particular hobby horses

so advises the king of the cowboys.

sells, people, including me, wrote directly in response to what you wrote. you gave not a single word in response to anyone. it is hilarious that you should return now to whine about the thread meandering elsewhere.

yeah, yeah, we all miss the subtlety of your theological musings. we're not worthy of you. or, maybe, what you wrote was actually silly, or so poorly worded that no one could actually figure out what the hell you meant.

but i'm willing to listen. please, explain that "man and woman" thing to me.
Posted by bushbasher, Sunday, 25 October 2009 10:58:01 AM
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squeers, you're latest posts are a bit scattered.

*) first, i don't mean it to be a "which side are you on" thing. if you're an atheist who thinks dawkins is wrong in the extent of his condemnation of religion, that's fine. i just want you to argue it.

what i see is dawkins considered as the easy target, what al gore is for the AGW deniers. it doesn't mean he's not an amateur, that he doesn't get things wrong. but i want to make him less easy, less the target of quick snide remarks. i want people to pinpoint what dawkins says with which they disagree. as you'll notice, people are declining to do so. it suggests that people are much more agreeing with dawkins' critics than they are disagreeing with what they've actually read of dawkins.

*) i don't know what you mean by "mysticism". i have no trouble with people trying to make sense of the world, and i very much doubt dawkins does either. i don't see that dawkins is advocating or exemplifying anything like the "bloodless rationalism" to which eagleton refers.

there's good reason to be scared or confused, of death, of meaninglessness and smallness. religion is clearly a mechanism to try to come to terms with this, in better and worse ways.

but, making stuff up doesn't help. jesus wrote great things about being human amongst other humans. but pretending jesus is god doesn't help. pretending the bible is, well, god-given doesn't help.

*) you don't believe most christians believe silly things? you think most don't believe jesus is god, or at least a third of him? the bible isn't holy?

*) criticism of religion is not even remotely religious censorship. rather, you should be querying the special legal protections for religious belief.

*) yes, fundamentalism exists outside of religion as well. but your quoting eagleton's example of global capitalism is telling. i'm as wary of free-market fundamentalism as anyone, but they're not making stuff up. capitalism has a solid core of both truth and success. eagleton, you, are claiming the same for religion?
Posted by bushbasher, Sunday, 25 October 2009 11:08:44 AM
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Hyah, Bushbasher, from Bushbred of WA.

Don't know how old you are, mate, but my first job when I was pulled out of school early in the 1930s Great Depression was driving a wagon team carting wheat worth only one shilling and eight-pence a bushell.

Now, mate, must say you appear well eddicated for the moniker you've chosen?

I've picked up a bit also, but mostly in philosophy which makes me so interested in Thomas Aquinas who though gaining a Sainthood, is also credited with helping the Western World on the Path of Earthly Enlightenment, religion only being part of it.

Thanks for your time, Cobber,

Best Regards, BB, Buntine, WA
Posted by bushbred, Sunday, 25 October 2009 1:04:41 PM
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Sunday is the special day of the week to think of God with gratitude for the good luck in surviving another seven nights of uncertainty beyond the realms of scientific understanding, IMHO. I also thank the author for the article, and had not considered the relevance of the Trinity until reading this morning.

I have been too lazy to glance over more than the few starting pages from back on the 16th and these last two pages of discussion, so forgive me if I repeat what has been posted before in the middle if this discussion.

Has it been mentioned that the application of the empirical 'scientific' mindset to the faithful belief in God's place in the universe is like visiting your car mechanic when you have a toothache that needs repairing?

This is IMHO because the foundation of science is empirical proof. To seek empirical proof of God is essentially satanistic, because it would destroy the most important aspect of humanity, which is free will.

If you woke up this morning to see Charlton Heston at the foot of your bed with a long white beard and a tazer gun pointed at your heart, would that influence the free will that you take for granted as you get up to visit the bathroom? Would you floss?

Science can be a wonderful pursuit for learning more about the world that we live, that we see and read through our eyes, hear through our ears etc., but just as when we fall asleep we close our eyes, there is no doubt more to this life than what our five senses perceive.

I would not like to see the empirical proof that science asks for about God take away my freedom to be human, and make a few wrong turns along this winding road. Free will is the greatest gift we have and if God was on television every night we'd lose it.

Let's be careful what we wish for.
Posted by Seano, Sunday, 25 October 2009 1:32:35 PM
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Dear relda.

Which of your many responses is http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?article=7816#12521. I can find the string, but I don't know how to pick out #12521.

David
Posted by david f, Sunday, 25 October 2009 4:41:11 PM
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Dear David,
The following (direct link) sums up something of my approach to the NT, made in reply to Sells querying my statements about the ‘Trinity’: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?article=8724#138937
To which you replied a little further on:
http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?article=8724#139472

To take you a little further into my thinking and approach, and (again) you gave generous response:
http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?article=7816#125211

Richard
Posted by relda, Sunday, 25 October 2009 5:27:17 PM
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David and Richard, may I ask you both if there might be anything of relevance that you can relate from these hyperlinks to past threads?

It is rather a confusing way to critique an article, and I would appreciate some substance in the form of an abstract, or perhaps it's best to communicate between yourselves via email?
Posted by Seano, Sunday, 25 October 2009 6:13:46 PM
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Sells,

Subsititionary ransom and belief in the same is at the centre of post-Judaic Christianity, not the Triune god. You put the car before the journey. From a Christian perspective, you elevate the apparatus over purpose. In the latter regard, you seem unorthodox.

The above said, I suspect, the orthodox Christian emphasis on the meaning of Crucifixation, your focus of the Trinity and my skepticism, are all far removed from the first century Jesus sects.

George,

Thanks. Good replies. I will respond to you post in a few days. Busy. Take care.
Posted by Oliver, Sunday, 25 October 2009 6:51:21 PM
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Squeers.

"I like the Blue cross analogy".

My analogy was not a 'cross one'.

It was one from 'The Blue Cross'.

They are different.

I hope this is not how you analyse Eagleboys work.
Posted by The Blue Cross, Sunday, 25 October 2009 7:51:18 PM
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I do apologise, Blue Cross (and Bushbasher), for my appalling want of subtlety--I beg your indulgence.
I'm now all for dissecting the trinity, and will leave weightier matters to wiser heads.
Besides, Wuthering Heights has just started!
Posted by Squeers, Sunday, 25 October 2009 8:39:09 PM
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Seano,

Your most recent post concerning Hollingworth and "God save the Queen!" uses a hyperlink to the CBC… So I’d say, “What’s good for the goose etc…”

There should be no confusion if one is to employ one’s index finger and find that the relevant information is perhaps just '1-click' away.
Posted by relda, Monday, 26 October 2009 5:58:51 AM
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I suspect that you are all tired about me banging on about the Trinity, But I think that it is the key to our present theological dilemma. The validity of the doctrine is not a matter of choice or real dispute. It is deeply grounded in the language of the New Testament, is affirmed by the church councils of the fourth century after some controversy, is central to the theology of Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Barth, Rhaner and about any other mainstream theologian that you can name. It is also integral to the liturgy of the church.

The books published about the Trinity are expanding exponentially indicating a revival of interest and the recognition of the centrality of the doctrine. Mainline theology is becoming more and more Trinitarian. So for someone like Pricillian to dismiss it with a sentence is just absurd. From the outside it may look obscure but from the inside of the faith it is foundational even if poorly understood.

If the doctrine is poorly integrated into belief we get the sterile simple monotheism that I have talked about or we get Jesuolatry whereby Jesus becomes our best friend and exemplar. The former can only lead to Deism and the latter to an immature mimicry.

It is very important for the church to reclaim its heritage in this, otherwise it will have no real defence against rampant secularization, scientific rationalism and all of the discontents of modernity.

Relda, we must have a discussion about Tillich sometime.
Peter Sellick
Posted by Sells, Monday, 26 October 2009 10:55:22 AM
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Sells, you are grasping at straws with this Trinity stuff.

'Any port in a storm', sort of action.

As for the church being threatened by 'rampant secularisation', what on Earth does that mean?

Do you hanker for the non-secular Afghanistan, or the 'Jewish state' model of Israel? Are we to suffer here in Australia from a non-secular brand of extreme cultish Christianity, as dictated by you, or Hillsong, or The Salvo's... or what?

Should we return to the glory days of the Old Testament and its mad interpretations now in the 21st century?

Do you reject what is clearly a secular influence on the maddest of church thinking- isn't this why we no longer burn witches in Perth's market square?

Are you falling into the Scripture Union, ACL model, where 'secular' means 'atheist'?

I suggest you look at that short list above and start worrying about where they are taking your beloved church, into the badlands of pure politics as they money-grub for moolah with made-up reports of how successful their proselytising chaplains are.

Pell, of course, is also careful to not understand 'secular' too- but he's the theological answer to Wilson-Tuckey, I suspect.

The 'rampant Christianity' we are suffering from, since Howard, and now happily still promoted by Rudd, is far more of a threat to 'the Australian way of life' (such as it is) than 'rampant secularism' ever will be.

And do spare us the traditional list of dictators as the proof of our folly in supporting a more varied, secular, approach to life and I promise not to raise the hounding of Jews by Christians from long before and after Hitler, and all the other cul-de-sacs we could go jointly down.

Your church has adapted to the secular world, and adopted it too. You cannot simply reject 'secularisation'unless you hanker for the Talibanisation of Christianity.

Like the Renewalists in Christianity do.
Posted by The Blue Cross, Monday, 26 October 2009 11:34:07 AM
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Peter,
Thank you for mentioning me. I am chuffed. By the way, the name is Priscillian (after the Bishop of Avila, murdered by the church for having a thought of his own).
You can call me Dave.

I dismissed the Trinity concept in an "absurd" way because the concept is absurd. It was absurd in the 4th Century and it is absurd now.
A superficial scan of the Gospels makes it clear that Jesus (the Jew) would not have adhered to this proposition. Even Matthew 28:19-20 does not make it clear that the Gospel writer was thinking in the terms of your concept of "Trinity".
The "Trinity" was a political convenience engineered to silence dissent. Nothing else.
Posted by Priscillian, Monday, 26 October 2009 11:38:41 AM
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Oh My.

Ad-hoc reasoning isn't called 'special pleading' for nothing, one presumes. Definition = inserting new arguments to validate flawed notions.

Moving onto the next fallacy, Personal Incredulity is still the inability to understand facts. Putting lippie on a pig is really what's afoot here.

>>The insistence that God is the cause of the world creates all sorts of logical problems.<<

Peter, no doubt a significant amount of thought went into this article, but I find myself firmly agreeing with bushbashers point of a Strawman fallacy. You've flagrantly attributed skills to, and taken away from, authors of texts you seek to defend. Strawman cum Non-Sequiter which leads into your primary False Dichotomy: that Creationism is fact and it is [in Sells hindsight] verified by modernity - not science.

Indeed, your entire approach is clever, but a litany of logical fallacies wherein Reducto ad absurdum rules. You're arguing that Creationism can now usurp science because of "the Word", still permitting Creationist notions today, because after Jesus died the Trinitarian scheme [a medieval human construct] permits the Spirit to continue the word of god in the world today.

Appealing to authors of ancient texts in a way that supports your argument is basic Ad Ignorantiam resting on Argument from Authority, & conveniently allows you to argue on False Continuum. Namely, these primitive, ignorant humans held superior wisdom which you internalise as [paraphrased] "belief is a way of knowing different to science, because it doesn't rest on evidence... It begins with assent rather than scepticism".

Great yarn. Until: >>To the scientific mind it is absurd that human marriage lies at the heart of creation<<. And >>This does not, however, vacate the idea of creation; the emphasis shifts from the material world to the world that men inhabit, that world of husband and wife being paramount.<<

... reveals your acceptance of human ontology is suppressed by Biblical Homophobia, yet you manage, "The Word of God gives the world ontological status."

You argue the scientific view forces believers to "think more deeply... creation and redemption must be held as one".

Let's check progress;

http://blip.tv/file/2707012
Posted by Firesnake, Monday, 26 October 2009 1:26:05 PM
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Trinitarianism, “is affirmed by the church councils of the fourth century after some controversy, is central to the theology of Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Barth, Rhaner and about any other mainstream theologian that you can name.” - Sells

As Wells notes, Jesus was a prophetic teacher. He was a mendicant whom was “not” of the priestly type, “not” of the style well known to history from Sumer to the present.

Alternatively, Sells’ Nicaean Christianity is priestly, demonstrating many of the methods of worship, existing thousands before and thousands after Constantine, with priests, temples/churches, altars, councils and authorities on doctrine. Moreover, as I have posted on other threads, trinities are known to other religions: e.g. the Egyptians and the Hawaiians.

“A very important thing for us to note is the role played by the emperor in the fixation of Christianity. Not only was the council of Nicaea assembled by Constantine the Great, but all the great councils, the two at Constantinople (381 and 553), Epheus (431), and Chacedon (451), were called by imperial power.” (Wells)

Constantine and Theodosius I imposed Nicaean Christrianity on the people, top-down, leading to the persecutions of the Pagans and Christian run death camps. “There was to be no rivalry, no qualification to the rigid unity of the Church” (Wells). It is this tradition, which became, the legacy inherited by the scholars cited by Sells.

Besides, until 1054, all Nicaean Christians held that the Holy Ghost/Spirit proceeded from the Father. Only then, was “Filique” (and from the Son) added by the Latin Church. The probably orchestrated split between the Latin Church and the East Church, allowed for the Pope of Rome to consolidate power as pontifex maximus, to the exclusion of other players from Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria and Jerusalem.

All this political power, within the frame of a priestly church, is human and has little to do with Jesus. The trinity is merely a contrivance by the same people. Priscillian is correct.

George,

I will reply to you. Above, I didn’t intend such a long post from the onset.
Posted by Oliver, Monday, 26 October 2009 2:18:43 PM
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Sells,
since you have entered this debate, after having instigated it, it seems to me that you are obliged to enlarge on your position. We all get taken to task in this forum. It's not good enough to cast of a few deprecatory remarks to challengers. Your trinitarian theology has been engaged with vigorously, and I for one wish to hear from both sides. I've been reading your namesake, Robert Bellah, and have a genuine interest in his and your line of reasoning. If your position is reasonable, then its defensible ....
Posted by Squeers, Monday, 26 October 2009 6:54:28 PM
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squeers:

are you *really* interested in the trinitarian debate? don't you sense that it's pretty much like astrologers arguing over the status of the outer planets? but of course, i'm just an amateur ...

in any case, of course people are free to debate such matters. i obviously couldn't care if god is One, or quintuplets. *however*, what seems to happen with sellick is that he talks deep (or "deep") theology, and then all of a sudden comes out totally unsupported weirdness: his "rampant secularization", his "man and woman" stuff. his weird theology goes god knows where, but then a stray tentacle appears out of nowhere, attaching its suckers to the real world. and my objections (and others') to the tentacle are dismissed or ignored, because i'm a theological amateur. that's when i get the irrits.

bushbred:

thanks for the kind words though not quite sure what inspired them. as for my nom-de-blogger, i chose it noting the ambiguity, but it refers to my desire to bash Bush (the dumber one). as it happens, i'm just another inner city pontificator.

but, speaking of Bush the Dumber, i'll note not just the existence of his spooned-on, self-serving, poisonous version of christianity, but that this revolting god-on-his-side nonsense was politically successful. just something to keep in mind as all the theological subtleties are being discussed.
Posted by bushbasher, Monday, 26 October 2009 9:25:50 PM
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Bushbasher...as you described Bush the Dumber, I had a Kodak snap of our PM, Mr. Howard Rudd, flash past my eyes, "the existence of his spooned-on, self-serving, poisonous version of christianity, but that this revolting god-on-his-side nonsense was politically successful", addressing the Australian Christian Lobby later this year.

Opening it no less, and happily announcing that he was granting the wish of his auld pal and spiritual equal, General Jimbo Wallace, ex SES commando and now Soldier of God, who is busy begging yet another $300m of our hard-earned tax dollars, to go largely to the Scripture Union of Qld, to help build the Empire Sells still dreams of.

That is indeed a real Trinity: tax monies, smoke-and-mirror deceit and Hillsong style humbug
Posted by The Blue Cross, Monday, 26 October 2009 11:00:00 PM
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Nope, not getting more mellow in his old age. We are still not worthy of Sells, according to Sells.
Oliver et al. has the right of it; there really is nothing new in your trinitarian religion. Catholicism and the Vatican in particular, with the pagan symbols, statues, ceremonies and splendour is still as barbaric as ever.
It really is a shame. In my reading of the Gospels, I see a man who genuinely tried to get rid of all that guff, and provide a Humanitarian form of religion; based on a couple of very simple rules.
What would that mendicant, who wandered around with just the clothes on his back think, to see the most grand palaces and glorious 'houses of worship' erected in his name, amidst poverty and squalor?
Posted by Grim, Tuesday, 27 October 2009 5:48:27 AM
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Dear relda,

In reference to http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?article=7816#12521. Up to 7816 we have defined the string please tell me how to get 12521 from the string.
Posted by david f, Tuesday, 27 October 2009 6:59:40 AM
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Sells et al. Is my question not worthy of an answer? Could it be you don't have one? Have you gone away to work up a response in your next missive?

I note frantic diversionary dialogue into overcomplicated theological content whilst avoiding even the simplest questions about the title for your article.

I smell a "third strike" Sells, I think the umpire is about to send you back to the pavillion.

“Can we please have an example of religious knowledge, or if you prefer it, “knowing”?
Posted by spindoc, Tuesday, 27 October 2009 7:27:57 AM
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I'm a fan of (GW) Bush bashing myself!

I just want to see if Sells can say anything cogent (modern) on the trinity, or in answer to all these rebukes. I very much doubt it, just as I very much doubt anything cogent could be presented on numerology. But you have to give people a hearing---of course I haven't been giving Sells a hearing for nearly as long as others here, so probably not so jaded.

I've been looking at institutional religion in the US, and Robert Bellah's notion of "symbolic Realism", which accepts that religious truths are mutable rather than immutable; thus, human cultures can reappropriate and modernise ancient religious traditions. It sounds like pure sophistry to me, designed to maintain religious hegemony, going forward, in that benighted "land of the free" (what a joke). Nevertheless, the ostensible premise is interesting; that ethical societies "require" a transcendental component to balance the amoral propensities of scientific rationalism and capitalism, as well as to provide individuals with meaningful totems.
I have my own idea about adapting this notion.
What did Hubbard say, "if you want to get rich, invent your own religion"?
Not my intention, of course. I don't mind getting rich, but I'd spare the world another religion!
Posted by Squeers, Tuesday, 27 October 2009 7:49:02 AM
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"Can we please have an example of religious knowledge ...?"

“Religious knowledge, according to religious practitioners, may be gained from religious leaders, sacred texts (scriptures), and/or personal revelation.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion).

That, of course, is just one possible definition, and probably too terse, but it hints at examples. More generally, Wikipedia will return 255,000 entries on “religious knowledge”, (as well as 3,160,000 on “scientific knowledge”, and 11,000 entries dealing with both “religious knowledge” and “scientific knowledge”). This indeed represents a huge number of resources for everybody to choose his/her examples with the interpretation he/she prefers.
Posted by George, Tuesday, 27 October 2009 7:59:40 AM
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Talking about religious knowledge. The point of the doctrine of the Trinity is that it defines how that knowledge comes to be. So, the Father stands for the truth, the Son the historical event of that truth, and the Spirit the presence of the truth into the future. While I am wary of such definitions because they always fall short of a full expression this one goes some way Notice that in this scheme religious truth includes the experience of the believer in the spirit but that experience is based on the historical event of the Son. My dispute with Tillich is that the self is placed at the centre, his existence is something to be solved, whereas in Barth the starting point of theology is always the Son, an historical event that we can see and hear through the words of Scripture and in the church.

Modernity would insist that all of this could be deduced the reasoning individual. This is where modernity gets it wrong. The age of reason produced a hiatus in the doctrine, as I have pointed out. But reason is not everything. While the doctrine cannot be derived by reason it is not unreasonable, otherwise we would have no way of talking about it. I am at the moment engaged in a PhD at Murdoch university on a Trinitarian topic. While I doubt the university would take astrology or magic seriously, (here I cross my fingers!) they have no problem with theologians discussing the Trinity. All of the oldest and best universities in the world have faculties of theology, it is just in Australia where the completely secular university holds sway and the result is that very few understand the origin of our culture. History teachers complain that students do not know the biblical stories and so much in English literature passes them by.

I keep wondering why so many in this thread are so angry. While I cannot imagine a life without the church many cannot imagine life with it. Why so cross? Why do you hate us so much
Posted by Sells, Tuesday, 27 October 2009 8:30:07 AM
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Like you a lot more now, Bushbasher, just give me a call if you want any help.

Cheers, BB, WA.
Posted by bushbred, Wednesday, 28 October 2009 7:53:30 PM
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We're back on line! But where are all the recent contributions? And what about an explanation from OLO?
Bushbasher: "obviously ethical societies require more sense of the universe than "we're all just a bunch of atoms". and obviously as soon as one does that, you get into deep (and shallow) philosophy, of the nature of life, humanness, thought, meaning, truth, morality, the whole thing. but, i'm not sure what you mean by "transcendental", or if you're quoting. again, it doesn't help to make stuff up, especially gods".
You describe the problem perfectly, BB. Of course the Western philosophical tradition is replete with talk of transcendentalism, especially since Kant's "transcendental unity of apperception", which Hegel then morphed into idealism, the whole lot since having been discredtied both by the analytic wing of philosophy and preeminently by the posts: modernism and structuralism. The trouble is deconstruction, while a God-sent for human hubris, leaves the human condition more desolate than ever, and many individuals eager to join the ranks of the converted. This actually makes Bellah's prescription preferable--and Sells is definitely pegging out the new trend; Christianity will morph as never before, driven as it is by market forces. It's not far fetched to predict that mainstream Christian doctrine will be as poll-driven as political policy in the future.
I'm certainly not suggesting we "make anything up", but there are plausible discourses of meaning that can be explored that are also rational, and not subject to the markets. According to the tenets of modern philosophy, it's quite acceptable for humanity to posit its own metanarrative, but I would suggest that a natural extension is not out of the question.
Transcendentalism doesn't necessarily mean metaphysics. Transcending culture is an impossible dream according to the experts, and our biology is the ultimate determinism according to the boffins. I'm a sceptic on both counts.
Sells, I don't hate. Of course you must know, as someone has suggested, that research means exploring the antithetical arguments as well? Otherwise, it's just not research.
Posted by Squeers, Wednesday, 28 October 2009 8:23:45 PM
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Dear david f,

I think you may have missed my original reply, (refer: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?article=9564#153961)
where I’ve corrected an incorrect link address i.e. #12521. My apologies.

Sells,
I think you greatly underestimate Tillich. Carl Jung and Tillich were both influenced by German Mystic Jacob Boehme (15th Cent) as a common ‘spiritual ancestor’, and to differing degrees, allowed his thinking into a major part of their own evolving thought process.

Tillich basically recasts the ontological argument in psychological terms(using depth psychology)and affirms that humanity’s experience of God is universal. In the first and third volumes of his‘systematic Theology’,Tillich twice argues that the specifically Christian doctrine of Trinity, elaborated over the centuries in the wake of the Christ event, has a natural basis in humanity’s native“intuition”of God. The ontological argument thus points not only to God but also to Trinity. Tillich can then go on to give near poetic descriptions of humanity’s natural sense of the Trinitarian ground of human life. The first ‘moment’,highly reminiscent of Boehm’s description of the Father as a living hell to which the fallen angels regressed, is a“chaos”,“a burning fire”,irrational or pre-rational, potentially demonic in isolation from the light of the Logos (the 2nd moment),inaccessible in its magnificent seclusion,the“naked absolute”so threatening to Luther that he is alleged to have thrown his ink-well at it…“Spirit”, as the third moment in divine life, is the agency which unites the conflicted opposites.

Tillich paints a road to universal compassion, where the current ‘cross’ could well demand the death of humanity’s adolescent religiosity, especially that of the monotheistic theisms, to a resurrected consciousness - able and willing to deepen the appropriation of its own cherished religious symbols through the appreciation of others in a process without a completion, or even the hope for one in human history. This mythic consciousness is the substance of Tillich's final appeal to“an openness to spiritual freedom, both from one's own foundation and for one’s own foundation.” Such imagery is certainly not for everyone to see (or may even wish to see) – nevertheless it seems to be a persistent if not evolving, growing image for many.
Posted by relda, Wednesday, 28 October 2009 9:18:49 PM
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Dear relda.

Which of your many responses is http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?article=7816#12521. I can find the string, but I don't know how to pick out #12521.
Posted by david f, Wednesday, 28 October 2009 9:52:29 PM
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Dear relda, How does one pick out http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?article=9564#153961?
Posted by david f, Wednesday, 28 October 2009 9:59:29 PM
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Sells

You seem to have no comprehension of any view but your own. By all means discuss Trinitarian language because that is what you understand but you would be wise to keep it positive and desist from deprecating the views and beliefs of others whose faith does not conform to your particular understanding of God.

Trinitarian language works in the framework of certain Christian liturgical traditions. Unfortunately, outside that context it has been reduced to concrete, systematic, theological dogma which has little or no meaning in the 21st century. The more you explain it, 'systematise' it, 'psychologise' it and so on the more meaningless you render it.

As religious 'language' it was born of violence. Throughout its history it has inspired and supported violence. Your narcissistic dismissal of all other views but your own clearly demonstrates the violent disposition of the culture of domination that you represent and which has, since the time of Constantine, waved the Trinitarian flag.
Posted by waterboy, Wednesday, 28 October 2009 10:10:59 PM
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Dear david f,

Go back to my post of almost a couple hours ago and hover your mouse pointer over the hyperlink - then "click", and presto you should be taken directly to the posting. I've checked and the links all appear to be working.
Posted by relda, Wednesday, 28 October 2009 10:24:49 PM
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huh! god stole my post. maybe sellick is right!

squeers, i know you're not making stuff up. was just trying to get clear what you meant.

i don't think i agree with all you write. (i think boffins would refer to biology as an ultimate constraint, but don't know any who would talk of it as ultimate determinism). but i think i agree with the thrust. and in ways it seems to be the same driver as sellick's: what to do about meaninglessness.

there is no shortage of meaninglessness in the modern West. and, no shortage of fake meaning, notably insane consumerism. there seems no question that the hole left by shrinking churches is being at least partially filled with new nonsense, or simply unfilled. but that's no excuse for sellick et al attempting to refill the hole with arbitrary, old nonsense.
Posted by bushbasher, Wednesday, 28 October 2009 10:35:22 PM
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Answering two posts that mysteriously disappeared after the last crash:

bushbasher,
>>the definition of "religious knowledge" you quote is pretty weird. <<
Weird or not, this is the first definition google found for me in Wikipedia. There are many other descriptions and examples both by those who try to be objective, and those who do not even try. So I find it rather remarkable that you managed to check all the 255,000 entries that deal with “religious knowledge” - or at least the 11,000 that try to explain the difference from “scientific knowledge” - and did not find one that would satisfy you.

oliver,
Thanks for the stimuli for my thoughts.

1. What you describe is more comparative religion than anthropology but you still did not answer my question whether a non-atheist with “insider knowledge” (Polanyi’s indwelling) of one of the religions cannot be a professional anthropologist.

2. Love has many meaning, when you contrast it with hatred you are apparently referring to a psychological state of mind. People hate for different subjective reasons (see e.g. david’s last post), however it has almost nothing to do with the problem of evil that theodicy analyses (and which is a no-problem for an atheist).

>> Theodicy: Thanks for teaching me a new word <<
If theodicy is a new word for you you should be more careful with suggesting simple answers to the problem of evil. The same as somebody for whom algebraic topology is a new concept should be more careful about his/her understanding of the classification of geometrical shapes.

>>So did God cause the evil in the world?<<
To the child’s question “Since God is everywhere, is He also under my bed?” the only answer is yes. Frank Little, the late Archbishop of Melbourne once - when questioned about some moral positions - gave an answer which I think is a pattern that can be used to answer many simplictic questions: “If the only answers you can understand are yes or no then the answer must be no.” (ctd)
Posted by George, Thursday, 29 October 2009 12:46:56 AM
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(ctd)
Like when a person who has not heard of algebra asks: “How can you teach children that (a+b)^2=a^2+2ab+b^2? Is it not true that you can add only numbers but not letters?” then the only answer he/she would understands is yes.

3. I agree that Dawkins is an excellent communicator. If he were a politician they would call him a populist, if he were religious they would call him a charismatic preacher. It is just that these qualities interfere with his reputation as a matter-of-fact scientist (c.f. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/chris-mooney/how-richard-dawkins-commu_b_312208.html).

4. Strictly speaking, one does not define “God”, “existence”, “reality”, “truth”, “being” and other basic concepts. Every definition assumes that the other, more fundamental, concepts from which the definition is built have already been defined, or accepted as self-evident by those to whom the definition is supposed to make sense. This is hard with concepts as fundamental as the ones listed, and so they themselves are usually accepted as either self-evident or needing EXPLANATION rather than definition in the strict logical meaning of the word.

Such explanations (e.g. in dictionaries) are based on the hope that the terms used can be accepted by this or that thinker without needing further explanation. This, of course has its shortcommings. For instance, usually the “definition” of reality will use the verb exist, and vice-versa that of existence will contain the adjective real. Such circular “definitions” appear also with other basic concepts. Also, the explanation of the Christian understanding of a loving God will have to deal with the paradox of evil, the same as e.g. the self-explanatory (mathematical) concept of set has to deal with Russel’s paradox although this does not mean the concept is meaningless.

You probably could not call e.g. Hitler evil if he did not cause human suffering. So our paradox of evil actually concerns not so much this abstract concept but the question “why did God allow human suffering”. I do not think there is a satisfying answer to this, especially if you do not allow for afterlife, as I tried to explain in http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?article=9564&page=0#153644.
Posted by George, Thursday, 29 October 2009 12:51:12 AM
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No Sells, not “talking about religious knowledge”, you were specifically asked;

“Can we please have an example of religious knowledge, or if you prefer it, “knowing”?

This is the fourth posting of this question and you have yet to answer it. Many on OLO might be asking themselves why you refuse to respond to such a simple question about just the subtitle of your article.

We have to assume that as a PhD student you are a very intelligent person. That leaves us with only two possibilities, you can’t answer or you won’t answer. Which is it?

You wonder about anger and hate; you might want to substitute the word “frustration” for these. This may help you understand some of the responses you receive.

From my perspective I get very frustrated because you seek only the opportunity to proselytize whilst avoiding qualifying assumptions. You have placed much significance upon religious knowledge and yet failed to provide a single example. As a result, your article is reduced to verbiage with no substance. It is a worry that any university would award a PhD based upon content (a collection of information) rather than substance.

Let me give you a bolt hole. You can have “data” and you can have “information” but you “use” knowledge
Posted by spindoc, Thursday, 29 October 2009 8:09:26 AM
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Spindoc

"It is a worry that any university would award a PhD based upon content (a collection of information) rather than substance."

He's doing a PhD in 'theology' remember.

Studying a book of fables, myths, fibs, distractions, prevarications, lies and mumbo-jumbo, rewritten many times and selectively arranged to promote power through fear above understanding.

Sadly, there is no escape from your concerns about the content vs. substance in this area.
Posted by The Blue Cross, Thursday, 29 October 2009 8:32:01 AM
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George,

Thanks.

(1) "What you describe is more comparative religion than anthropology but you still did not answer my question whether a non-atheist with “insider knowledge” (Polanyi’s indwelling) of one of the religions cannot be a professional anthropologist."

Yes, I citecomparative religion, yet from inside an objective discipline ,rather than a Bible school (or equivalents in other religions). Although, I know a guy who was a Minister, who became a non-theist, after studying comparative religion, within a theist school Master's degree. He still admires Jesus, though.

Yes, I believe say a non-theist formerly raised a Catholic can be a professional anthropoligist.

At OLO and when reading, I try to "indwell" in belief systems posit, to review other posits. Of cause, my tacit baggage will co-exist with explicit experiences, as tacit knowledge and personal knowledge are co-efficent. (Polanyi). That said, I doubt whether Sells would read Dawkins trying to "indwell", as best he can, as I might in the domain of the Bible.

I guess the objective cultural-anthrologist needs squash, as much as possible, personal tracit emotional, spread the religions out on the table (as I have said before) and dissect them and classify the objects. Again Sells would not write the headings Creation Story, Virgin Birth, After-life, Heaven and Messager from God on high on a sheet a paper and then list what the societies and religions have the same underlying forms.

The above exercise does not diprove the existence of god, of course. However, it might very well describe the penchant of societies to produce religions. This raises the issue of the origin of scripture: Is it Man or God? (Man is known to exist)

More to come. Still busy.
Posted by Oliver, Thursday, 29 October 2009 8:58:51 AM
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Sells,

I have posted several times and you have not replied regarding Nicaean Christianity versus the historical Jesus:

Yesterday, in the paper, there was an account of this guy who 52 years ago, after Sputnik, as a ten year old, wrote the Government about his new design for a rocket ship. (expects a reply soon :-) ). The child's drawing was a very basic craft. What reminded me of Jesus and Nicaea was he partitioned off a sizeable quadrant and in block printed, "YOU FILL IN THE DETAILS". Herein, I thought, Jesus is the kid's rocket (an outline) and, Paul and Nicaea filled in Christianity's details (human doctrine and institutionalised creed).
Posted by Oliver, Thursday, 29 October 2009 9:05:18 AM
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Oliver

In response to you here:
"The above exercise does not disprove the existence of god, of course. However, it might very well describe the penchant of societies to produce religions. This raises the issue of the origin of scripture: Is it Man or God? (Man is known to exist)".

Fortunately there is an amusing song-explanation of man creating gods here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e9bMi4s_yOE

Which also rather fits your comments here:

"Herein, I thought, Jesus is the kid's rocket (an outline) and, Paul and Nicaea filled in Christianity's details (human doctrine and institutionalised creed)."
Posted by The Blue Cross, Thursday, 29 October 2009 9:16:32 AM
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george, i'm a fan of wikipedia, but the quoted definition of religious knowledge is nonetheless pretty meaningless. and, google hits are hardly impressive: i can google "astrological knowledge" and get a few million hits. (sellick: my deleted comment was that all your excellent universities used to have professors of astrology. similarly, the current existence of professors of theology proves nothing).

let's take another example. in your terms, i can reasonably define "geological food" as "food derived from rocks". what it doesn't do is prove that the definition is actually fulfilled by anything.

