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Author Topic: A Question about Religion
C3PO the Dragon Slayer
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This is why I believe atheism is a religion. Those who don't care at all about God or don't ever give a thought are not atheists, they are nonreligious. But atheists who actively evangelize for their cause are most certainly an unorganized religion.
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C3PO the Dragon Slayer
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Wow. Page five already.
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TomDavidson
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quote:
But atheists who actively evangelize for their cause are most certainly an unorganized religion.
Is that true of environmentalists, anti-abortionists, and NAMBLA? That merely telling people of your strong opinion makes you a religion?
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Javert
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quote:
Originally posted by C3PO the Dragon Slayer:
This is why I believe atheism is a religion. Those who don't care at all about God or don't ever give a thought are not atheists, they are nonreligious. But atheists who actively evangelize for their cause are most certainly an unorganized religion.

I'm actively evangelizing my cause? I thought I was just asking for you to show evidence for your claims. I guess I could be doing both.

Either way, atheism isn't a religion.

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C3PO the Dragon Slayer
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No, no, I was responding to the above comment which showed that while you argue that there is insufficient evidence for the claims made by religions, there is insufficient evidence for the claims made by atheists when they attempt to refute the claims of religions.

I believe atheism is a religion because it is a system of beliefs regarding the nature of God and a standard of morals and hypotheses that pertain to the purpose of life. Polytheists believe there are many gods, monotheists believe there is one god, and atheists believe there is no god. Each system has some way of explaining the nature of God, and therefore, atheism is a religion.

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TomDavidson
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Out of interest, what moral standards do you believe are held by all atheists? When do atheists meet, and what is their doctrine? How are they led, and who gets to decide what they believe?

Merely having a belief about God (or the lack thereof) does not constitute a religion. That's pretty much the definition of a "belief," in fact.

Atheism may, in some cases, be a belief system. I think it's a religion for very, very few people, though.

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Threads
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quote:
Originally posted by C3PO the Dragon Slayer:
The argument for God is one of very substantial evidence. Scientists scratch their heads at the order and precision of the universe. Vacuum force and gravity and electromagnetism and the difference between matter and antimatter, according to formulae developed by modern theorists, all balance out very precisely to allow particles to combine into recognizable matter, so that galaxies, stars, planets, and life can form. Estimates place the chances of this balance happening at such a slim factor that it has to be indicated by exponents over the negative exponents.

There are no valid estimates of the chance of the current distribution of constants because we don't know what causes them. If we analyzed a large number of random universes there is no guarantee that the constants would follow a uniform distribution. It is still highly curious that there appears to be little wiggle room in what constants support life, however, given how little information we have, there is no logical basis for the claim that the existence of our universe is exceedingly unlikely.

You may want to read up on the Anthropic principle. Wikipedia provides a good starting point.

quote:
Originally posted by C3PO the Dragon Slayer:
There are two explanations for this:

One: Universes are born from a common source of a higher level of dimension and structure all the time, and so many have been made that the chances became great enough to produce our Universe.

Two: The Universe was designed by a higher being with the recognition and ability to produce a Universe with such order and balance, with mathematical precision and the possibility for life.

There are clearly more than two options. In fact, given how little information we know, we could probably come up with an infinite number of theories for the origin of the universe. Anyways, the link above lists some of the most common:

quote:
* A - The absurd universe - It just happens to be that way.
* B - The unique universe - There is a deep underlying unity in physics which necessitates the universe being this way. Some 'Theory of Everything' will explain why the various features of the Universe must have exactly the values that we see.
* C - The multiverse - Multiple Universes exist which have all possible combinations of characteristics, and we naturally find ourselves within the one that supports our existence.
* D - Intelligent Design - An intelligent Creator designed the Universe specifically to support complexity and the emergence of Intelligence.
* E - The life principle - There is an underlying principle that constrains the universe to evolve towards life and mind.
* F - The self-explaining universe - A closed explanatory or causal loop: 'perhaps only universes with a capacity for consciousness can exist'.
* G - The fake universe - We are living in a virtual reality simulation.

quote:
Originally posted by C3PO the Dragon Slayer:
I find that the best explanation is a combination of the two. I won't try to guess exactly what God is made of here, but explanation #1 suggests that there was something before the beginning of any Universe that makes Universes, as does explanation #2. Either explanation cannot explain how the Universe's Creator was created, so either way we must assume a supercosmological constant exists that is able to produce Universes with varying degrees of order and precision.

If your theories were the only two options that might be the case. At the moment, however, the assumption that a universe factory must exist is unfounded.

What created the Creator? This line of questioning could go on forever and is one of the reasons why the "God made the universe" explanation is so unsatisfactory. There is no reason to believe that the universe requires a creator if the God that supposedly created it does not. It's just turtles all the way down...

quote:
Originally posted by C3PO the Dragon Slayer:
So both conclusions essentially state the same thing about the nature of the Creator. From an atheist's point of view, there is nothing but chemical and neurological if-then statements that add up, like the vastest supercomputer created, into a conscious and self-aware state of mind.

Off topic cool fact: Your statement about the mind being the "vastest supercomputer created" is true for the moment. However it will likely be overtaken by conventional supercomputers by 2015 if the current trends hold up.

quote:
Originally posted by C3PO the Dragon Slayer:
For the supercosmological constant to be able to create any universes at all, with so many factors that add up to something that is recognizable, it would have to be complex enough to either (or both) a. know what factors in the supercosmological constant must be stimulated in order to form a Universe or/and b. know what factors within a Universe must be controlled perfectly to create a Universe that has a degree of order that is accurate enough to allow life to develop.

