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Author Topic: Religion | Science | Big Rocks | Suffering
Leto II
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"The problem, I think, is that faith has become a heresy in the secular worldview. To say that you bridged the gap with faith is to say you've abandoned reason."

ZING!

Well put, Amka.

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TomDavidson
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The thing is, it's not a zinger. It's literally correct. To say that you have faith in a belief despite a complete lack of evidence IS to abandon reason.

I suspect that most people do NOT have faith for this reason. Most people rationalize their faith, like LadyDove, or have experienced something that causes them to believe.


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Cianwn
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In most areas of life, the application of faith is not regarded as a respectable way of reaching a conclusion...Because most of those areas are ones where people take the time to do research, find supporting details, and make a step-by-step construction toward their ultimate goal or decision. There are a few, like religion, that aren't subject to the same stringent guidelines, but usually, it is considered bad form to try to back up something with "because I have faith in it."
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Jon Boy
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quote:
To say that you have faith in a belief despite a complete lack of evidence IS to abandon reason.

But IS there a complete lack of evidence? What qualifies as evidence, anyway? I would argue that faith is not abandoning reason, but rather making conclusions based on something beyond reason.

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Cianwn
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Jon Boy, ask yourself this, would you be willing to use the same kind of decision-making in an area outside of religion? As in the example I gave earlier, would you hire a stockbroker on faith that he does a good job, or would you want to hear from current and former customers about the results of his investing advice? The wise consumer would not go on faith unless he is prepared to lose his money.
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TomDavidson
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"I would argue that faith is not abandoning reason, but rather making conclusions based on something beyond reason."

No, I wouldn't even accept that definition, at least not based on people who identify themselves as faithful. Most faithful I know are, as I said earlier, faithful for a reason; they believe that they've had some experience that verifies their theories, or that it's somehow "worth" believing for a short list of reasons despite the lack of hard evidence. There are very few people whose faith is so unexamined, in my experience, that they haven't at least looked at the evidence and the alternatives out there.

The key here, though, is that THEIR evidence -- like personal communication with God, gut feelings, and the like -- is not scientific evidence. You can't measure it. You can't really test it. There's no way to create a control group. It's evidence, but it's the kind of evidence that one person abducted by aliens might have; HE believes in aliens now, but what can he say to persuade anyone else?

Is it UNREASONABLE for someone who clearly remembers an alien abduction to believe in aliens? Should he believe himself to be deluded? Was it a hallucination? How can he tell?

He has to make a conscious decision to come down on one side or the other -- and, to me, THIS is faith.


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Cianwn
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I saw a great T-shirt once...It bore the statement, "When you talk to god, it's called praying, but when god talks to you, it's called schizophrenia."
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Amka
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You abandon reason only when it becomes clear that it is not merely a gap in logic or knowledge, but an actual contradiction between evidence and belief.


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TomDavidson
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"You abandon reason only when it becomes clear that it is not merely a gap in logic or knowledge, but an actual contradiction between evidence and belief."

See, this is the hard part for me: believing so much in some other personal, unscientific experience that I'm willing to discount TRULY scientific evidence in order to cling to my belief. Perhaps this IS a workable definition of true faith -- but it just kind of distresses me, because I'm hard-pressed to distinguish it from self-delusion once it goes this far.


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Jon Boy
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I'm a little confused as to why you don't accept that definition, Tom. If we're saying that spiritual experiences are irrational, then isn't that the same as saying that they're beyond reason? I certainly wouldn't say that I abandoned reason when I gained faith. I think faith is something apart from reason, so you don't need to abandon reason to have faith. Like several people have said earlier, science and faith are not mutually exclusive.
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TomDavidson
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"If we're saying that spiritual experiences are irrational, then isn't that the same as saying that they're beyond reason?"

The thing is, I'm NOT saying they're irrational. People who believe they've had a spiritual experience have had a perfectly rational experience; they felt a stimulus, interpreted it in some way, and drew a conclusion. That it's not scientifically reproducible is a completely different issue.