>> but the question “why did God allow human suffering”. I do not think there is a satisfying answer to this ...

well, one satisfying answer is there is no thinking god. or no loving god. or no omnipotent god. take your pick.

i don't really mind your mathematical metaphors. some of them previously i've appreciated. but i don't think russell's paradox works very well here. it's not so much a question of building concepts carefully to avoid contradictions. it seems much more a question of clear inconsistency. i'd suggest inverse of zero is a better metaphor: trying to solve 0 x A = 1, you don't conclude that the definition needs care, you conclude that A does not exist.

finally, i would be careful of referencing chris mooney on anything right now. he has a definite axe to grind, and has done a woeful job of defending his recent book against clear and pointed criticism.
Posted by bushbasher, Thursday, 29 October 2009 1:49:22 PM
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Oliver,
>>a non-theist formerly raised a Catholic can be a professional anthropologist<<
And a Catholic formerly raised an atheist can become the Pope. Nevertheless, this does not answer my question, whether you think being e.g. a Christian disqualifies somebody from practising anthropology (or other disciplines). The Communists came close enough to this (I was lucky to have won a mathematical competition where the prize was University admittance without political scrutiny) but even they did not dare to make it a rule. Do you really think that an “insider knowledge” of the subject is an academic handicap? Is a native speaker of, say, Russian unable to become a professional Slavist?

>> I try to "indwell" in belief systems<<
Yes, I believe you do, but religion is more than just a “belief system”: the closest you can get is to admit that people have their reasons for believing this or that, but that I do not think what Polanyi meant by indwelling. My favourite joke is that I can speak French but the French don’t understand me, neither do I understand them. It is not up to me to decide whether I can speak French. Perhaps something similar is true about a “tacit knowledge” of other people’s world-views, religious or not.

You are right about your (and everybody else’s) “tacit baggage”, which should make us more modest and not base our judgement (or ridicule, though I don’t think that is your case) of other world-views on a superficial, verbatim, reading of an ancient text, e.g. the bible.

>> I doubt whether Sells would read Dawkins trying to "indwell", as best he can, as I might in the domain of the Bible.<<
I do not think Dawkins would like you comparing his book to a book written thousands of years ago, addressing simple shepherds and farmers that today needs to be reinterpreted, although many - of course, not Sellick - read Dawkins as their “bible”.

What you call “the penchant of societies to produce religions” is described also by evolutionary biologists and David Sloan Wilson (c.f. http://www.skeptic.com/eskeptic/07-07-04) is one who disagrees with Dawkins.
Posted by George, Friday, 30 October 2009 4:33:05 AM
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bushbasher,
I don’t know why you would be interested in "astrological knowledge" but if you are, I cannot see a better place than Wikipedia to find out what other people think about it.

Also, you are right that existence in mathematics is very different from existence in the metaphysical (including religious) meaning of the word. Like space means different things in mathematics than in physics or when you want to park your car.

Inconsistent means being self-contradictory. So might be some “definitions” of God, or “the set of all sets that are not members of themselves” or “the Cretan barber who shaves every Cretan who does not shave himself”. Nevertheless, we do not doubt that sets or Cretan barbers make sense, and some of us don’t doubt the Christian concept (model) of God makes sense. One just has to be more careful about self-referential statements (or explanations).
Posted by George, Friday, 30 October 2009 4:42:26 AM
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George,

Being a Christian does not prevent one from being an anthropologist. However, I wonder if such a Christian anthropologist would apply the rigour of the discipline to their personal belief system. Maybe, some would. I can’t go inside their minds. But few, I suspect, would take their religion (Christian, Jewish, Muslim or other) and place their religion’s elements (if you like) under headings like “Creation Story”, “Virgin Birth” and “Has Trinity”, with yes and no designators, under in scheme with other religions. To do so, could create forces working against their belief system.

Tacit knowledge is personal and is not fully shared. Tacit knowledge acts on explicit knowledge to qualify it with bias, for the theist or non-theist. Thus, it is co-efficient (Polanyi). As mentioned maybe a year back, a Frenchman and an Englishwomen could watch the film “Waterloo” and see not see the same movie, even if they sat side-by-side in the theatre.

Likewise, I cannot truly “indwell” in Sells’ experience. Yet, I can try to replicate situations and try on his shoes, which means “crossing the floor”.

I suspect Sells never “crosses the floor”, whereas people like Murray-Gell Mann, Richard Dawkins and the Late Carl Sagan have probably have closely studied the Bible: Moreso, I suspect, than Sells’ study of “the God Delusion” or “A Daemon Haunted World”, chapter and verse.

Both the OT and the NT have several writers and several versions spread over time and place. Some stories are about simple shepherds, yet often seem to place ordinary characters against historical figures (David against Pharaoh, Jesus against Pilate) or exaggerate the historical significance of the character, e.g., David of the House of David was likely to not have been as contemporaneously important as the OT states. That said, the stories have purpose and the exaggerations are probably mnemonics to memory and agents to foster nationalism and theism. There is more to it than simple stories about shepherds.

I will visit the David Sloan Wilson link. Thanks.

The Blue Cross,

Thanks for your link too. Catchy little tune. Hope the theists can smile too.
Posted by Oliver, Friday, 30 October 2009 9:59:58 AM
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All, especially Sells,

The following is the newspaper article suggesting to me the relationship between the historical Jesus' life(the boy's drawing/outline)and the Nicaean/Christian Church's creed/doctrine ("YOU PUT IN OTHER DETAILS")

http://www.watoday.com.au/technology/sci-tech/rocket-man-gets-reply-after-52-years-20091028-hk22.html

Even non-theists can have relevations ;-).
Posted by Oliver, Friday, 30 October 2009 11:47:47 AM
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george, happy to play the logic games, but i'd say the pertinent question is whether anything reasonably satisfies the definition of "religious knowledge". i think spindoc's question was problematic but fair, and remains unanswered.

i enjoyed the DSW essay. thanks for the link. the question of the prevalence of religion is definitely an interesting one. However, while reading the essay, I was puzzled by the tone, the suggestion that somehow it was a response to Dawkins' "God Delusion". I did not remember the question of the evolutionary origins of religion as playing a major role in Dawkins' book.

And it seems my memory was correct. Here is part of Dawkins' response to DSW, available on Dawkins' website:

"The central theme of the book is the question of whether God exists. I agree that it is also interesting to ask whether religion has some kind of Darwinian survival value. But whatever the answer to that might turn out to be, it will make no difference to the central question of whether God exists."

That's o.k., and is not to take away the point of DSW's essay. but it is important to be clear upon exactly the (possible) disagreement between DSW and Dawkins.
Posted by bushbasher, Friday, 30 October 2009 12:20:54 PM
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Oliver

The web page says 'WA Today', but that story was on the 7.30 report months ago.

Does this confirm what we in the East have always suspected?

That WA is behind the times (in the time zone zone) and most other things too.
Posted by The Blue Cross, Friday, 30 October 2009 12:37:26 PM
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George, being "a Christian disqualifies somebody from practising anthropology (or other disciplines)"; excuse me for buying into this question. I met a respected geologist the other day who believed in the resurrection. I was bewildered; someone well versed in the antiquity of the planet, and geological time-spans, who accepted this supernatural event and its significance, which occurred a relative millisecond ago. I also know other Christian academics, including a historian and an anthropologist. Should their faith disqualify them? No, if they can put their faith to one side. But I don't see how they can. Indeed, I don't see how they can fully engage or, "indwell", with these academic discourses and retain their faith. Higher learning is just that; one's presuppositions are invariably put to the test. Are these people really subjecting themselves to the learning at hand, or do they have fingers crossed behind their backs?
On the other hand, I don't believe in belief, but of course this does not mean that I'm without prejudice; indeed I profess my belief in my unbelief with telling sincerity. The very act of unbelief implies naive subscription to a certain reality, where belief and unbelief are each significant discourses.
I'm tempted to concede that religious faith is at least some kind of anchor, whereas a spurious objectivity is like being lost in the desert (I'm fond of imagining the French thinkers, Foucault, Derrida, Barthes et al plodding around dialectically like the comic
Lost Patrol). But in the end I have more respect for the ascetic impoverishment of the true theorist, who scorns the mirage of a cosy belief system and scrupulously enters every new confounding data, ad nauseam, into his emerging thesis. Mystical experience, whatever that is, is very common indeed, but the scientist doesn't even take that for granted. William James, having encountered tons of it, among brutes and Brahmin alike, even experiencing it himself, hypothesised it's origins as "organic"--a dysfunction of the liver or pancreas etc--rather than being seduced by the more flattering explanation.
Anthropologists should leave their beliefs at the door!
Posted by Squeers, Friday, 30 October 2009 7:06:01 PM
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Squeers, and George...

This column is losing momentum, it should be put to bed, and we need Sells to fire up his Holy Trinity Gizmo Gaggia Espresso Machine once again to churn out another smoke n' mirrors dirge for us all so we can rush out, caffeine refreshed, to repeat all our same lines.... again, and again... all caught on the OLO Hampster Java Bean wheel of belief and belief in unbelief, or no belief in belief at all...if yers know wot I mean?

I was sent an email the other day, I am sure this is not 'original', how can it be since it was sent to me and I am now passing it on?, with one of those irritating postscripts stuck to its backside.

It said, 'Atheism is a belief.... like not collecting stamps is a hobby'.

Aha, how precise is that?

While Sells and Spong agonise over their beliefs, assuming that atheists do too, well, Spong probably doesn't but I suspect Sells does, I bet they are not stamp collectors too.

But should they be?

Pondering the Lost Patrol, gazing at deep-night stars, watching for Sputnik as Procul Harum plays 'whiter shade of pale' while wondering where A for Andromenda really is in the night sky, or sniffing the sea when you live in the depths of the WBL and never get down to the sample the brine, is always a gobsmacking experience, but only because of the rarity of the event, not because the holy smoke has touched a brain cell (and planted the first seeds of some form of smoke related cancer) in The Noggin, and shoved you down the path to Backwoods Enlightenment, or even a Squeersish Sailor Sam Anchor.

Why are we here? Irrelevant panicky question.

We live, we die. Some die early, some late, some in between. Easily, badly, unpleasantly, effortlessly.

Ah, the uncertainty of it all... within the certainty of it all. How unsettling is that?
Posted by The Blue Cross, Friday, 30 October 2009 9:28:48 PM
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hey squeers, I've had a few moderately serious accidents over the years, and personally I think that's as close as I'll ever get to a 'mystical experience'. Shock.
Not quite OOB, but somehow divorced from the painful reality. Quite peaceful really.
Many of the 'techniques' of mystics to achieve their enlightened state, hunger, physical abuse and hardship etc., all seem to be an attempt to force the body into a state of shock.
I always think "next time I almost kill myself, I must try to make the most of it, and explore the higher planes..."
For some reason, I have always forgotten. Maybe next time...
Posted by Grim, Saturday, 31 October 2009 8:52:24 PM
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Grim

Funny you say that.

I've had an OOB.

The result of a casual stabbing when I nearly karked it.

An experience that cannot be easily explained-in words that is- not 'spiritual terms', I can assure you.

And post-event, I have to say, that that #$%^&* of a chap, Kerry Packer, probably had the same one.

And I agree with his conclusion.

As blood drains from you, and shock sets in, the auld head takes a trip where it hasn't been before.

Clarity is the order of the day, for a brief period at least, then ..... not too sure.... and then, wake up, or not for some, of course.

The promise of 'if I get through this' was made to myself, not to some 'other', after all, if the 'deal' is not kept, the person best placed to ask 'why not' is not too far away, so, funnily enough, a closer eye seems to be kept on 'progress'.

And it saves on candles.

And, there has been 'progress'.

Would it be better if 'He' had been in on it?

Ah, best not wait to see if He exists, and get on with it anyway, is my advice, as I suspect with you too.

I do recognise your comment about 'quite peaceful' though, so was mine.

But I felt I still had 'things', quite undefined of course, to do, so hung on for the next episode.

Sells could not comprehend this, unless a church organ falls on his head, I doubt he'd be ever be in the running for an OOB, even a partial 'secular' one.
Posted by The Blue Cross, Saturday, 31 October 2009 10:14:15 PM
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to reply spindoc....evolutionary interpretations..don’t really fit what we see...species evolution...dosnt validate genus evolution

Let’s look at an example....The Bible says..that God created distinct groups of animals...“after their kind” ..see Genesis 1).

Starting with this truth..of the Bible..as one of our assumptions,..we would expect to observe animals..divided into distinct groups,..or kinds.

Creationists postulate that our creative God..placed phenomenal variability..in the genes of each kind,..so there could be considerable variety within each kind.

But the preprogrammed mechanism..for variation within the kind..could never change one kind...into a different kind,..as evolutionists claim...and their belief system requires.

they point to..mutated fruit/flies ..r speciation..observed in the field..(such as new species..of mosquitoes or fish or gull).

But..this is where many people..are confused—what is meant by..“science”..or..“scientific.”

It is helpful to distinguish..between operational science..and origin science,..and compare how each one seeks to discover truth...Before we get caught up..in a debate about whether the Bible..or evolution is scientific,

we have learned to ask,..“Could you please define..what you mean by science?”..The answer usually reveals..where the real problem lies.

Defining Science..People are generally unaware..that dictionaries give a root meaning,..or etymology,..of science similar to this..from Webster’s:..“from Latin scientia,..from scient-.. sciens ‘having knowledge,’..from present participle of scire..‘to know.’”

And most dictionaries..give the following meaning..of the word:..“the state of knowing:..knowledge as distinguished..from ignorance or misunderstanding.”

But over the past 200 years,..during the so-called Scientific Revolution,..the word science has come to mean..a method of knowing, a way of discovering truth.

Operational science uses observable,..repeatable experiments to try to discover truth.

Origin science relies on relics..from the past and historical records to..try to..discover truth.

Because the past..cannot be observed directly,..assumptions greatly affect..how these..'scientists'..interpret what they see

http://www.google.com/search?ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&sourceid=gd&q=biblical+science+knowing&hl=en-GB&rls=MEDA,MEDA:2008-36,MEDA:en-GB
Posted by one under god, Saturday, 31 October 2009 10:49:41 PM
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OUG

In Gen 7 Noah is instructed to take "two of every kind" of animal "a male and its mate". Now there wouldn't be much point in that unless "kind" meant something very much like "species"... would there?
Posted by waterboy, Sunday, 1 November 2009 12:20:42 AM
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Oliver,
>> I wonder if such a Christian anthropologist ... belief system. <<
You see, this is where we differ. I would never write that “I wonder if such an atheist researcher would apply the rigour of the discipline to his/her personal belief system” because I not only respect the reasons for an atheist to subscribe to this or that world-view (which I might not even be familiar with or understand), but also because I sincerely believe that atheists can be as honest and successful in their striving for objectivity as theists, exceptions on both sides notwithstanding.

bushbasher,
I have no idea how a definition would “reasonably satisfy” your requirements.

A theist (Christian) who needs to argue that the atheist is immoral, irrational, illogical, inconsistent, ridiculous or what (apparently to reaffirm his/her own beliefs) has obviously a personal problem that only indirectly is related to where theism and atheism differ. Does this not hold also the other way around? One thing is to engage in world-view discussions in order to broaden one’s own perspective (and hopefully in doing so help the opponent to broaden his/hers), another thing is to attack the opponent’s world-view with sweeping accusations, to overcome one’s own world-view insecurities. Conversions from theist to atheist, or vice-versa, seldom follow from that.

>>The central theme of the book is the question of whether God exists.<<
I have read only parts of the book, but it did not impress me as a serious philosophical inquiry or argument one way or another. Or even a historical inquiry as e.g. Hans Küng’s “Does God exist?” whose English version takes 835 pages. Nevertheless, it serves its purpose as I explained earlier in this thread.

Sqeers,
Thanks for the thoughts (and confession). It is unremarkable that your Christian geologist believes in resurrection (a basic Christian tenet with many interpretations). Did he publish a paper on geology in a peer-reviewed journal on geology, where he referred to resurrection? That would be remarkable. I agree that anthropologists (and others) should “leave at the door” theist or atheist world-views (prejudices) that could unfairly compromise their research.
Posted by George, Sunday, 1 November 2009 2:55:34 AM
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OUG, The question was and still is: Can we please have an example of religious knowledge, or if you prefer it, “knowing”?

The question remains unanswered. Your response has again drifted down into theological and biblical content.

Look OUG, if all the vast quantities of religious “information” you have, cannot produce a single example of useable “religious knowledge”, is it not time that you recognized the fact that the reason for this is that it cannot.

Peter Sellick attempted to draw a parallel between religious knowledge and scientific knowledge, thus creating the illusion that there is such a thing as religious knowledge, there is no such thing. There are vast quantities of recorded information created by humans to help make life bearable over the millennia.

The reason that you and others have failed to answer this simple question is that it is impossible, because theology is based upon fiction. The further you drill down into the theological morass, the further you are from answering the question and the more theology you need.

You can have “data” and you can have “information” but you “use” knowledge

Does the light not shine within your content layer?
Posted by spindoc, Sunday, 1 November 2009 8:26:42 AM
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Relda.
Thanks for the information about Tillich, it goes far beyond my knowledge of him. Some of your statements seemed to confirm (is that conditioned enough?) that in Tillich’s theology man is really at the center. I know this is a broad statement but it is has been the fault of much theology since the “turn to the self” and I think Tillich is a part of that. I read “The courage to be” before I became a theology student and was impressed. However more study distanced me from him. I would argue with your statement that he was the greatest 20th C theologian. Almost no one walks in his path nowadays. In my wide reading of contemporary theology I rarely come across his name.

I am sorry I have no time to investigate further and give you a fuller response.

Peter Sellick
Posted by Sells, Sunday, 1 November 2009 10:15:29 AM
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‘You can have “data” and you can have “information” but you “use” knowledge’, is precisely correct spindoc.

Most of us know our finitude – our transient time here, about the danger of living and about the tragic character of existence. The fear and anxiety we experience are the heritage of all people.

Augustine knew a hidden element of despair is in ‘every man's soul’, as did the great Danish Protestant, Kierkegaard. Whilst we know we are to end up as just a collection of dust particles, we often feel we are more than this. We know that we belong to a higher order than that of our animal needs and desires; and yet we know that we shall abuse the higher order, and as we are now painfully more than likely to see, the abuse to occur in the service of our lower nature. Our knowledge tells us that we are only small members of the spiritual world, yet we also know that we shall aspire to the whole, making ourselves the center of the world.

Our religions, as an answer, demand ritual activity, the participation in religious enterprises, and the study of religious traditions, prayer, sacraments and meditations. They demand moral obedience, inhuman self-control and asceticism, devotion to man and things beyond our possibilities, surrender to ideas and duties beyond our power, unlimited self-negation, and unlimited self-perfection: the religious law demands the perfect in all respects.

As a result we see, in all Christian Churches, the toiling and laboring of people who are called Christians, serious Christians, under innumerable laws which they cannot fulfill, from which they flee, to which they return, or which they replace by other laws. But, and I’ll be game enough here in quoting Tillich in the ‘knowledge’ he reveals, “We call Jesus the Christ not because He brought a new religion, but because He is the end of religion, above religion and irreligion, above Christianity and non-Christianity.”
Posted by relda, Sunday, 1 November 2009 10:24:09 AM
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george:

>> A theist (Christian) who needs to argue that the atheist is immoral, irrational, illogical, inconsistent, ridiculous ...
>> has obviously a personal problem that only indirectly is related to where theism and atheism differ.
>> Does this not hold also the other way around?

a) no. and actually, i don't know that i accept the first way round either.
well, maybe yes, if they "need" to argue. but i don't need to: i'm just procrastinating!

b) if you're referring to me and you, i don't think you're any of those things. i may (and do) consider some of your arguments irrational or ridiculous, but that is very different.

>> One thing is to engage in world-view discussions in order to broaden one’s own perspective ...
>> another thing is to attack the opponent’s world-view with sweeping accusations ...
>> Conversions from theist to atheist, or vice-versa, seldom follow from that.

well, i doubt anybody thinks anybody is likely to be converted here, whatever the tone. but apart from that, i think you're being a little precious.

it's all fine to talk about world-view, but at some point it's fair to go back to the wendy's ad, and to ask: where's the beef?

you're a mathematician. you know the power of mathematics is in precise reasoning from precise definitions. so, for example, mathematicians ended millenia of waffle about infinity. they mastered the concept, to great effect. calculus is the beef.

yes, god is harder than maths. but still, you ought to be able to point to a little bit of beef. it is not unfair or impolite to point out that, with all the grand general talk, neither you nor sellick nor reida, nor anyone here, will point to any religious beef.

spindoc's question remains.
Posted by bushbasher, Sunday, 1 November 2009 10:24:32 AM
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quote the spindocter<<..Can we please have an example of religious knowledge..>>>so i gave him one[quoting the sourcethen he comes back..

delusionally..<<The question remains unanswered>>>because he refuses to accept the reply....why?

hear his own words..<<...Your response..>>ha...<<has again drifted down into theological and biblical content>>>so what you idiot...you got one egsample....if i quoted science...you would have said thats not biblical...no ssshit...you asked theology...and got theology knowing.

i have also presented science...lol and you debate the word experts...who write dictioary definitions...be at least honest you wil ignore any biblical..thus your refusing any reply,..that replies your set up question...YOUR SIMPLY UNABLE TO EGSAMINE THE TRUTH WITHOUT BIAS

see..pal...how our laws are based on the bible..govt we even got the ursurors...every plolitition is likely to have included the holy texts in their preperation to govern...lest we forget the lords parayer read before parliment sits

your clever in chosing to limit the replies your prepared bias can pounce upon...fact is if yopu dont know the texts...you dont have that knowledge....science

<<all the vast quantities of religious “information” you have, cannot produce a single example of useable “religious knowledge”>>>

without you unthinkingly stating correctly...im quotoing the holy texts...get it ya dumb retard?

<<is it not time..that you recognized..the fact that the reason for this...is that it cannot>>..it acturatly transmits the thought from dead people...into our knowledge base...god alone knows what you expect

see your saying science is in...im saying the science isnt proof...you say give me religious proof...because you got no science

its pathetriclly obvious...even to the drone of retards jumping in with reply the question...when we should be hearing your proof

so saying reply mine...this should be easy..if you really got a science..one give me a genus evoplution tree...2 give me the name of that first living thing that evolved...3 validate a SINGLE EGSAMPLE OF GENUS EVOLVING INTO OTHER GENUS...

ANSWER THE QUESTION..using science..IM NOT AS INSANE AS YOU..TO ASK YOU TO PROVE IT..WITHOUT SCIENCE...LOLL..YA DOLT
Posted by one under god, Sunday, 1 November 2009 10:55:23 AM
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relda, no, all you have done is replace the word “knowledge” with “spirituality”.

OUG. Whilst you last post failed to offer an example of religious knowledge there were some interesting perspectives I’d like to address.

There are six domains into which all things human (cognitive) exist. These are Social, Political, Economic, Religious, Ecological and Scientific. These exist as a product of human endeavor, without human consciousness they could not exist.

Since each domain is a “product” of human intelligence, imagination, creativity etc., they are also subject to interpretation by that same intelligence. Our personalities, attitudes, values and beliefs are defense mechanisms we have developed to help us cope.

The two ends of that defense spectrum are “reality” at one end and “non-reality” at the other, each of us sits somewhere along that spectrum. For those at the reality end, there is a “need” for all things to be tangible in order to feel secure. For those at the non-reality end, the security “need” can be met by intangibles. The two ends of the human spectrum stare at each other in wonderment.

In the real world, questions are very complex but the answers, when we get there, are very simple. In the non-real world, the questions are very simple but the answers are very complex. So complex in fact and so full of contradictions that an act of faith is needed to provide that human security.

Each scientific or medical achievement presents complex and almost insurmountable technicality however, once the answer is discovered we can very simply reproduce it. That is because it has now become “knowledge”.

Theology is precisely the opposite; a very simple question requires ever more complex explanations. As human knowledge grows theology has to respond with ever more convoluted explanations. Institutionalized religion has capitalized on this and made it into a global business. It has already permeated domains such as politics and science in its quest for more power and affluence. It is Theology that powers these. When will the Vatican follow the tenet, “give away your worldly goods and serve the needy”?
Posted by spindoc, Sunday, 1 November 2009 12:15:11 PM
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Spindoc, Relda, George et al.

When arguments about “knowledge” are based on words like “data” and “information”, the proponents are using linguistic and mathematical intelligence. This is only one type of intelligence – i.e. one way of “knowing”. As many are probably aware, Gardner has delineated at least eight types of human intelligence, and I suggest that each of these is equally able to lead to knowledge. Since we are each more highly endowed with one or some of these intelligences than with others, the problem becomes how to communicate our knowledge with other people who tend to rely on different intelligences than our own.

I have on occasions come to deepen my knowledge of the human condition (and thus come closer to God) through listening to music and through responding with my own music-making. A piece of poetry at times has been just as effective. While I dwell within the broad Christian tradition, the Sufi tradition within Islam uses music and dance and poetry in a similar way. Yet it would be difficult for any of us relying on musical, kinaesthetic and linguistic intelligences to communicate the resultant “knowledge” to one of my friends who found greater knowledge through experiences in athletics and mountaineering.

I think we have the same problem in these threads attached to Peter’s articles.

In the same vein I suggest that Spindoc’s spectrum with “reality” at one end and “non-reality” at the other is quite flawed. Reality is perceptible, not only by the use of the senses (making it “tangible” in Spindoc’s terms) but also by acts of intuition. Carl Jung’s schema of cognition is very helpful here, including sensation and intuition as opposite but equally valid modes of perception.

“Intuition” in this context needs to be understood not merely as “having a hunch”, but as a way of grasping objects as symbols rather than facts. I think this is another problem in discussions flowing from Peter’s articles: the sensate types demand “data” while the intuitives demand symbols. Each of us tends congenitally towards one of these polarities, so let’s be kind to one another!
Posted by crabsy, Sunday, 1 November 2009 1:58:46 PM
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Spindoc,
while I’m on your side, the cognitive view of phenomena is relatively new; since Descartes, though the Reformation gave Descartes impetus (if we are to be slaves to the so-called history of philosophy). The Cartesian view derives its empirical authority from the self, the “I am”, a paradigmatic shift. Thus it was possible, under Plato, and ergo Christianity, for “all things human” to relate directly to God (s), and archetypal forms.
You also talk of abstractions such as “our personalities, attitudes” etc., that “we have developed to help us cope”; but what is “we” and “us”, the “I am” again, but abstractions?
Then you talk about “reality” and “non-reality”: “each of us sits somewhere along that spectrum. For those at the reality end, there is a “need” for all things to be tangible in order to feel secure. For those at the non-reality end, the security “need” can be met by intangibles. The two ends of the human spectrum stare at each other in wonderment”.
This is beautifully put, but both “realities” are surely mere perspective; one relying on the senses, or Kant’s grandiose unity of apperception, and the other on an unfashionable (in the context of our putatively secular world) premise based on faith. While I’m heartily impatient with religious complacency, and especially the brain-dead fundamentalists (a bit of rigour would do them good!), I’m increasingly impatient with a scientific hegemony that is just as guilty of asserting a dubious foundationalism—a material dialectic that, via its stunning successes, no longer interrogates its “reality” sceptically.
What is this “real world” you talk of?
You’re talking “realism”, the toy of our technocratic age.
Certainly, we can reproduce, that is commodify, our “qualified” successes, but we never arrive at “truths” or “answers”; all “knowledge” is pragmatic, contemporary and relative; indeed immediately obsolete—and we revise accordingly, ad infinitum.
Which is not to defend organised religion, which is no different to any other corporate enterprise; they exist to replicate and grow in power and wealth.
When will the secular masters give up their excesses, like the space programme, and serve the needy?
Posted by Squeers, Sunday, 1 November 2009 2:03:14 PM
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sells,
I haven’t stated anywhere, “that he [Tillich] was the greatest 20th C theologian”. I did say, however, “…theology is important and I’ll put some weight on one of the foremost theologians this century” - this is perhaps where you may have taken an incorrect inference….. But I do hope you take “the time to investigate further and give.. a fuller response”.

spindoc,
Your admonition, “give away your worldly goods and serve the needy” has a spiritual base and is founded on the code, “love your neighbor as yourself,” - it has also been described as the mother of the commandments (and certainly also embraces, “being kind to one another.”) Here, you show your knowledge of a spiritual principle. ‘Spirituality’ is more related to acting upon (or application of) such a principle. Therefore, per se, “spirituality” isn’t knowledge, just as technology isn’t science. My previous post spoke of two types of ‘knowing’ - one, we “know our finitude” – that’s obvious, we all die. The second type of ‘knowing’ (and apparently no longer as obvious for us), as inferred to by Tillich, is ‘seen’ in another way, but is 'knowledge' (albeit spiritual) nevertheless and can be ‘enacted’ on. Crabsy made reference to “intuition” as a way of “grasping objects as symbols rather than facts’ – it is a good analogy. I haven’t, therefore, confused “knowledge” with the word “spirituality”.

You say that “each scientific or medical achievement presents complex and almost insurmountable technicality” which has culminated in an answer that can be reproduced, i.e. this is the application of “knowledge”. Evolution represents a steady increase of complexity, from inanimate matter to animate matter, and finally the emergence of human consciousness. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, French Jesuit, paleontologist, biologist, and philosopher, believed consciousness and matter are aspects of the same reality - the "within" and the "without". This evolving ‘matter’ is an important aspect for theology to explore and define but it also rightly resides outside the realm of science, and I’d suggest this is where the true ‘power’ of theology lies.
Posted by relda, Sunday, 1 November 2009 2:24:21 PM
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hey Relda.
"Here, you show your knowledge of a spiritual principle."
Really?
I would have thought the principle of being nice to others was more a moral principle, than a spiritual one. If you said being nice to others was a 'soul cleansing' exercise, or was purely for the purpose of getting to Heaven... (with or without the 72 virgins, and the rivers of honey...)
I would have to disagree.
Being nice to others is simply proactive self interest. If we all do it, and if we teach the next generation to do it, there's a better than average chance the world will be a better place.
For everyone.
Including ourselves.
I don't think that's spiritual.
I think it's just smart.
Ultimately, ethics and morality are about survival. Not survival of the fittest, or of the self, but of the species.
There are some radical green groups out there that think our species doesn't deserve to survive, and I can empathise with their point of view.
Maybe I'm not totally objective, but I think if we teach our children to care, and they teach their children to care, maybe one day our species will deserve to survive.
Who knows?
Posted by Grim, Sunday, 1 November 2009 9:00:25 PM
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Quite so Grim.

And the problem with 'the religious' is that they do not care.... about anything or anyone but their own cults, and their own welfare.

Just watched the Jews on Dateline stealing Arab lands on the basis that they are 'God's chosen people'.

Indeed.... chosen for what I wonder?

And Xtians are no better, hating Jews for killing Jesus, and all the other rubbish that goes with that.

Thousands of years of vilifying and murdering Jews, and Muslims, and anyone else not of their particular 'brand'.

No, we'd be better off without them all.

Can it be possible to organise a global lobotomy session, I wonder?

Excising the sick part of the brain and leaving the largely unutilised 'social' part?

I doubt it.

Anyway, then there'd be no Sells to amuse us all.
Posted by The Blue Cross, Sunday, 1 November 2009 9:37:23 PM
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please reply..the 3 questions...lol..with your..knowledge/science

..if you really got..a science..give me...a genus/evolution-tree...[not species]

2.give me the name of that first living thing that evolved...as even science dare not go this far...simplify...was this first...'life'...in salt water or fresh

3.validate a SINGLE EGSAMPLE...OF GENUS EVOLVING INTO OTHER GENUS...again..this is an impossability...as no such event..has ever been reported/..nor observed..

it's concept..[evolution..is thus revealed illusion/theory..not knowledge...not science

ANSWER
..THE QUESTION..using science..


<<last post..failed to..offer an example..of religious knowledge>>>..lol correct..but read its preceeding post

lol

<<six domains..into which all things human..(cognitive)..exist...These are Social,..Political,..Economic, Religious,..Ecological..and Scientific.>>>

what about../law/antisocial/real/delusional/good/bad/need/greed/we even have such sciences/knowings..such as..fiction and non fiction/sport/crime/colluded/and the red flag/patriotic/materialistic/spiritual and black-swan spheres

phycology is..Organized around six domains..of personality functioning/biological/intrapsychic/dispositional/phenomenological,socio-cultural,..and adjustment-adaptive,..Personality Psychology...examines the theories..and research within the context of each of..lol..the domains.
http://highered.mcgraw-hill.com/sites/0070366055/

how..can one appear..so wise..yet so limited..in your regurgitated opinion's?

Knowledge acquisition involves complex cognitive processes:../perception/learning/communication,association and reasoning....

The term knowledge...is also used to mean the confident understanding..of a subject..with the ability to use it...for a specific purpose..if appropriate

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Knowledge
http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&rls=MEDA,MEDA:2008-36,MEDA:en-GB&ei=5l_tSsZsz52QBeSp_JwP&sa=X&oi=spell&resnum=0&ct=result&cd=1&ved=0CBMQBSgA&q=human+knowledge+domains&spell=1



<<In the real-world,..questions are very complex..but the answers,..when we get there,..are very simple.>>>
..great...so how about replying...the answers...i already done the..''very complex'''..bit...in asking them

<<once the answer..is discovered we can..very simply reproduce it.>>.
..ok i will add a further challange..for you to ignore...

make just one like it...
if science..REPLICATE IT...LOL

<<Theology is precisely/the opposite;>>..lol..your overthinking it...

god is the living love..sustaining ALL LIFE..TO LIVE
god is love...if its not good...its not of god

we love god by loving neighbour
god is..that good still/quiet..loving/voice..that lives within..all[emmanuel]..