Why would this supernatural process have to know anything? Why would it have to be "complex"? Complexity in the context you use it in generally refers to how much information a system registers. By this definition, it has already been demonstrated that complex patterns can be generated by trivial rules.

quote:
Originally posted by C3PO the Dragon Slayer:
For a. alone, the thing is automatic, a cycle that is unaware of itself and is essentially a perpetual machine.

Not quite sure what you mean here. I don't see how a mechanism for creating universes could be considered a perpetual motion machine. As far as we know, the total energy in the universe is zero. It's free lunch.

quote:
Originally posted by C3PO the Dragon Slayer:

For a. and b., we have a Creator that would create a Universe for the purpose of creating life, and the chances of this happening automatically are even slimmer than the chances of a Universe being randomly created into order and precision. Assuming this supercosmological constant is automatic cannot work if we assume a. and b.

I'm not sure where the concept of "purpose" fits in with your previous statements and, as I mentioned above, we have no basis for calculating probabilities for theories of this sort as of yet. I can't make sense of your last statement at all ("Assuming this supercosmological constant is automatic cannot work if we assume a. and b.").

quote:
Originally posted by C3PO the Dragon Slayer:

So either we have a perpetual motion machine in a higher dimension that is too simple to know what it's doing, or we have a complex entity that is complex enough to be aware of itself and, with the power of creation invested in it, want to create something in its Universes that knows of its own existence in the way it does.

As was already pointed out, this is a false dichotomy. Not believing in God does not require a higher order process that creates universes (see alternate theories listed above). Also, I see no basis for your assumptions on the possible motives of a conscious creator in creating the universe (assuming such a conscious creator exists).

quote:
Originally posted by C3PO the Dragon Slayer:
But here's why a. alone doesn't work. There is a mysterious force of pure "randomness" in the quantum realm that is shown by the uncertainty principle, the bonds between electrons, and the properties of subatomic particles that seems to be the driving force of the quantum world. This "randomness" determines whether a particle is bozon or a neutrino or graviton or whatever, and is mathematically described as a string.

The "type" of a particle is determined by the types of quarks that make it up. String theory is not accepted as fact, even by string theorists, and it is incorrect to describe the strings as "randomness". It is unclear where quantum randomness comes from (assuming thats even a valid question in the first place).


quote:
Originally posted by C3PO the Dragon Slayer:
As you zoom out of the picture, random anomalies become less out-of-proportion until you get "laws" of physics. This "randomness" is like Orson Scott Card's aiuas. In fact, almost concept-for-concept, with electron pairs staying true no matter what the distance between them is, the theory that the Universe was created by a this force, and the idea that it makes up all matter and energy and the belief that it is the driving force behind consciousness.

Not at all. Quantum entanglement cannot be used to transfer information and is therefore nothing like OSC's aiuas. I also don't see how the hierarchy between aiuas observed in the Enderverse maps to the real world.

quote:
Originally posted by C3PO the Dragon Slayer:
Even without the last of those beliefs, which is mostly just a popular media idea to toss around to the bystanders who know nothing about quantum mechanics, this force seems to be connected to the supercosmological constant that gets these Universes started. I make this connection because theorists behind the evolved "string theory" suspect that our Universe was created by a sort of quantum fluctuation, and that Universes are created all the time by such fluctuations. This is exactly the process I describe in my "supercosmological constant" hypothesis, which is a mechanism that exists above the known Universe to create many universes systematically.

Assuming that string theory is correct, I don't see how it fits in with what you said previously in your post.

quote:
Originally posted by C3PO the Dragon Slayer:

So there are only two ways a. could exclusively go. I. the supercosmological constant is a very large randomly generated mechanism that constantly fluctuates and creates Universes and is the same driving force behind what constantly changes the Universes after they are created, or II. the supercosmological constant is an automatic mechanism that not only creates Universes, but influences them randomly.

This is what Javert meant when he said your entire argument is invalidated by a false dichotomy. Those are not the only two valid theories for your "theory a" so evaluating those two options will prove nothing.

quote:
Originally posted by C3PO the Dragon Slayer:
And now we get to my favorite part. For I., you have something random from the start. But if it constantly fluctuates, then it forever changes until it fluctuates into something that self-perpetuates (in other words, God evolved from himself. In the Beginning, there was the Word and the Word was God) and then becomes complex enough to be able to think consciously the same way people have, from an evolutionist's perspective, developed consciousness from random mutations.

Um... what? Assuming what is random from the start? What do you mean by "fluctuates"? What does any of this have to do with "self-perpetuating"? God developed consciousness from random mutations in what? Why are we even talking about God if these theories are supposed to be excluding God?

quote:
Originally posted by C3PO the Dragon Slayer:
For II., you have to have something that was eternally constant, where the only fluctuations have a purpose which is to create Universes.

Again, where does the concept of a "purpose" come into play if we are talking about an "automatic process" (your own words).

quote:
Originally posted by C3PO the Dragon Slayer:
This God made himself.