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Amka
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"See, this is the hard part for me: believing so much in some other personal, unscientific experience that I'm willing to discount TRULY scientific evidence in order to cling to my belief."

Thats an extreme, Tom. Like Lust and lust.


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Cianwn
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Lots of people cling to irrational beliefs in the face of scientific evidence. It's fact that the earth is several billion years old, yet many people still cling to the idea that it was created 6k-10k years ago because of a holy text whose account of creation has no external verification.
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fugu13
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"Its fact" is actually more philosophically problematic than you make it. You cannot prove false, or even provide evidence which suggests otherwise, that the reality we perceive in our brains is a total illusion, generated by a sophisticated "computer" system that connects us all together. The reason is that any attempt to disprove the account can be absorbed by the account. If you say, but there's nothing to suggest it, thats merely because its a perfect simulacrum. If you say that nothing could process that fast, I submit that obviously our collective brains are.

Now, if you mean its a fact in the scientific sense, you are right. But science doesn't deal in Truth, which are things which are true, it deals in observable phenomenon, and what we observe tells us that if what we observe is true, the earth is billions of years old.

However, until you come up with a way to test against perfect simulacra theories and their ilk (a test which is definitionally impossible), you can't assert a claim to hold the Truth.


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Scott R
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I would just like to say that religious debates at 1:30 a.m. are, in fact, dichotymous proof of man's insanity and reason.
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Cianwn
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Fugu, there's no logically sound argument that can be made that the earth is younger than several billion years. Since we are beings of reason and intelligence, those are the best tools we have for investigation, and they are the ones which have yielded the evidence I speak of. Science may not come out and say "it's 100% universal truth" but when something becomes part of the foundation of scientific thought, it is considered to be so probable it might as well be truth. In light of what we've been able to discover, it's just silly to say that the earth isn't that old. It's rather like saying the different "races" of humanity are separate species...the argument just holds no water.

[This message has been edited by Cianwn (edited January 27, 2003).]


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fugu13
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You misunderstand science. Science says absolutely nothing about Truth (the big, absolute, no holds barred type). The only thing science discusses are conclusions that may be drawn from observed phenomena (and not even all of those). I cannot provide evidence that there is no earth in Reality (similar to Truth), but you can't provide any evidence there is, and not just a collective perfect hallucination. However, you can provide evidence that we observe something with certain characteristics, call this phenomenon the earth, and say that if certain other ideas we have about time are true, then if the earth is consistent with our observations (which it should be), it is x years old.

However, that does not preclude the possibility that this is all a perfect simulacrum that started yesterday, or that you are not experiencing a perfect hallucination, and anything you're talking about (including the earth) is similarly unreal.


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Cianwn
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Arguing about hallucinations, while it's certainly a possibility, isn't really all that probable. In that vein, start with the idea that we exist somewhere, and what we can record with our senses in the physical world has some significance. Apply Occam's Razor. It's obviously much simpler to say that if the evidence shows the earth to be 4+ billion years old, than it is to say, well some things would lead us to conclude that but really it's all a big cosmic hoax...
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Tresopax
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quote:
There's no way to create a control group. It's evidence, but it's the kind of evidence that one person abducted by aliens might have; HE believes in aliens now, but what can he say to persuade anyone else?

I don't think we should base the rationality of our beliefs on our capacity to convince others of it, though. You have to base your reasoning on everything you know - you can't throw out anything subjective, that only you know about. That's some of the most important evidence, and I don't think it would surprise anyone if throwing out such evidence would skew your conclusions. We live a subjective existence and, though it makes for difficulty in convincing other people, that is nevertheless just the way it is.

We know nothing with surety, yet have to make beliefs and opinions to survive and go about our lives. That's the life we are stuck. It's kind of sad on one hand, but on the other hand, it means nothing is impossible.


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LadyDove
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quote:
He has to make a conscious decision to come down on one side or the other -- and, to me, THIS is faith.