<<Institutionalized religion..has capitalized on this..and made it into a global business>>....naturally...but those who know/god is love..know their masters voice...thus..arnt fooled..for one second

<<It..has already permeated domains..such as politics and science..in its quest for more power and affluence>>...mate please rethink...sepperation of church and state...just how does this validate seeking..lol..more power?..trying to retain it..maybe?

<<When will the Vatican follow the tenet>>when they read..the full books..with an open heart...sepperating the fact..[good]...from the deception..

[wrought by those..serving satanic beings...by decieving..from gods children away/from...their creators love
Posted by one under god, Sunday, 1 November 2009 11:49:29 PM
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bushbasher,
>>mathematicians ended millenia of waffle about infinity. they mastered the concept, to great effect. calculus is the beef<<
Calculus was introduced by Newton and Leibniz in 17th century, Cantor solved the problem of infinity end of 19th century. So if you are looking for the “beef” if was rather the other way around.

>> if you're referring to me and you<<
No, the context was Dawkins. Nevertheless, you’re right, he does not use these derogatory terms to describe people but world-views, beliefs, concepts etc. he dislikes.

>> i ... consider some of your arguments irrational or ridiculous<<
In distinction to you (and Dawkins?) I do not apply this language to the opinions of people I engage in discussions with or want to criticise, apparently because I am “a little precious”.

>>it is not unfair or impolite to point out that, with all the grand general talk, neither you nor sellick nor reida, nor anyone here, will point to any religious beef.<<
No, it‘s not unfair or impolite, it only shows that you are looking for a confirmation of your choice of a world-view orientation as against the alternative.

I believe asking for a powerful enough argument or evidence - a “religious beef”, whatever that might be - that would force you to change your orientation is not unlike asking for a powerful enough microscope to see a photon. The photon is itself part of the process of seeing, like your world-view orientation is part of how you understand reality and yourself. Nevertheless, photons can be studied, and world-view preferences changed, however it is not that straightforward.

crabsy,
Thanks for a stimulating post.
>>“Intuition” ... a way of grasping objects as symbols rather than facts ... the sensate types demand “data” while the intuitives demand symbols. <<
Except for trivial knowledge (awareness of reality through senses and instruments, referred to as facts) most of knowledge occurs through symbols and models: scientific knowledge through concepts often modelled on mathematics, religious knowledge through concepts modelled on myths (mythologies) or “sacred texts” (c.f. Ian G, Barbour, Myths, Models and Paradigms, SCM 1974)
Posted by George, Monday, 2 November 2009 12:20:13 AM
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george, i know you know your mathematical history, but i think you have the wrong end of the infinity stick. calculus is mighty fine beef. and, whatever lack of clear logical foundation, the beefiness of calculus came from newton's and leibniz's precision, and this beefiness was entirely evident in the 17th century. (well, except to bishop berkeley ...) cantor and the other 19th century analysts simply ruled out (mostly) the question of whether the beef was somehow tainted.

of course, if i ask for *any* evidence of the power of a god machine, i do so only to confirm my choice of world-view ...

photons or not, spindoc's question remains, seemingly evermore. kinda like poe's raven.
Posted by bushbasher, Monday, 2 November 2009 1:22:39 AM
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bushbasher,
Are you sure you are not confusing infinity (clarified by Cantor), with infinitesimals (strictly speaking, a vague term)? Of course, people were contemplating the nature of infinity for ages - after all, theologians also liked the word - before Cantor. Newton was a genius no doubt, but his calculus was a great intuition, hardly a precision: we used to joke that Newton would not pass our first year exams on calculus exactly because of the vagueness of the terms he used. Today infinity is an important and exact concept in mainstream mathematics, whereas infinitesimals are used only intuitively (except in non-standard analysis). Of course, this is irrelevant to this thread.

>>of course, if i ask for *any* evidence ... i do so only to confirm my choice of world-view<<
And I can just repeat: you cannot have it confirmed this way exactly because that it is your FUNDAMENTAL choice thus defining your personal identity. Whatever “evidence” for the choice of another world-view presuppositions somebody else could offer, it would also involve his/her identity, hence not as easily transferable as factual or symbolic knowledge.
Posted by George, Monday, 2 November 2009 3:21:06 AM
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George is absolutely correct in his writings about infinity, infinitessimals, etc. Newton was an intuitive genius who provided a workable mathematics for treating moving bodies. Cantor provided a rigorous treatment for building up a logical system to describe the implicit notion of infinity in the calculus.

The nature of premises is that a logical system can be built upon them. The premises themselves are unprovable. The mathematical systems of Euclidean Geometry, spherical geometry and hyperbolic geometry are examples of systems logical in themselves but based on different and contradictory forms of the parallel postulate. Spherical geometry is useful in navigation as it describes straight lines on a sphere where all straight lines intersect. Hyperbolic geometry is useful in describing celestial motion as it fits relativistic physics. Euclidean geometry is useful in describing objects moving according to the three laws of Newtonian motion.

Analogously in religion. George's Catholic world-view determines the premises he accepts. I do not accept those premises since I have a different world-view. I am an atheist. George's premises and mine are contradictory as are the premises on which Euclidean, spherical and hyperbolic geometry are based. Our premises are contradictory but also unprovable. However, both George and myself are logical. We both accept logical systems that are based on contradictory premises.

Ultimately the beef on which our system is based are our premises that are unprovable. Spindoc's question "Can we please have an example of religious knowledge, or if you prefer it, “knowing”?" is an epistemological question. Epistemology differentiates justifiable belief from opinion. I am satisfied that George's and my beliefs are justifiable if the system based on those beliefs is logical or non-contradictory even though our premises which are unprovable are themselves contradictory.

I respect George’s logical mind and recognise that our differences cannot be resolved because they are based on different worldviews that yield contradictory premises. All we can reasonably ask is that the system built on those premises is logical. The intuitive process that determines the premises is not subject to proof
Posted by david f, Monday, 2 November 2009 4:26:34 AM
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George,

You asked me a direct question. and I did my best to provide a direct reply. Said reply had nothing whatsoever to do with a theist’s right to cherish a belief and choose not to use the tools of an objective discipline to test faith.

In fact, I posit a theist must be free to maintain a faith applying a separate standard or measure than to say, anthropology, especially where political power is not exercised of people. Here, Sells is free to “not” write headings such as, Creation Story, Virgin Birth on a piece of paper and compare religions, to see Christianity’s characteristics dissolve into the list of religions of a same/similar kind.

Moreover, I would not suggest there is dishonesty involved with Sells et al. However, defence mechanisms could be involved. Along these lines, I recall Linus saying to Lucy that he would not read a book, because, “ it might change the way I think” (Peanuts).

I agree with you that there are some pretty smart theists and atheists and some pretty silly theists and atheists. On both sides of the debate, some reach their worldview after serious study, while others just fall into belief or disbelief.

If an atheist critiques a theist for lack of objectivity in appraising religious a worldview, to avoid hypocrisy, the atheist, likewise, should be willing to apply object methods in appraising their worldview. Herein, perhaps, the position of skeptic is the best. One should be a skeptical believer or a skeptical atheist. Skeptics will tend to be objective, perhaps, more objective than Sells or Dawkins.

Being a skeptic myself, I willingly apply objectivity to theism and atheism, holding a dominant position tentatively, while both poles are tested and re-tested. (Atheistism is the strongest cconstruct, I maintain)

Further, I would be happy with someone producing an objective taxonomy of the classes of atheism, so similarities and dissimilarities, become evident. Not a problem.
Posted by Oliver, Monday, 2 November 2009 9:20:27 AM
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"If theodicy is a new word for you you should be more careful with suggesting simple answers to the problem of evil." - George

Your comment had unfamilar and unnecessssary had bite. I said that I had no knowldege of the word used and was paying you a compliment; I did not say I was ignorant of discourses on "good" and "evil".

"The same as somebody for whom algebraic topology is a new concept should be more careful about his/her understanding of the classification of geometrical shapes." - George

A Clinical Psychologist would fluent with the classification Schemes of the DSM IV, whereas GP would not. It does not follow that a GP, does not have a valid concept of Depression or Mania.

Relatedly, as I thought you would have known, Einstein needed help with some of the mathematics underlying some of his work from his old Polytek University (History Channel Doumentary). Likewise, a colleague and I might need to go the US to work with an expert on advanced heiracharical linear models, given neither of is a HLM specialist.

In other threads, I have used the term "subsistance" from philosophy, in knowledge that the word is uncommon. Yet, by extrapolation, I would not presume that the reader had no concept of the related term, "existence".

[Subsistence is where something exists in a culture but does not exist in reality: e.g., Star Trek. Zeus?]
Posted by Oliver, Monday, 2 November 2009 9:54:00 AM
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Oliver... so God and Devil fall into the 'subsistence' category then? Like Star Trek, The Lost Patrol, and all the other gods, fairies, hobgoblins and wailing banshees? Thanks, much clearer now.
Posted by The Blue Cross, Monday, 2 November 2009 9:59:05 AM
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Grim,
You say, “Ultimately, ethics and morality are about survival” – here you appear to be confusing ‘Darwinism’ with ‘social Darwinism’. The most popular catchwords of Darwinism i.e., “struggle for existence” and “survival of the fittest,” when applied to the life of man in society, suggests that nature will provide the best competitors in a competitive situation and win, and that this process will lead to continuing improvement (both socially and economically). Interestingly, this idea has been a strain in American conservative thought in order to boost its own ends - a belief whose chief conclusion was that the positive functions of the state should be kept to the barest minimum, one that was almost anarchical, and devoid of that centre of reverence and authority which the state provides in many conservative systems.

People who profess neither religion nor spirituality might be moral. But if you really dig up that morality, you will end up with two sources. It is either fear of others that society instills in its members in a sublime, elevated way by presenting them as mores and ethical conduct, or it is a leftover of a religious principle where the person no longer makes that connection. The universal morality, or ‘Golden Rule’, certainly runs across many religions and humanist ideologies - perhaps the ultimate common ground we all share. Spirituality, however, is a concept that we cannot easily grasp because it can be directed toward either God or the self. Most scholars agree that the sacred or the transcendent is an essential element in defining spirituality. This obviously is point of departure for the hardened secularist.

According to Wuthnow (1998), there are three dimensions of spirituality: “dwelling,” “seeking,” and “practice.” And he points out, “spiritual practices have a moral dimension, for they instruct people in how should behave toward themselves and with each other.” The Judeo-Christian narrative, as contained so intrinsically within our Western culture, expresses this and I think it a folly to merely ignore or be ignorant of.
Posted by relda, Monday, 2 November 2009 10:35:32 AM
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goerge and david f.,

not that it matters, but no, i'm not confusing infinitesimals with infinity. i'm aware that cantor formalised the notion of infinity as a number. but nonetheless, as david f says, infinite processes are implicit in every step of the workings of the calculus, and explicit completed infinity appears in taylor series and the like. yes, newton was an applied mathematician, and he wasn't the first to successfully wrestle with infinity, but he was the first to win by knockout (to mix my fighting metaphors). maybe, just he landed some low blows.

and i'm sorry to harp, but there's something really weird about this world-view argument. first of all the euclidean-hyperbolic-spherical metaphor doesn't work. yes, there are different axiom systems, but all are studied successfully using euclidean geometry. there is one mathematical universe.

secondly, there are some extrinsic measures of the value of world views. or even of mathematics – some axiom systems are more fruitful than others, in measurable ways. i don't care if the religious beef looks a little (ahem) hyperbolic, but it is still fair to ask where and what it is.

thirdly, at times there are extrinsic measures of the truth of world views. if one thinks that someone was born of a virgin, that's not merely a world-view statement, that's a statement about physical reality.

does george believe that? god knows. because george doesn't actually state his world-view, or what he gains from it. fine. of course he's under no obligation. but that's a personal choice, not a logical or philosophical hurdle.

the raven is still there.
Posted by bushbasher, Monday, 2 November 2009 11:21:36 AM
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one under god, It is clear from your last posts, that I have caused you a great deal of distress. You are clearly a person of profound faith and I have challenged you beyond your boundaries. Please accept my apology.

crabsy, relda, Squeers, your comments relating to intelligence, spirituality and knowledge are accepted, all of which have multiple connotations. My use of the word knowledge was over simplistic but was specific to the assertion made by Peter Sellick.

Relda, <<spirituality” isn’t knowledge, just as technology isn’t science>>, spirituality is the only measure of self knowledge and technology is one of many products of science.

Your reference to Pierre Teilhard de Chardin is interesting. The Church today is much less tolerant of such concepts, from a Jesuit or otherwise. If one accepts evolution, it would not be unreasonable to accept that “matter”, which includes the human brain, evolved along with all other physical attributes, hence consciousness. Therefore they are the same reality, why would we need theology to explain such a BGO (Blinding Glimpse of the Obvious)? All our intellectual domains are all products of consciousness.

Squeers, not sure I agree that personalities and AVB’s are abstractions. In the broader sense I see human cognitive skills as embracing all identifiable forms of intelligence:

1. Raw intelligence or IQ as defined by Isenk
2. Spiritual IQ or self knowledge as defined by Helen Palmer (Enneagram).
3. Emotional IQ (four stages)
4. Social IQ (Attitudes, values and beliefs)

I do agree that perception is our own reality, the point being made was that perception of anything and everything differs depending on your position on the continuum, it was not my intention to imply that one perception is any more right or wrong, just different, thus we all have different reactions to different things. That’s why there are currently about 6.5 billion different personalities on the planet.
Posted by spindoc, Monday, 2 November 2009 12:00:12 PM
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spidoc,
I guess I’d have to agree in that, “spirituality is the only measure of self knowledge”, as placing it the other way around could well imply a deception i.e., by defining our spirituality through our self-knowledge. I would add here, however, the concept of self-awareness (or consciousness) is entirely another matter.

In the February 2009 issue of the Journal of Consumer Research (Jay P. Carlson and colleagues of the Union University) found people are very good at deceiving themselves about their own knowledge. A similar study in 2005, in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest, reached the same conclusion. In that case, researchers warned: "The work world is full of overconfidence and flawed self-knowledge as well. Employees underestimate how long they will take to complete tasks. And CEOs and entrepreneurs are famously (sometimes disastrously) overconfident in making business decisions." In fact, self-deception creeps into decision-making all the time, as we pretend we are right, no matter what. Undoubtedly, this can also apply to most other areas within our lives.

A certain ‘objectivity’ is reached when finding a ‘self-less’ state. Our lofty secular ideals are not quite so devoid of the selfish bias we might imagine. The so called admission of a ‘selfish gene’ appears even more erroneous. A particular finding suggests that one core tenant of spiritual experience is selflessness. "If you look in the Torah, the Old Testament, the New Testament, in the Koran, a lot of Sufi writings, Buddhist writings, and Hindu writings, they all talk about selflessness," said Johnstone (a neuroscience researcher).

Spiritual outlooks have long been associated with better mental and physical health. These benefits, Johnstone speculated, may stem from being focused less on one’s self and more on others. (http://www.livescience.com/health/081224-brain-spirit.html)
Posted by relda, Monday, 2 November 2009 2:44:48 PM
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Dear Bushbasher,

There is not one mathematical universe. There is one universe. Mathematics is a human construct and a way of looking at that universe from different aspects. Spherical geometry and hyperbolic geometry are non-Euclidean since they both deny the parallel postulate basic to Euclidean geometry.

The Catholic doctrine of the virgin birth is based on syncretism and mistranslation. Adonis or Tammuz, the Syrian god of vegetation, was a very beautiful youth, born of a Virgin. Attis, the Phrygian God, was born of a Virgin--Nana--who conceived by putting a ripe almond or pomegranate in her bosom. Krishna, the Indian god was born of a Virgin (Devaki). Christianity has absorbed these pagan beliefs. The Isaiah prophecy in the original Hebrew was that almah, a young woman, would bear a son. Almah was translated into the Greek parthenos meaning virgin.

I do not believe that there was any virgin birth, and it seems obviously a fable. However, we humans are compartmented. We rationalise our behaviour. George may believe in the virgin birth or may feel being a Catholic is worthwhile even though Catholicism contains beliefs he doesn’t accept.

However, I think George, you and I all accept the scientific method. Many people on this list don’t.

During WW2 I wanted to enlist in the army when I was 17 and not wait to be conscripted. I passed the physical and mental tests and had to take an oath before I could be a soldier. The oath required me to swear to “defend and protect the Constitution of the United States.” Hold on there! The learned justices of the Supreme Court spend their time discussing the constitutionality of various actions and I, a 17 year kid conscious of my ignorance, may have to decide on the constitutionality of my acts. “Well, are you in or out?” growled the officer, as he saw me hanging back. I stepped up and took the oath disregarding my misgivings. I did as expected and don’t worry about oaths any more.

I imagine the virgin birth and other dogma is something most Catholics don’t worry about.
Posted by david f, Monday, 2 November 2009 3:48:35 PM
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Relda, I always find it patronising when someone uses the word ‘confusing’. Since I mentioned neither Darwinism, or social Darwinism, I really don’t see how the word applies.
I know this must seem ‘confusing’ to you, but I was actually making a statement of my own beliefs, rather than merely reiterating someone else’s; as you seem so fond of doing.
It is my belief that if the Human race manages to survive, it will be through cooperation, rather than individual effort. As you admit, the Golden Rule is an almost essential tool in that cooperation, and it is not a (IMHO) spiritual or religious law. Confucius espoused the rule long before Jesus.
I won’t suggest there is no such thing as ‘the spiritual plane’. I wouldn’t even emphatically deny the existence of ghosts. More than one sci fi writer has speculated on a ‘neutrino world’, and other ghostly parallel universes.
Electrical probes inserted into the brain of a frog show that the critter literally cannot see a falling leaf. No survival value. It is quite feasible our perceptual filters don’t allow (at least plebs like me) a direct perception of the ‘spiritual’ for the same reason.
Like the many scientists who believe that God is not necessary to the Universe, I don’t believe the spiritual is necessary to morality.
Posted by Grim, Monday, 2 November 2009 4:04:35 PM
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Dear David f,
Thanks for the considerate words of support.

>> The premises themselves are unprovable. The mathematical systems of Euclidean Geometry ... Analogously in religion. <<
This reminds me of an analogy that occurred to me, when on some other thread you brought up Euclidean axioms.

“Religious axioms“ or “articles of faith“ are often referred to as “necessary truths” and until the 1800s also Euclidean axioms were understood even by mathematicians not as formal axioms but as self-evident or “necessary truths”, since they were convinced that Euclidean geometry was the only correct idealisation of the properties of physical space. “Since the axioms of geometry are our basic facts about physical space and vast branches of mathematics and physical science use the properties of Euclidean geometry the mathematicians wished to be sure that they were relying upon truth” (Morris Kline, Mathematical thought from ancient to modern times, Vol. 3, OUP 1990).

Today mathematicians don’t speaks of axioms (Euclidean or other) as self-evident or “necessary truths” any more. So maybe this might hint at a more open-minded view of the articles of one’s own faith, although “the (religious) man in the street” will still be able to see his articles of faith only as necessary truths, as he will also Euclid’s axioms.

bushbasher,
>>george doesn't actually state his world-view<<
Well, it certainly would not fit into 350 words, but if you want to box me, my philosophy is based on theism (because of maths with an inclination towards Platonism) and my religion is Christian of the Catholic orientation.

As for “virgin birth” that is part of my religion, not biology, and as other religious symbols it has many interpretations that again can be either naive, or would not fit into 350 words. As an event it is supposed to have been a unique occurrence, so you cannot falsify it. I certainly don’t believe you can replicate it today (though I am not so sure about the future, if one is to believe all those things about human cloning :-)
Posted by George, Tuesday, 3 November 2009 1:24:16 AM
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Spindoc, thanks for your gracious concession. "not sure I agree that personalities and AVB’s are abstractions. In the broader sense I see human cognitive skills as embracing all identifiable forms of intelligence".
Though I'm not sure to what "AVB's" refer?
Indeed the self is "constituted by language", as Habermas has it (another vein of thought is that "language thinks us"), thus by "others", making a nonsense of traditional subject-object cognition (and the present cult of the self that our economic system thrives on). The vaunted cogito has had a hard time of late, indeed has been radically decentered by Lacan (among others) via his so-called "copernican revolution". This would seem to render those traditions of non-self, Relda mentions, or aspirational "self-lessness", redundant?
Indeed, what are the implications for religious notions of soul or atman?
The bigger can of worms, for secular instrumentalism/realism is, on what does it base its calls for ethical conduct? I go on about ethics myself, but can a value system be imposed willynilly, in other words without valid premises? Can ethics be sustained merely by some ostensibly intuitive capacity--for their own sake?
To which George has spontaneously volunteered, "Today mathematicians don’t speaks of axioms (Euclidean or other) as self-evident or “necessary truths” any more. So maybe this might hint at a more open-minded view of the articles of one’s own faith, although “the (religious) man in the street” will still be able to see his articles of faith only as necessary truths, as he will also Euclid’s axioms".
The trouble is, bland, albeit "necessary", "articles of faith", engender neither commitment nor tolerance as social norms; both are liable to abuse, witness the morass of modern culture. According to Charles Taylor, "high standards need strong sources", yet history is replete with "glorious" atrocities--so much for sociology.
I suspect we're not done with the self (soul?), or dualism, yet. It seems to me individuals are capable of transcending their apparent constitutional limits--that is, acting spontaneously under constraint.
Posted by Squeers, Tuesday, 3 November 2009 2:41:10 AM
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Oliver,
>>Your comment had unfamiliar and unnecessary bite.<<
I concede and I apologise. I should not have made it sound personal. What I meant was that one should not offer simple answers to a problem that has occupied the Western mind for centuries. I know, I myself offered a simplified (Christian) answer by pointing to its resolution in the afterlife (an answer meaningless to an atheist). However, I explicitly acknowledged it was a simplification (well, I used the term partial answer).

Yes, I asked a direct question “Do you mean to say that one has to be an atheist in order to be recognised as a scholarly anthropologist?” and I did not want to believe your answer was Yes. I expressed my attitude above as: “anthropologists (and others) should ‘leave at the door’ theist or atheist world-views (prejudices) that could unfairly compromise their research.” So if you do not agree, please let us again just agree to disagree. By the way, is not “theist’s right to cherish a belief” also a somewhat “unfamiliar and unnecessary bite” irrelevant to the question I asked?

Also, as I said, I am not an anthropologist nor an expert on comparative religion, but I doubt “taxonomy” is the right word to describe their research, and I am sure it is not their task to make conclusions about the superiority of this or that religion or no religion at all (in the sense of being “closest to truth” or the “strongest construct”).

I think I can understand what you are after - why this religion rather than that or none - although I doubt you can get an answer from anthropology that would satisfy you.

I have learned a lot from you - and for this I am grateful - albeit more from your questions than from the answers you offer (or hint at). I think it was Bertrand Russell who said that Aquinas was an important philosopher because of the question he aked, not so for his answers. So I think you are in good company here.
Posted by George, Tuesday, 3 November 2009 4:45:07 AM
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Squeers, AVB’s (Attitudes, Values and Beliefs) are the basis of Social Intelligence. These are formed by our upbringing, socio/economic/parental circumstances and our education. It’s less to do with measuring, more to do with positioning on the reality/non-reality spectrum. No right or wrong, just our own reality or perspectives.

Relda, you are challenging the limits of my scholarly ability on spirituality. For what it’s worth, I see spirituality as self knowledge, an understanding of our reactions to everything and everybody. I also think that this has been part of us since we first developed rudimentary awareness, part instinct from flight or fight reactions and part imagination and inquisitiveness.

Sadly this very individual and personal self understanding has been hijacked by institutionalized religions. These religions now “impose” their interpretation of spirituality through “rules”. Given that there are now some 34,000 registered religions (all explained by theology), we can see the extent to which many humans have been drawn away from self knowledge and self development. It’s simply too easy to let someone else work it out and just follow.

I see all human attributes as pyramids of topics, each growing in content. The further we drill down into content, the more entities we have to deal with, the more complex it becomes and the further we are from understanding self. Our societies are increasingly content driven and in order for any of us to understand self and become a benign species, we must drill upwards to find “self reconciliation” rather than downwards into “abstraction”.

Was it not Thomas Aquinas who declared after a lifetime dedicated to learning and writing “All that I have written it but straw”.

IMHO, Theology is an interesting academic exercise, totally out of proportion in its “knowledge value” to humans and an inhibitor to our progress towards becoming a benign species.

Such concepts can only exist at the base of the pyramid where the shear volume of trivia allows some humans to take their “answers to anything and everything pets” for a walk.
Posted by spindoc, Tuesday, 3 November 2009 10:38:09 AM
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Bravo Spindoc, yer done good.

I'd concur with your short burst of reality there, if I were asked to.

Damn it, I'll concur anyway, and live dangerously in the lion's den of Sells OLO mystical columns.

34k registered religions, eh? And all of them 'right', no doubt.

Interesting, how much we rely on not-thinking to survive isn't it?

On requiring 'things' to live by, on needing to oppose others all the time, for ideas that have no answer?

Sad, sad and, really, rather pathetic. How on Earth did we get this far?

Oops, how far have we really got?

Best not think about that, pass the smoking handbag and move to hymn number 36.

No foreign coins in the collection tray please.
Posted by The Blue Cross, Tuesday, 3 November 2009 10:49:43 AM
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Grim,
True, I am“fond”of reiterating another’s belief or opinion - their acknowledgement can only help in the formation or challenge of my own. In discovering what is currently believed and has been believed over time we can discover, not only how unoriginal our own beliefs usually are but perhaps also, their fallacy. Obviously, we all cherish our ‘own’ opinions as being in some way unique and important to us - in this regard my beliefs or opinions do not surpass yours, I’m sorry you’ve found my words patronizing.

I also believe co-operation amongst us humans to be important, and Jesus certainly wasn’t the first to mention the ‘Golden Rule’ which, incidentally, I’ve never suggested. My mention of‘social Darwinism’was to challenge your statement,“Ultimately, ethics and morality are about survival. Not survival of the fittest, or of the self, but of the species”.I do not think "survival" is the key point for morality. Social Darwinism after all similarly suggests that life is a struggle for human beings and that, in order for the best to survive, it is, according to Herbert Spencer (creator of the Social Darwinism theory), also necessary to pursue a policy of non-aid for the weak: "to aid the bad in multiplying, is, in effect, the same as maliciously providing for our descendants a multitude of enemies." Perhaps “the best” can be replaced with, “the species”and,from a sense of compassion, the “weak” catered for. This, however, doesn’t address the core issue of morality and what drives it.

It can be argued that if the evolutionary process directs us towards survival, we have an egoistic (or selfish) reason for being moral. However, if we equate survival with morality,it becomes merely a value judgment i.e.,without evidence to support it. Philosophically,we can easily arrive at two important age old questions: How can we distinguish between good and evil and why should we be good? Where we fail to distinguish good from evil, social Darwinism becomes particularly contentious because,as recently demonstrated,it is mostly understood as"an apology for some of the most vile social systems that humankind has ever known,"for instance German Nazism(Ruse,1995).
Posted by relda, Tuesday, 3 November 2009 11:51:26 AM
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Hey Relda, thanks for dipping delicately into the dangerous waters of Godwin’s Law; it allows me to credibly say “well, he started it!”
As an example of my ideas on cooperation, compare the WW2 army of Germany to the mythical army of Orcs and others under Sauron. When Sauron was thrown down, his army automatically dispersed. Without direct mind control, the concept of an ‘evil’ army is absurd.
Consider an army without esprit de corps. Without concepts of loyalty, or honour or courage or personal sacrifice such an army could probably never form, much less remain cohesive. Hitler may have been (was) a monster, but the German soldiers must have had the same stirling qualities as the allied soldiers, to be so competitive. I don’t think blind obedience is enough for a great army.
In fact, this strikes at the very definition of good and evil. The most evil person imaginable (a sociopath) is also the most totally selfish; whereas outstandingly ‘good’ people are those who are prepared to sacrifice themselves ‘for the greater good’: say Gandhi or mother Teresa, or all the soldiers who have died for a cause they truly believed in.
Of course, this argument doesn’t prove: ‘Cooperation good, individuality bad’.
It does however indicate that without cooperation -or direct mind control- great achievements are unlikely to happen. For good or ill.
I would suggest ensuring the survival of the human race would be a great achievement.
Posted by Grim, Tuesday, 3 November 2009 7:27:14 PM
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My apologies to the forum, or at least those few foolish individuals who bother to read my drivel; I realise I have strayed slightly from the righteous path.
We were discussing ‘spirituality’ and my position was and is it isn’t necessary to morality. Here we strike the eternal problem of definitions. I don’t consider consciousness or self awareness to be spiritual. As a sceptic, I have to say spirituality is the ultimate in credibility, particularly for plebs like me.
Relda likes to quote the works of others, to demonstrate his credibility. George has mentioned he is a mathematician, Bushy is proud of his Uni degree, David f was once a physicist, I think he wrote. All very credible people.
I would love to live in a world where everyone’s opinions stood on their own merit, but even I wouldn’t qualify. Whenever I read an opinion which interests me (either evocatively or provocatively) I immediately rush to see if the writer actually knows what he is talking about, or is just philosophising.
Clearly I belong to the latter group.
But in the world of creeping credentialism, spirituality has to be a pearla. “You have a Phd? So what, I’M spiritual!”
I can very easily imagine Jesus coming off the Mount after a stirring sermon, and meeting his campaign manager (Judas). “Well yeah Jesus, that was a great speech an all, but mate. No one’s going to believe a carpenter, son of a carpenter has got all the answers. What you need, is to get SPIRITUAL. How bout you stop calling yourself the ‘Son of Man’ and start calling yourself the Son of God?”
“That’ll fa-fix ‘em!”
And if you want to get really spiritual, claim your religion is monotheistic, but believes in three Gods, wrapped up in one. That’s so inexplicable, it’s gotta be spiritual.
Posted by Grim, Tuesday, 3 November 2009 8:05:51 PM
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george:

>> As for “virgin birth” that is part of my religion, not biology

a) the VB is part of your religion AND of biology. sorry, but you simply cannot claim there are fatherless guys walking around and pretend it's got nothing to do with biology.

b) the VB was just a random example, and i wasn't delving for a target. but i'm frankly astonished at what you wrote. i honestly don't know how to respond further and maintain my minimum level of respectfulness.

david f:

>> I imagine the virgin birth and other dogma is something most Catholics don’t worry about.

a) i think that is very open to question

b) to borrow from donne: no myth is an island.

grim:

for what it's worth i'm not sure george mentioned here that he's a mathematician: that was me, and me (this time) who started all the maths stuff. and i can't remember discussing my own qualifications, nor david f his. i haven't paid close attention to relda's posts, but i presumed his (?) quotes stand or fall on their own terms. (the ruse one fell).

no question some people on this thread are well pleased with themselves (not me the least). but, and i could be wrong, the only argument-by-qualification i can remember on this thread was sellick's, who seemed to think that the existence of all those professors of theology proves something.
Posted by bushbasher, Tuesday, 3 November 2009 9:12:31 PM
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Squeers,
>>bland, albeit "necessary", "articles of faith", engender neither commitment nor tolerance as social norms; both are liable to abuse, witness the morass of modern culture.<<
Well put, except that my analogy with Euclidean axioms was on the level of ontology not ethics, where I would agree with Charles Taylor (and you?).

bushbasher,
>> the VB (“virgin birth”) is part of your religion AND of biology <<
Well, if that makes you more happy or self-assured, you might also make the biblical Genesis story part of my cosmology and astrophysics.

>> you simply cannot claim there are fatherless guys walking around<<
Please quote me where I claimed that.

>>i honestly don't know how to respond further and maintain my minimum level of respectfulness<<
Well, if you don’t I can’t help you, although respectfulness is not needed for my personal satisfaction but for a decent standard of discussions on this OLO in general. What about trying to be as respectful of us, as we are trying to be of those (including apparently you) who can understand the bible only in its literal, verbatim, form?
Posted by George, Wednesday, 4 November 2009 2:54:24 AM
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George,

No problem with regard the comment. I have on more than one occasion said something with an unintended tone. I have come to respect you, despite our different “worldviews”.

While an issue such as “afterlife” might be complex, a taxonomic scheme for classifying “afterlife” beliefs across various religious might be simple yet informative. Particle physics is complex. The Periodic Table, clever, yet compared to the former, simple.

“Do you mean to say that one has to be an atheist in order to be recognised as a scholarly anthropologist?” – George

Sorry, I misread and misanswered then. My true answer is, no. A theist or an atheist must be objective and willing to apply scholarly tools to theism and to atheism. Beliefs should not set-up a barrier to scholars applying their scholarly skills/techniques to their faith in belief or disbelief.

A quick topic search of only one academic database on “anthropology”, “religion” and “taxonomy” yielded thousands of results, of which the first three were:

- “A taxonomy on the aspects of anointing power” (Glazier 1999)
- “Folk taxonomy of Birds of Paradise in the New Guinea Highlands” (Healy 1993)
- “Taxonomy of emotions leading to religious insight” (Kaplan 2003)

My point to Sells over many posts is that if one lays religiosity out on the table, the relationship between say the Serapis Trinity to the Christian Trinity is structurally familiar as is the relationship between Neon and and Xeon. Sells will not recognize cross-religion similarities which implicitly suggest commonalities; whereas he would probably be quite happy to acknowledge similarities amongst dissimilar inert gases.

In a dramatization of Abelard and Heloise, Heloise was portrayed as good at asking hard questions and Abelard good at answering hard questions. (My wife and I have been to Père-Lachaise)
Posted by Oliver, Wednesday, 4 November 2009 8:40:52 AM
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george:

> you simply cannot claim there are fatherless guys walking around<<

>> Please quote me where I claimed that.

"fatherless" in the sense of "no guy with dick to supply sperm".