I thought these theories were supposed to exclude a God. Why do you keep assuming he exists?

quote:
Originally posted by C3PO the Dragon Slayer:
For II., this is impossible if we assume the Bulk (that is, the collection of all Universes and dimensions membranes and all that exists, whether observable or not) is still driven by randomness here. Or else it was in turn designed by an even higher designer randomly, which was in turn designed by an even higher random designer, but that is just an infinite loop that makes no sense, has no end or beginning, and is an obvious weak stall atheist extremists to cling on to to hold their refusal to believe in a conscious higher being that creates and influences all of what exists.

Again, it's turtles all the way down. The existence of a conscious creator does not magically halt the endless stream of "but what created that?". Why does randomness require a "designer" but a God does not?

quote:
Originally posted by C3PO the Dragon Slayer:
So assuming II. to justify hypothesizing a. alone assumes that the Bulk's supercosmological constant is itself a purpose, not a random mechanism, that creates universes by its own function and influences what is in them by its purposeful structure. This is one heck of a structure to start out everything.

Where does this "purpose" keep coming from? Why does this supposed mechanism that creates universes require a purpose?

quote:
Originally posted by C3PO the Dragon Slayer:
But no logic can come up with any explanation for everything starting with zero, neither can any logical explanation starting with negative infinity (If you want to know why, this post is getting long, so I'll tell you only if you ask), so our premises about the Bulk starting perfectly simple and then expanding might not be true.

But either way, you see, with either assuming a. or a. and b., you have to come to the conclusion that the higher order that made our Universe, and possibly others, is conscious in the same way we are, and this does not seem to be by chance. (If it were by chance, you get the infinite loop of higher and higher constants that randomly make each other to a certain purpose, which makes absolutely no sense because it stretches to infinity and only continually decreases the chance of it being true.) Therefore, I assert, by careful logic based on modern science and the best speculation available from physicists and quantum theorists, that there is a God, and that God is one force that creates, destroys, and changes what it creates and destroys, constantly aware of himself and his actions.

What the hell??? (Sorry, that seriously made absolutely no sense to me. Most of your other stuff didn't either but I tried)
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Javert
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quote:
Originally posted by C3PO the Dragon Slayer:
No, no, I was responding to the above comment which showed that while you argue that there is insufficient evidence for the claims made by religions, there is insufficient evidence for the claims made by atheists when they attempt to refute the claims of religions.


First of all, what Tom said. [Smile]

Secondly, what claims have I made? (I can't speak for all atheists, only myself.) I've argued about the inner consistency or lack thereof of Christian doctrine, but I'm not making any claim beyond saying 'it looks like it says this'.

Beyond that, I'm saying I don't think there's good evidence to believe that a god exists.

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Dagonee
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quote:
Originally posted by Threads:
quote:
Originally posted by Dagonee:
quote:
). Humans are inherently social creatures and the Golden Rule is logically a good way at providing [partial] security in a society.
Which means that it's based on the premise that providing security in a society is a good thing.
And? Thats a premise that the average human being will instinctively accept. Again, no supernatural beings required.
Which means that there is at least one premise not subject to objective evidence that most human beings will accept. Which is my entire point: anyone who believes in morality believes that the actions of human beings should be based in very large part on some premises that are not subject to objective evidence.
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lynn johnson
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Wow. Lots of stuff happened while I was away. Most energetic discussion, very exciting.

Scott D's Prize: well, you didn't get the prize because Mary the mother of Jesus couldn't have told the story in Luke 7 because she wasn't there There is a period of Jesus' life where he and his mother are somewhat at odds ("Who are my mother and brethern?" suggests that). So, no apostles present, no one to witness the dinner.

The only reasonable explanation is that it was the prostitute herself. Thirty years later, ca. 60 AD, Luke is researching his gospel, finding all the great stuff in Luke 1 & 2 that hadn't been written down, and runs across this woman in the Christian community who tells her story. She knows the name of the giver of the dinner, and recalls the dialog. Luke preserves her anonymity. But who else could have told the story? That's what I love about Luke, it is like reading a detective story.

To me, one of the phenomenal aspects of religion is its ability to profoundly change lives. That is the proof, since, as I postulated, the universe is intriniscally ambiguous. People see the meaning they project. Robert Rosenthal showed decades ago that in scientific experiments we tend to get what we expect. The power of expectation organizes the universe.

By the way, one powerful argument in favor of viewing Near Death Experiences as representing what they appear to, aside from the veridical out-of-body perceptions, is the profound life changes they produce.

The assertion that Matthew, Mark, and John weren't there as witnesses is silly, by the way. They clearly are, unless we abandon the parsimony principle and create all kinds of unnecesary explanations.

lj

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Javert
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quote:
The assertion that Matthew, Mark, and John weren't there as witnesses is silly, by the way.
So they witnessed everything and then didn't write about it until decades later? Sounds fishy to me.
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C3PO the Dragon Slayer
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A lot of people write their memoirs late in life.
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Scott R
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quote:
Scott D's Prize: well, you didn't get the prize because Mary the mother of Jesus couldn't have told the story in Luke 7 because she wasn't there There is a period of Jesus' life where he and his mother are somewhat at odds ("Who are my mother and brethern?" suggests that). So, no apostles present, no one to witness the dinner.
I should have read Luke 7; I assumed it was the wedding party in Canaa you were talking about.

And YOU should have read Luke 7 as well; Jesus went to the home of Simon the Pharisee but it doesn't mention that none of the disciples were with him. In fact, this story is contained in all four of the gospels; and in those, at least one disciple critisizes Jesus for allowing the woman to anoint his feet, saying that it could have been sold instead, and the money given to the poor.