Tom-
I like your definition.

Believing that a mathematical improbability created life, in all it's variety, doesn't feel rational to me. It leaves too much to chance.

I've lived through many painful years in my life. I tried to reject my belief in God: "If there is a God, and if I'm His creation, why would He let this happen to me. Does He not care? Is He a sadist? Does He enjoy watching me suffer? Watching my brothers suffer? Is He placing bets with the angels to see which of us crumbles first?"

I went through all these thoughts many times, but my heart said that creating life is the antithesis of destroying. If there is a God, He doesn't thrive on destruction. So, there must not be a God or He wouldn't allow all the pain in the world.

This conclusion had nothing to back it up accept for the anger and frustration of feeling helpless. There was no proof that God did not exist.

At some point I made the decision to accept that I didn't "know" if there was a supreme being, but I "knew" I didn't believe in that a chance combination of chemicals and energy created the vast variety of lifeforms.

I stopped fighting to prove to myself that God didn't exist, and suddenly I "knew" He does. My evidence: I never feel alone.

As far as why people suffer and die. I don't know.

My suffering has made me who I am and it equipped me to help the people I care for. It has also made me cynical and robbed me of that blind, playful trust I so envy in those who had a "childhood".

I can see no reason why your Aunt died. In fact, I don't know why lifeforms are created with an expiration date at all. But my lack of knowledge doesn't mean that there was no reason, nor does it mean that EVERY action is directed by an unseen hand.

These are things I don't know, but they are not PROOF that God isn't there or doesn't care.

BTW all-Sorry if this rambled.


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Cianwn
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One question for you, LadyDove, if you will. What do you say to people who conclude there is no god based on the fact that they feel alone all the time?
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ae
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quote:
stopped fighting to prove to myself that God didn't exist, and suddenly I "knew" He does.

Funny. A little over a year ago I stopped fighting to prove to myself that God did exist.

I'm one of those not-so-hypothetical people Cianwn describes.


ae


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Leto
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But, ae, while it's not necessarily the straw-breaker for existance, it would also be ridiculous to use it as a proof of non-existence. It means you don't see (or feel) things the way some certain others would. Would you tell a person who is colorblind that they are just fooling themselves, since you can see colors different than they? (and this is only an analogy of perception, not one of doctrine, theology, dogma, or what-have-you)
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Jacare Sorridente
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I admit it- I read the first few and last few posts and skipped the rest simply because I like this thread and would like to participate without spending all day. So if what I am about to say has already been said.. <shrug>

With that disclaimer-

To my mind there need be no contention between science and religion (in the general philosophical sense) because the two do not generally speak to the same thing. Science can pretty much speak only to processes and not motivations. For example, science can help explain how the earth was formed but not why it was formed. When scientists make the leap from processes to ultimate motivations then their opinions are not to be considered science. If, for example, a scientist states that their is no purpose to the universe and that everything came about by chance then he has left the realm of science and entered that of religion.

By the same token, it never ceases to amaze me what Christians (and I include Mormons in that list) insist on reading into the scriptures. For example, many, many christians will fight tooth and nail against the idea of evolution. Why? Because the Bible says that God created the animals.

But here is the kicker... where exactly does it say how he did it? I get the feeling that many people think that in order for the creation to be sufficiently miraculous it had to invlove nothing more than God saying a word and *poof* it occurred like in a David Copperfield show. In my own theology it makes sense that since God is God precisely because he knows all of the laws that govern the universe he would act in accordance with those laws.


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fugu13
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Occam was a devout christian, and if you read his work you will find that according to him, the simplest explanation was always God did it. Which is quite true. Assuming someone all powerful to be in charge resolves all difficulties, theories, etc, especially if you assume him to be active, as Occam did.

Pick a different razor.