>>What about trying to be as respectful of us,
>>as we are trying to be of those (including apparently you) who can understand the bible only in its literal, verbatim, form?

i'm definitely *not* trying to push a literal interpretation on to you, and definitely wasn't expecting you to give one.

but mary was a biological creature, a thing of flesh and blood. (Or am i being too literal?) so was jesus. (or am i being too literal?) the claim then that mary was a virgin is a claim with biological (and physical) implications. EVEN if you wish to argue that there was some miraculous divine insemination (? ?), there are biological implications. EVEN if you want to argue jesus was more than flesh and blood, was a third of god or whatever (? ?), there are biological implications.
Posted by bushbasher, Wednesday, 4 November 2009 9:09:49 AM
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George,
I'm talking ontology and ethics; Taylor suggests that both need "strong sources"--they cannot merely be based on notions of innate goodness or religious authority, but appeal broadly as compelling life rubrics. Taylor's preference is for a religious ontology.
My own, developing, position is that no set of rules will ever solve our problems, as humanity is "essentially" an omnium gatherum. By implication I suppose I'm suggesting that each individual does have an essence or individual bent whose growing media, culture, is the society of others and social infrastructure. These latter are not determinate, but merely influential, so no ontology or ethic will nurture a race of paragons. I would argue that, nevertheless, civilisation should be based on "strong [humanitarian] sources" to which it "adheres" steadfastly, thereby setting a genuine example. Similarly, good parenting is all about example; by saying one thing and doing another, we teach kids that principles are observed in the breech. This is precisely the problem at play in the world, religious and secular; all countries profess high sounding religious or secular principles, according to their lights, but act viciously.
Were we able to structure society around genuinely observed principles, demonstrably to the good, based on shared labour and material equality, there would still be miscreants and zealots and geniuses, but poor behaviour would at least be unexampled.
Pure utopia, of course.
As it is, I still suspect that individual bent is the main determinant of the human being; growth is then haphazardly dependent on fortune.
Humans have an addiction for models and patterns, to which we are all expected, ultimately, to conform. Pure fantasy. I just don't believe it. Life's a complete adventure for every individual--each one of us is a "host" of random and innate variables, and life's an inspired use of what's at hand.
Posted by Squeers, Wednesday, 4 November 2009 9:44:48 AM
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Grim,

Whilst you might attempt to trivialize any mention of Nazism as mere hyperbole (Godwin’s ‘Law’), I think we need dig beneath such a superficial, and perhaps clichéd, reaction.

The precursor of systematic National Socialism was not some anti-Semite but a young, left-leaning social reformist by the name of Friedrich Naumann. Born in 1860, Naumann began his public life in the 1880s - as a pastor and a Christian socialist. German sociologist, Max Weber, had a strong intellectual impact on Naumann. Weber argued, and quickly persuaded Naumann, that economic and social policy should be framed by the nation’s struggle for its existence rather than by ethical or moral considerations involving any actual ‘well-being’.

The church, Naumann was convinced, had to address the social afflictions of the modern age, if it wished to remain true to its principles. This adaptation to modernity, furthermore, was indispensable, not just for the sake of principled integrity, but also for sheer survival for avoiding a fatal loss of believers (i.e., just a ‘numbers game’). Interestingly, he also castigated materialism for its denial of the existence of God and its pretension to guarantee an ideal future of peace and happiness on earth. For “only in God is there happiness, peace, calm … all happiness that does not come from God is for us an illusion and a dream. … In short, Social Democracy has no idea about the real happiness”. Fine sounding words, maybe he was half-right. His radical, and rather falsely declared interpretation was, that “Jesus, on ethical grounds, is a radical adversary of capital accumulation…”

Naumann’s conception of social reform was geared, not toward social justice, but rather toward harnessing the productive energies of a German society in order to serve the nation’s struggle for existence – a false ‘spirituality” perhaps, helping to lay the ground for something far more sinister? If you wish a closer look at ‘truth’ in action, then move a little nearer to the carpenter who, in your banter, you jest about – certainly one who stood on his “own merit” and continues…
Posted by relda, Wednesday, 4 November 2009 5:15:42 PM
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Speaking as a mature age philosopher rather than seeped in Bible Study, am suprised that with so much mention of Constantine in the fifty or so threads, there has been no mention of the Donation of Constantine.

It is said that after the Council of Nicea et al et al, with all his Romanesque capabilities he was still careful not to plunge Christianity into a major war.

Ans so it was that the fake Donation of Constantine secretly became part of Christian Law, with the work of the Monastries though true to the early Jesus, now enfeebled by an Age of Christian Warfare, the Christian Knights in particular still thrilling today's students with not only courage in battle, but the birth of a softer sweeter courage that so many writers call part of the Romantic Age rather than just the Romantic Urge of today.
Posted by bushbred, Wednesday, 4 November 2009 7:07:05 PM
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bushbred,

Actually, I made mention of the Donation you speak of here:
http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?article=9292#150337

I’m a little surprised by your romantic view of Constantine who, by most accounts, was also known for being ruthless with his political enemies, deposing the Eastern Roman Emperor Licinius, his brother-in-law, by strangulation in 325 even though he had publicly promised not to execute him upon Licinius' surrender in 324. In 326, Constantine executed first his eldest son Crispus and a few months later his own second wife Fausta.

Some of his legal standards (an improvement from his predecessors) were:
• A punishment of death was mandated to anyone collecting taxes over the authorized amount.
• A condemned man was allowed to die in the arena, but he could not be branded on his "heavenly beautifed" face, just on the feet.
• Parents caught allowing their daughters to be seduced were to have molten lead poured down their throats.
• Gladiatorial games were ordered to be eliminated in 325, although this had little real effect.
• A slave master's rights were limited, but a slave could still be beaten to death.
• Crucifixion was abolished for reasons of Christian piety, but was replaced with hanging, to show there was Roman law and justice.

Basically, Christianity had little need of his “Romanesque capabilities” until it decided to politicize - fusing with the Romans to become mostly temporal or secular in appearance.
Posted by relda, Wednesday, 4 November 2009 8:51:30 PM
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Constantine

Constant - continuing without stopping

Tine - One of the points of a fork

Constantine - the continuing expression of Roman jabbing with the pitchfork of tyranny
Posted by david f, Wednesday, 4 November 2009 9:25:01 PM
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Relda, I tried to keep the tone light, but I wasn't joking.
Posted by Grim, Wednesday, 4 November 2009 9:42:34 PM
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bushbasher,
Sorry but I can react only by repeating: one cannot explain to a person who does not understand algebra that (a+b)^2=a^2+2ab+b^2 makes good sense (or that ab does not have to equal ba) although he/she is right that you can add only numbers, not letters.

There are many people who
(i) have no problems with algebra, while others
(ii) can understand it only after they have substituted numbers for a and b.
As for “articles of faith” seemingly in conflict with “common sense” I would see myself as belonging to the category corresponding to (i), whereas the “pious old lady”, Dawkins (and you?) to that corresponding to (ii).

Oliver,
OK, I was wrong, some anthropologist do use the word “taxonomy” in their research. Nevertheless, I still maintain “it is not their task to make conclusions about the superiority of this or that religion or no religion at all”. The same as psychologists or neuroscientists cannot deduce from their professional investigations whether this or that mathematician is right, his/her mathematics important or useful.

Sells’ articles - comprehensible mostly only to the “initiated” - usually trigger justified criticism, but also outbursts of disagreements and outrages, which is futile. However, they also give rise to quite a few pages of discussions on religion, mostly only marginally related to what he wrote. And that - I think - is not completely without merit.

I do not understand why Sells should “lay on the table the relationship between say the Serapis Trinity to the Christian Trinity” when speaking about a Christian view. The doctor who gives his/her opinion about your or my health does not have to “lay on the table” the relationship between us and our evolutionary (biological) ancestors“, although there are scholars interested in such comparative study in biology.

Our bodies are the product of biological evolution, and so is Christianity a product of cultural - or could it be even cross-cultural, as your examples seem to suggest - evolution (plus something else for a Christian). In both cases that does not diminish the value of the product.
Posted by George, Thursday, 5 November 2009 8:23:04 AM
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Squeers,
Thanks for the insightful words. Am I wrong thinking that you are somewhat inclined towards (philosophical) postmodernism (Derrida, Lyotard, Rorty)? As I understand them they represent the gulf - actual or imagined - between C. P. Snow’s two cultures. See also the “science wars” of the 1990s.

I have to admit I am not that familiar with the writings of Charles Taylor, so I would be grateful if you could provide the exact quote where he suggests that also ontology needs “strong sources” (As a Catholic, he could be expected to call his preference religious ontology.) I am asking for this not to oppose what you wrote, but to learn.

Also, I did not understand what you meant by “civilisation should be based on "strong [humanitarian] sources" to which it "adheres" steadfastly”. When the West was in fact Christendom, the sources that it “adhered to steadfastly” - for better or worse - where the ethical (and ontological if you like) Christian principles as proclaimed by the Church. What do you understand by humanitarian principles, including ontology, that today’s globalised world should adher to? (On the ethics level e.g. Hans Küng is suggesting something he calls World-ethos.) And who, what organisation, should proclaim, uphold them?

I am not sure how ontology or ethic could “nurture a race of paragons”. Humanity will hopefully further evolve (unless it self-destructs), due to the driving force of evolution, (whether or not one accepts an additional explanation offered by Christianity). And it will have its - individual based AND society/community based - ontology, epistemology and ethics.

>>Humans have an addiction for models ... Pure fantasy. I just don't believe it. <<
I can understand this only as meaning you do not believe religious models (myths, sacred texts, theology) point to something really existent. Fair enough. However, I do not think you can dismiss models (visual, conceptual, mathematical, computational) of physical reality without which there would be no science, no technology.
Posted by George, Thursday, 5 November 2009 8:33:21 AM
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jeez louise.

george, if you don't want to play that's fine. but your nice metaphor is obviously not a response to what was a clear and fair question. i don't care if you want to play with arithmetic (literal) or with algebra (non-literal). what i'm calling you on is pretending you can do the two simultaneously. you're now just being a carnival con man, slipping the ball back into the other cup. this is a completely standard religious con – sellick par excellence – and i don't know why you think i'll fall for it here.

mary was a virgin or she wasn't. 0 or 1. that's the arithmetic.

it seemed an arithmetic equation for which you believed an answer. for me, an astonishing answer. now you plead innocence: "no, i'm an algebraist".

you want to play with algebra instead? fine. i'll then question the power of your algebra, ask how and why it is applied to clarify your world view.

but none of that negates the arithmetic. and, if you want to play the metaphor further, abstract algebra, whatever its power, cannot eventually be evaluated on natural numbers (people, mary) to prove 0 = 1.

you can claim mary = 0, or you can claim mary = 1, or you can say "i don't know" or "i don't care". but you cannot have both. and you cannot have either and pretend that your choice does not affect other equations.
Posted by bushbasher, Thursday, 5 November 2009 9:30:01 AM
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Faith Bushbasher... FAITH!

People can blather on about ontology, post-modernism, theological models, or arithmetic and dig up philosphers 'til the cows come home, but all this belief is based on blind faith.

Behind the pontificating, extended words, phrases and intellectualising, lies a blind belief that must never be challenged, or, is allowed to be challenged, so long as it reaffirms the blind faith at the end.

My sister-in-law, a convert to the Vatican, visited Lourdes to be able to throw her crutches away- so sure was her 'faith' in Jesus that this would happen.

Naturally, she returned short of pennies from travelling and having to buy a slimmer wheelchair for her airline passage, still on her crutches-as expected- but with her 'faith' even more Araldited onto her glamour snaps of Jesus, the Pope and Pell totally oblivious to the scam.

Only Pell and Danny Nahlia believe (and sister in law) Mary was a virgin, although even the sternest critic must admit she was once.

There seems to be a view on this thread that some believe in, even hanker for, the time when we were all 'OK' with the Church reigning over us all, with God above, naturally, years ago, and that it is this dreaded 'secularism'- generally misapplied to be code for 'atheism', particularly by Pell, Wallace and Nalia-like renewalists that has undone us all today.

But they cannot have it both ways.

So many of our Western community and political leaders boast openly about their 'faith',(Clintons, Bushes, Blair, Howard, Rudd, George (Golden) Brown et al., not to mention 'them' from the 'God's chosen people' and the Islamic, so-called 'moderates' (touch of Orientalism creeping in there?) right up to the Taliban stoneagers including all the leaches from the 'priestly class' of all so-called 'faiths', yet there is scant evidence that they, any of them, can show the slimest regard for honesty, compassion, or even a skeric of 'love' towards the underclass that they so happily create and keep at the lowest rungs of society- ours in the West and 'theirs' in Orientalismland.
Posted by The Blue Cross, Thursday, 5 November 2009 10:11:58 AM
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Well said Blue Cross

<< Behind the pontificating, extended words, phrases and intellectualising, lies a blind belief that must never be challenged, or, is allowed to be challenged, so long as it reaffirms the blind faith at the end. >>

On the topic of religious sophistry and intellectualising, Relda and George run rings around Sells - probably because they are courteous. But their underlying message is the same: "My belief is the 'right' belief, my version of spiritualism means I am in a morally superior place to others who do not believe as I do."

I am happy for the Georges & Reldas to believe as they do - clearly it is a source of comfort and support (and great for English expression), however, as I have said to Sells many a time, that belief does not confer greater status or moral high-ground, nor does it give the right to cast aspersions on non-religious people simply for not holding religious beliefs.
Posted by Fractelle, Thursday, 5 November 2009 10:37:41 AM
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George,

The basic idea behind laying all the trinities and other characteristics out on the table is that it permits one to see the “bigger picture”. Were mathematicians to believe that the only Base is ten, this would have implications for Computer Science, which relies on Bases two and sixteen. Likewise, the Base 60 was productive for the Mayans, because 60 is highly divisible.

In the case of Sells, upbringing, experience and social reinforcement have likely acted to narrow his perspectives down to one god, without truly considering the possibility of an alternative god or else that, belief in gods, is a societal contrivance. He has become super-circumscribed, wherein there is a methodological predisposition to accept the Christian Trinitarian Godhead, a priori, before any cross-theistic assessment.

Even if one wishes to lean towards theism, it is logical to dispassionately review data in the greater rather than lesser scope. Relatedly, the set which is the Christian Trinity is smaller than the set of all trinities, the set of all religions having trinities is smaller than the set of all religions having gods, and the set of all gods is smaller than the set of all possible creation agents. Herein, unless Sells is a very good guesser, it is likely that a super-set of all possible creators will yield a better result than a sub-set populated by one class of creator (god). The super-set contains more wrong answers; yet, at the same time, more possibilities.

On the issue of superiority, contrary to your comment, one might find that homogeneity points to normalisation over superiority, wherein religions having common components, could be found to be not as distinct, as their priests claim.

“The doctor who gives his/her opinion about your or my health …” – George

Yet, medical diagnosis goes beyond labelling everyone as suffering from consumption. If a Chemist stayed confined to the Inert Gases, perhaps, this would be ok, if all we do is produce light bulbs (where electron shells are stable), yet what if we need hydrogen to burn or need gold as a commodity? We must read the suite.
Posted by Oliver, Thursday, 5 November 2009 1:40:29 PM
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I must say that as a socio-political Mature Age historian, all I asked for was comments on how Constantine is said to have been declared Saintly after his death by means of a still hidden parchment called the Donation of Constantine to enable Christianity to influence humanity by war, and not by what Jesus is said to have taught in His Sermon on the Mount, than Understanding and Compassion.

While certainly one should pray for it as a Christian - must say because I tend to believe more in hope for Wisdom and Understanding than in faith, I guess most Christians will count me out
Posted by bushbred, Thursday, 5 November 2009 4:15:54 PM
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George,
Taylor’s stand-alone sentence, “High Standards need strong sources” (Sources of the Self 516).”, is a generic statement applying to any ruling moral or ethical law. High standards--religious or secular benevolence--must be vested in a real value, and not some arbitrary dictum, which Nietzsche saw as stifling: “Only if there is such a thing as agape, or one of the secular claimants to its succession, is Nietzsche wrong” (516).
The point of my post, admittedly a little confused, was my own take on what constitutes a compelling ethical injunction: that whichever lawgiver “‘adhere steadfastly” to the spirit of what is otherwise mere rhetoric. Only then is the citizen rationally or religiously compelled.
Taylor is for divine law, but I argue that it is no more universally compelling than Man’s ethics; moreover that the Christian principles proclaimed by the church are just as roundly abused by the respective prelates and the actions of the church as ethics are by governments. My semi-solution is that the secular or religious "authority" be bound hand and foot to the humanitarian principles professed. Christ was a humanitarian, was he not?
I added, however, that “no ontology or ethic will nurture a race of paragons ... but [that] poor behaviour would at least be unexampled”.
I was talking up my assertion of the reality of self-determination, in spite of aphoristic or dry judicial sermonising—which flies in the face of Derrida et al.
Thus, my final incoherent comments were decrying both religious and scientistic efforts to find homogenous social laws, or any “world ethos” that would reign-in the spontaneous core of the self. A world ethos, at the administrative level, would no doubt, however, nurture better compliance, as well as the longevity of ours and other species.
I'm not for postmodernism, subscribing more to Jameson's version than Lyotard's
At the risk of incurring the worldly wrath of the Blue Cross, I think most of the contributors have made this an interesting thread.
Oliver, you make perfect sense as always. You should perhaps change your handle to “Spoc” though? :-)
Posted by Squeers, Thursday, 5 November 2009 4:53:12 PM
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“Faith Bushbasher... FAITH!” Indeed... I certainly did not want to upset your faith (“complete trust or confidence in someone or something” in my dictionary) though I apparently did, for which I apologise. So feel free to interpret my understanding of “virgin birth” or any other event reported in the bible in whichever way that makes you happy. Remember, it was you who brought this up with your “george doesn't actually state his world-view”. So I stated it, answered your question, and tried to explain, as best as I could, my position, though I apparently failed.

Similarly, I wouldn’t want to upset runner’s faith but if he addressed me with a remark or question I would try to answer it as honestly as I could, without wanting to force anything on him or express myself condescendingly or with “religious sophistry and intellectualising” (Fractelle). The same with you, and I apologise again if I gave you that impression.

However, I do not apologise to you (and Blue Cross and Fractelle) for not becoming an atheist. Neither do I think I should apologise if my world-view does not fit into simplistic pre-conceived boxes.

Oliver,
As I already stated I believe you can learn a lot by studying comparative religion, but I don’t believe you will find therein the answer to your question which one of them is the “strongest construct” or “closest to truth”, since the understanding of “truth” and its “constructs” that religion is after intrinsically depend on the culture that mediates this understanding.

>>In the case of Sells ... there is a methodological predisposition to accept the Christian Trinitarian Godhead, a priori <<
And in the case of this OLO there is a “predisposition to accept” English as the language in which we communicate, which does not imply linguistics, or foreign language studies, do not have their merits. Probably Sells does not want to write about comparative religion, because he thinks he does not know enough about that, so he restricts himself to his exposition of the Christian approach. (ctd)
Posted by George, Friday, 6 November 2009 9:13:30 AM
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(ctd)
>>religions having common components, could be found to be not as distinct, as their priests claim<<
I agree, except that the priest’s task is not to lecture on comparative religion but mostly to uphold - in the moral, but often more in the therapeutic meaning of the world - the position of the Church he/she serves.

Perhaps what you say is not that much different from what I once wrote: “You can look at many fingers pointing to the sky and they might look very different. However, if you lift your sight to the sky you are going to see that they all point to the same moon”. (I hope you are not shocked by this mathematician’s attempt at poetry).

You obviously misunderstood my likening of the cultural evolution of religions to the biological evolution. Nevertheless, I am thankful to you for pointing to examples that would indicate a cross-cultural relevance of some myths (models of the Divine).

Squeers,
Thanks for your comments which I again find neither “little confused” nor “incoherent”. May I ask if you have professional philosophical qualifications (I don’t)?

My favourite joke used to be that “I can understand Bertrand Russel (his atheism) but I do not agree with him, whereas I agree with Alfred Whitehead but I do not understand him”. I’ll have to look more closely at Charles Taylor but I am afraid I might have to replace Whitehead with him in that joke.

However, if I understand you properly, the quote and your comment concern only ethics not explicitly ontology (the structure of reality), although Taylor uses the term “moral ontology”, apparently related to the Catholic teaching about “moral truths” (meaning an absolute norm of conduct). However, to me “moral truth” sounds like “beauty of an equation”: both truth and beauty are primarily about something else.

I have to admit I know practically nothing about Frederic Jameson and the difference between his and Lyotard’s postmodernism, although as far as I can understand Lyotard, he is not my cup of tea... Sorry, I can continue only in 24 hours.
Posted by George, Friday, 6 November 2009 9:33:04 AM
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Squeers,

“no ontology or ethic will nurture a race of paragons..” In our self-determination, as you might suggest, we all form our own ideals. Implied also,by this subjectivity,is the injunction we do this,“without the aid of any moral authority outside that of our own.”

You mention Derrida, he’s interesting–his writing is strange and difficult because it has to be: to test the limits of what can be thought is to test the limits of what can be articulated. Derrida made the observation that with globalisation, there is no identifiable enemy in the form of a“state”or territory with whom one would wage what could still be called a“war”,even if when we might use the bandied phrase,“war on international terrorism”.Instead, “a new violence is being prepared and in truth has been unleashed for some time now, in a way that is more visibly suicidal or auto-immune than ever. This violence no longer has to do with world war or even with war,even less with some right to wage war. And this is hardly re-assuring–indeed, quite the contrary.”

Today, the number of“enemies”is potentially unlimited. Every‘other’is wholly ‘other’(The Politics of Friendship)and so every single‘other’needs to be rejected by our‘immune system’.This threat can no longer be contained when it comes neither from an already constituted state nor even from a potential state that might be treated as a rogue state(Rogues, p. 105).What Derrida is saying here is that the worst is possible, here and now,more possible than ever.

Some here presume moral indignation at another’s ideas, opinion or belief(faith); they surely need to get over it. The Greek etymology of the word“horizon”suggests both the opening and limit that defines an infinite progress or a period of waiting. Justice, however, although abstract in its truth, does not wait. A just decision is always required immediately. It cannot furnish itself with unlimited knowledge. The moment of decision itself remains a finite moment of urgency and precipitation. The instant of decision is then the moment of madness, acting in the night of non-knowledge and non-rule. What guides our Justice, however, ultimately decides for us, our action.
Posted by relda, Friday, 6 November 2009 9:53:38 AM
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George,
I have little to recommend myself (apart from being well-read) in terms of qualifications; I’m doing a PhD in English Literature (which nowadays can mean anything) but my focus is philosophical.
Taylor is concerned with the perennial philosophical question, ‘how should we live’; to what premise or authority do we defer, en masse, and on what grounds? The context is assuredly ontological; which world view is to hold sway?
Jameson sees postmodernism as a late-capitalist pathology. Lyotard sees it as the positive development of ontological decenteredness whose aesthetic is the “unpresentable real”; all “reality” is mapped by what Lacan calls the ‘symbolic order’, ergo the real is occluded by the worldly accoutrements of consciousness.
Relda,
Derrida’s deconstruction posits something similar: that all our “reality” is text—soiled representation. He began studying Husserl’s phenomenology but came to see, via the linguistic turn, that all phenomena is pre-conceived, that is pre-textualised. Neither Lacan nor Derrida deny that there is phenomena outside the text, but it is not ‘directly’ accessible, only via representation--that is ‘translation’ into common parlance.
I agree with Derrida’s gloomy prognostication, without presuming to know his mind. I suspect he was polemicising against the drive toward global (ontological?) homogeneity; in such a world the self, robbed of cultural distinctiveness (and mores), is isolated from the herd and driven back to primal distinctiveness.
Interestingly, a few years before he died, Derrida confessed to a deeply religious sensibility. Even Foucault, before he died, resiled into a kind of aestheticism of the self. Such is the compelling nature of the sense of self.
I'd be interested to know what makes the trinity, or any doctrine, compelling on a deep-seated level?
Posted by Squeers, Friday, 6 November 2009 12:19:42 PM
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>> However, I do not apologise to you (and Blue Cross and Fractelle) for not becoming an atheist.

no, but you might apologize for a cheap play of the victim card.

>> Neither do I think I should apologise if my world-view does not fit into simplistic pre-conceived boxes.

nope, no need to apologize.

however, your world-view can't seem to cope with the simple proposition "either mary was a virgin or she wasn't". thus, i won't apologise for concluding your still hidden world-view ceases to be of any interest to me.

quoth spindoc's raven, "Evermore".
Posted by bushbasher, Friday, 6 November 2009 1:37:05 PM
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George,

In the present debate it is not the case that I am trying to find the strongest construct as the plausible agent of creation, for myself. Instead, I have been saying Sells et al. would do better to examine a large set of mediators, before choosing one mediator. Likewise, how do humans know if we are the only true mammals, without looking at other species, wherein we might find there are mammals, non-mammals and fictitious animals (unicorns). If you only believe in unicorns, then, by laying many beliefs out on the table, you might discover that unicorns do not exist and that belief in unicorns is not fundamentally different than belief in griffins.

Of course, different theists' understanding of the perceived truth is mediated by theism-in-culture. Just look to the Middle East. If the OT is correct about the Promised Land would it not serve Muslims to know this case? Alternatively, if Moses is a myth or a confabulation, should not the Jews discover the same on moral grounds?

While we use English as a language we do not so believing English is the only language. Besides, occasionally at OLO, we do use other languages, e.g., a priori, is Latin.

My critique of Sells is that he says Christian Trinity “is” god presumably without considering the alternatives. Also, when we write about English we do not do so without denying that there are Old Norse, French, Germanic, Greek, Latin and Sanskrit borrowingss. How could we do this without acknowledging there are other languages. Herein, English is to languages as Amon-Re is to religion.

On the other hand, I have never heard a Christian priest say the Serapis Trinity appears a template to the Christian Trinities. Although, perhaps a few twenty-first century priests might admit Christianity did borrow Mithras feast days, to placate the Romans.

When I point my five converged fingers at the moon, I might miss Venus and Jupiter.

Squeers,

Thanks.

In high school my nickname was “Spock”. There being a 97.6453434232313 chance this reflected the ability to impersonate Vulcan faces over any testimony to logic. :-)
Posted by Oliver, Friday, 6 November 2009 2:10:49 PM
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Squeers,

You ask something that anyone bound to a particular religion or doctrine should ask. The Trinity is a theological construct that certainly makes sense within the biblical witness to the nature of God - it is also a theological construction that begins on a secondary level of interpretation.

Interestingly, in viewing in all spectrums of theological thought, the ‘process theology’ movement, whilst initially taking its cue from the more traditional or orthodox, seems to move beyond it, suggesting that as we move into the future, into this ‘Age of the Spirit’, an Age that has similarities to the ‘Age of Faith’, we must understand that we can’t simply reinstall the earlier age. Instead we must seek the jewels among the junk – both from the ‘Age of Faith’ and the ‘Age of Belief’.

What many ‘process theologians’ (e.g. Charles, Hartsone, Philip Clayton) advocate is Christian panentheism – the theological position that God is immanent within the Universe, but also transcends it. It is distinguished from pantheism, which holds that God is synonymous with the material universe. What is given up from classical theism is the aseity (referring to the characteristic of being ‘un-derived’) and immutability of God: the understanding of God as self-sufficient and unchanging. By trying to meet the ‘‘perfection’’ standards of Greek metaphysics, some Patristic and Scholastic theologians, and some evangelical theologians, ironically, have asserted qualities of God that are estranged from an original biblical theism, drawing away from its own deeper logic and insight.
Posted by relda, Saturday, 7 November 2009 9:29:16 AM
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Oliver,
If it is not the case that you were after the “strongest construct” among the many religions - including the “construct” that they are all just fantasies, hallucinations with no relation to reality (that seems to me to be your preference) - then I do not know what was our bone of contention. Surely, we cannot prescribe Sells the topic he should write about. Why not write an article, or start a general discussion, on comparative religion, yourself?

I am sorry I did not succeed in explaining my position to you. We have already once agreed to disagree, so let us now agree that we do not understand each other on these matters, and hope that on other topics we might have a more fruitful exchange of ideas, since I think we see many things similarly.

Squeers,
The sentence dropped from my previous post because of word-count:

I try to understand people who are frustrated by religion, or don’t know how to read “sacred texts”, by recalling my dislike of post-modernism, also based on incomprehension and frustration, because I know that this cluster of world-views is adhered to also by undoubtedly intelligent people.

Thanks for “outing yourself” as apparently much younger - and at home on the other side of C.P. Snow’s divide - than I. Do you remember the “science wars” of the late nineties triggered by post-modernist abuse of mathematics and physics, involving also Lyotard and Lacan (c.f. Alan Sokal, Jean Bricmont, ‘Fashionable nonsense’, Picador 1998) ?

As for Taylor, “how should we live” concerns ethics, not the “structure of reality”, although both are interrelated and part of one’s world-view. I did not understand what you meant by a world-view holding sway. Surely you don’t want a prevalent world-view against which others are appraised. I somehow do not think Taylor’s idea of reality would be similar to Lyotard’s, if I properly understood your terse description.

Also, Jameson would not be the only one who sees post-modernism as a pathology, although I have learned that one can gain valuable insights also from the most weird philosophies.
Posted by George, Saturday, 7 November 2009 9:30:04 AM
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WHY IS IT SO
we reap..as we did sow/sewed

..the blind/leading the blind..

god/made..the universe/etc
said..its our's..to make it..as we chose

but/THIS IS SATANS/realm...

god built it/sustains it to/live/life
to see god..look at nature/natureal/
life..all nature/natural...god did

what we do..to nature..is being done by man/
collectivly..the embodyment..of satan..
though in gods image..natural/image..unbrazillioned image

..here is the acts of our collective/satan..

What happened/Thursday November..5,2009 was a tragedy....Gunman Major Nidal Malik Hasan allegedly snapped..and went on a shooting rampage at Fort-Hood in Texas,

is starting to have/earmarks and anatomy/of a disinformation psy-ops story.
http://www.prisonplanet.com/fort-hood-shooter-information-not-adding-up.html

Everything About Nidal Malik Hasan Screams “Patsy”

http://www.prisonplanet.com/everything-about-nidal-malik-hasan-screams-patsy.html

The Empire strikes back/..right when when public support..for the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan sinks..to all time lows,.

.an anti-war Islamic extremist/..with links to suicide bombers..goes on a shooting rampage/at a U.S. army base,..reinvigorating support..for the war on terror

and demonizing opposition to it..as anti-American extremism.

The scam would be believable..if it wasn’t so perfectly staged/globally.

http://www.prisonplanet.com/just-like-911-patsies-qurans-immediately-discovered-after-hasan-shooting.html

http://www.prisonplanet.com/what-happened-to-the-accomplice-shooters.html

Was Fort Hood Killer On Psychotropic Drugs?
http://www.prisonplanet.com/was-fort-hood-killer-on-psychotropic-drugs.html

Despite the fact that Fort Hood gunman Nidal Malik Hasan..was a psychiatrist,..the media has/failed to even raise the question..of whether he was taking psychotropic drugs..before he gunned down over a dozen of his colleagues during yesterday’s tragic rampage,

a hefty indictment..of how the establishment rushes to blame politics,..religion,..gun rights,..or any other factor for mass shootings..in order to hide..

..the direct link..between such massacres..and the use of anti-depressant drugs.

recall the other recent shootings..attacks on bases/check-points etc etc..just in last few days of news..=dis-info..campain..to put presure on obama..by the banker/industrialists...cleaning up from war..via the dis-info media machine/spin/merchants..latest..

http://www.prisonplanet.com/two-killed-six-injured-in-orlando-shooting.html

http://www.prisonplanet.com/swine-flu-panic-in-ukraine-crisis-or-political-ploy.html
http://www.prisonplanet.com/chomsky-confronted-on-911.html
http://www.prisonplanet.com/our-terrorists.html
http://www.prisonplanet.com/as-of-yesterday-the-feds-changed-the-rules.html
http://www.prisonplanet.com/now-is-the-time-for-americans-to-be-relentless.html
http://www.prisonplanet.com/muslims-fear-backlash-in-wake-of-fort-hood-massacre.html
http://www.prisonplanet.com/obamas-frightening-insensitivity-following-shooting.html
http://www.prisonplanet.com/h1n1-vaccines-too-little-too-late-most-people-already-exposed-and-immune.html
http://www.prisonplanet.com/remarks-by-czech-president-vaclav-klaus-on-cap-and-trade.html

nature=god
bu-sin-ness=us

but govt..dont rule for us
it rules..against the natural..over us
Posted by one under god, Saturday, 7 November 2009 10:28:33 AM
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Relda,

Do you see evidence of religions as societal memes or similar? Christian pantheism would seem very different to the Christianity before the Great Divergence. The Reformation might be seen as a flowering and branching process, away from, a Holy Roman Empire tethered to Nicaea, which was more doctrinaire than the humanism of a revered mendicant, Jesus. Likewise, in the sweep of a few thousand years, we see Urgatic and Babylonian myths become the henotheism of the Canaanites and ultimately the monotheism of Moses’ Hebrews. And here we have only one path of one of the three Abrahamic religions, among thousands of religions. Herein, we have religions competing against each other, for preservation, whilst adapting to changes in politics and science.

While not wishing to draw the comparison with biology too strongly, it would seem that a religion, especially, a monotheistic religion, is like an academic discipline in that it must balance preservation of its kernel to survive and change to survive: A dynamic oxymoron. Over time, some characteristics are preserved and others change. The idea of a Christian Trinity would be as foreign to the writers of the Code of Hammurabi, or even Jesus, as the notion of melding orthodox Christianity to pantheism would have been to the Council of Kent.

The three big players, Christianity, Islam and Judaism, at times, seem like the three Orwellian superstates in a perpetual war, with periodic changes of alliances, in a fight for survival. Under the Papists and Monarchs the Jews were enemies, yet under the modern Nation State the Christians and Jews fight Islam. At some dark, deep level none want the other two to exist.
Posted by Oliver, Saturday, 7 November 2009 11:44:50 AM
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George,

Thanks for your reply.

What I am saying is that Sells writes as if the Ace of Hearts is the only ace in the pack and the only court card. There is a bigger picture. There are at least* four aces in a card deck and there are plenty of court cards. Sells certainly doesn’t ask, “What are playing cards or am I living in a card game”?

Lorentz transformations allow for several inferential frames. Had Einstein and Lorentz, stayed within one frame, say Newtonian Mechanics; that decision would have been their right to choose. Yet, consider the consequences?