AND your question wasn't merely to do with Luke 7-- you'll note that you first asked who gave Luke his information. Traditionally speaking, Mary did.

I want a frikkin' prize. Stop trying to weasel out of it.

[Smile]

quote:

The only reasonable explanation is that it was the prostitute herself.

See above. I think your conclusion about who was (or was not) at the dinner is faulty. Also, Luke doesn't say she was a prostitute-- but a sinner. It doesn't change the value of the story if she was a prostitute-- but like the assertion that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute, it's not based on the text.
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Javert
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quote:
Originally posted by C3PO the Dragon Slayer:
A lot of people write their memoirs late in life.

Perhaps. I can only judge based on myself. And if I saw a guy die and come back to life, I'd be writing that down the second I got to some papyrus.
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Threads
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quote:
Originally posted by Dagonee:
quote:
Originally posted by Threads:
quote:
Originally posted by Dagonee:
quote:
). Humans are inherently social creatures and the Golden Rule is logically a good way at providing [partial] security in a society.
Which means that it's based on the premise that providing security in a society is a good thing.
And? Thats a premise that the average human being will instinctively accept. Again, no supernatural beings required.
Which means that there is at least one premise not subject to objective evidence that most human beings will accept. Which is my entire point: anyone who believes in morality believes that the actions of human beings should be based in very large part on some premises that are not subject to objective evidence.
Sorry for the confusion [Smile]
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lynn johnson
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Scott R, my hat off to you because you did read the story.

But (In my never humble opinion)there is a parallel story here. They aren't the same. Mary the sister of Martha ALSO anoints Jesus's feet, and you are conflating the two stories. The second one does occur in Matthew, Mark, John, but not the first, Luke alone has that one. Mary wasn't the "sinner" (perhaps not a prostitute, but that is the type of wickedness we men are most interested in. Right on about me reading into the text.). It doesn't say the apostles were there, although there were at the other anointing. So I still think the most simple way to explain that section is that the women herself, a reformed person, told the story, maybe twenty to thirty years after the event.

The Catholic church associated this story with the Mary anointing story, and turned Mary Magdalane into a prostitute, which really is without foundation. St. Gregory pushed that theory. The eastern church doesn't agree. He was clearly wrong. (true humility is knowing when you are right)

PRIZE: Do you want a copy of my book on how to overcome anger? It has a pretty cover, and surely you know someone who could benefit. I don't know if this board supports member-to-member messages, but I'd send you one. Otherwise, I would be glad to send you a Hearty Handshake, a great honor indeed.

I got a kick out of Javert's comment about writing it down if someone died and came back to life. That is what they did. That is exactly what differentiated Christianity from all the other messianic sects at that time. Peter was transformed, so was Paul. (The idea that the gospels were written much later is a German idea, Higher Criticism which is another term for fundamentalist materialism.) These men gave all their life and time to spreading the Good News, and the notions that the robust movement that resulted were just from forgeries seems silly. The whole Q document is a whole cloth invention of the 19th century. When people want to explain away Christianity, they always have to do Special Pleading and argue for a late date for the gospels. Ain't true.

It looks to me like Luke had to be written beforec 60 AD, probably before Jerusalem is sacked (he has easy access to the early witnesses), and certainly before Paul's demise in Rome, if that is what happened. He writes Luke and Acts in sequence. MY view is that he had Mark and likely Matthew in front of him, honoring those early witnesses, but adding his interviews with Mary the mother of Jesus Mary & Martha, and the mysterious woman at Simon's and so on.

What happened to the gnostics? They certainly were forging the heck out of things in the first century. All kinds of pseudoepigrapha. If late first century forgeries would create a lasting religion, they should have endured. I have Robinson's translation of the Nag Hamadi scriptures. Where did they all go? They died out. So I think the evidence is pretty good (not indisputable, it is always ambiguous) that Christianity is based on a man who did die and rise again, energizing his frightened disciples. IMHO.

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Javert
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quote:
I got a kick out of Javert's comment about writing it down if someone died and came back to life. That is what they did.
*cough*decadeslater*cough*
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Threads
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Lynn, there is honestly no logical correlation between the success of Christianity and the idea that Jesus rose from the dead. The evidence is not "good", it is non-existent.
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lynn johnson
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Well, that certainly qualifies as one of the biggest overstatements in history. This is the problem with trying to discuss religion. People sink to the level of blind adherence to their fundamentalist materialist position. I can have much better dialog with Muslims.

E.g.: when Dean Radin shows clear proof of PSI forces, the skeptical inquirer people simply distort the evidence. When Pim Van Lommel shows data of veridical OBE during heart attacks, Michael Shermer distorts the data and never posts a retraction. When Rupert Sheldrake publishes data that don't conform to fundamaterialism, "scientists" call for his book to be burned. All true events. And when someone makes a case for mid-first century origin of the gospels, there is no coherent answer. Scoffs are not an answer.

Here is a fairly comprehensive list of these issues.
http://www.skepticalinvestigations.org/New/Mediaskeptics/index.html
Because of my background in NDE research, the Shermer case was especially egregious.

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Threads
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Lynn, you implied that the fact that the disciples were so motivated to spread the word of Jesus is evidence for the idea that Jesus rose from the dead. Do I really need to explain in detail why that is faulty logic?