For Ladydove (she may very well already realize this), I'd like to point out that once there was even the most primitive of life on earth, things were no longer truly random (not that they were before, but there's no reason to believe they were beneficial) because of regulating pressures that worked towards improved survival on the part of this primitive life. This evolution has absolutely nothing to say about how life began, merely about how it changes, so its perfectly possible to believe God is the creator of all life without disbelieving in evolution one iota.

[This message has been edited by fugu13 (edited January 27, 2003).]


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Aelysium
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I never said it was, Leto. What you're saying in your post was really my point to begin with. Well, not my point [iper se[/i], but my reasoning behind the point.


ae


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TomDavidson
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"Occam was a devout christian, and if you read his work you will find that according to him, the simplest explanation was always God did it."

Except that Occam failed to consider that the existence of an omnipotent being was ITSELF a complicating factor.


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fugu13
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Quite true, but not of the explanation. It simplifies all explanations, but complicates the universe.
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littlemissattitude
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JonBoy asked: "What qualifies as evidence, anyway?"

I think this is the crux of the problem here, or at least a main problem whenever people argue/discuss religion and connected issues. This includes philosophy, politics, law and science, too. People have always argued over what sort of evidence is really evidence. Attorneys do this every day in court. We're hearing the same sort of thing every day on the news in relation to the Iraq situation. Skeptics of every stripe are very fond of the saying (Carl Sagan may have used it first, but I'm not sure) that "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." Nearly anyone who believes in anything strongly is apt to go easier on evidence that tends to prove what they believe as opposed to evidence that tends to disprove what they believe. I don't personally believe that any of this is going to change any time soon. This means that discussions like this, while illuminating, interesting, and a whole lot of fun, probably won't lead to any mutually acceptable conclusions. Which is okay; I've always believed that the journey is more important than the destination.

Also, to dkw - I just began reading Ian Barbour's book which you recommended. Good stuff.


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Leto
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quote:
I never said it was, Leto. What you're saying in your post was really my point to begin with.

Well, in that case, I can say that I agree.

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LadyDove
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quote:
What do you say to people who conclude there is no god based on the fact that they feel alone all the time?

I think that rather than proving the existence of God, many people are actually trying to prove the character of God.

For me, life created by design made more sense than life created by chance. I made a decision; since I couldn't prove either, I chose to believe the the second answer. For me, this is truth.

Yet I don't KNOW who this creator is, or even if He still exists. I think that the rest of my beliefs about God are a projection of what I believe a good father/mother would be to it's creation. I admit that this projection is what I think of when I think of God and this is the unexamined portion of my faith.

Since I believe in God, really believe, I turn to Him when I need help. I accept the possibility that someday, someone may prove that I've only been using prayer to channel that stronger more resourceful portion of my own character. In the meantime, until PROVEN otherwise, I feel the comfort of God when I seek it.


fugu-
Of course I believe in evolution- I've raised plants and animals all my life. But don't you need to combine many different variants to create the wealth of lifeforms on this planet?

[This message has been edited by LadyDove (edited January 27, 2003).]


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fugu13
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No. Thats the simple answer, at least. Basically, there is significant evidence that life started out with a few, extremely simple life forms, that gradually evolved. We even have very good ideas as to how the rise in complexity occurred, hints coming from such things as mitochondria, the fossil record, bone structure, and DNA. The further back we go, the harder it is to make guesses, but we can make some pretty good ones. For instance, there is strong evidence that amphibians evolved from fish, that reptiles evolved from amphibians, and that mammals evolved from reptiles. There is good evidence that more complex sea life evolved from simpler sea life, which evolved from simpler sea life, presumably back to single celled organisms (we have much less evidence for this assumption, but good reasons for why it wouldn't exist). Evolutionary theorists have spent a lot of time studying the phenomenon, both in real life, in the lab, and in computer simulations, and the basic result is that once there is even a simple instance of something that may recombine in many combinations, such as RNA or DNA, anything can happen.
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Cianwn
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LadyDove,

I applaud you for your honestly and sincerity in posting what you did. I think your concept of god and the purpose of god/prayer/belief reflect a very carefully thought out approach - and a result that works well for you while acknowledging that there might yet be more that none of us know. To me, it seems that self-defined beliefs like yours hold more meaning to the believer in the long run, than a person who has adopted, but not personalized a system of belief.