Likewise, one has the right to not compare Lincoln’s views on the Preservation of the Union vis-à-vis Slavery, and, write as if the Lincoln of 1865 was the same as the politician Lincoln, before the US Civil War. Like Linus (above) and Sells, one can choose not to look at all the facts - yes. On the other hand, should an OLO article writer were to cite; 2, 3, 11, 17, 23, 47, 53, 59, 61, 73 and 89, as the prime numbers between 1 through 100. I suspect you and others might point out the series is incomplete (error by omission).

Moreover, I recall Hawking saying that the Green-Schwarz Mechanism is very attractive, yet it needs to be tested and if found wanting must be changed/dropped. Living (untested) the Green-Schwarz Mechanism is an arrested state.

Also, as stated in more detail above, methodologically, it makes more sense to test for a Creation agent before identifying a specific god. Would Sells have Mohammed in Baghdad never consider Jesus? Should Thaeatetus assume Zeus god, a priori, and not consider alternatives?

If I had a little more time, available I would write something myself. Unlike, Sells I would feel committed to addressing most replies, which would be time consuming. I am still working and usually toggle to make OLO posts/replies.

*A Joker can be an ace in some card games.
Posted by Oliver, Saturday, 7 November 2009 3:37:47 PM
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George,
I'm in my late 40's so not as young as all that.
Snow's two cultures phenomena has been reversed, I'd argue; now it's the humanities that are on the nose and science in the ascendency, hence my mention above of "modern censorship of religious experience—tantamount to religious censorship of reason",
Postmodernism seems to be nearly universally condemned, but like most isms it's not all bad. Unfortunately, the word has been so abused it's now more or less meaningless.
I do remember the "science wars", in fact they're still underway. Indeed there's been a history of such contention since the Enlightenment, Kant's "Critique of Pure Reason" perhaps being the most seminal work. In English Lit., "realism" is still a dirty word among many.
Science continues being stunningly successful, but it relies on the patronage of liberal humanism (as does the church), indeed rides on its back. Scientific objectivity is in a symbiotic relationship with capitalism, as is the church; a vast hegemon, indeed an unholy trinity, each feeding off the other, yet each ideologically exclusive.
George: "I did not understand what you meant by a world-view holding sway". "Surely you don’t want a prevalent world-view against which others are appraised". The whole point Taylor is pushing is that we do need such a view. And Is this not precisely the position of organised religion?
The view I've argued is that no such ethical foundation holds sway, that individuality transcends "ultimate" world views, yet stands in need of valid ethics. Such validity, whether in an existential or religious context, can only be maintained via its being scrupulously instanced at the level of authority--religious or secular.
Relda,
shall give some thought to your post. But surely the "organised" church is a worldly business (like English Lit.) whose theology is purely academic?
Posted by Squeers, Saturday, 7 November 2009 6:21:49 PM
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Oliver,
To clear things up, I was referring to,and within a Christian context, panentheism and not pantheism, and as I’ve previously explained, the two are readily distinguished. The German philosopher Friedrich Krause(1781–1832)sought to reconcile monotheism and pantheism and acatually coined the term panentheism("all in God")in 1828.

Panentheism is inherent in Judaism(one of the “big players” you mention),since the ‘Lord of Israel’ has no body and is both transcendent and immanent. Islam, another “big player” you mention, is unfortunately divorced somewhat from its Sufi thinkers who hold beliefs that are somewhat panentheistic. Your third “big player” has a strong connection with Hellenistic, Egyptian writings, to form the basis of Neo-Platonism and Hermeticism, and have elements that are polytheistic and panentheistic. Plotinus taught that there was an ineffable transcendent "God" (The One) of which subsequent realities were emanations. From the One emanates the Divine Mind (Nous) and the Cosmic Soul (Psyche).These beliefs have heavily influenced the Western Esoteric Tradition (often Christian).

To diverge further from the ‘big three’, we have the North American Native Peoples (e.g. the Cree, Iroquois, Huron, Navaho, and others) who were and still are largely panentheistic i.e., conceiving of God as both immanent in Creation and transcendent from it. Also, we have Brahman i.e., the transcendent and immanent Ultimate Reality of Hinduism. So, as you can see, there is a considerable convergence and an integral basis amongst the so called ‘competing religions’. What divides them, at some dark and deep level, I’d contend, is purely our own doing.

Dawkins defined the meme as a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation, definitions, however,do vary. The lack of a consistent, rigorous, and precise understanding of what typically makes up one unit of cultural transmission remains a problem in debates about ‘memetics’. A significant question arises where the 'memeticist' reduces a highly complex body of ideas (such as religion, politics, war, justice, and science itself) to a putatively one-dimensional series of memes. Reducing ideas down to a"meme-substance"introduces a bias toward scientism and abandons the very essence of what makes ideas interesting, richly available, and worth studying.
Posted by relda, Sunday, 8 November 2009 7:48:48 AM
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Relda, Oliver, Squeers et al.

Since panentheism has entered the discussion I would suggest that it is a fundamental component in the growing groundswell to completely renew the world-wide church. For instance Matthew Fox, excommunicated from the Roman church years ago for his “heresy”, has nailed his 95 theses to the computer screens of the world.

In particular Fox’s Thesis No. 6 states:
Theism (the idea that God is ‘out there’ or above and beyond the universe) is false. All things are in God and God is in all things (panentheism).
[See http://www.matthewfox.org/sys-tmpl/theaweproject/ ]

John Spong, formerly an Episcopalian Bishop, writes in a newsletter:
I join the mystics in saying that I think I am part of what God is.

More and more thinkers, writers and activists are putting forth similar messages embracing panentheistic notions in various movements. They are attracting a very large following. I believe what Fox calls the New Reformation and the approach Spong has recently exemplified in his Manifesto will eventually lead to a radically renewed global Christianity.
Posted by crabsy, Sunday, 8 November 2009 2:53:55 PM
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Relda et al,

“ Pantheism is clearly incompatible with the Great Tradition of Christian thought. Pantheism is the claim that God is all there is or that all is God. It is a radical immanentism that denies the transcendence of God. Although there is some dispute about his teaching, it would seem that Spinoza, for example, equated God with the systematic perfection of the world order. In pantheism, God engulfs all, which theoretically results in negating what is not God. The practical result, somewhat paradoxically, is the negation of God as an unnecessary hypothesis. When all is God, there is no need for God… Krause posited God as the primordial being who contains the universe but is apart from it and superior to it, with human consciousness being a participation in the mind of God toward which nature is evolving.” – Neuhaus 1997

Were Christians to accept panentheism, it would be a radical departure from the path Christianity has taken to date, yet (Judaism and) Christianity have changed many times over the centuries.

If, in a sense, all that is in the Universe, is a manifestation of one facet of God (who also has other higher transcendental characteristics), then human thoughts and deeds are an expression of God, including the thoughts of Richard Dawkins and the deeds of Stalin.

Any idea of evolving towards God's perfection would on the surface seem mimic Plato forms, wherein a subtype desires imitation of the perfect achetype.

The lack of demarcation between the spiritual, the earthly and the human, I guess would be known to Australian aboriginal clans, wherein, the aboriginals never owned land in the Western interpretation, rather they were an intergral part of the spiritual land.

I have modelled cultures, mathematically. I see Dawkins would risk error were he to be too literal in digitizing (if that is an appropriate word) memes as units. However, it is possible to create usable constructs from culturally-based factor analyses. Residual error is often present in the tested model, as might be expected.

Crabsy,

Thanks for the Matthew Fox link.
Posted by Oliver, Sunday, 8 November 2009 3:57:08 PM
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Oliver,
Your reply to relda makes more sense to me than the other part about Sells, and I appreciate it. It gave rise to a very interesiting mini-essay by relda about the panentheist (not pantheist which is in fact atheist), understanding of Goid, who is thus seen as BOTH transcendent and immanent (conceptually reminding me of wave/particle duality).

As to Sells, I thought we already agreed he should be more respectful when expressing disagreement with other views, and we also agreed to disagree on whether he should be prescribed the perspective from which to write. (By the way, Lorenz transformations preserve the Minkowski metric of Special Relativity, and you probably meant inertial, not inferential, frames of reference. This, however, is unrelated to “staying within one frame, say Newtonian Mechanics”. Frame in mathematics refers merely to the choice of a system of coordinates.)

>> it must balance preservation of its kernel to survive and change to survive: A dynamic oxymoron. <<
You do not need to change the symbols when adjusting their interpretation or application, or the name of the concepts when expanding their meaning. Also in science, progress usually goes via expanding knowledge or explaining phenomena, not denying what has been based on millennia of experience. We still experience that unsupported objects fall down, although today we know there is no absolute “down”, and you need a lot of “artificial” (mathematical) symbolism to understand how physicists view gravity.

Maybe the idea of the “Christian Trinity” would be foreign to Jesus, I don’t know, but surely there are many concepts that humanity arrived at - for whatever reason, for instance to clarify some previous understanding - that would have been foreign also to those who centuries ago gave rise to the direction in thinking that led to these concepts (e.g. the concept of wave-particle duality would have been foreign to Newton).

crasby,
“Panentheism ... posits that God exists and interpenetrates every part of nature, AND timelessly extends beyond as well” (Wikipedia). The classical term would be “immanence“ or “omnipresence“ instead of interpenetration.
Posted by George, Sunday, 8 November 2009 5:24:51 PM
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Squeers,
Thanks for clarifying some things for me. Well, I am in the early 70s. What you call “modern censorship of religious experience” etc, resonates with my earlier saying that “There were times when the role of religion as ersatz-science was needed and justified. Those times are (or should be) over; and ... I believe that the role of science as ersatz-religion ... is also temporary.”

My approach to philosophy (and my Christian world-view) is through philosophy of science, and my favourite philosophers, even theologians, are those with at least some background in mathematics, because I can understand them better, irrespective of whether I agree with them or not. So I shall probably not probe more deeper into Taylor, although I am thankful for calling my attention to him.

I do not think one can that easily correlate “liberal humanism” (a world-view or approach to arts and literature?), science (a field of enquiry into the structure of nature), and church (an institution). The two cultures of C.P. Snow cut across the theist-athiest divide. For instance, I am on one side of the first divide with Dawkins but not Taylor, whereas in relation to the second it is the other way around.

As to “needing a world-view against which others are appraised" I think one has to distinguish between the individual (where the need can be explained also in psychological terms) and societal level (where Christendom provided a fitting example, but, I agree, it cannot and should not be replicated). Recognition of a common denominator of available ethical norms - e.g. Küng’s World-ethos - does not mean its enforceability. However, I agree that such a globalised state of ethical affairs based on consensus of participating systems, rather than on enforcement, is still illusory. For years Europeans have been arguing with each other what to base their Union on, what should be their nations’ and cultures’ common denominator, politically but also ethically. Although a satisfactory European solution is closer on the horizon than a global one, I think both are perspectively inevitable lest humanity self-destructs.
Posted by George, Sunday, 8 November 2009 5:32:19 PM
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George,

I agree that "immanence" is the word to use. I'm not sure why you quoted the Wikipedia but, as Relda has already pointed out, panentheism combines immanence with transcendence.

Cheers.
Posted by crabsy, Sunday, 8 November 2009 11:37:21 PM
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Oliver,
“Were Christians to accept panentheism, it would be a radical departure from the path Christianity has taken to date..” Perhaps it can put Christianity back on track – to an original ‘place’ from where it began. Carl Jung once said, “If ever there was a time when self-reflection was the absolutely necessary and only right thing, it is now, in our present catastrophic epoch.” Self-reflection is actually a kind of bending backwards - a privilege born of human freedom, a differentiation of our compulsion to the daemonic (half-man / half-god).

The act of self-reflection places us above the instinctual; a transformation into the ‘archetypal realm’, resulting in the ‘incarnation’ of God through humanity, i.e., the light of consciousness is born. This is why Jung said, “God becomes manifest in the human act of reflection.” For Jung, the human act of self-reflection forces God, so to speak, to “empty himself of his Godhead” and incarnate through humanity “in order to obtain the jewel which man possesses in his self-reflection.” This is what Jung meant when he said, “Whoever knows God has an effect on him.” We play an active, participatory, and crucial role in the process of ‘divine transformation’ and ‘incarnation’.
Posted by relda, Monday, 9 November 2009 6:14:58 AM
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I am curious about the idea of the Trinity being a social construct. The inference is that if it is then it does no refer to something real. One might say that the periodic table of the elements is a social construct. After all, it has been put together over the years ad added to as new elements were discovered. Someone had to come up with its form. But that does not stop it referring to something real in the world, that the properties of elements can be categorised according to their atomic weight. So you might say that the doctrine of the Trinity was a social construction and point to its historical development, but that does not indicate that it does not refer to some reality.

The other, more disturbing, trend that such talk produces is to destroy the transcendence of God and make him subject to man. Relda has already gone a very long way along this path in his quotation from Jung.

“For Jung, the human act of self-reflection forces God, so to speak, to “empty himself of his Godhead” and incarnate through humanity “in order to obtain the jewel which man possesses in his self-reflection.” This is what Jung meant when he said, “Whoever knows God has an effect on him.” We play an active, participatory, and crucial role in the process of ‘divine transformation’ and ‘incarnation’.”

I am surprised at this considering Relda’s demonstrated theological depth. The idea that any act of man could force God to do anything makes God our subject and reverses the relationship between creature and creature. Surely this is what “religion” does and is no longer an option for those for whom Jesus is Lord?

Certainly we must understand God as being both immanent and transcendent but the freedom of god must be protected. ‘My thoughts are not your thoughts” etc

Peter Sellick
Posted by Sells, Monday, 9 November 2009 7:21:20 AM
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George,

I do agree we should be respectful to Sells’ worldview, yet I see OLO as a forum. I am only saying that Sells should broaden his horizons in assessing god(s). The point is methodological not personal.

Moreover, a broad horizon allows one to match religions in the search for God(s). I suspect Sells would agree of someone who believed in Mithras or the Serapis Trinity, that they should also consider Jesus and the Christian Trinity. So would I. As I think I said before, Sells’ close-up affixed gaze of one tree doesn’t allow him to see the forest, and not seeing the forest deprives him of the scope to make more informed analyses.

You are correct, I ran two thoughts together regarding inference and inertial frames (Galileo and Einstein), when indicating that one sees different qualities, according to one’s frame reference. Atheism is also a relative term.

[I typed this comment for Sells' recent post]

Sells,

Greetings. I really don't see why you can't take a step back and assess the enbroadened data anew.
Posted by Oliver, Monday, 9 November 2009 8:06:34 AM
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im taking down evolution

god did cause the world
live with-it
its over dying for

all death demeans the life giver/sustainer
the living loving light sustaining life via his light

court de jure in session

this notice
notices the notice ...of de jure hearing ..on the censure of evolution

athiesm based on claimed science..of not god..or of evolution of species
not genus..and calling for jurors..

[ratio 24 clear sepperation... as measure of judgment..
.as better explained at post topic

heed and take notice that

court is in session
conducting first reading
http://forum.worldfreemansociety.org/viewtopic.php?f=120&t=3225&p=19776#p19776

this is 2 de of four notices
first is
http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?discussion=3124&page=0
2 de is de jure trial
3rd is here
http://forum.worldfreemansociety.org/viewtopic.php?f=82&t=3229
4th at...PUBLIC ..open forum
http://www.peacetakescourage.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=12&t=11077&p=82369#p82369

posting in progress

please note this site shall hold the public record
as other sites are currently...closed..but im hoping we can open them up a bit

so get involved
im taking evolution down..in court...infront of a jury of my athiest/thiest peers
recall here is where i gathered all mine opponants
come to the hearing...inform the trial
or catch up here...as i recall to post the public record
Posted by one under god, Monday, 9 November 2009 11:40:25 AM
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Sells, you are clutching at a particularly thin straw here, I think.

>>I am curious about the idea of the Trinity being a social construct. The inference is that if it is then it does no refer to something real. One might say that the periodic table of the elements is a social construct. After all, it has been put together over the years ad added to as new elements were discovered. Someone had to come up with its form. But that does not stop it referring to something real in the world, that the properties of elements can be categorised according to their atomic weight.<<

My understanding of a "social construct" is clearly very different to Sells'.

The presence of the word "social" indicates the exact opposite of "natural" - which in this case may also be stretched to "divine".

Social constructs are not required in cases where physical observation, empirical evidence and consistent representation are all available - as it is with the periodical table - since the elements happily conform to natural laws. The addition of a "social" construct, as opposed to a naturally occurring one, is therefore unnecessary.

Sells pretty much confirms this, when he states:

>>So you might say that the doctrine of the Trinity was a social construction and point to its historical development, but that does not indicate that it does not refer to some reality.<<

It may refer to "some reality" held to be so by an individual already committed to the concept. But that is not at all the same "reality" that creates the concept of atomic weight, which may be observed, and - just as importantly - consistently measured.

Let's face it, Sells, you are far more comfortable with utterings such as:

>>Surely this is... no longer an option for those for whom Jesus is Lord<<

The meaning of which is, and should remain, deeply personal to you. Because it looks really silly when you expose it to the rest of the world.
Posted by Pericles, Monday, 9 November 2009 1:04:05 PM
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Pericles... it occurs to me that Sells is very insecure in his 'faith', which explains his rather-too-many ark-tickles here, which are really more about seeking affirmation from us, the OLO readership, that he is 'on the right track'.

Who knows whether he is or not, or any of us for that matter?

And does it really matter?

But that might also explain why Sells doesn't quite understand the point you are, quite reasonably, making, methinks.

There's no end to the nonsense some people believe is 'reality', howsoever constructed.

Take, for instance, the renewalist loonies who believe in serpents implanted in the chests of sinners, or those Hillsongsters who cast out demons (for cash, extra charge for credit cards), or the Wheel of Fire crew Danny Nahlia leads and Peter Costello, Rudd's new mate, so trusts.

Just can't wait to learn what Joe Hockey is going to say about his 'deep faith', tonight apparently, as he gives the unthinking public a reason to cheer him on as the next 'natural' leader of the (Neo)Liberals.

Will it be any more 'together' than a Sells contribution?

Or will the 'real' Holy Trinity kick in, 'lies, damn lies, and religion' as yet another pollie succumbs to this most modern of afflictions, 'declaring one's faith' to show real suitability for office?

Will Hockey mention 'The Trinity'?

If he fails to, will Sells angonise over it?

These are 'real' questions that Sells might want to address afterwards.
Posted by The Blue Cross, Monday, 9 November 2009 2:11:49 PM
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Pericles assumes that empirical perception is the only mode of human perception and on this basis rejects Sells’ comments about both the Trinity and the periodic table being social constructs. Thus he writes that the Trinity “may refer to ‘some reality’ held to be so by an individual already committed to the concept. But that is not at all the same ‘reality’ that creates the concept of atomic weight, which may be observed, and - just as importantly - consistently measured.”

I hearken back to my earlier post (1st November 1.58:46 pm) in this thread about sensation and intuition as opposite but equally valid modes of perception. If a number of individuals experience – through their relationships, contemplations of works of art, reading of history, dreams, meditation, participation in liturgy or whatever activity – phenomena that they agree are usefully represented by a symbolic construct such as the Trinity, the resulting concept is indeed a social construct.

So Pericles rejection of Sells’ observations is unjustified. It seems to be an example of the sort of scientism that George and Squeers have been discussing. I must agree with Squeers that the “two cultures” scenario of the 1960s is today raging in reverse. I remember, as an EngLit student at the time, the imbroglio in which Snow and F.R. Leavis clashed as representatives of the two camps. I could not see any reason why arts and sciences could not co-exist fruitfully, each in its own way valuable to humanity. Similarly there is no reason why spirituality and religion today cannot today fruitfully co-exist with sciences – provided of course the fundamentalists in each are reined in.
Posted by crabsy, Monday, 9 November 2009 4:48:48 PM
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crabsy,
>>I'm not sure why you quoted the Wikipedia<<
Because I am not that familiar with Matthew Fox’s theology, and the formulation “All things are in God and God is in all things” sounded like neglecting the transcendence/immanence duality, especially when preceded by “the idea that God is ‘out there’ or above and beyond the universe is false”. Sorry, if I misunderstood you or Fox.

It is also interesting that the physicist/theologian John Polkinghorne sees the panentheistic model as “an eschatological destiny rather than as a present reality.” (http://www.crosscurrents.org/polkinghorne.htm). See also his detailed discussion of the concept in ‘Faith, Science and Understanding’ , SPCK 2000, pp. 89-95, where he speaks of “the tantalising ambiguities that seem to plague pannentheistic discussions.” It is probably not that easy to find the proper balance between the two extremes: traditional overemphasis on transcendence, and pantheism. I am somewhat ambiguous about that.

I agree, there is no reason why spirituality and religion cannot co-exist with sciences: the problem is with those who see their religion as ersatz-science and those who see their science as ersatz-religion: there are scientists on both sides of the theist/atheist divide, and there are theists (and atheists) on both sides of the C.P. Snow divide, as I wrote above.

Pericles,
I agree there is a difference between a social constructivist approach to science (Thomas Kuhn, but mainly his postmodernist followers) and such approach to religion or theology.

I also agree that the "some reality" Sells refers to is not at all the same "reality" that creates the concept of atomic weight (except that there are much more abstract concepts also in mathematical physics where it is hard to understand what “reality” they refer to).

Nevertheless, I don’t think Sells “looks really silly when he exposes (his faith) to the rest of the world”, so that some of us, who share - or at least understand - his world-view perspective can discuss the matter, and agree or disagree with him. If somebody’s post looks silly to me, I just ignore it, don’t even finish reading it.
Posted by George, Monday, 9 November 2009 6:10:30 PM
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Sells,

My comments regarding religions (including trinities) and elements suggested that one could assign religions on a categorical scheme and that the religions could be grouped like the elements on the periodic table. In your reply, you state the Christian Trinity mirrors the historical development of the periodic table. Herein, we are talking at cross-purposes:

Peter, you are comparing ousia to quarks. I am mapping religions against other religions, of which, Christianity is one example. You compare “The” Trinity to an atom. I compare trinities to trinities (atoms to atoms).

Moreover, Uncertainty in QM aside, reality expressed in the period table is different to the subsistences expressed in religions’ trinities.

By assigning religions (and the trinities and/or other beliefs) to a scheme, one might see Christianity as a “religion”, i.e., a non-divine construct and a theological contrivance. Please note I am using the term “religion” in an unfamiliar manner here. Here religions are patterns of behaviour having many cases like the stars in the sky. In fact, the stars in the sky can be categorised by age, magnitudes, mass and luminosities, as religions might assign creation stories, gods have sons, messengers to Earth and resurrections etc.

The religions are like Darwin’s finches sharing many characteristics.That is why these birds are called, “finches” in the first place. Yet, the beaks and eating habits are different. Religions are religions because they share characteristics too. If all the Abrahamic faiths are religions, in the way I have used the word (a human faith), then these beliefs are in the same class, religion. At a fundamental level religions are undifferentiated. Herein, would a true God with an important message adopt a human convention and be drowned in a sea of false similarities and theistic static? Surely, a true god would stand apart.

Uncertainty in QM aside, reality expressed in the period table is different to the subsistences expressed in religions’ trinities. The former can be measured with instruments, whereas the latter cannot.
Posted by Oliver, Tuesday, 10 November 2009 7:44:50 AM
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Dear Oliver,

I think it would be a mistake to group religions by characteristics which they share such as the Trinity. One can group finches in that manner because they have a common ancestor. Organisms have similar characteristics to other organisms for two main reasons. They may have a common ancestor as the finches and primates do or they may have similar characteristics due to similar functions such as wings in bats, birds and insects.

Religions also have a syncretic nature. They absorb concepts from other religions as they absorb practitioners and customs of other religions. I think the simplest explanation of the presence of a trinity in Christianity is that early Christianity absorbed believers in the mythological Trinity or Triad of Osiris, Horus and Isis as well as believers in other of the pagan trinities.

Determining the origins of these beliefs is almost impossible as believers in later times such as Sellick deny the syncretic nature of their religion and will ascribe ideas such as the Trinity to supernatural revelation.

An Anglican clergyman said to me. “I hate syncretism.” Syncretism is a natural process in the development of religions. What he hated was its reality.

Religions like other human institutions grow because they fulfill a function in society. This function may be applicable to only a portion of society. In the case of Christianity it is an ideal religion to serve governmental control. The temporal ruler is considered a terrestrial representative of the divine ruler. Therefore the temporal ruler will encourage a belief that will entrench him more securely. It will take a while, but I think Christianity divorced from temporal power will eventually die out as educated humans will more and more reject the associated mythology. Of course Christianity fulfills other needs. They may be enough to keep it viable.

It think it more useful to study religions on the basis of what social function they serve rather than the common character of their mythology.

Wilson’s “Darwin’s Cathedral” and Boyer’s “Religion Explained” examine religion on that basis
Posted by david f, Tuesday, 10 November 2009 9:22:47 AM
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Dear David f,

I agree. Perhaps, I should not have given the “finch” example. It can confuse. My higher-order point is that if everything is laid-out and categorised logically, what emerges is a penchant to produce and borrow and (as you noted) fuse religions, herein, historians refer to the Axial Age, the Alexandrian God Factories and the Abrahamic religions. Likewise, The Australian aboriginal clans traded ceremonies and stories (TV documentary).

I do see the categorisation of religion important, but again agree the kernel is social function. I mention the former because it allows a helicopter view and tends to negate special revelation.

Were Sells his dot as part of a total picture, he might step back and see the full picture from across the room.

Sells, speaks of “The” (definite article) Trinity, whereas to say “a” trinity would be more correct in history. Maybe, sells should say the Latin Christian Trinity?

The polytheists were often adept at syncretion. Key persons among the invaders would marry into the royal and leading families and the gods would be melded to keep the hoi polloi happy. The polytheistic religions seemed to tend to converge, whereas the monotheistic religions split and tree. That is not to say that syncretion did not happen around Nicaea and some important councils. Creed is important to leadership, because once we have Creed, the syncretions are forgotten and denied in Christianity. Early Christian leaders acted like some Egyptian leaders, but instead of swapping the names on Steles and Temples, the Christians destroyed the evidence of rivals: e.g. other gospels, Mithras and the Serapis Trinity .

Alternatively, the Ancient Romans would have been aware of syncretion and parallelisms with the more Ancient Greeks.

You also allude to intercession is an important characteristic across religions and to the power of religion, whether it is a priest in Sumer administering “God’s” land or the Vicar of Christ. I feel your point is valid.
Posted by Oliver, Tuesday, 10 November 2009 10:48:56 AM
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Dear Oliver,

Creed is the form of a unifying and divisive function in Christianity. Those who accept the creed join together. Those who don't form other groups.

The Abrahamic religions of Judaism and Islam do not have the multiplicity of creedal statements present in Christianity. They have only one apiece. Judaism: Here, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Islam: There is no god but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet.

Islam has many divisions, but they are not creedal. One division is the schools of law: Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi'i and Hanbali. Another is the Sunni and Shi'ah divide based on disagreement as to succession. There are the reform movements of recent history: Wahhabi, Sanusi and Mahdi.

Judaism has many divisions, some extinct or almost extinct like Pharisees, Sadducees, Samaritans, Essenes, Zealots and Karaites, others of more recent history such as Misnagdim, Hassidim (still around) Maskilim others current such as Orthodox, Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Haredim and Humanist.

The point of the above is to emphasise the fact that people tend to see all religions (regardless of what thy personally believe) in terms of the religion they are familiar with.

Creedal statements play an important role in Christianity. They are of little consequence in other religions that I know of.

The above does not consider non-theistic religions. It is questionable whether Christianity is a monotheistic religion. Mithraism and the other cults which embodied trinities were openly polytheistic. Trinitarian Christianity is subliminally polytheistic.

Syncretism exists in all religions as far as I know.
Posted by david f, Tuesday, 10 November 2009 11:47:26 AM
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Sells,
I guess in response to your last post on this thread, we should take ‘first things first’ and go back to where you were to “give you a fuller response” from you apparent vantage point of being well read in contemporary theology (http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?article=9564#154369).I think you should perhaps pay a little closer heed to ‘walking the talk’, but I do thank you for your compliment, where you believe I show “demonstrated theological depth.”

You say that I’m destroying the transcendence of God through quoting Jung along my ‘disturbing path’ (path to where, incidentally?) “The freedom of god must be protected [?]”. Really, Sells, I think that’s a bigger ask than to self-reflect as a part of the “process” Jung suggests.
Some accuse Tillich of a sophisticated form of Sabellianism, as was levelled at him by Allen Killen, professor in Contemporary Reformed Theology – this longwinded sort of title perhaps says it all. To the annoyance of such critics, Tillich asserts that “the resurrection of gods and half-gods is a familiar mythological symbol”. Where the physicality of the Resurrection is maintained, as Tillich goes on to say, “the absurd question arises as to what happened to the molecules which comprise the corpse of Jesus of Nazareth…” The physical theory, as Tillich calls it, has no religious significance. These critics also add that while his (Tillich’s) ‘system’ is ‘long on metaphysical exactness and existential relatedness’ it is ‘short on biblical concreteness and theological precision’ – for me, this sounds more like the type of criticism one might level from within a straightjacket made from dogma.

Interestingly, the original chief critic of Sabellianism was Tertullian, who labeled the movement "Patripassianism", from the Latin word "pater" for "father". Tertulian, in his later life, converted to Montanism, a strong precursor of Pentecostalism (which some call Neo-Montanism). It (Montanism) claimed to be a religion of the Holy Spirit and was marked by ecstatic outbursts which it regarded as the only true form of Christianity – just who are we to believe Sells?
Posted by relda, Tuesday, 10 November 2009 10:26:09 PM
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Sells and Relda,

Where Jung and Tillich might find some common ground is the significance of symbols and how religion is temporally defined by humans. Only God knows God. Apart from valid (to theists) recognition of the transcendental of God, humans can give only secondary explanations about God. However, the use of symbols and dogma allow humans to construct theology from symbols of an inferior kind to the true knowledge of God. Herein, Jung would maintain symbols and archetypes are derived from the shared subconscious of humanity and manifest as the universal consciousness. The aforesaid supports the construction of stories from symbols: e.g., the “ascension into heaven” is believed by the theist, without thought to how a primate mammal designed to live on Earth would exist in an other worldly heaven. Great Apes (humans) might be able to live in jungles and modern cities but it is a stretch to say a dimensional Jesus could live in a non-dimensional heaven. In this way, the symbolic story is a contrivance which falls short.

What Sells is worried about, I think, is that the above account can be interpreted to mean that Man defines God. If Man defines God and, God has objective foreknowledge of Man’s interpretation of God, and God agrees, what is “bound on Earth is bound in heaven”. Herein, inverting the relationship between God and Man.

The above is a different account than having God objectively enjoining with the thoughts of Dawkins and the deeds of Stalin. In which case, I think, God is a participant (immanently present) in the expressions of these persons. Perhaps, George would have a duality present (see above) with Dawkins and Stalin resolving superposition in a human way and God in a transcendal way? If so, does this make God and Man subject to the physics God created? Of course, God would be a voluneer and we mere mortals bound to comply.
Posted by Oliver, Wednesday, 11 November 2009 8:53:01 AM
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Oliver,
So far, so good, with your 1st. four sentences… but here’s where I’d diverge, 'the “ascension into heaven” is believed by the theist, without thought to how a primate mammal designed to live on Earth would exist in an other worldly heaven. Great Apes (humans) etc…'. One of Tillich’s major concerns with religion is the seemingly never ending debate on whether a particular event in the Bible is symbol or “literal truth.” The nature of the debate often includes an inference that symbolism and literalism (biblical inerrancy) are mutually exclusive. According to Tillich, they aren’t, and I’d agree, it only serves to eclipse the value of symbolism whose theological truth is not dependent on literalism. Tillich doesn’t believe it is important whether the miracles in the Bible are literally true. He personally questions their basis in fact, as they are contrary to natural law. He believes that God does not unilaterally enter into an event, controlling its outcome.

Sells is more than likely worried about ‘hubris’ before a poor definition (albeit,this would also be somewhat of a 'worry'). Tillich is entirely cognisant of this and defines hubris as the self-elevation of one’s self to the level of God. Those who are in a state of hubris do not recognise their own limits and show excessive pride or arrogance, acting as though they are God. Tillich also recognises concupiscence, which occurs, when working through others, a domination and exploitation of everything possible. There is an unlimited desire for abundance in material possessions, knowledge, power, sex and all other aspects of one’s relation to the world. This, in other words is a ‘lust’ for total control with power, something akin to a ‘control freak’ but at a far greater elevation.
Posted by relda, Wednesday, 11 November 2009 11:17:40 AM
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Relda,

Taking Tillich’s approach, I see any symbolism used and errors in the Bible examples of Christians falling short of accurately describing their God. They can’t know a transcendental god. The contrivance is a substitute and a poor approximation of their God, yet for Christians, the best they can do is have a limited understanding and bonded trust in their scripture, even accepting fabrications and lies. A “god made man” in the form a “man made god,” must walk on water, just as Thor must have his hammer and Zeus must live on a mountain top. Gods must break the laws of nature, according to many primitive humans.

Therefore, first century “divine’ mendicants must act like gods in lore, even if they didn’t in fact. Sells would see the transfiguration important, whereas I would see the “show” unnecessary, if Jesus is God. It is unimportant whether humans are correct or incorrect about Zeus literally attended Prometheus’ first BBQ, if Zeus is God anyway. (I think Tillick would agree):

Even if God exists, the catch is, we don’t know if a given fabrication is aligned to God or is just a common garden variety fabrication.

If God exists and temporal manifestions need not be literal, why remain affixed to the Christian? Surelly, the miracles ascribed to the tens of thousands of gods have equal right not be literal, extending Tillich's posit.

Sells,

Do you not yet see my point about standing back and placing Christianity (and related faiths) into context?
Even in a quest for God, it makes sense to start with the precursory question is there a Creator? Which begs, what is Creation?

Analytically, you are starting midway into a long serial process without evaluating earlier steps. Just starting with Jesus, probably by the happenstance, of being raised in Western society, is not logical, or, at best, not systematic.

david f.,

Thanks. You have provided some highly informative posts. Your argument regarding Judaism and Islam not being creedal appears sound. I enjoyed reading and learning from it.
Posted by Oliver, Wednesday, 11 November 2009 1:07:05 PM
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About the truth of God we seem to be getting nowhere.