EDIT: I feel like an ass for using a rhetorical question like that so I'll try to explain here. You need to establish the credibility of the witnesses before claiming that Jesus rose from the dead. At the very least you have to establish that these disciples were actually there to witness Jesus' rise from the dead. The only supposed indication that this is true is the writings of the disciples' themselves, which, unfortunately, cannot be used. It's circular reasoning. The credibility of the writings on Jesus' rise from the dead cannot be established by using those writings. You need an independent source to verify that they were there. Regardless, after you establish that they are there you still have to resolve the problem that the number of witnesses in this case is too small to give credibility to a claim that defies the laws of physics.

Relating back to what I was getting at with my initial post, the convictions of the disciples has no relevance to Jesus' rise from the dead because they do nothing to establish the credibility of the claim. It is certainly logical that the disciples would be highly motivated to spread Jesus' word if they witnessed Jesus rising from the dead. However, A implies B does not mean B implies A (Jesus rising from the dead may imply that the disciples would be highly motivated to spread his word, but the opposite does not have to be true).

[ November 13, 2007, 12:30 AM: Message edited by: Threads ]

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Javert
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quote:
when Dean Radin shows clear proof of PSI forces, the skeptical inquirer people simply distort the evidence.
I have no idea what this is in reference to. Link?

Just for the record, I'm a skeptic too. I don't scoff. I look for and ask for evidence.

quote:
I believe in evidence. I believe in observation, measurement, and reasoning, confirmed by independent observers. I'll believe anything, no matter how wild and ridiculous, if there is evidence for it. The wilder and more ridiculous something is, however, the firmer and more solid the evidence will have to be. ~Isaac Asimov

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lynn johnson
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Javert,

You asked for evidence. Here is just a smattering.

Dean Radin has studied ESP for several years, published in peer-reviewed journals. There can be no doubt that ESP exists. The effect size is quite small but consistent. The better the design, the larger the effect size (Mean1-Mean2/pooled standard deviation = Effect Size, or D). So the skeptics that I linked to basically ignore the research because there cannot be ESP.
His website:
http://www.deanradin.com/
Wikipedia's writeup
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dean_Radin

Note the "skeptic" analysis
http://skepticreport.com/pseudoscience/radin2002.htm
Basically the report is what it claims Radin does, pseudoscience, pulling conjectures out of thin air to explain away the data.

Another example is the relatively famous debate between Jessica Utts and Ray Hyman regarding remote viewing. Utts, a statistician, comes into the data apparently unbiased. Hyman has a very large ax to grind, so in spite of Utts finding significance in the data, Hyman stubbornly persists in hiding his head in the sand.
http://anson.ucdavis.edu/~utts/may.html
That is a pretty good summary of the debate.

The bottom line: the universe seems to have some pretty strange stuff in it, and the scientists who dare to pursue it are persecuted.

See this article for the "book burning" comment on Sheldrake.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rupert_Sheldrake

Well, thanks for the thoughtful question. I appreciate your being willing to learn. By the way, the Asimov quote is something I have always disagreed with. For me, evidence is evidence. It doesn't have to be firmer or more solid, just because it contradicts my current view of the world. That is unacceptable to me because it would imply my view of the world is complete enough to throw out data that don't fit. Read Radin's book, "the entangled universe" for a pretty good review of the rather substantial - firm and solid - data.

Finally, if you are still interested, read van Lomel's reply to Shermer, which the Scientific American refused to print. A shameful lack of integrity, both before (Shermer had to know he was distorting the data, or he is a lot dumber than I thought) and after (when van Lommel provided a correction).
http://www.nderf.org/vonlommel_consciousness.htm

HOpe that addresses the questions.

Threads, the only extant naturalistic study is "when prophecy fails" but they didn't follow up for 2 millenia (wry face). Even though the initial reaction was to convert others, the movement did fall apart. On the other hand, persistent and long-term personality change is evidence that something significant happened. You keep ignoring my central point: all such evidence is equivocal, and you have to project your own meaning onto it. Did you google Robert Rosenthal? You project your meaning, I project mine. You are more certain that you are right. Hum . . .

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lynn johnson
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Threads,
I responded before reading your edit, which was considerably more gentlemanly. I am warmed and appreciative.

But again, I disagree with your premise. I don't have to establish any such credibility, since I have personally talked to people who have had extensive interviews with a living Jesus Christ. Because some of them have veridical OBE perceptions, and for a host of other reasons too numerous to hijack the thread, I simply chose to believe them. Others chose otherwise. God bless them.

Or, someone could pray, if they were more spiritually attuned and gifted than I, and receive a direct answer themselves. Sort of like the famous C.S. Lewis conversion.

Or they could simply note that they are happier and healthier and more whole (whole-er?) when they are attending church and praying and the like. Everyone's path is different. William James: pragmatism. Read Varieties of Religious Experience on that, a masterful work that holds up exceptionally well.

Or they could follow Dean Radin's investigations into paranormal perception.

Or . . . or . . . or . . . There are as many pathways as there are people, one for each. If your path is that of non-belief, again, God bless you in it. According to Matt 25:33ff, the key is not belief (as most protestents would say) or sacraments (as catholics would say) but service to our fellow men and women. As my associate Howard Storm says, "I didn't go to hell because I was an atheist. I went to hell because I was an egotistical, cruel, self-centered atheist. I believe there will be atheists in heaven."

I believe that too. So I only would encourage you to serve others, and not worry about the existence of God. In that way, you do God's work, like my other friend (yes, I have two of them) Howard Bloom, a firm atheist who has told me more than once that he is doing God's work.
www.howardbloom.net

Bless you my son/daughter.
lj

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Threads
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Lynn, I greatly appreciate your kind words (which were much kinder than mine! Mine were merely civil!) and especially appreciate the recognition that one can be atheist and also be moral. I feel that the main differences between the average Christian and myself are not moral but rather spiritual.

quote:
Or they could simply note that they are happier and healthier and more whole (whole-er?) when they are attending church and praying and the like. Everyone's path is different. William James: pragmatism. Read Varieties of Religious Experience on that, a masterful work that holds up exceptionally well.
I totally understand this viewpoint. As an atheist I don't believe in a higher purpose to life so I see enormous value in being happy during the short lives that we have. When I started evaluating my own beliefs regarding life, God, etc. I decided that my top two priorities in life are to be happy and to practice beneficence.
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Scott R
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quote:
But (In my never humble opinion)there is a parallel story here. They aren't the same. Mary the sister of Martha ALSO anoints Jesus's feet, and you are conflating the two stories. The second one does occur in Matthew, Mark, John, but not the first, Luke alone has that one.

Nah. Look at the language used-- this was a unique occurrence. You'll especially note that the Pharisee whose soiree Jesus was attending was named in each account, and has the same name in each.

There's a lot more evidence in the text for all four stories being the same story, with Luke missing out on some details, and adding in a parable, then there is that this happened to Jesus twice.

quote:
Mary wasn't the "sinner" (perhaps not a prostitute, but that is the type of wickedness we men are most interested in.
I don't think this is a true statement.
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Javert
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quote:
There can be no doubt that ESP exists.
It's statements like these that are really interesting to me.

There can be no doubt? Really? Then why are people even bothering to continue studying it?

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Scott R
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Let me also note my skepticism about near death experiences and out of body experiences. While I don't deny that such things may happen, I'm highly skeptical about the validity of every single occurrence.

I'm also skeptical about the importance of such things.

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Scott R
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quote:
There can be no doubt? Really? Then why are people even bothering to continue studying it?
Well, gravity exists. There's no doubt about it. But we still study it.

Why do we bother?

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Javert
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quote:
Originally posted by Scott R:
quote:
There can be no doubt? Really? Then why are people even bothering to continue studying it?
Well, gravity exists. There's no doubt about it. But we still study it.

Why do we bother?

Gravity is just a theory.

(I'm so sorry...but I had to. [Big Grin] And just to be clear, the joke is not meant, necessarily, about you Scott.)

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Scott R
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[Smile]
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Scott R
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Thinking on this a little bit-- the reason I'm skeptical about NDE's and psychic phenomenon is largely related to my impressions of the people who claim to experience these phenomena. In which case, I'm judging a set of "facts" by the practitioners thereof.

(I have a really big chip on my shoulder against people who claim to speak to the dead-- and use their ability to bilk money out of widows and grieving families)

Hm... do you think there is a correlation for atheists? If believers were all good people, would there be fewer atheists?

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Javert
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quote:
Originally posted by Scott R:
Hm... do you think there is a correlation for atheists? If believers were all good people, would there be fewer atheists?

I don't think there would be. And it depends on what you mean by 'good'.

You (the general 'you') could be a perfectly good person, and want to force your religious beliefs on me because you think they are correct and you're looking out for me. So your intentions would be good, anyway. But your actions wouldn't be.

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Threads
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quote:
Originally posted by Scott R:
quote:
There can be no doubt? Really? Then why are people even bothering to continue studying it?
Well, gravity exists. There's no doubt about it. But we still study it.

Why do we bother?

To be fair, nobody studies whether or not gravity exists anymore. People study what causes it. The same cannot be said for ESP because it has not been established conclusively that it is a real phenomenon.

On OBEs:
There has been some success in recreating Out-of-body experiences in lab settings, so it seems more likely that they are hallucinations rather than true "spiritual world" experiences.

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Javert
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Not to dogpile on Lynn, but in regards to OBEs: I don't think there's much debate about people having the sensation of leaving their bodies. The question remains, are they actually doing so?

I have heard of many tests where they've put an object, for example, on top of a dresser near the bed of the subject, so that if they leave their body and are over the bed they would be able to see it. But as far as I've researched, they're never able to do so.

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C3PO the Dragon Slayer
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Out-of-body experiences are the result of playing too many third-person video games [Laugh]

On a more serious note, I will respond to what was said above regarding my deductions on the Universe's origin. It's just a lot to go through. I'm putting it on Apple Pages to get it all sorted through.

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lynn johnson
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Javert, thanks for your interest. Did you read through some of Jody and Jeff Long's site, www.nderf.org, or have you been to www.iands.org and seen some of the evidence?

The problem is that if you read the skeptical inquirer stuff, you find what they want you to find. That is the point of the skeptical investigations page. The skeptical folks are often dishonest. Sorry, but the record is clear. I already referenced Shermer and Scientific American.

Now as to the content: one part of your answer is in veridical (true) perceptions. There are too many examples of that to doubt it. Mike Sabom, for example, found in his studies that was an earmark. Did you read Pim van Lommel's answer to Shermer? He deals with that.