So why not dwell on the Sermon on the Mount which surprisingly does help to bring out some of the decencies mentioned by some non-believers in a bush-pub.

Like helping a neighbour in trouble, even though you might lose time or money over it.

Strange us ex-soldiers though also spending too much time in the pubs pretty well all offered to help an ex-soldier finish putting his crop in after he had injured himself.

However, the talk in the local pub after the event was about the biggest cockie in the district not offering help.

Problem was, of course, was that while the father had been too old to enlist the sons were too young, so guess it is just the way the cookie crumbles.

Rather strange that such tales fit the Sermon on the Mount rather than ones about becoming wealthy, however
Posted by bushbred, Wednesday, 11 November 2009 6:17:34 PM
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Oliver,
There are none so blind as those who will not see.
Sells has failed to say anything to justify his position, and I wonder what his definition of "research" is. This is simply because at the end of the day it (his position) is vested in nothing but wishful thinking and an obdurate refusal to look dispassionately at the evidence.
And much as I respect the intellects of the contributors on the theist side of this thread, I'm equally frustrated by their obsidian refusal to acknowledge their untenable positions apropos reason.
Relda,
Sorry I haven't come up with anything else on your posts, as I said I would, but once we get into Jung, my eyes glaze over. I went through a Jung phase decades ago; I still have some of his texts, including a first (translated) edition of "Psychological Types". Jung was also a popular figure in English Lit., but he makes his colourful assertions without the least substantiation; his is a creative and erudite mysticism, a symbolic shambolic--though I spent years trying to get to know the I Ching, my anima and my wise old man, pouring over Herman Hesse, Van der Post, Anthony Store and other Jungians simultaneously---and all is vanity, vanity of vanities, a chasing of the wind. Why can we not simply accept our ignorance, that we will probably never know, and spend out time trying to make "this world" a better place. Nietzsche condemned Christianity, Buddhism and the other "great religions" (corruptions all of original insights) because they offered no hope in "this world".
I'm comfortable with my ignorance, as was Socrates--indeed it implies infinite possibility!
Posted by Squeers, Wednesday, 11 November 2009 7:17:31 PM
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Follow the Sermon on the Mount completely, and Christianity will be eliminated.

Matt 5:17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. 18 For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. 19 Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

The law that Jesus referred to was the Jewish law – not the Roman law. Since all has not been fulfilled not one jot or tittle should be ignored. Your entry into heaven depends on following those laws completely.

If you want to follow the Sermon on the Mount you must leave the Christian heresy and return to Jesus' faith which is Judaism.

My words to Five Foot Two, Eyes Of Blue, I sang it on 4zzz in Brisbane

The Imitation of Christ

Six feet two, eyes of blue
Jesus Christ, he was a Jew
Has anybody seen my lord?

Big hooked nose, There he goes
Preaching so that everyone knows
Has anybody seen my lord?

Speared by a Roman
In the abdomen
Blood gushing out

Rose from the dead
So it is said
People believe without a doubt

Jesus died, still a Jew
He's a Jew so why aren't you?
Has anybody seen my lord?
Posted by david f, Wednesday, 11 November 2009 7:21:21 PM
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David f, love your song, reminds me of Kinky Friedman’s ‘They ain’t makin’ Jews like Jesus anymore”, from my days of yore.

I've had to adjust 'the profanity' to 'migger' to suit OLO sensibilities.

Well, a redneck nerd in a bowling shirt was a-guzzlin' Lone Star beer
Talking religion and-uh politics for all the world to hear.
“They oughta send you back to Russia, boy, or New York City one
You just want to doodle a Christian girl and you killed God's only son.

I said, “Has it occurred to you, you nerd, that that's not very nice,
We Jews believe it was Santa Claus that killed Jesus Christ.
“You know, you don't look Jewish," he said, “near as I could figger
I had you lamped for a slightly anemic, well-dressed country migger.“

No, they ain't makin' Jews like Jesus anymore,
They don't turn the other cheek the way they done before.
He started in to shoutin' and a-spittin' on the floor,
“Lord, they ain't makin' Jews like Jesus anymore.?

He says, “I ain't a racist but Aristitle Onassis is one Greek we don't need
And them miggers, Jews and Sigma Nus, all they ever do is breed.
And wops ‘n micks ‘n slopes ‘n spics ‘n spooks are on my list
And there's one little hebe from the heart of Texas — is there anyone I missed ?

See the whole set of lyrics here:

http://www.lyrics007.com/Kinky%20Friedman%20Lyrics/They%20Ain%27t%20Makin%27%20Jews%20Like%20Jesus%20Anymore%20Lyrics.html
Posted by The Blue Cross, Wednesday, 11 November 2009 8:05:32 PM
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Great lyrics, fellas, but if you want a tune too, you can't go past Tom Lehrer. Here are three that talk to this lengthy thread. The last one of course the timeless pythons.
God has left the building ...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3f72CTDe4-0&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DYW50F42ss8&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=frAEmhqdLFs&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1loyjm4SOa0

Good night and God bless.
Posted by Squeers, Wednesday, 11 November 2009 9:14:36 PM
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Squeers, you are deeply offensive sometimes. That last utube of 'Brian' is just the last straw.

How dare you?

Hurrummph... thin end of the wedge... hardly cricket... blasted colonial... heresy... waddya say to that, eh wot?
Posted by The Blue Cross, Wednesday, 11 November 2009 9:42:57 PM
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http://www.biblebelievers.org.au/jesusjew.htm

Judea/Galilee..were two separate states/and political entities,.as illustrated on the map of Palestine..in the time of our Saviour in your Bible.

Jesus Himself/was not a Jew..(Judean)..or resident of Judea,..He was a Galilean/..resident of Galilee.(Matthew 26:69;/John 7:41),..and a Judahite or descendent of the Tribe of Judah.

The Judeans of prominence..were not/of the Tribe of Judah,..but of Edomites...Pilate was being ironic/when he wrote the sign.."Jesus of Nazareth,,,King of the Judeans'(John 19:19).

That is,.."the Galilean/who was King of/the Judeans,"..as in.."Queen Victoria of England,/Empress of India."..Jesus grew up in Nazareth/in Galilee...His disciples..were fishermen..from the Sea of Galilee.

And although..He visited Jerusalem,..he spent most of His life/in his home country of Galilee.

John 7:1,.."After this..Jesus stayed in Galilee;..for He could not walk in Judea,..because the Jews/sought to kill him."..His followers were constrained.."for fear of the Jews"..judeans..(John 7:13,19:38, 20:19).

Why was this?

Psalm 83:3..says God's elect/are "hidden" or protected ones,..and that they are under attack..from a coalition of evil groups..led by Edom...Who was Edom?

Esau,..the brother/of the patriarch Jacob,..became the ancestor of the people called Edom,or Idumea...The Antiquities of the Jews/by Flavius Josephus,..III/ix..1;..XV/vii..9 instructs us:..John Hyrcanus forcibly assimilated..the Edomites as a national group..and they became.."Jews"..in about 120BC.

The Jewish historian/Josephus,..who lived just after/the time of Christ,..wrote,.."They-[Edom]..were hereafter..no other than Jews'

During His lifetime,..no persons/were described as.."Jews"..anywhere. That fact is supported by theology,history and science.

When Jesus/was in Judea,..it was not the.."homeland"..of the ancestors/of those/who today style themselves.."Jews"...Their ancestors/..never set a foot/in Judea.

For some mysterious reason..the history of the Khazar/kingdom..is conspicuous..by its absence from history.courses..in the schools and colleges.

"The historic existence/of the Khazar kingdom..of so-called "Jews", their rise and fall,..the permanent disappearance/of the Khazar kingdom/as a nation..from the map of Europe,..and how King Bulan/and the Khazar nation..in about 740 A.D...became so-called "Jews" by conversion,...concealed from American/Christians..by censorship imposed by so-called "Jews",..of historic Khazar ancestry,..upon all U.S.A./media of mass communications..directed by them.
http://www.google.com/search?ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&sourceid=gd&q=was+jesus+judean+judaism&hl=en-GB&rls=MEDA,MEDA:2008-36,MEDA:en-GB
Posted by one under god, Wednesday, 11 November 2009 11:54:34 PM
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Oliver,
“… the catch is, we don’t know if a given fabrication is aligned to God or is just a common garden variety fabrication.” Well, actually, you do…. within Christianity.

Squeers,
The scene originally intended to begin the film Life of Brian: Three shepherds discuss the joy of being shepherds, while angels appear to 'other' shepherds somewhere in the distance - we see bright lights go on and off behind the main shepherds' backs, and then, a short while later, they hear a rustling noise and, thinking it might be a predator, they throw a rock into the bush. It turns out the noise was made by the shepherds who are on their way to Bethlehem, one of whom is hit on the nose by the rock; his friend is eager to tell the main shepherds the good news about the baby, but he cuts off his friend, refusing to share any news with the people who broke his nose. The main shepherds, having not heard the good news, yell that the other shepherds are "a disgrace to the profession" for rushing off to Bethlehem, no doubt heading to the pub to drink their fill, and abandoning their sheep to predators. As the scene comes to its close, we have the coup de grace: One shepherd asks, "Is it A.D. yet?" And the other replies, "Quarter past, I think."

Probably a brilliant scene on a number of levels, and as Eric Idle points out, whenever any event of major significance takes place, there are generally people who miss it because they're busy with all the mundane things of life, "hoovering" and so on. Monty Python's appeal is to a postmodern, anticonvention audience comfortable with irony. Perhaps, and rather strangely, there is nothing actually "scandalous" about Jesus of Nazareth today, notwithstanding the original accusations of “blasphemy” made against him by the religious back then...
Posted by relda, Thursday, 12 November 2009 6:32:26 AM
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>> Even if God exists, the catch is, we don’t know if a given fabrication is aligned to God or is just a common garden variety fabrication.

>> Well, actually, you do…. within Christianity.

the arrogance of christianity in a nutshell.
Posted by bushbasher, Thursday, 12 November 2009 8:34:06 AM
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Relda,

“… the catch is, we don’t know if a given fabrication is aligned to God or is just a common garden variety fabrication.” - O

"Well, actually, you do…. within Christianity." - R

Please explain. I don't see why Christianity would have a privileged position. One can assume, only Zeus can truly know Zeus, and that the Ancient Greek scriptures need not be literal (Tillich), yet valid still theology from a limited human perspective. Else, one maintains it is okay to speak of Heaven but not of Olympus.

What is the difference between "Jesus feeding the multitudes" and "Zeus punishing the Titans"? Especially, if one takes the stance, neither story needs to be literal.

Do we have the claim Christian fabrications are truthful fabrications and other religious' fabrications are untruthful? I can't see why a theist from the tens-of-thousand non Christian religions could not use Tillich to defend themselves from having outsiders punch holes in their myths.
Posted by Oliver, Thursday, 12 November 2009 10:13:52 AM
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relda wrote: Perhaps, and rather strangely, there is nothing actually "scandalous" about Jesus of Nazareth today, notwithstanding the original accusations of “blasphemy” made against him by the religious back then.

Dear relda,

It isn't strange at all. One religion's belief is another religion's blasphemy. The followers of the blasphemer have established a religion based on the blasphemy.

The Abrahamic religions of Judaism and Islam have one creed apiece. Judaism: Here, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Islam: There is no god but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet.

The Christianity Trinity is blasphemy in terms of both the Jewish and Islamic creeds as is the belief in a humanoid God.

When Jesus whipped the moneychangers from the temple he was desecrating a place of worship by interfering with an accepted practice in a violent manner. That’s a criminal offense.

Blasphemy against God is a victimless crime.

The last prosecutions for blasphemy were in 1971 in the US and 1979 in the UK.

Leonard Levy wrote “Blasphemy”, a history of the sanctions against it – mainly in the US & UK.

It has generally been applied to Christians who dissent from Christian orthodoxy such as the Trinity and divinity of Jesus. The established denominations have persecuted and murdered Unitarians, Bapists, Quakers and Presbyterians.

From the book jacket:

Levy also makes it clear that while past sanctions against blasphemy have inhibited all manner of cultural, political, scientific and literary expression, we also pay a price for the current extraordinary expansion in the scope of permissible speech. We have become, he says, not only a free society but a “numb” society. We are beyond outrage
Posted by david f, Thursday, 12 November 2009 10:42:40 AM
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Oliver,
Tillich was a Chaplin in the trenches of WW1 and came to the realisation a certain God had died on the battlefields of Europe. The ‘nice God who would make all things work out for the best’ had died. He realized that the war had given concrete shape to the doubts of his adolescence. It was not only his doubts or his scepticism that prevented him from giving unqualified assent to God- it was also the situation of total war bringing into question God’s benevolence. One could no longer easily preach about the munificence of God or issue promises of peace from ‘cheery’ heights when the whole of western civilization seemed to be dying.

“I have constantly the most immediate and very strong feeling that I am no longer alive. Therefore I don't take life seriously. To find someone, to become joyful…these things are things of life. But life itself is not dependable ground. It isn't only that I might die any day, but rather that everyone dies, really dies… not that I have childish fantasies of the death of the world, but rather that I am experiencing the actual death of this in our time.”(Paul Tillich,November 1916).

What is challenged is the paradigm of God as an overwhelming physical or metaphysical force. The old God-of-power is displaced with the idea of God as an unconditional claim without force. As a claim without force, this ‘God’ does not physically or metaphysically intervene in nature. This does not counter in any way the essence of Christianity, on the contrary, this ‘weak’ theology in truth says,“..It is the act of the faithful person, an act which,as such,is the attestation of an intimate consciousness of the fact that it exposes itself and allows itself to be exposed to the absence of attestation, to the absence of parousia. ... Christian faith is distinguished precisely and absolutely from all belief”. Jean-Luc Nancy, Dis-Enclosure:The Deconstruction of Christianity

Dear david f,
Per se, a violent act is perhaps natural so, as with the strong and instinctual drive for sex, I wouldn’t necessarily condemn it.
Posted by relda, Thursday, 12 November 2009 12:42:45 PM
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Virtually all the last pages of posts have demonstrated the logical necessity to compartmentalise God.
Satan had to be invented to explain the very real existence of evil. If God the creator is perfect, and perfectly good, then logically evil cannot exist in His creation.
In precisely the same vein, the Jewish God had to be compartmentalised, to encompass the idea of a loving, compassionate God. To the ancient Jews, God was the Lawmaker. He was He who Must be Obeyed. The bible was a contract, between God and his chosen people. There was no love; there was no compassion. There was just the LAW.
These people were not 20th century city dwellers. these people were intimately acquainted with the harsh reality of natural existence; kill or be killed, eat or be eaten.
There is no (obvious) compassion in nature.
Jesus came along with a crazy idea. One can only wonder at his relationship with his (foster?) father; a man who accepted his mother despite the fact that she was already pregnant.
Why isn't he as revered as Mary?
Jesus' crazy idea was that God the lawmaker was actually loving and compassionate (just not a 'SNAG'; didn't know how to show his deep feelings).
The result?
Hallelujah! we have a volunteer!
Now Jesus is accepted as the compassionate aspect of an otherwise ruthless and harsh God.
And the Holy Ghost? Well obviously we can't have the Jewish Patriarch acting like a Greek, can we?
If there's any fornicating to be done, let the ghost do it.
Posted by Grim, Thursday, 12 November 2009 5:35:40 PM
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relda wrote: "Per se, a violent act is perhaps natural so, as with the strong and instinctual drive for sex, I wouldn’t necessarily condemn it."

Dear relda,

I don't know how an act cannot be natural. I think nature is all there is, and there is no supernatural.

The moneychangers were at the Temple for the same reason that they are at international airports. People came to the Temple from places with other currencies and wanted to get food, lodging and possibly buy some souvenirs. It makes as much sense to whip the moneychangers from the Temple as it would be to do the same to the moneychangers at Brisbane International Airport. It is easier for a Christian to accept it as a holy act rather than one performed by an unstable person given to violent episodes.

If Kevin Rudd or Malcolm Turnbull had trashed the moneychanger facilities in Sydney Airport it would be rightfully regarded as a nutty act. Their followers would switch their allegiance elsewhere. We really don't know if the New Testament accounts of Jesus' activities is reliable. Certainly the accounts re the miracles should be doubted. However, if he actually whipped the moneychangers from the Temple it was a nutty act even if Jesus did it.

Apparently the strong and instinctual drive for sex which exists in normal people was absent in Jesus. Maybe it did exist in him, and his propensity for violence was due to frustration.

There was an unnatural avoidance of sex in his conception. Even his mother was conceived in immaculate circumstances rather than the ‘dirty’ normal way of the rest of us.

There apparently is a connection between Islamic terrorism and the sexual frustration in that society. Many branches of Christianity are arguing about abortion, homosexuality, virginity and other activities connected with the sex drive. It would have better if Jesus could have been a role model for normal sexuality and avoided unjustified violence. Then Christians could be more concerned about social justice rather than concerning themselves with who is poking what into which orifice.
Posted by david f, Thursday, 12 November 2009 9:02:51 PM
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David, I don't think driving the money changers from the temple was a nutty act at all.
I think it was an indictment of the questionable morality of making a profit from the sale of money itself, in the absence of any labour created commodity; an act that must have been -and still is- abhorrent to many tradesmen.
Remember, his cry was “you have turned my father's house into a den of THIEVES”.
This is a very similar situation to the recent spike in oil prices; although oil is a labour created commodity, the spike was largely caused not by disruptions in supply, or an increase in demand, but by some barrels being traded up to 47 times, between well and bowser.
I have always been amazed that capitalists have so warmly embraced Christianity, despite Jesus on so many occasions condemning greed and the acquisition and keeping of wealth. But then I guess it's no more amazing than fighting wars in the name of a peaceful God.
A classic case of people only seeing what they want to see.
Posted by Grim, Friday, 13 November 2009 7:07:11 AM
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Great points, David.
In one of my less edifying rants of late, I said there were not too many (sane) Australians who were consciously emulating the teachings and asceticism of Jesus Christ or the Buddha et al, and that the so-called "great religions" and their values were the endlessly picked-over, mouldering and unrecognisable entrails of their tortured forebears, transformed into holy writ. The great religions (a perfectly valid designation in terms of their respective wealth, power and influence) are a cancer in our societies, whose tumors manifest as guilt and self-loathing; as thanatos, or Freud's superegoic death wish.
Religious ideals, often based originally on asceticism and suffering, cannot be emulated today (except on special occasions, like Easter, when we have a spot of mock crucification) and so mutate into psychological self-flagellation.
But the point is that they could never be "emulated"; mystical or religious experience cannot, and should not have been, "institutionalised". Jesus and the Buddha certainly never intended that.
But since ancient religions "have" been institutionalised, their punishing requirements have been a perennial scourge for centuries as they "impose" religion, read psychological (and physical) asceticism, on their hapless adherents.
But here's the rub; in our now "enlightened" and materialistic times, Jesus' is a more impossible ideal than ever. This impossible ideal "metastasises" in some as self-loathing derived from sexual and material indulgence and, ironically, in others as a drive to "excesses" of the flesh--an open rebellion against an unrealistic scourge. These latter are the worst off; their guilt is merely buried deep, moreover they suffer the bodily maladies born of their moral rebellion--they are Falstaff's all.
This would make a good thesis: What are the effects of ideal ancient asceticism on modern cosmopolitan Wo/Man?
We see the effects most startlingly both in Middle Eastern terror and in the United State's righteous war against it!
Posted by Squeers, Friday, 13 November 2009 7:49:56 AM
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Relda,

I wonder if others experiencing the horrors of war would have had similar thoughts to Tillich, say those facing the Mardian archers at the Battle of Issus or Maxentius’ soldiers confronting Constantine at Milvian Bridge. And many, many other wars up to today’s Afghanistan conflict, of course. I suspect Tillich, the soldier, would have had plenty of company (ahem).

Taking up the Milvian Bridge case, Constantine won, yet his army would have suffered death and injury. In what light would this tragedy been seen by the common soldiers (like Tillich)? “Has Sol Invictus abandoned me?” The victory was sweet for Constantine, but there was a huge human cost, despite God’s (Christ’s, Sol Invictus’ or whomsoever’s) patronage. Is this how God works?

Can you please elaborate on the notion that fabrications are permitted in Christianity, but not other religions? Herein, Christian scripture does not need to be taken literally, yet the scriptures of other religions must be dismissed as fabrications and any falsifications treated literal.

Picking up on Grim’s post, does the Christian God know Satan objectively? Does Christian God know what it is like to Satan? If not, Christian God is not all knowing. If so, the Christian God to some extent needs to be imminent in Satan.
Posted by Oliver, Friday, 13 November 2009 9:22:45 AM
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>> As a claim without force, this ‘God’ does not physically or metaphysically intervene in nature.
>>This does not counter in any way the essence of Christianity,..

you've turned God into 'God' and claim it doesn't counter the essence of christianity? i have a feeling a couple of billions of christians might beg to differ. that doesn't mean you're wrong, but it means your "christianity" is dramatically different from what the overwhelming majority of self-professed christians believe it is.

let's say you're right. if 'god' doesn't intervene in any way, shape or form, then who cares? if it's merely a way of thinking, if there's only 'god' not god, that's fine. chat about what you like, think how you like. but then your dusty old book is nothing but a dusty old book, which stands or falls on its merits. any claim of divine inspiration is meaningless. in brief, you're welcome to your 'god', and we can agree there is no god.
Posted by bushbasher, Friday, 13 November 2009 9:35:55 AM
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Dear david f,
Jesus appeared to place a balance between the avoidance of conflict (somewhat akin to our idea of pacifism) and the right to defend oneself. We can certainly restrain or subdue our natural urge for violent reaction – but here, that’s not the issue, nor was it then.

Grim touches on the subject of morality, but it is likely the portrayal of the temple incident went far deeper than just exposing the ‘ripping-off’ of hostage ‘consumers’. The loud market-like atmosphere of money changers and livestock in the Temple are at odds with our likely anachronistic perceptions of ancient worship, which often involved the sacrificial slaughter of animals. That the understanding of pre-Christian ritualistic practices would intersect with any modern notions of contemplative worship (for many Christians at least) is probably a long stretch.

The reference to ‘den of thieves’ is most likely a reference to something more sinister, where a religious cult exploits the poor. The phrase makes to exaggerate and articulate the lecherousness of the traders. The accusation is leveled against the Temple authorities of thieving where deprived widows are pointed to as their victims. Dove sellers sold doves that were sacrificed by the poor who could not afford grander sacrifices – these were often women.

The overturning of the stations used by lepers and women had great symbolic effect. They represented the concrete mechanisms of oppression within a political economy that doubly exploited the poor and ‘unclean’. Not only were they considered ‘second class’, but the cult obliged them to make reparation, through sacrifices, for their inferior status - from which the marketers profited. Utterly repudiated by Jesus was the temple state, which is to say, the socio-symbolic order of Judaism. His objections were consistently based upon one criterion: the ‘system's’ exploitation of the poor.

Undoubtedly his accusation attacked the emoluments of the priestly class, which accordingly asked him to declare by what authority he had interfered with the sacrosanct arrangements of the Temple. His somewhat enigmatic reply placed his own claims on a level with those of John the Baptist, and gained popular support.
Posted by relda, Friday, 13 November 2009 11:09:09 AM
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Grim wrote: I think it was an indictment of the questionable morality of making a profit from the sale of money itself, in the absence of any labour created commodity; an act that must have been -and still is- abhorrent to many tradesmen.

Dear Grim: It is not questionable morality at all. The moneychangers provided a needed service in changing coinage and were entitled to payment for that service. In order to be a moneychanger one has to accumulate money in the various currencies at issue. Jesus was at fault in not recognising the worth of that service. After the moneychangers had been driven from the Temple pilgrims would have to use the currency they came with, and prices would be higher. The rise in prices would be legitimate as the providers of food and lodging would have to bother to take the money paid by the pilgrims and change into local coinage.

It is quite legitimate for my bank to charge me a fee to change the income I get from the United States to Australian dollars.

One is entitled to make a profit from the sale of money itself. The transaction requires effort. There is no tangible commodity produced, but the intangible value of convenience to the pilgrim is of value.

In a cash economy a financial sector is necessary. Where there is more than one currency moneychanging is necessary. The moneychangers were not thieves but businessmen providing a service for which they were entitled to payment. Possibly Jesus wasn't capable of seeing the value of the service. He was another misguided wowser resorting to violence like Carrie Nation who broke up saloons with her axe.

Dear Relda,

You have pointed additional reasons for the act which may be valid. However, I feel that the worship in the Temple had more in common with the behaviour of worshippers at current charismatic services and revival meetings than with the orderly Anglican services of this time.
Posted by david f, Friday, 13 November 2009 12:08:12 PM
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Oliver,
Tillich, the chaplain, had to bury the dead. As the violence of the war intensified, he found himself spending more time digging graves than attending to his sacramental duties, and on this front he found very little company.

You said, “Can you please elaborate on the notion that fabrications are permitted in Christianity, but not other religions? Herein, Christian scripture does not need to be taken literally, yet the scriptures of other religions must be dismissed as fabrications and any falsifications treated literal.” I said to you back on the 8th of this month, “So, as you can see, there is a considerable convergence and an integral basis amongst the so called ‘competing religions’.” (http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?article=9564#154955) I’m unsure of where you get your ‘notion’ from. I can see a congruency amongst some religions, and this can only occur where the ‘scriptures’ of each are not taken literally, or not as inerrant. I often speak from the vantage point of Christianity, because this is the religion I most intimately know – that doesn’t mean I cannot appreciate or equally, gain understanding from another.

I wouldn’t objectify “God’, or his adversary for that matter, but I do understand what it is to be antagonistic, which incidentally, I'm not accusing you of.

bushbasher,
“i have a feeling a couple of billions of christians might beg to differ.”
Sounds a bit of an exaggeration… but I haven’t done a head count.

Dear david f,
Early Christianity and the Judaism contemporary with it, both possess, more or less, a common broader Weltanschauung or mutual background. Apart from the noisy atmosphere of the Charismatic’s, a misappropriation of funds, along with some scandalous sex, seem to bedevil many of our associations, whether religious or not.
Posted by relda, Friday, 13 November 2009 2:20:08 PM
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David, I think you need to dig a little deeper.
“It is quite legitimate for my bank to charge me a fee to change the income I get from the United States to Australian dollars.”
How much?
Is there no point at which you would say “no, that's too much; I think you are profiteering”? If your bank did charge too high a price for the service, would you not say the bank's morality was 'questionable'?
And who sets the exchange rate?
Were all the money changers in the temple governed by a regulated fee, set or distributed by runners from Rome?
Remember, (the real or mythical) Jesus was apparently not just a humanist, but very clearly a popularist revolutionary; whether or not he was actually an essene.
Was he working on behalf of his 'Father', in emptying His house, or was he playing to his audience?
Politicians throughout the ages have known the key to overthrow is to appeal to the prols wallets.
Interestingly, the other famous quote of Jesus about money was “give unto Caesar, that which belongs to Caesar”. Taken literally, this would be a reference to seigniorage, rather than direct or indirect taxation. This is an acknowledgement that printed coin is a labour based commodity, and not an arbitrary tax set by the publicans according to whatever they thought they could get away with – which is basically still how taxes are set.
Posted by Grim, Friday, 13 November 2009 7:40:33 PM
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Dear Relda,

My "notion" gained regarding Christianity vis-à-vis other religions was drawn from the following (12/11):

“… the catch is, we don’t know if a given fabrication is aligned to God or is just a common garden variety fabrication.” – Oliver

“Well, actually, you do... within Christianity.” – Relda

From your post, I read your posit to say that Christianity has a privileged position.

The comment regarding God objectively knowing Satan was loosely influence by Thomas Hagel’s, “What’s Is It Like To Be Bat? With all our science, we might indeed learn a great deal about bats, yet do we what is it like to be a bat, objectively? If God is not so constrained, and God objectively knows what it is like to be Satan, and, Satan exists, what does that say about God?

Sells,

Your welcome to join in.
Posted by Oliver, Friday, 13 November 2009 7:41:27 PM
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How does Relda manage a critique of 'then' that sounds like a critique of 'cults' of Christianity, and other bloodsucking religions, 'today', not to mention that great edifice supported and promoted by religion, capitalism, and yet still appear to hold the whole hegemonic power structure in awe, as if it were 'magnificent' and held meaning beyond the Earthbound power that it all delivers to those lucky few who work its arcane mysteries for their own, all too frequently, base and nefarious ends?

Especially since it is still women that mostly fall for this peanthimble nonsense?

Apart from within Coptic Christians, Islam, and Judeaism, as I recall from the last ABS census figures, where men dominate the footslogger ranks.
Posted by The Blue Cross, Friday, 13 November 2009 10:02:41 PM
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>> Sounds a bit of an exaggeration… but I haven’t done a head count.

no it's not, as if it matters. what matters is

(a) you talk of christianity in a manner which would surprise, and probably offend, the overwhelming majority of christians.

(b) you want to claim something special of christianity, without actually claiming one iota of substance to justify this specialness.

the more i read these vacuous threads, the more i appreciate sellick. at least he has balls. at least he's willing to claim that his beliefs have some connection to reality, that they have meaning and consequence. he puts up and then, weirdly, shuts up. you guys are the exact opposite: you never shut up, and you never put up.
Posted by bushbasher, Friday, 13 November 2009 10:42:04 PM
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Dear Grim,

I really don't know whether the moneychangers overcharged. However, it is wrong to overcharge whether it is for shoeing a horse or changing money. However, I never heard of anybody whipping blacksmiths out of Temples or out of anything else. They are much brawnier than moneychangers.

I looked up the subject on the net and found this.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_and_the_money_changers
"By the time most scholars think that John was written (c. 95–110 AD), defending the temple was a moot point because it was long gone, and so John can be understood to have been deliberately trying to portray Early Christianity itself as a replacement—a new Temple, see also New Covenant, New Commandment, New Jerusalem, and Supersessionism. The pre-Temple-destruction community of Essenes, associated with the Dead Sea scrolls, also speaks of the community itself as a temple, and the concept was evidently one that had been circulating (Brown et al. 954)."

The incident could have been part of portraying Christianity as a replacement for the Temple and the moneychangers as symbolic of the Temple itself. However, we can forget about the propaganda and the heresy. If Christians will rid themselves of the New Testament and the worship of the pagan humanoid god, Jesus, they can be accepted back into the true faith. The heresy of Christianity is less than two thousand years old, and we will take you back. It will not take two thousand years to reintegrate Christians into the Jewish community. Just come with a contrite heart and remember Frances Drake.

He circumcised the earth with a forty foot cutter.

All will be roses
Come back to Moses
Posted by david f, Saturday, 14 November 2009 3:57:08 AM
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Wow.
Much as I appreciate your generous -and I'm sure, quite sincere- offer, I'll stick with the Akubra, thanks.
I do thank you kindly for the link; good old Wikipedia, eh? I particularly liked the very last line:
“His objections have been consistently based upon one criterion: the system's exploitation of the poor. The "mountain" must be "moved," not restored.”
Though money don't please us,
I won't come back to Jesus.
Or Moses.
Posted by Grim, Saturday, 14 November 2009 7:38:36 AM
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Dear Grim,

I liked the last line also. It's a great line. “His objections have been consistently based upon one criterion: the system's exploitation of the poor. The "mountain" must be "moved," not restored.”

Considering the political leanings of most Christians in politics, concern for the poor in other than rhetoric definitely indicates that Jesus was not a Christian.

From the Wikipedia site: "To most scholars this shows a clear split between Judaism and the community surrounding the Gospel of John, as the suggestion that the people should destroy the temple would have been highly offensive to the Jewish people. It is also notable that John refers to the people as the Jews, distancing both the intended audience of his Gospel, and Jesus, from any Jewish roots."

Although the incident may have been fictional the Gospel of John indicates an early split between Christianity and Judaism, and the protest is seen as against the exploitation of the poor.

That seems to be the course of religions. When they become powerful they exploit the poor. It is interesting to note that outside of Israel Jews are very generous with statistical evidence showing that they are more giving than most ethnic groups. Inside Israel it is the other way. Taxes of all including the poor support a bloated religious establishment.

Martin Luther started the Reformation partly as a protest against the Catholic Church growing rich on the sale of indulgences, ecclesiastical preferences and other money-making schemes. The Protestants do quite well at that game. In England the Established Church came to be regarded as the Tory Party at prayer. Televangelists milk the poor and gullible. Churches have tax exemption in many countries.

Although Christianity does support charitable institutions it looks very much as though it has a much more favourable trade balance than Australia.

“Let me live in regal splendor with that loving legal tender. Give us money, money, money.” is the motto.

It would be an impossible global effort to whip the money changers from the temples of the large established religions.
Posted by david f, Saturday, 14 November 2009 1:05:21 PM
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Oliver,
Naturally, if there are a large number of people openly professing their Christianity, presumably, it will gain some position of ‘privilege’, as it has done historically, within western civilisation and its democratic process. If the ethos of Christianity is to be practiced, many undoubtedly give up a part, if not most, of their own privilege (in terms of wealth) in order to serve the destitute, the poor, the needy, the hungry and the abandoned within society. Most consider this, primarily, an act of service and perhaps a privilege to ‘perform’.

I don’t suggest, at all, there is one religion alone practising this altruism. Christianity, along with the later establishment of Islam, owe their basic ethos in this to Judaism, where charity is an act of duty incumbent upon men of means to provide for those in want. Charity, according to Judaism, is a human obligation. Man owes it to his fellow-man as a brother. It is expected of all men and toward all men. Buddhism, Hinduism and the notable religions all have their own but similar 'charity' traditions. Importantly, and what many of my previous posts should indicate, pluralism is not relativism. This new paradigm does not require us to leave our identities and our commitments behind - it means holding our deepest differences, even our religious differences, not in isolation, but in relationship, one to another.

bushbasher,
I can only say, I’m glad you’ve finally come to gain an appreciation of Peter Sellick - I suggest you keep reading his articles.
Posted by relda, Saturday, 14 November 2009 1:33:08 PM
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the appreciation is only relative. i still prefer banging my toe on a rock.

is your misinterpretation of oliver's use of "privilege" deliberately sly, or just stupendously dumb?
Posted by bushbasher, Saturday, 14 November 2009 2:58:06 PM
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relda,

I didn't mean privilege in terms of wealth or giving up the same. I was inquiring of the status of Christianity, as you believe it, in relation to other religions, Abrahamic or otherwise. Else put, in your view, does Christianity have a privileged position with regards to the idea that religious stories need not be literal (Tillich)? Is the relation of Pandora to Zeus as valid as Eve to Yahweh? Can one justify the non-Christian religions whilst still accepting the non-literal facbrications of lore, as Tillich allows for Christianity?
Posted by Oliver, Saturday, 14 November 2009 4:37:43 PM
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"Can one justify the non-Christian religions whilst still accepting the non-literal facbrications of lore, as Tillich allows for Christianity?".