The best starting point might be the book, "Ghost Hunters: William James and the search for .*" (I can't recall the rest of the title now. Deborah Blum is the author. She's a science writer. Then read Dean Radin's Entangled Universe. Read up on Rupert Sheldrake.

Well, I have to go back to work. Thanks for the interesting dialog. I hope I am contributing something.

Threads, you are certainly on the right track. Be happy and kind. Things will work out. Let's get together after we both die, and we'll have a really great conversation.

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Puppy
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Javert:

quote:
Which is exactly why religious belief is so potentially dangerous. When you start basing actions on your own personal subjective evidence, with no care for objective evidence, you start down the path where you can justify anything.

Now, I understand that you do care about object evidence. However, I believe you are putting far too much stock in the subjective. Putting stock in the subjective can lead to treating the subjective on equal footing with the objective, and eventually lead to giving it precedence over the objective. Which is what religious extremists do.

I would never say that you were a religious extremist, Puppy. But at the core, what you use to justify the tenants of the LDS Church and what extremists use to justify their actions are the same animal.

As far as factual claims go, I see very little threat in different, subjective ideas being accepted (tentatively or otherwise) by a wide variety of people. Some people believe in the Great Flood, literally as described in Genesis. Some have different interpretations, and some reject it altogether. These people live happily in the same neighborhood, and wave to each other on the street. When they enter into scientific pursuits, their work is constrained by the rules of science, but in their personal lives, most such things are really irrelevant. I'm not threatened by the young-earth creationist, the die-hard atheist, or the hippie Atlantis guru. Their subjective beliefs are their own when it comes to factual claims.

Moral claims are the riskier area, but one of the biggest risks is in the failure to recognize that subjective moral claims (as I define them, as statements of what a person "should" or "should not" do) are not unique to religion. Neither is extremism. I've seen Libertarians, for instance, who scared me way more than any creationist [Smile] ... and rightly so. The beliefs that define a Libertarian are all "shoulds" and "should nots", while the beliefs that define a creationist are all "dids" and "did nots".

Extremism, in my estimation, is a set of behaviors that we should all align against, both atheists and the-theists. (I feel a weird need to add a syllable to the word "theists" when setting up a contrast with "atheists").

Extremist behavior includes (but is not limited to) enforcing promulgation of belief through legislation, violence, censorship, or other compulsory means (seen among some creationists and Islamic extremists, but also among other political and social groups), scapegoating and demonizing enemies (seen most violently in recent history among the areligious Nazis and Communists of the twentieth century, as well as among racist groups), and violently quashing dissent.

These are behaviors that are not inherent to religion. They are not limited to religion. And they are not the inevitable result of religion. At most, they have been associated with religion historically, but as we've seen in the last century, the removal of religion from the equation seems to do nothing to diminish the violent effects of extremism. If anything, we've seen more terrible behavior from areligious extremists in the past hundred years than we've seen from religious ones.

This is where the "religion is dangerous! make it go away!" argument falls apart to me. We've done experiments now in which we have raised armies of extremists without religion, it seems to be no more difficult to do so, and the effects seem to be as bad or worse. It seems pretty clear that the whole question of eliminating religion is a red herring. In the end, you'll just have political organizations and other idealistic groups doing every single bad thing you associate with religion, only without a benevolent God or moral conscience to appeal to in opposition to their extremism [Smile]

King of Men:

quote:
Very well, let us use this analogy. Suppose the nutters who think games cause school shootings were shown to be absolutely and completely correct. Suppose they were able to trace an exact causality from your code (or design, or whatever part of making games it is you do) to some hapless student firing his Kalashnikov at the rest of his school. Would you still assert your desire to be a game designer?
As I've noted above, I do not believe that such a causal link can be made between religion and the ills of the world, so my answer is kind of moot [Smile] But I do believe that religious people all need to answer first to their own consciences, and their behavior should always be judged by that standard. If my religion is encouraging me to do something terrible, then I am responsible for the harm I am doing, and if I'm any kind of good person, I'll stop, though it might be a terrible moral struggle for me to do so. And I'd feel the same way about game design.

But since you have not (and I believe you cannot) demonstrate that my pursuit of religion causes any such harm, this seems like an irrelevant digression.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
The skeptical folks are often dishonest.
In my experience, the credulous ones are more often dishonest.
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steven
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Yeah, but I've caught a few diehard skeptics in lies.
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TomDavidson
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Whereas you've never caught a quack?
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lynn johnson
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Tom, take a look at the page I presented:
http://www.skepticalinvestigations.org/New/Mediaskeptics/index.html

You didn't deal with the Shermer case, which broke my heart because I wanted to believe the best about him, and wanted to believe that _Scientific American_ was a scientific magazine.

The other heart-break was reading Blum's _Ghost Hunters_ and seeing how shabbily several well-known main-stream psychologists treated William James and his colleagues.

Tom, I didn't intend to set up a competition about who is more dishonest. That is not the point. The point is that we all have axes to grind. Some axes are bigger than others. People like Shermer who have made their profession skepticism have very large axes. That makes them dangerous because we all tend to select facts that fit our ideas. But when we start to twist the facts, that is very upsetting to me, especially when those twisting the fact purport to be scientists or apologists for science.

I personally have never caught a religious person in such an egregious lie as the one I mentioned. That means, in a national magazine of considerable stature. On a personal level people lie to me, and I suppose I lie or misrepresent myself to them. I don't know how to completely avoid that. But when I write a scientific paper, I try very hard to be rigorous. Not all do.

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steven
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"Whereas you've never caught a quack?"

That isn't the point. You've seen me go after religious folks before. Not that they deserved it, entirely.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
You didn't deal with the Shermer case, which broke my heart because I wanted to believe the best about him, and wanted to believe that _Scientific American_ was a scientific magazine.
You're applying the wrong burden of proof. It is not necessary to prove that all skeptics are honest in order to prove that, for example, ESP is real; the two questions are completely unrelated.

quote:
People like Shermer who have made their profession skepticism have very large axes.
And people whose professions rely entirely upon the gullibility of others -- like "psychics," "mystics," and holistic "healers" -- are surely just as invested. The question is whether the extraordinary claims of the latter group can be reproduced reliably in controlled situations; so far, no such qualified evidence has ever been produced.

It's also worth noting that the page to which you linked is, well, full of crap. Useful ad hominems like calling James Randi an "angry man" and bald assertions like "there is ample evidence of telepathy" (meant as a rebuttal to Shermer's claims of the opposite) stand in the place of actual information, and certainly don't discredit the "media skeptics" -- who are, by the way just that: media skeptics, many of whom are not scientists themselves, and many of whom are former "parapsychologists" (and therefore definitionally not mentally rigorous) -- to the extent that the authors of the piece must think they do.

quote:
I personally have never caught a religious person in such an egregious lie as the one I mentioned. That means, in a national magazine of considerable stature.
Do you believe that statues all over India began drinking milk a few years ago?
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Scott R
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Tom's got a lot of good points in that post.
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King of Men
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[/QUOTE]As I've noted above, I do not believe that such a causal link can be made between religion and the ills of the world, so my answer is kind of moot [Smile] But I do believe that religious people all need to answer first to their own consciences, and their behavior should always be judged by that standard. If my religion is encouraging me to do something terrible, then I am responsible for the harm I am doing, and if I'm any kind of good person, I'll stop, though it might be a terrible moral struggle for me to do so. And I'd feel the same way about game design.

But since you have not (and I believe you cannot) demonstrate that my pursuit of religion causes any such harm, this seems like an irrelevant digression. [/QB][/QUOTE]

The answer to a hypothetical question cannot be moot, since the question specified "Assuming X" in the first place. It may be un-interesting if the hypothetical was sufficiently unlikely ("Assuming you are actually a pink, female monkey with a laser cannon...") but it's not moot.

Apart from that, at least N-1 religions where N is the number of religions that claim sole access to truth are causing people to believe untrue things, which I think we can both agree is harmful.

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Scott R
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quote:
at least N-1 religions where N is the number of religions that claim sole access to truth are causing people to believe untrue things, which I think we can both agree is harmful.
Well, I don't know who you're arguing with, but I don't agree.

I think that it's entirely possible to be happy, healthy, and socially functional, and still believe in things that aren't true. For example, Tom is an agnostic-- despite the fact that he's wrong about God, he's still happy, reasonably healthy, and as far as I know, he functions well in society.

His belief does not cause him harm, despite it's not being true.

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Puppy
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King of Men, I think we can safely assume that everyone in the world believes things that are untrue, as will all human beings throughout the rest of future history. We do our best, but we get things wrong all the time, no matter what standards we apply to potential incoming knowledge. I don't think that this constitutes "harm".

It would be harmful to science if we lost the scientific values of skepticism and objective reasoning, and if science is harmed, then that harm will be transmitted to individuals. But I'm not suggesting that we should change the way we do science to accomodate religion. I'm only suggesting that individuals and communities should be allowed to pursue knowledge through faith and subjective reasoning, and can gain things through that process that I consider valuable including the religious community that I belong to.

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JLM
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quote:
Originally posted by lynn johnson:

... and wanted to believe that _Scientific American_ was a scientific magazine.


I used to subscribe to Scientific American, but when it became obviously apparant that the staff was more interested in advocating their socieo-political agenda and preaching to the choir than reporting on a diverse range of real scientific inquiries, I canceled my subscription.
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King of Men
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quote:
Originally posted by Puppy:
King of Men, I think we can safely assume that everyone in the world believes things that are untrue, as will all human beings throughout the rest of future history. We do our best, but we get things wrong all the time, no matter what standards we apply to potential incoming knowledge. I don't think that this constitutes "harm".

I do. And what's more, your argument apparently hinges on "We are going to get some stuff wrong anyway, so why sweat another few doctrines?" Well, in the first place, the claims of religion are a pretty big thing to get wrong. And in the second place, being unable to get things 100% right is not a reason to stop striving to do so. I mean, duh, why am I even telling a religious person that?

quote:
It would be harmful to science if we lost the scientific values of skepticism and objective reasoning, and if science is harmed, then that harm will be transmitted to individuals. But I'm not suggesting that we should change the way we do science to accomodate religion. I'm only suggesting that individuals and communities should be allowed to pursue knowledge through faith and subjective reasoning, and can gain things through that process that I consider valuable including the religious community that I belong to.
Fine. My subjective reasoning requires me to badger you when you believe things that are obviously wrong. Repent, or else.
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Dagonee
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quote:
Fine. My subjective reasoning requires me to badger you when you believe things that are obviously wrong. Repent, or else.
There's probably medication you can take for that.
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