Yes Oliver. I believe you can.
Posted by relda, Saturday, 14 November 2009 4:47:38 PM
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normally..i would be right/with the topic...Is God the cause of the world?

instead..i find few things/..i would comment on..

no one is talking/..about how god/
the topic..is..not who/how..why..god made the world...
only asking if god is cause...this really dosnt seem..to be replied

i hold that..god is the cause...life..is his affect

we live because god lives...our best evidence..for the higher living cause..is the witness of our very/own..living...live/..comes from life...for this science..has..revealed..

we have heard/how god did breath-life...into the clay...science..has not ever made life...

..it has never evolved...nor recorded a change of genus...for such would need to occur..were the THEORY..of evolution/..to have science validity

science..cant do the natural/things...

one of the clever scam,s..is science claiming nature..[god]...in the deception of...'natural'..selection...a buzz-word...

as natural...is not science method

natural selection is a missnomer...implying chance..rather that godly design...natural...is our body..doing the/..automatic things...

science cannot claim..nature...

how natural..is this...'natural selection'...when we see how/nature selects to extreems...longer tails...like the peacock...

combine all the peacocks...noting..every one of them was/is..in the peacock/genus...allways was allways will...

yes..they ..selected..the best mate..
[naturally...but science..sure as heck..had nothing/to do with/it

i have checked..the evidence for no god...and there is no science/no/proof..one way or the other...

science cant heal bones...they can set them..while god fixes it naturally

we get hints..as to gods breath..but i have talked about that/on the athiest thread..i sort of feel..the main summation...[intro line]...makes a destraction..to the main question

<<<Belief does not rest on evidence>>

my belief does...i see gods hand/..in everything
know your creators still quiet voice..[of good/conscience]...

know that gods is ALLWAYS good...
allways helping life..

once we see life inherantly as better than non life...
you soon see how amasing..the hand of god..in creating..it

..the natural...and realise the man/made...science..is simply/..a poor copy

<<belief; it is a different way of knowing>>>
belief is not knowing...its faith..
trusting..your teachers didnt lie to you/

../well guess what...they all have....

god gives grace/mercy..to all...

the god of love assures....MORE SHALL BE GIVEN....
more of whatever we love...know this...

so be carfull for what you ask...god has freewill...too
Posted by one under god, Saturday, 14 November 2009 7:17:48 PM
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relda,

So the justification of religions globally is permitted even if the fabricated stories and lore are non-literal and the stories of Pandora and Eve have equal worth. Do you see such acceptance as being allowably imperfect yet a true manifestation of a real god(s)? Or, historically humans have developed fabrications underlying invented theologies and human created gods?

Can the acceptance of a non-literal theistic story have value in supporting all/many religions without there being any god? That Tillick was right about the importance of non-literal stories, even without a god(s). AS such, Tillich, produced a workable sociological model, albeit, his Christian god is as much a fiction as the fiction he protects
Posted by Oliver, Sunday, 15 November 2009 10:04:34 AM
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Peter Sellick, you certainly have an interesting background.

Apologies as just a Mature Age student, your interests studies remind me so much of Thomas Aquinas, which is said to have often given him a troubled mind.

However as also a philosopher he saw the need for Christian progress on earth to use Hellenistic Reasoning to get Christianity out of the Dark Ages.

Further, it seems that very few of our OLO's seem conscious of the Donation of Constantine.

Which indeed, was not donated by Constantine himself, but illegally drawn up by the Roman Church long after Constantine's death in order for the Church to declare war, the like of which was never suggested as lawful by Jesus.

It is interesting that even during the Dark Ages, it seems that Christian monastries were active in Germanic areas with suprisingly little harm.

Also the same apparently went on at around the same time in Ireland.
Posted by bushbred, Sunday, 15 November 2009 2:45:19 PM
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Dear Grim,

Thank you. I enjoyed our interchange on the moneychangers, learned and have a different outlook.
Posted by david f, Sunday, 15 November 2009 3:05:00 PM
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Oliver,

At first glance, the two myths you mention (Eve and Pandora) show woman as the "beautiful evil" that has shaped the perception of the female sex throughout history. The parallels between Eve and Pandora are overwhelmingly obvious. These stories have laid the grounds for a patriarchal world view. Inevitably uncovered, are the thoughts underlying the ancient Greek social structure in both myths i.e.,a patriarchal one, where the female component cannot be viewed but as a potential source of chaos in a previously all-male world order. An added but positive dimension of the ‘Eve story’ is that her creation by God was meant as a supportive companion to man, despite her temptress like nature. Pandora’s creation by Zeus brought evil in human life, and mirrored how woman was to be viewed and what the very early concept of evil was - all women are the same by the fact of their very nature (since birth); woman as evil in humankind was a continual theme.

The Greek theme of women as universally and inherently alluring but disastrous, infiltrated Jewish thought when Palestine came under Hellenistic influence. The Pandora motif was transferred to the Eve myth in Jewish writing after the era of the Hebrew Bible and before the Christian era. In Christianity, from the second century onward, women were viewed as more responsible than men for the debilitating evil that permeates life. Thomas Aquinas reflected this attitude in much of his thought.

Both Eve and Pandora show women as morally inferior to men. The biblical myth, in particular, has evolved significantly – albeit, not in all areas ecclesiastical but certainly in a secular west. Had the Hellenistic influence prevailed and the ‘sociological model’ been retained, patriarchy quite arguably would have remained deeply entrenched. Some existing cultures continue to appear, in some way referent, to this myth – e.g. as found within Fundamentalist and conservative Christianity, Orthodox Judaism and mainstream Islam.

As to which ‘fiction’ has merged with the west to find a better ‘reality’, I’ll let you be the judge.
Posted by relda, Sunday, 15 November 2009 7:18:02 PM
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eve has been much miss-represented through histry

the reason for this post..is to unbind..those who
systamaticly/religiously/seek to divide matrarchal rule....

im sure it has something to/do with war/murder...then forcing the raped/woman...to change...HER..name..spoils of war

we have reached..the heights of absurdity..

where a woman...name/smith..goes to hospital...
and the thing birthed...from her own body...
get's/given..the name of the father

[a system...apparently...with a high default rate...your daddy aint ya faTHER ...BUT DADDY/DONT KNOW..]

so much for setting..eve free...
but here..is how it went down

so satan...in the dreamtime...
for such is the root/of this patriarchal deception...

anyhow..satan..did-ssst..ask eve

[gen 3;1]
..;..''yea...[mamma..of all men]..'didest..god forbid'..

and in truth..reading the preceeding/
..god didnt forbid eve nuthing...

see eve comes from adams t c ells..in his rib..
at[..gen..2;21..the fruit/thing..was at gen..2;16

..adam appears to have told her..for she replied..[gen3;2-3]

how god did it..is clear/even now/
[simply by tossing away..that troublesum..'y'.. gene]..double up on the god gene..['x']..and presto..XX..god has her revenge..on mankind

ya see..adam wanted..what the beasts/got...

ie a clone of opposing sex..[but strictly speaking incestious/
hence the holy/men..of old could reveal..only hints

see/a clone..=a biological/twin...=eve is adams sister...

ok with me..so far?

adam/married..[ok mated]..with his sister...yet knew it not.
.but eve..with the right of/co-creator...knew it well...its a woman/thing

why are we not..of our mothers name...well/..woman is shattle of man...ie patriarchal/bull-ssss-hit...

anyhow this../patriarchal LAW...is written/in the various/patriarchal/mosaic laws..moses thought to give/..to the children of..the old ones...[that never left/the deserts..who told it to me

anyhow...the laws state...
..that a husband...CAN FORGIVE..his wife..a foolishness

[and/..it dont get/..more foolish..than a goddamm/apple..[forgive me lord]

so too can adam..[her brother...forgive a sister a foolisness

so too her father...etc..

..and as adam was a gentleman...know he forgave his wife/sister/lover...your great-etc/gran-mother..

so lets make it up..to all eves/daughters...
..we all got the same matriarchal last/name..

all got eve's/bloodline

dont ask me..the why..of those who battled...in the womb/
..the mother..of them other/nations...

but her great/great was eve...TOO

EVE..is
..all our/us..matriarchal/ancestorial/incestious/..womb..

..we live/with that/..for EVE'..r
Posted by one under god, Sunday, 15 November 2009 8:18:17 PM
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Oh God,
this is getting really boring, but I can't help myself!
I'm really impressed about just how historically knowledgeable we all are, but the trouble is, we all historicise events without historicising ourselves! So are we mouthing contemporary discourse, or are we being objective? This is the beauty of scientific method---but can we be objective? We've already covered that, but nyes!
Relda: So the ancient Greeks were a bunch of chauvinists, tut tut, that the OT Adam and Eve thing corrects? Hmm. Though women still play second fiddle support in the Christian world view?
And yet, for heaven's sake, Christianity also saw through stereotypes---I've been so blind!
"The Greek theme of women as universally and inherently alluring but disastrous, infiltrated Jewish thought when Palestine came under Hellenistic influence". Wow, it's just as though you were there!
"In Christianity, from the second century onward, women were viewed [by whom?] as more responsible than men for the debilitating evil that permeates life [what debilitating evil that permeates life?]. Thomas Aquinas reflected this attitude in much of his thought".

I don't want to argue with this, per se, I'm just flabagasted about how all thought is pigeonholed. One can see what Foucault was on about!
It's just as though individuals didn't exist (we don't, of course)! Rather, we are all representations born of some particular discourse or other. Did none of us ever have an original thought?

"As to which ‘fiction’ has merged with the west to find a better ‘reality’, I’ll let you be the judge". Now this is provocative! I'll take the Greeks anytime. Their philosophy was nipped in the bud after all. But no, actually, modern philosophy has far from shaken off the influence; it's nearly an unbroken dialectic since Pythagoras and Plato---notwithstanding thought being retarded by the mental starch of Christianity!
Do you really argue, Relda, that Christian hegemony---since life is purely generic, apparently, in your schema---has been our saviour?

Since reality is up for grabs, I'll take existentialism---even postmodernism!---over the Christian crock.
Sorry folks, incoherent reality check!
Posted by Squeers, Sunday, 15 November 2009 8:18:32 PM
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David, likewise.
I agree, Jesus was not a Christian.
Or, to put it another way, he was probably a good bloke, before he got religisised.
Posted by Grim, Sunday, 15 November 2009 8:57:32 PM
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I find David to be essentially correct in his synopsis. Once the "apostle of the gentiles" , Paul, had been given approval by the leadership of the church in Jerusalem for a mission directed at gentiles, the original direction of Jesus’ work was remodeled radically. Non-Jews joined the church in large numbers, and in accordance with the proselytizing model prevailing in Judaism at that time, ‘new demands’ arose to adjust to the changed situation. The transplantation of the Christian movement into gentile territory occurred and affected the status of the Torah - the source of inspiration and the rule of life for Jesus.

Despite an express order by Jesus, the Torah was declared not binding, abolished, nullified and outmoded. Jesus had understood Torah with such simplicity and depth and had lived it with such integrity for what he saw as its internal truth. Paul defined it, with regard to its actual effect, as an instrument of sin and death. The same Paul is responsible for the unprecedented change in the concept of the imitatio Dei, which created the great chasm between Judaism and Christianity.

The introduction of mediators and the Christcentrism replaced the Theocentrism of Jesus, thus separating Christians from Jews, not however Jews from Jesus
Posted by relda, Monday, 16 November 2009 5:52:48 AM
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You mean, he got religisised by Gentiles?
Posted by Grim, Monday, 16 November 2009 6:32:57 AM
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jesus wasnt a jew
live with..it

just because talmudic northern/bolchovic jews/wanted to assume a status/..4th reiche..of satanic/oppression..in the semite homelands
dosnt excuse ignorance

only jews get to heaven...lol...just ask one...

the jews are gods people/..as much as any other/..who is also living..but we all live..by gods will alone...

there is no confusion about jesus return...
..to rebut the lie of reserection/judgment day

we all get reborn/...jesus said..he would come back..and did...

proving that of which he spoke...religions have done little of which to be proud/but religions are the deception...we can know god only one to one..

the very concept/of..hanging a dead corpse on a cross/..eating his flesh/..drinking his blood...see this is/pure demonic ritual

how does it feel..to take the credit for others work...
thats about as absurd as taking the sin...

the will to sin is/in the love of sining..jesus died via our need to sin..not so we are forgiven...lol..to sin again

sinners's..who need/a scape-goat..
will allways find excuse/to sin

the temple/had been rebuilt..there is no prophecy...of it being rebuilt/any more times..than it was

jesus was offered these realms/and refused it...get it

he said to his generation..he would come back before this generation passed..and he did...

the gallilain..not the judean..king of the judeans/..is a joke/was a joke at the time..how can a galain..be king of judea...lol

ignoring the truth/will keep you tied..to the idiots/fools and decievers...who know not good/god..indfeed by their aCTS..PROVE THEY ARE FAR/..FROM THE GOD...SUSTAINING ALL LIFE

god's graces..are available to all..
simply go and sin no more...

STOP loving loading/ya sins upon others...

let ye without sin..not lay down with the people/of the swine..who's circumsised lips...consume the most bitter fruits..of choice

who effectivly...by their deeds/works..will you know them..prove the anti-christ/..stands in the holy of holies/to despoil.to oppress/to decieve...to murder...but in the main to decieve those..not knowing god is love
Posted by one under god, Monday, 16 November 2009 6:43:34 AM
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relda,

Thanks.

With my earlier post, I was asking for your perspective on Pandora and Eve in relation to our earlier discourse on Tillich:

"Can one justify the non-Christian religions whilst still accepting the non-literal facbrications of lore, as Tillich allows for Christianity?"." - O

Yes Oliver. I believe you can.- R

I was seeking confirmation or refutation of insights I have gained into your beliefs, regarding Tillich and extending to that belief system to a wider frame.

I was wondering if you would agree that fabrications are necessary for all religions of non-existent gods including Christianity? Herein, Eve & Pandora and Greek Olympus & Christian Heaven do not exist, literally. Herein, sustaining the implied Tillich thesis that smaller non-literal myths upholds larger myths.

The alternative scheme I have sketched is one of; "what is good for the goose is good for the gander". Can one apply the Tillich hypothesis to other religions, all religions, even non-existent religions? (Of course, Tillich would hold that only Christians can have faith in their fabrications being legitimate falsehoods).

Is the position of Christianity's claim to the Tillich hypothesis vis-a-vis other religions superior or equal to other religions?

Is your passion for Tillich's approach or the approach's support of Christianity?
Posted by Oliver, Monday, 16 November 2009 7:47:30 AM
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relda wrote: The introduction of mediators and the Christcentrism replaced the Theocentrism of Jesus, thus separating Christians from Jews, not however Jews from Jesus

Dear relda,

Christianity separates Jews from Jesus. Whatever the reality of Jesus, Jewish blood spilled by Christianity in Jesus' name in an effort to get Jews to accept Christianity has made Jesus a figure of horror to most Jews with knowledge of our history. The followers of the other false messiahs such as David Alroy, Shabbetai Tzevi, Jacob Frank, Bar Kokhba, Serene, Abu Al-isfahani and David Reubeni have not caused as much suffering.

Some branches of Judaism now reject the concept of a personal messiah and have an optimistic faith in the advent of a messianic era with “the unity of all men as the children of God in the confession of the One and Sole God” (Philadelphia program, 1869) or “the establishment of the kingdom of truth, justice and peace” (Pittsburgh program, 1885).

I think Matthew Arnold in “Dover Beach got it right.

The Catholic Church has recognised the past of Christianity and has stopped targeting Jews for missionising. Anglican Bishop Spong has recognised the Jew hatred in the New Testament as well as the Jewish roots of Christianity. Anglican Archbishop Jensen and Protestant Fundamentalists still harass us.
Posted by david f, Monday, 16 November 2009 10:38:13 AM
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"The emperor (Hadrian)founded, under the name of Alia Capitolina, a new city on Mount Sion,to which he gave the privileges of a colony; and denouncing the severest penalties against any of the Jewish people who should dare to approach its precincts, he fixed a vigilant garrison of a Roman cohort to enforce the execution of his orders. The Nazarenes had only one way left to escape the common proscription, and the force of truth was on this occasion assisted by the influence of temporal advantages. They elected Marcus for their (Latin) bishop, a prelate of the race of the Gentiles, and most probably a native either of Italy or of some of the Latin provinces. At his persuasion the most considerable part of the congregation renounced the Mosaic law, ...**in the practice of which they had persevered above a century**... [emphasis added] (many in exile in Pella). By this sacrifice of their habits and prejudices they purchased a free admission into the colony of Hadrian, and more firmly cemented their union ..." - Gibbon, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

Macus was the first Latin bishop, after fifteen Jewish bishops, as I have mentioned in other threads.
Posted by Oliver, Monday, 16 November 2009 12:47:54 PM
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Relda,

I assume you are busy. I will check for your response in a few days.
Posted by Oliver, Wednesday, 18 November 2009 1:58:17 PM
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Oliver,
Yes, my apologies, I’ve been a bit on the busy side – so, here goes...

Western secular humanism as it has developed since the 18th century Enlightenment i.e., a proud, self-contained and self-sufficient worldview, came to grief in the debacle of Western civilization in the world wars and genocides of the mid-twentieth century. The crisis of modernity remains, but the axis of theology has shifted, moving from a dialogue with secularisrn, agnosticism, atheism and even nihilism - basically 19th century obsessions - into a dialogue with other forms of religion, generally kept at bay in the realms of Christendom.

The great theologians of the recent past, for example Karl Barth, Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Tillich in the Protestant Christian tradition, have spun their ideas in dialogue with modernity. It is not so much a matter of superiority of one religion over another, but that it is Tillich’s approach in particular, for me at least, in allowing for genuine dialogue. So yes… it is more in his approach that I respect him rather than for his professed Christianity. The approach, in 388, where the Christian population set fire to the Synagogue in Callinicum, a small town in Mesopotamia, was obviously quite wrong. This incident was also significant as it exemplified the movement from a pluralistic Empire into a Christian State.

Interestingly, and a little aside, the separation of the Church from Judaism, effected theologically at the Council of Nicaea, was now law under the Christian Emperors who took their advice from the Church. The incident at Callicium is the symbol of the conquest of ecclesiastical anti-Semitism. The Church could, and did manage to influence imperial legislation in a way detrimental to Jews. This really, in effect, served only to antagonize and confuse the ‘message’ of the Church, from an obscure Jew, to her listeners.
Posted by relda, Wednesday, 18 November 2009 9:04:09 PM
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david f,
I’m generally amazed at the layered complexity of historical event – where some digging sometimes puts many of our assumptions on their head.

Quite unarguably, one of Constantine's first official acts had been to ban Jewish proselytism as dangerous competition to the Church. It was flagrant inequality where Christians were free to evangelize but Jews were forbidden to increase their membership. The context, in which the prohibition appears,however,is significant because it constitutes the second part of a law which aimed to protect Jews who converted to Christianity from reprisals inflicted by their co-religionists.

An understanding of ancient Judaic culture is noteworthy, where their view of Gentiles as "dogs" was deeply ingrained and shaped by regulations within the Torah such as:"You must utterly destroy them; you shall make no covenant with them, and show no mercy to them. You shall not make marriages with them, giving your daughters to their sons or taking their daughters for your sons" (Deuteronomy). Jesus’ own reference to the ‘Cannanite’ woman as a "Gentile dog" is ample NT evidence of this – and an interesting encounter.

Their ban on proselytism effectively altered the status of the Jews who allegedly enjoyed equality with Pagans and Christians. The once equal status granted to Jews under the Edict of Milan was eroded piece by piece until the Emperor Theodosius (379-395) founded an orthodox Christian state and banned the practice of any other religion. In the intervening period between Constantine and Theodosius the ‘civil rights’ of Jews had been more than compromised. The politics of Constantine probably bore good reason and today’s politicians, in order to be successful, will show similar pragmatism. But this, David, has little to do with Jesus the Jew.

Ironically, Niebuhr once said that only two ‘Christians’ lived in Detroit, and they were both Jews - he meant that Jews seemed to have developed a superior capacity for what he called 'civic virtue' than most Christians – probably because of their long experience as a minority in a Christian world, and partly because of Judaism itself, with its unique" Hebraic-prophetic passion for social justice."
Posted by relda, Wednesday, 18 November 2009 9:11:27 PM
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relda wrote: Ironically, Niebuhr once said that only two ‘Christians’ lived in Detroit, and they were both Jews - he meant that Jews seemed to have developed a superior capacity for what he called 'civic virtue' than most Christians – probably because of their long experience as a minority in a Christian world, and partly because of Judaism itself, with its unique" Hebraic-prophetic passion for social justice."

Dear relda,

I regard the above as an example of Christian triumphalism. It would have been better, as far as I am concerned, if Niebuhr had said there are two good people in Detroit, and they are Jews. To say, if a Jew is a good person, he or she is really a Christian I regard as an insult. I would not say that a good person who is a Christian is really a Jew. That would imply that a good person who is a Christian would really be observing a non-Christian ethic and couldn't be a real Christian.

A Christian can be a good person, and a Jew can be a good person. They can be good people on their own terms.
Posted by david f, Wednesday, 18 November 2009 9:24:13 PM
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Dear relda,

I would amplify my previous post. I find the locution, "That's a Christian act." meaning that's a good act offensive. It implies that everything a Christian does motivated by the Christian religion is good. Crusades and other slaughters have been motivated by Christianity. They were Christian acts.

I apply the same standard to Jews. It is a Jewish act to dispossess Palestinians of their land since some Jews believe that God is a real estate dealer. It is also a Jewish act to be charitable as that is also in our heritage.

It is said: Good people do good things. Bad people do bad things. For good people to do bad things takes religion.
Posted by david f, Wednesday, 18 November 2009 9:49:29 PM
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Dear David, it's rather like the relationship between the words 'human' and 'humane' isn't it.
Totally undeserved self adulation.
Posted by Grim, Wednesday, 18 November 2009 10:32:58 PM
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Relda,

So, you admire Tillich's approach to Christianity, rather than actually believing in the teachings of Christainity or the divinity of Jesus? You have time for the Tillich intellectual excerise presented by Tillich, without believing in the Christian God in fact.

Acccording to Mack, the institutionalisation of the Christian Cult at Nicaea allowed for upward social mobility previously unavailable to Christians. Earlier, the faith tended to spread through women, as for men, belief would have been a social liability. Men came to the faith via through their mothers, as Constantinian tradition alludes.

Scholars would agree that secularism became manifest with the Enlightenment and the Great Divergence, yet said manifestiation goes back to eleventh century liberalism and the desire of surfs to break from the yoke of Church and State under Feudalism. Perhaps, the transition process is not complete.Herein, we still have Constitutional Monarchs and, Churches still have many extra ordinary societal and economic privileges.
Posted by Oliver, Thursday, 19 November 2009 8:14:19 AM
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>> Western secular humanism ... came to grief in the debacle of Western civilization in the world wars ...

does anybody know what the hell this means? hitler and stalin someone prove that it's not a good idea to be nice to each other? or that we can't be nice to each other without making stuff up? or that the existence of genocidal monsters means we have to pretend morality is god-given? honestly, i have no clue what this is meant to mean.
Posted by bushbasher, Thursday, 19 November 2009 11:52:18 AM
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Oliver,
With our many exchanges here, I find it rather surprising you make the assumptions you do, and appear to trek over old ground. You are undoubtedly aware of the numerous exchanges I’ve had with George, and david f etc., including those with Sells.

Tillich aside for a moment, I’ve mentioned in conversation with you the ‘quality’ of one’s belief: http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?article=8985#143480. We’ve spoken of the “so-called inequality within the godhead” : http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?article=7190#111449. Our past conversations have included Karen Armstrong (someone whom I gather you admire): http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?article=8985#144125. I could go on – perhaps you should revisit these exchanges, understanding also Michael Polanyi's concept of ‘tacit knowledge’.

Dear david f,
The idea of ‘Christian triumphalism’ is well indicated by a German Christian newsletter regarding the state (Nazi) policy of genocide: "There is no other solution to the Jewish problem than this: that one day the whole world will rise up and decide either for or against Judaism and will keep on struggling with each other until the world is totally Judaized or completely purged of Judaism. We can say with an honest, pure conscience that we did not want this war and did not start this war..” Today, those with a total antithesis to this approach would obviously include not only Niebuhr but countless others also. However, there is a logic, as expressed here, that perhaps a minority of Christian Fundamentalists today might embarrassingly, if not reluctantly acquiesce to, when pushed.

Reinhold Niebuhr was the only significant voice in American Christianity, including Catholics as well as Protestants, who wrote editorials and who preached and said again and again that the assault on the Jews was a very direct and serious challenge to Christian faith as such, and not just another example of “inhumanity.” His stance placed him at odds with many - his critics say his theology reflects the loss of truthful Christian speech and, hence, of faithful Christian practice. I might add, “How ironic.”
Posted by relda, Thursday, 19 November 2009 9:53:54 PM
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relda wrote: Reinhold Niebuhr was the only significant voice in American Christianity, including Catholics as well as Protestants, who wrote editorials and who preached and said again and again that the assault on the Jews was a very direct and serious challenge to Christian faith as such, and not just another example of “inhumanity.” His stance placed him at odds with many - his critics say his theology reflects the loss of truthful Christian speech and, hence, of faithful Christian practice.

Dear relda,

The assault on the Jews did not challenge Christian faith. Christian Spain expelled Jews in 1492 and Christian England in 1290. There were many expulsions of Jews from Christian countries and many massacres of Jews by Christian forces. They removed an alien element from Christendom. Bad for Jews. Good for Christianity.

Niebuhr’s attitude was a loss of faithful Christian practice. Anglican Bishop Spong has pointed out that Jew hatred and bigotry is found in the New Testament and is seeking to change Christian attitudes, but such attitudes have been very much part of Christianity.

http://www.johnshelbyspong.com/bishopspongon_theTerribleTexts.aspx

BIGOTRY: "No one comes to the Father but by me" (John 14:6);This text has helped to create a world where adherents of one religion feel compelled to kill adherents of another. A veritable renaissance of religious terror now confronts us and is making against us the claims we have long made against religious traditions different from our own.

ANTI-SEMITISM: And the people answered, 'His blood be on us and on our children'" (Matt. 27:25); No other verse of Holy Scripture has been responsible for so much violence and so much bloodshed. People convinced that these words conferred legitimacy and even holiness on their hostility have killed millions of Jewish people over history. Far more than Christians today seem to understand, to call the Bible "Word of God" in any sense is to legitimize this hatred reflected in its pages.

One shouldn't assault any group of people, but the record of Christian doctrine and behaviour supports Niebuhr's critics.

I like Niebuhr’s sentiments, but they differed from Christian tradition. His critics were right.
Posted by david f, Friday, 20 November 2009 4:47:25 AM
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David f reminded us of the many purges of Jews from various parts of Europe, and the UK, from well before Hitler, that well known Roman Catholic, was democratically elected by a grateful nation before they all, apart from Rudd's chum Bonhoffer, whose anti-Semitism remains a moot point I read somewhere, embarked on yet another purge.

Jews were only allowed back into England by Cromwell, as England was pulled apart through yet more religiously motivated Christian-based wars, and shortly after their return, they built their first Synagogue in London.

But even this act of 'compassion' on the part of the English Xtians was only to assist in some madtype 'endtimes' Christian prophecy that required Jews to be planted throughout the world before Jesus could return and lift all the saved to heaven.

And as I recall, the Hitler 'yellow star' Jews had to wear was an English invention from the 13th C., or near enough to that era.

And of course, in those early days, England was still very Roman Catholic.... Hitler's partners in crime in Germany and across Europe.

It's good to know that religion is such a force for 'good' in our world, isn't it?
Posted by The Blue Cross, Friday, 20 November 2009 8:04:20 AM
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"Christian Spain expelled Jews in 1492..." - david f.

Pope Alexander VI was especially pleased at the expulsion of the Jews declaring Isabella (a women) and Ferdinand, "Catholic Kings". Jews (and Muslims) had the option to stay in Spain and convert to Christianity or die. Some did offically convert to Christianity, but were persecuted just the same and called merinos (pigs) by gentile Christians. Christianised Jews who were successful were targetted for ill-treatment by gentile Christians well into the sixteenth century.

Christians also persecuted the Pagans after Nicaea and committed genecide against the native American slans, as I have posted on other threads.
Posted by Oliver, Friday, 20 November 2009 12:10:32 PM
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Some in Christianity have recognised their past and have tried to change. As relda mentioned Reinhold Niebuhr was the only significant voice in American Christianity against what was happening in Germany.

Since WW2 there have been many voices. Pop John XXIII changed the liturgy eliminating various anti-Jewish references.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nostra_Aetate

Part four [of Nostra Aetate] speaks of the bond that ties the people of the 'New Covenant' (Christians) to Abraham's stock (Jews). It states that even though some Jewish authorities and those who followed them called for Jesus' death, the blame for this cannot be laid at the door of all those Jews present at that time, nor can the Jews in our time be held as guilty, thus repudiating an indiscriminate charge of deicide; 'the Jews should not be presented as rejected or accursed by God'. The Declaration also decries all displays of antisemitism made at any time by anyone.

Although the Scriptural account of Jews calling for Jesus is highly problematical Nostra Aetate is a great improvement over previous Catholic attitudes.

The Evangelical Sisterhood of Mary, a Lutheran community founded in 1947, by Basilea Schlink stated:

"Instead of being united in love for God, we as Christians have sinned grievously against God's covenant people. Two thousand years of Church history have left a trail of blood: contempt, hatred, hostility, persecution and wholesale slaughter.

Time and again the Jewish people have suffered at the hands of Christians. They have been humiliated, deprived of their rights, accused of murdering God and blamed for every imaginable calamity. During the Crusades, the Inquisition, the pogroms and, most horrific of all, the Holocaust, millions of Jews have suffered flagrant injustice.

At the beginning of the third millennium we can only confess this terrible guilt in deep shame before God and the Jewish people, deploring the involvement of many Christians. We seek His forgiveness for all the anguish that Israel, His chosen people, have suffered. By the grace of God we resolve to turn from these ways."

Some like Archbishop Jensen of Sydney still target Jews for conversion and call non-Christian religions, “tools of Satan.”
Posted by david f, Friday, 20 November 2009 1:03:23 PM
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Yes, well the Archbishop of Sidderney would know all about Satan and ill-gotten gains wouldn't he?

How much did he and his Temple money-changers lose in their pursuit of wealth and greed?

Was it only hundreds of millions of untaxed loot and booty he lost on the black numbers?

Bring on the Xenophon enquiry and extend it into the depths of these sinning machines we call 'churches'.

And let's not forget the ever growing nexus between the state and church owned-run-affiliated organisations that ply their trade funded by ATO dollars from our back pockets. Let's enquire into that improper relationship too.

There are literally billions of dollars of grace-and-favour loot going to these organisations.

Far better to fund public schools and hofpitals with the proceeds than to hand it over to manipulative charlatans to chuck away seeking manna from heaven, in their shoddy partnership with Satan.
Posted by The Blue Cross, Friday, 20 November 2009 2:07:41 PM
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relda,

Please excuse my delay in not responding sooner. I missed your latest post, even though I was looking out.

Why I keep coming back to Tillich is that I am unclear on whether you admire Tillich's without believing in the Christian god or whether you are putting Tillich forward in support of your belief in the Christian god. When I last posed a similar question, your reply was on the Enlightenment.

I know you have drawn Tillich material from Wiki and seem to have read some Polanyi. That's good. We can work with that, for sure. Yet, we need a foundation in your belief or non-belief to progress to new topics.

What I am lacking is an insight into how you hold Tillich in relation to a belief system.

Thanks. I will visit the old OLO links.
Posted by Oliver, Monday, 23 November 2009 4:50:41 PM
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relda? Hope you are still around. I will check again later. Cheers, Oly.
Posted by Oliver, Wednesday, 2 December 2009 7:59:58 AM
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Oliver,
I’ll certainly grant you your persistence. As you correctly surmise, Tillich has had a strong influence on me – going beyond what one might read in Wiki. Tillich appears as one of the foundational thinkers for once again enabling reconciliation between religion and science. He regarded religion as a source of the “courage to create”, which is essential for progress in scientific knowledge.

Tillich observed the original unity of science and religion in antiquity – no conflict existed, as science had not separated from “natural philosophy”. For Homer, the divine was always present and working out the destiny of events. Science, through the process of “demythologization”, became a separate discipline. Galileo’s belief in the new Copernican heliocentric universe conflicted with the geocentric system supported by the church – similarly as did Darwin’s theory of evolution. There are, however, depersonalising forces inherent in a technological society, which “deprive the creative self of its selfhood”.

Galileo’s creativity with the newly invented telescope resulted in chaos between the new and old cosmological forms. The trial of Galileo was a challenge to his autonomy by the heteronomous church. The ambiguity of history, however, is illustrated by the fact that the church was ‘scientifically’ correct in saying that Galileo had no proof that Earth moves through space.
Posted by relda, Thursday, 3 December 2009 7:09:02 AM
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relda,

You are missing (or I am mis-communicating) what I asking. I am not requesting further information on Tillich, I am asking where you stand in relation to Tillich. Are a non-theist, who admires Tillich despite your disbelief or are you a theist who is citing him to support your belef? Knowledge of where you stand, is what is requested.

I am not a theist, yet I admire aspects Peter Aberlard.
Posted by Oliver, Thursday, 3 December 2009 8:06:02 AM
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Oliver,

I identify, if not share in Tillich’s belief, where the source of the “courage to create” (as expressed in his ‘Courage to Be’) was the “God above God”. By this Tillich meant the God who transcends theism and the concrete symbols of organised religion. He refuted the theistic objectification of a God which reduces this god to a mere being – “my stance”, if you can call it that, follows similar sentiment.
Posted by relda, Thursday, 3 December 2009 8:47:11 PM
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relda,

Thanks for that.

Is this how you think?

You do believe in God, yet see manifest theism as a poor substitute for God, who does exit, really is: The trinities, for example, of various religions are mere hypothetical constructs, which explain God in human terms, sometimes quite cleverly; yet, the true nature God is beyond us.

You accept a remote God (because God is infinitely complex) and the World's religions, and try to match the two, the best we can. There is a God far too sophicated for us to understand, who allows more simple temporal understandings to become available to us.

It is an interesting "stance".
Posted by Oliver, Friday, 4 December 2009 7:45:11 AM
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strangly the decalsified o'liver holds an ongoing facination
how one so wise in his own eyes can still rewmain so ignorant..of the basics...of belief/believers...and the object of their belief

god is to man...as cause is to affect
like your thoughts...held in each neuron..oh liver..that in total..reveals ya brain...thus is god..the totality of all/cause /affect...nature..its all of god...doing the brain function/except your only one neuronic synapse..enjoing your relda

to quote de liver..<<There is a God..far too sophicated for us to understand,..>>via logic...<<who allows more simple temporal understandings to become available to us.>>>whoever we chose

thus ultimate is understandable by children...and the more you observe..the more your causing the observed...think quantum physics..your synapse should be able to link that...into your mind

you have blind faith in science...evolution...
that is so full of gaps...that if they were synapses...they wouldnt connect into anything remotly like science ...where lack of continuety...is stated as a faulse

you cant ever seek to comprehend ..that you mind needs to reject
Posted by one under god, Friday, 4 December 2009 8:09:37 AM
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OUG,

I was not stating my position:

I was providing feedback to relda on my interpretation to his "stance". Relda when asked about said stance previously cited new sources of information rather than positing a stated personal position. At least until his last post. Herein, I am providing feedback to see if understand him correctly.

In my view one must understand creation before agreeing to a Creating Agent. And if there is a Creator, there might be other solutions to what theists call, "God". And, if after a long process, we decide on "God", we are unsure that said God is any of the gods, preented by the man-made religions.

I'm offline for a few days.
Posted by Oliver, Friday, 4 December 2009 11:20:30 AM
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relda,
>>By this Tillich meant the God who transcends theism and the concrete symbols of organised religion. He refuted the theistic objectification of a God which reduces this god to a mere being. <<

Thanks for this concise summary of Tillich’s ideas about God, though its terseness might lead to misunderstandings. It made me reread the last sections of his “The Courage To Be”. I do not think Tillich “refuted” other approaches to the concept of God, I think “transcends”, as you also mention, better describes his ideas.

Tillich mentions three “theisms” (unspecified affirmation of God, person-to-person relationship of the Jewish-Christian tradition, and the “strictly theological” one (by which he obviously means classical apologetics that try to “prove” the existence of God) that his “God-above-God” transcends, because it sees God not as “a being” (what you call “mere being”?) but “being-itself” (a distinction apparently inspired by Heidegger that I am unable to follow).

Tillich, of course, is an existentialist theologian/philosopher, and what Russel said about Aquinas - that his contribution to philosophy is through the originality of the questions he asked, not necessarily through the answers he offered - can somehow similarly be applied to the existentialist approach to philosophy and theology. Nevertheless, Tillich is here exceptional, since “Tillich’s emphasis on ontological rather than existential interpretation is important. Tillich restores what Bultmann’s stress on ethical and personal categories tends to loose.” (John Macquarie, 20th Century Religious Thought, SCM Press1963, p.370).

So I do not think one could claim that he “refuted” the objectification of God (which would make him into an adherent of Dawkins), only extended, adding the subjective factor and emphasizing that we can refer to Him, “know” Him, only through symbols.

I understand Tillich’s “God-above-God” in the sense of Kant’s “Ding an sich” that we cannot know directly, only through symbolic models, e.g. Tillich’s three versions his God-above-God “transcends” in the sense that these, and other, models point to It. Something like we can understand the physical reality “as such” - except in trivial cases - only through symbolic models (theories) based on more and more sophisticated mathematics.
Posted by George, Friday, 4 December 2009 8:10:22 PM
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George,

My understanding is that Tillich, with his ‘theistic objections', is acutely aware of religion substituting itself for God - where it becomes a form of ritualism and idolatry. Karl Barth maintains it is the unconscious nature of religion which can serve to assure its authenticity - it is what it is when it does not know what it is. "At the moment when religion becomes conscious of religion, when it becomes a psychologically and historically conceivable magnitude in the world, it falls away from its inner character, from its truth, to idols." I guess this is what Tillich is reflecting, suggesting also, a kind of spontaneity.

Oliver’s previous posting perhaps points to a dilemma, where the words "God" and "existence" are very definitely separated, except in the paradox of God becoming manifest under the conditions of existence.... As Tillich says, “God does not exist. He is being-itself beyond essence and existence. Therefore, to argue that God exists is to deny him.” The perception of an impersonal God is one which is arrived at rather simply - theologically speaking, however, personality is a symbol as with everything else in religion. And I’m sure you’d agree (from your last paragraph), like all symbols, "personality" doesn't adequately capture the full depth of ultimate reality. The conviction of the Abrahamic religions is that if ultimate reality were not at least personal, or at least capable of everything that humans are capable of, we’re unable to surrender ourselves fully to it. It would be an "it" rather than a "thou".

In terms of the ‘symbolic modeling’ you suggest, where sophistication becomes an inherent part of the process, Tillich says that the task of apologetic theology is to prove that the Christian claim also has validity from the point of view of those outside the theological circle. Apologetic theology, he says, must show that trends which are immanent in all religions and cultures move toward the Christian answer. This is the bone of contention for many (including Dawkins et al), where there is the misunderstood presumption of arrogance for such an answer
Posted by relda, Saturday, 5 December 2009 9:22:24 AM
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it could be advanced that as we get what we deserve...god has got the people he serves..and his people..the religions/leaders..they deserve

<<..religion substituting itself for God..where it becomes a form of ritualism and idolatry.>>>this has been the issue throughout time

from the ritual of the forbidden fruit..to the gold ox...oh ye unbelieving nation...imagine mutilating gods forskin..the chosen ones...mutilating the way god gave us to be...then claimng special; dispensation...lol

forgetting the tribe killed in recovery of the rite...who took the mutilation for love...by their deeds are they revealed/..let alone the genocide in the gulags...violaTING HOLY-DAYS/SABBATH DAYS,..turing gods city[lol]..into a war zone

<<it is what it is when it does not know what it is>>...egsactly..we can know god..only one to one...his is the living loving still quiet voice..emmanuel[within]

even a beast in the field...knows gods living ,loving voice..[let alone the beast in the stable ..knowing its masters voice...know gods voice is all good/all loving...where god is is life

oliver<<"God" and "existence" are very definitely separated,..except in the paradox of God becoming manifest..under the conditions of existence>>.where god is life is..being sustained to live,,,by god...think of god//as the energy...animating the computer

<<Apologetic theology,..he says,..must show that trends..which are immanent/..lol..in all religions and cultures move toward the Christian answer>>>not so...

we must seek to know...the/at-one-meant..[atonement]..with the good living loving god/within...naturally sustaining life..ALL LIFE/ALL LIVING..naturally/

the nature..the nurture.living loving light sustaining life..into love via logic..[at-one-meant]
Posted by one under god, Saturday, 5 December 2009 9:50:28 AM
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relda,
Thank you for your interesting comments. What you (and Tillich) seem to (rightfully) object to is the confusion, identification of symbols, models, with the Ultimate Reality they are supposed to model. The phrase “religion substituting itself for God” sounds like “science substituting itself for the physical reality itself”: there is no other way to treat reality - physical or beyond - than through models, and the mistake arises only when one forgets the difference between reality and our mental, cultural, scientific etc. models or representations thereof.

Nevertheless, we tend to say “the Earth (a part of physical reality) IS a rotational ellipsoid (a mathematical concept)” instead of “in order to investigate globally the Earth it is best to model it as a rotational ellipsoid (for local purposes the Euclidean plane is a better model)” or something similar. This would be too confusing for the “man in the street” so the first sentence, containing only an implicit reference to models, is more appropriate for everyday purposes. In this sense also statements about the Ultimate Reality, made e.g. within a Christian belief system, have to be understood as being only implicitly about Christian MODELS of Reality.

I can understand Tillich’s “God does not exist. He is being-itself beyond essence and existence. Therefore, to argue that God exists is to deny him.” only as a reference to Thomistic concepts of essens and existence. According to this philosophy/theology “Since God’s essence is his nature and God’s existence is the same as his essence it follows that God is existence.” (http://www.saintaquinas.com/article4.html).

I do not know what is Oliver’s understanding of Thomist philosophy, but for me it is almost incomprehensible. Obviously not for Tillich, who is here commenting on, or criticising, Thomism. After all, I have been told, Tillich is also a compulsory reading - along with Acquinas - in Catholic seminaries.

For me something cannot both exist and not exist, whatever that something is, or whatever you understand by existence. Without understanding Acquinas (and Barth) my inspiration from Tillich comes only along the parallels with the way reality is understood (modelled) by physics. (ctd)
Posted by George, Sunday, 6 December 2009 12:26:37 AM
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(ctd) By the way, there is a frequent reference to, and discussion of, Tillich in the physicist-theologian Ian Barbour’s seminal work (Myths, Modesls & Paradigms - The Nature of Scientific and Religious Language, SCM Press 1974) that actually launched the interest of scientists, philosophers and theologians in the field of “theology and science”.

The accusation of arrogance against Christianity is well known, although I did not understand how apologetic theology was related to my understanding of religious (cognitive) symbols and models. I think it was Karl Rahner who coined the term “anonymous Christians” to describe non-Christians (including atheists) who lived a life compatible with Christian ethics, and it was - I think rightfully - accepted by many as arrogant. On the other hand, e.g. my belief in God was questioned on this OLO, because somebody saw an overlap with his/her atheist attitude. It was meant as a compliment and I accepted it as such, certainly not as arrogant.

Neverthelss, there is a problem: even if we agree that nobody can “know the truth” it is still a question, who has a better “model of it”, whose mythology, sacred book, philosophy, theology etc., better approximates this truth. The question of which model of physical reality (theory) better approximates the truth about these or those physical phenomena, is complicated enough, without even having the subject, the observer, so inherently involved as in case of the “ultimate truth” that religion is after.

I have to be convinced that mine is the best one - otherwise I would have converted to other religion/belief system - but I have to present this preference of mine without being offensive to others. And that is a problem, not only on the individual level, and certainly not only for Christians or even Catholics. Tillich might criticise the practice of presenting Christianity (or other belief system) too apologetically, intolerantly - or arrogantly if you like - but he does not seem to offer a constructive suggestion short of what leads to - as the Pope calls it - relativism of values, and I would add “of models”
Posted by George, Sunday, 6 December 2009 12:30:31 AM
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George,

The notions of presence, action and consciousness are difficult to assign outside of space-time. If extensions of research into Higgs field yield insight of Uncaused Causation, the next step back to any Uncaused Causer, with dynamic attributes, would be empirically unknowable: There is no context in the universe.

In the near future, we may be able to explain the existence of the universe(s). Beyond/before this case, to call the causal agent, if there is a causal agent, God is problematic. At best, we have an unprovable hypothetical construct. Neither, classical mechanics nor QM will take us there. Our brains can build neural pathways, wherein, we believe in phantastic things, yet, we are still constrained as being a part of the delimited universe, without special abilities to comprehend that which that cannot be comprehended by any configuration of matter within the universe.

The best we can do is to assess stories from our historical past and ask do recorded events allow us to know the unknowable? The universe tells us the answer is, no.

Excuse brevity.

Sells,

You ask the wrong question, it is not; is God the cause of the world? Rather, was/is there a proto agent required, to cause, the cause of world? Relatedly, can causation stand alone?
Posted by Oliver, Sunday, 6 December 2009 2:38:48 PM
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George,
you have a lot to say about "truth"; I think the lesson is that there is no truth--what could be more maleable than truth?
I went to a conference on Continental philosophy recently and gave a paper and argued at one point that Hegel was a conceptual realist. I was looking for a new angle on materialism (not positivism), and someone asked me later, "if you don't believe in a transcendental metaphysic, why not just admit you're an empiricist?"
An excellent question, I thought, that I had no answer for at the time.
Of course it's empiricism that Hegel and co were striving against--and me in my turn. We need something transcendent that also makes logical sense. Conversely, we need something material that makes spiritual sense. The God thing is knee-jerk reactionism. It's not arrogance so much as blind faith.
What is so difficult about humility, about dealing with these conundrums but stopping at the point beyond which we cannot go?
At the conference a very passionate scholar represented Schelling, arguing contra received wisdom that Schelling resolved the Hume/Kant debate in favour of neither--that is that we're beyond the salvation of any dialogic sense. Our debates are pure hubris (Montaigne's position, I would argue).
Perhaps the purpose of life is to strive nonetheless. But these are private concerns. Our business is either to deal with the world at hand or to expedite our relationship with the next.

Oliver,
I doubt we will ever explain anything--beyond our own pragmatic satisfaction.
Life is "unsatisfactory", said the Buddha with profound understatement. He preferred not to be drawn on matters that serve nothing but vainglory. This comment is not intended for you specifically, Oliver.
I would simply point out, however, that logic is a very crude instrument.
George,
the pope surely sites relativism for rhetorical purposes, buying into the theoretical insecurity that's dogged Western philosophy. The fact is, he offers nothing more substantial, he merely covers his equivocal tracks with high sounding mumbo-jumbo. Theology is the mouthpiece of beleaguered authority.
Posted by Squeers, Sunday, 6 December 2009 6:00:32 PM
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Squeers,
>>I think the lesson is that there is no truth--what could be more maleable than truth?<<
It depends on what you mean by truth (to me it is an unambiguous concept only within mathematical logic); maybe your understanding of it indeed implies that it is “malleable”. This reminds me of the social (cultural) constructivists’ position reiterated during the 1990s “Science wars” launched by the “Sokal hoax”. This is the essence of how the physicist/atheist Steven Weinberg defends “scientific truth” (although he does not use that term) against “relativists“ (he names also Thomas Kuhn):

“(T)he laws of physics are real in pretty much the same sense (whatever that is) as the rocks in the field, and not in the same sense as the rules of baseball. ... The objective nature of scientific knowledge ... is taken for granted by most natural scientists. ... We will need to confirm and strengthen the vision of a rationally understandable world if we are to protect ourselves from the irrational tendencies that still beset humanity” (New York Review of Books, 8/8/1996). Well, some people would have used “belief in” instead of “vision of” in the last sentence, a belief that is part of the belief system of most (theists and atheists).

One could go through Weinberg’s article, and just slightly reword a few (obviously not all) of his arguments to get a good defence also of the belief in (not proof of!) metaphysical reality “whatever that is” against (post-modernist?) epistemological relativists.

A can follow your philosphical insights, though I do not understand what you mean by “God thing”. If it refers to ALL kinds of world-views compatible with “belief in God“, how is calling them “knee-jerk” or “blind” faith different from e.g. Sellick writing disparagingly about atheist world-views? Neither do I understand what you mean by “logical sense”. And if philosophical debates are “pure hubris”, why engage in them? For me they contribute to the broadening of my own perspective - provided I can understand the other side.

You obviously dislike the Pope but that post was not about him but about Tillich.
Posted by George, Monday, 7 December 2009 6:06:43 PM
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Oliver,
I did not understand the relevance of Higgs boson to Tillich’s theology.

>>In the near future, we may be able to explain the existence of the universe<<
That is a claim that only philosophy or religion can make. If by “we” you mean science then it is based on a misunderstanding of what science is about: science investigates the physical reality reflected in our senses; it cannot “explain” its existence, it has to assume its existence in order to have an object of investigation, only the workings of which science can try to “explain“ (c.f. the quote above from Weinberg).

Yes, truth, reality, the world or what you call it, is unknowable “as it is” (which I agree with), and you can stop at that (which I do not, since then you would have neither science nor philosophy or religion).

I do not understand how the “universe tells us” anything about “stories from our historical past”, unless you agree that the mythological, biblical etc “fingers” point to Something we can access neither directly by senses nor through scientific investigation.
Posted by George, Monday, 7 December 2009 6:15:07 PM
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George,
I know nothing of mathematics, but I draw your attention to the first paragraph on page 3, here: http://home.uchicago.edu/~wwtx/objectivity.pdf
I also want to avoid the endless fall into relativism which, I suspect, for postmodernism is an endless mirroring rather than an epistemological crisis (though Schelling would demure).
But if anything is subject to perspective, surely truth is?
Otherwise I agree with what you say.
By "the God thing" I allude to the leap from epistemological uncertainty ... to deity...? This is a leap indeed! which, moreover, is a luxury, an idle distraction from material issues that should be attended to first. This was my real point---the conference was mostly dry philosophising and abstruse hair-splitting.
I'm as fascinated as anyone about these debates, and yet I suggest God would rather we spent more time on worldly concerns.
I think my posts bare out that I'm equally disenchanted with the hubris of the rationalists; your Weinberg quote is indeed very telling.
I do dislike the Pope--he's the great distraction, the figurehead of institutional angst; he and the various religious franchises parasitise the great human conundrum of "being"---it's their bread and butter.
The consolations of philosophy (and theology) should not distract us from their concomitant violations!
Posted by Squeers, Monday, 7 December 2009 7:36:06 PM
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George,
Thanks for your well considered, thoughtful response. I find it interesting that Tillich is mandatory reading for Catholic seminary students but I might add (and with a little tongue in cheek), as Leibnitz supposedly said, "I would walk twenty miles to listen to my worst enemy if I could learn something."

For those who are described as “anonymous Christians” it perhaps becomes more a question of insult (for them) rather than arrogance, where to be branded ‘Christian’ might place their ‘virtue’ as contrived, which is rather unfortunate but nevertheless often true. The problem of being offensive however, is as you infer, quite often unavoidable when an ‘apologia’ for belief is offered as it confronts the differing beliefs of others. Nevertheless, to find common ground is important – through process of dialogue.

You say that for you “something cannot both exist and not exist”, however, if you are to apply the Aquinas ‘model’ of God’s Aesity you must by inference, as Tillich does, say “God does not exist.” You cannot apply the following logic (as for the universe) and as you probably realise for God’s 'existence':
1. Whatever begins to exist, must have a cause of its existence.
2. The universe began to exist.
Therefore, the universe has a cause of its existence.
To apply such logic (for God's 'existence') would have a 9 year old easily state the obvious, “who caused God?” Like Shrodinger’s cat, the paradox of aesity is a classic reductio ad absurdum.

Tillich’s apologetic method of correlation is hermeneutical and is a means of interpreting religious symbols. He seeks to persuade that the Christian symbols have relevance to one’s situation and to adapt the symbols to a particular situation is to interpret them. Religious assertions are symbolic and ontological assertions are literal (a commitment to a common ontology is a guarantee of consistency, but not completeness); theology attempts to correlate the two, hence the connection between apologia and the cognitive. Whitehead's motto, however, is the best guideline for any philosopher, scientist or theologian: "We must be systematic, but we should keep our systems open."
Posted by relda, Monday, 7 December 2009 8:09:22 PM
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Squeers,

I wonder what the Buddha would have made of Quantum Mechanics and notions of particle-wave duality?

Even more so, what would be God's reality prior to any creative activity? There is no other relative to the Self and there is no subjective objectification to realise states. Herein, it would have been "I am that I am" (Exodus 3:14, stop) not "I will/shall be what I will/shall be", before the Beginning. Creation (ours or someone else's) would be not only a complement, but have blossoming of an Another Than, very much changing the nature of the Christian god. That is; before the Creation said (hypothetical) God was an objective reality unto itself, whereas for God to be a subject, requires a Creation.

[I guess Sells would have Persons and Dyads as subjects relative to eah Person of the Trinity].

For God, to know (every) thought suggests a process that linguists call productivity viz., 1,2 and to can be 21 or 11, and semantics in English. The paradox is that God might need the Creation to enable subjective objectification, yet before the Creation is assumed, presumably in an objective state, God knows the thoughts of subjective reality, before subjective reality allows it, via transitioning states.

Causing the World is also a bit like the Mind-Body problem, if one assumes the Mind is not physical (I don't, I believe it is physical), wherein physical responses are achieved, without a connection between an other-than domain and the physical domain, which responds if by magic to non-physical ante-actions.
Posted by Oliver, Tuesday, 8 December 2009 6:16:54 PM
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George,

A few days back, I was saying that we cannot defintitely know anything beyond or before physical reality. In fact our, brains are physical. What we might learn from partical physics is how the universe was caused from inside bubble. What might find are indicators of spontaneous creation such as matter coming into existence in a Higgs field or by some other knowable means if that theory is wrong. What caused the Cause is or whether the Cause even needs to be caused, is unknowable.

What we are left with is what we can know, which is either (a) we can explain how matter came into existence and how space-time inflated the unification of the forces, together its the fuzzy stuff, during the unit of Planck time or (b) we find it is beyound us for all, because it is too hard or the evidence is not there to achieve a solution.

Our brains are physical matter capable of creating concepts which might be written down and become our philosophies. To say "there are more things in heaven and earth," assumes knowledge is limited, yet Hamlet continues, "that are dreamt of in your philosophies, Horatio".
Hamlet assumes, there is a heaven, yet his thoughts are achieved with a physical brain, which is of this-realm, which would, through the firing of neurons in his brain (physical), conceive "heaven" but cannot know there is a heaven. The brains of Tillich, Augustine or Luther are physical: They believe in heaven using an instrument (the brain) which is physical and exists in the physical world and even form concepts about spectulations of the non-physical for achieving physical existence.

Inversely, if there a ghosts and ghosts are spirit, can ghosts be poltergist.

On another topic: Do gases exist or not exist in water?
Posted by Oliver, Wednesday, 9 December 2009 8:53:27 AM
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Squeers,
Thanks for the link to the paper on philosophy of mathematics. In my case it is not so much philosophy of mathematics or the content of mathematics itself that I find inspiring, but rather the practice of “doing mathematics” which is BOTH creation AND discovery (of “formal” facts); concerned with BOTH the mathematical mental world (individual as well as collective) AND with facts existing in a “Platonic world of mathematics”.

This helps me - for instance - to accept as complementary “truths” (world-view presuppositions) BOTH that “God keeps on creating (via cosmic evolution) man to His image” AND that “Man keeps on creating (ideas about) God to his image”.

relda,
Perhaps I should correct myself: I spoke to a Lutheran pastor, who never heard the name Tillich and when I mentioned this to a young priest (from East-Central Europe who studied in Switzerland) he said that they had Tillich as (mandatory or recommended) reading.

I don’t wnow whether God is “beyond essence and existence” as in your quote from Tillich, or whether God is both (aesity) as in my quote from a Thomist source. In both cases this tells me that God is a Being (being-itself) incommensurate with (particular) beings, real or imagined (including e.g. Dawkins’ Ultimate Boeing 747).

I referred to Thomism because you mentioned the pair existence-essence, although now it seems to me that Tillich was borrowing his meaning of “existence” from Heidegger rather than Acquinas. However, this is beyond my philosophical prowess to judge.

There is nothing wrong with the syllogism you quote. The problem is only with what you call “begin”, “exist”, “cause”. It is of the form
1. Whatever is A must be B.
2. The universe is A
Therefore the universe is B.

I agree that a 9-year old would not understand the possible - theological or philosophical - meanings of terms like “existence”, “cause”, “begin”. Neither would he/she understand the difference between a “being” where you can ask about its cause, and “being-itself” where you cannot, it is its own cause; at least that is how I understand Tillich’.
Posted by George, Wednesday, 9 December 2009 9:31:39 AM
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Oliver,

Thanks you continuing to challenge me. As to your first two paragraphs, I do not understand most of the contemporary theories (cosmological models) that you hint at, and I sincerely doubtn you do. Besides, the jury is still out on which one of them, and to what extent, is adequate in describing (modelling) physical reality or at least some features of it. “Creatio ex nihilo” or any other explanation of “why there is something rather than nothing” is a problem, but that is a metaphysical problem, not one that science can answer, as I already wrote.

>> brains of Tillich, Augustine or Luther are physical: They believe in heaven using an instrument (the brain) which is physical and exists in the physical world<<
So is mine, and it also exists in the physical world, nevertheless this did not prevent me from trying to understand and work with all sorts of (pure-)mathematical concepts and relations that do not exist in the physical world (see my recent post addressed to Squeers). The same about many other physical brains, much greater than mine.

There are arguments for and against Sagan’s world-view presupposition or belief (see my http://forum.onlineopinion.com.au/thread.asp?article=9389#150883), however, I think, the fact that our brain is physical is irrelevant here.
Posted by George, Wednesday, 9 December 2009 6:55:43 PM
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Oliver,
I like the Buddhist texts for their disinterested philosophy/psychology. Of course these texts were passed down orally for hundreds of years before they were written down, so for sure they were embellished---and then bowlderised as Mahayana and Zen. Yet the Buddha inspires with his renunciation of the material "and" the transcendental. I wonder whether our concepts of reality at the quantum level mean anything to most of us "today"?
I think there is room for a "somewhat" spontaneous self without the need of a God. I get the chicken or egg logic you're running (which is not to deprecate it), but I prefer the concept of the singularity, ala the cosmologists. I prefer to see the self as the aftermath of a singularity--that way I don't have to explain what went before---at which point limited self-determination may ensue.
The mind/brain seem inseparable, yet the latter "projects" the former. The brain "represents" a self to itself, it projects a virtual third person onto reality, into the world; the body is corporeal but the self or "mind" is an abstraction, a hypothetical being, a virtual interface. In this sense the mind is a non-physical extension of the physical brain. The brain steps outside itself via this ID-non-entity.
This needs far more elaboration but no room here.
One can see how the notion of the soul developed.
Conversely, assuming this representational software "evolved", what drove that existential evolution?
I don't "believe" the mind is physical or non-physical. Experiential evidence seems to be that the human being "wants to" and/or perhaps "can" transcend itself. Why does it want to? What forces initiated this human drive?
As for God--I know as much about her as I do about mathematics :-)
Posted by Squeers, Thursday, 10 December 2009 8:09:58 AM
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George,

Explaining the creation of matter from nothing is of considerable interest to scientists. I have seen/heard a demonstration and read a little on the Higgs field, yet you are correct, I understand Higgs less than say, the internal combustion engine or a cathode tube. But, I would like think I have some idea of what particle physicists are trying to achieve: i.e., to see if matter that otherwise would flicker in-and-out of existence via quantum fluctuations gaining a level permanence in a “thick” field. Yes, I know that is simplistic. Again, I appreciate transitioning from a metaphysical problem to a physical/material investigation can be problematic: e.g., Marx with Hegel. Yet, if science can demonstrate matter “pops” into existence and becomes stable, the finding would be important. “In the beginning the unified forces were physically created from nothing by the process of … .”

Hamlet usinf his brain. So we can say:

-(a) Hamlet thinks of heaven.

Otherwise,

-(b) God lives in heaven,

Bertrand Russell would note both above sentences are grammatically correct, yet only (a) is both grammatically and logically correct. Both sentences are molecular propositions, wherein to the lay eye, we have two simple sentences. Yet, propositional logic would have it that molecular forms are most properly built on from atomic forms. Hamlet, in the sentence is a true atomic subject, whereas God is a subject-predicate form (in philosophy) and not atomic and therefore no logical. God is not atomic because of how strongly “God [is ….]” is denoted in the word. “Hamlet” is clearly a noun. “God” is a value laden pronoun (in philosophy). Squeers might know more.

Changing the topic, to the earlier discourse, we know brains have thoughts. Thoughts are the product of the physical brain. A “thought” is reducible to a physical event. Plato’s thoughts on perfect forms were physical. Physically derived thought is dissimilar to the thought of Spirit achieving a physical consequence. What is thought need not be real.

“Relatedly, I believe in God,” is claimed. Asked,“Why”? My beliefs are divinely inspired”. The physical brain assumes petition principii.
Posted by Oliver, Friday, 11 December 2009 9:39:10 AM
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AXIVANTOTO IS THE CAUSE OF THE WORLD

Axivantoto is a schoolboy. What "we" think "we" perceive as "the world" is a sim he build for a computer science project. "We" are Axivantoto's homework. "We're" running on his laptop.

I hope young Axivantoto is not using Windows Vista. If he is "we're" all about to see the blue screen of death.

"YOU" THINK I'M GIBBERING?

Prove it.

Prove "we're" not living in a sim.

See:

http://www.nickbostrom.com/

One of the world'd most influential men according to the influential Foreign Policy magazine thinks "we" may be living in a sim. (He stole the idea from me)
Posted by stevenlmeyer, Friday, 11 December 2009 10:14:45 AM
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Oliver,
>> if science can demonstrate matter “pops” into existence and becomes stable, the finding would be important.<<

Vacuum fluctuations, that you obviously refer to, are important but they do not mean “popping into existence” from NOTHING (a philosophical, not scientific, term). That is just another belief in “Creatio ex nihilo” more precisely, not in creation but in self-creation. You can believe that, like you can believe the Big Bang - or some other "event" investigated by science - was God’s action of creation (as some naive theists do), or that it was just a self-creating “popping into existence”, but these are not scientific propositions, i.e. to be verified or rejected by science.

As I wrote before, “there were times when the role of religion as ersatz-science was needed and justified. Those times are (or should be) over.” And I believe that the tendency by some of us to use science as a sort of ersatz-religion is based on similar misunderstandings.

One sentence like “God lives in heaven” cannot have anything to do with “logical correctness”. Its trueness depends on how you define “God”, “lives” and “heaven”. On the other hand, the syllogism:

“God lives in heaven.
XY does not live in heaven.
Hence XY is not God”

is logically correct irrespective of how you define the terms involved.

Belief in reductionism - that thoughts, cultures, the vast variety of human mental achievements in humanities, art, science, philosophy etc., are all reducible and can be explained merely as a working of the brain - is part of a legitimate belief system that I referred to as the Sagan option. An explicit acknowledgement of this reductionism is sociobiology, perhaps best defended by E.O. Wilson in his Consilience (Abacus, 1998).

I do not want to take away your (or anybody’s) belief in reductionism (of all reality to physical reality). Actually, I see many arguments in favour of it, e.g. by E.O. Wilson, as enriching also my alternative presupposition about the nature of reality.
Posted by George, Friday, 11 December 2009 6:57:36 PM
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George,

Thank you for your reply. I will return to it soon. Busy, again. In the meantime:

When Russell uses the words like "God," he does so in a manner deliberately inconsistent with those syllogism exercise in many Philosophy 101 texts. He takes issue with the subject-predicate form of some words.

You make some interesting points. Especially, the risk of Science assuming the role of a Clayton's God. I think some popular Science writers prime this belief, perhaps, to sell books.

Yes, I was referring to vacuum fluctuations. My lay understanding is that if the Higgs Field is in the correct state that an otherwise transient particle is captured and its existence prolonged. It is this process or something like it that is being tested to be confirmed or refuted(?)in accelerator experiments.

Regards.
Posted by Oliver, Sunday, 13 December 2009 4:37:24 PM
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Steven,

No, no. It was Axivandodo, Axivantoto's elder brother, whom became exitinct in his realm long ago. Axivantoto only runs the simulation created by his brother. I know this because I received a message from the other realm and messages from the other realm are infallible.
Posted by Oliver, Sunday, 13 December 2009 4:58:40 PM
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Oliver
Here is an article on the LHC that might interest you (and others:)...in reference to your comment about the Higgs field and bosun. Not being a particle physicist I found this article quite informative and easy to understand, ah such exciting times we live in!

http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/features/2010/01/hadron-collider-201001?currentPage=1

(snip)
"In other words, the L.H.C. is a machine that will really justify itself only if it enables paradigm-shifting breakthroughs. “I hope there will be many eureka moments,” says Fabiola Gianotti, a physicist from Milan who heads the L.H.C.’s big atlas experiment. (That strenuously reverse-engineered acronym stands for “A Toroidal L.h.c. ApparatuS.”) “Whatever else,” says John Ellis, a British theoretical physicist at cern, “we should get Higgs and supersymmetry. Higgs is the bread and butter. That’s our core business.” The Higgs boson, named after the British physicist Peter Higgs, who predicted its existence in the 1960s, is the one particle predicted by the Standard Model that hasn’t yet been found. And it’s not just some stray, inconsequential leftover piece but a keystone of the whole structure: the Higgs field, associated with Higgs bosons, is imagined to be a kind of subatomic “molasses” that imparts mass to other particles passing through it. The consensus at cern is that it will probably take a few years to find the Higgs."
Posted by trikkerdee, Monday, 14 December 2009 4:20:44 PM
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trikkerdee,

Thanks. Interesting article. Breaking new frontiers is error prone and costly. I do hope it doesn't become necessary to "descope" the project, so the CERN LHC isn't used as originally intended.

I wonder, if, in the future, "time" and "casuality" will be so well understood, it becomes possible to know, whether or not, the universe is a closed to system and in a sense the notion of "a beginning" in the normal meaning of the word, becomes obsolete.
Posted by Oliver, Monday, 14 December 2009 5:16:43 PM
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George,

FYI.

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/logical-atomism/

Moreovever, Popkin elsewhere notes Russell (with Whitehead and,Wittgenstein) Aristotelian held the classical logic was limited to classes rather propositions. "God" in the way Russell uses the word (or should say Word ;-))is in a sense God is a subject and predicate. I see him reading your example as, "God [who is in heaven (and other atttibutes)]is in heaven". If I understanding Russell correctly the classical representation of the "God" is not atomic, rather it is too generalised. Further, "God" is an indefinite pronoun, wherein do we mean, Venus, Jesus or Apollo? The word is confused because of (a) its subject-prediect form and (b) its indirect denotation as to whom God refers.

Regarding the latter (b), above, in a different sense, though, Sells makes this mistake all the time in his OLO "Forum" articles. Although, it would not address the problem of classical presenation of classes, it would be clearer for Sells to say, a God, Abrahamic God, the Christian God or the Anglican God, each towards a greater degree of specificity, yet this approach still doe