Having read your latest post, what kind of comfort is there for a person who has searched for a god and honestly concludes that there isn't one?

[This message has been edited by Cianwn (edited January 27, 2003).]


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TomDavidson
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"what kind of comfort is there for a person who has searched for a god and honestly concludes that there isn't one?"

After nearly two decades of asking myself this question, I've come up with an answer: learn to like people.

[This message has been edited by TomDavidson (edited January 27, 2003).]


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Leto II
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Don't forget "like yourself" too, Tom. Together, they do add a bit of peacefulness to an otherwise shaky spiritual outlook.
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LadyDove
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quote:
what kind of comfort is there for a person who has searched for a god and honestly concludes that there isn't one?

This baffles me about myself and people in general. Why is it so important to believe that there is someone greater than ourselves?

I don't know why I needed to find an answer I could live with. But I was uncomfortable even when I wasn't searching, like a persistent itch that couldn't be scratched.

I don't know that that particular void can be filled with anything other that a heartfelt decision to believe or not to believe.

But as a practical guide to contentment, Tom and Leto have it on the nose. Enjoy the people around you and be a friend to yourself.

I would add one more thing-Acknowledge to yourself all that is good and valuable in yourself and others.

[This message has been edited by LadyDove (edited January 28, 2003).]


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Cianwn
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Interesting take on secular humanism, LadyDove. So, then, you're saying the key is to find something that gives you a positive outlook on your own condition and place within the world?
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ae
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Do you know why it's important for me that there be a God?

Because then I can go worship him and not blink out of existence so that it will be as if I had never lived.

As for evidence, hell. I'll make do with anything, because I'd honestly rather be mistaken and secure than right and adrift in a godless world. Without faith, I am forced to go through life with my eyes open, with nothing but other people for company, waiting for my world to end with a whimper.

Russell was right: the only sensible attitude to life in a godless universe is despair. Sadly, I have yet to find a way to get rid of my sense, or fool it into a different conclusion.


ae

[This message has been edited by ae (edited January 28, 2003).]


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fugu13
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I disagree about possible attitudes in a godless universe. It doesn't make me uncomfortable at all to think that when I die, I will no longer exist in any form. I just have no investment in a need to exist forever. And if when I die, I become as nought, so what, I won't be around to notice. I think that its perfectly possible to find joy in this world without assuming an afterlife to reward one for good deeds, or punish one for bad ones.

[This message has been edited by fugu13 (edited January 28, 2003).]


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ae
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Well it certainly makes me uncomfortable to think that I won't exist in any form.


ae


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Leto II
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In a godless universe, the need to spread one's seed would naturally be greater, due to the desire of the species to "survive."

In a universe with a god (or gods), the need to spread the seed of the faithful stems from the desire to continue the faith to the next generation (or, in some cases, to increase the ratio of the faithful).

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monteverdi
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Is faith more important than the object of faith ? i.e. 'faithful' behaviour towards a 'false' god better than casual 'faith' in the right one ?
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Amka
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I think that is a different definition of faith, monteverdi. The way you seem to be using it, I would define it as loyalty and obedience. (Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong)

I believe God will honor the loyalty and obedience you show to your perception of Him, even if it is not accurate. Every major religion outlines ways of thinking and behavior which is good and righteous, and you will be counted if you follow them. So my answer is, true and faithful actions towards an inaccurate visualization of God is far better than lip service to the 'real' God.


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David Bowles
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Couple of things:

1) I begrudge no one their faith as long as it doesn't negatively impact those around them. If believing in a God despite a lack of evidence makes someone happy and good, I have no major quibble. Faith is very likely a positive part of the human experience, which leads me to

2) I am an atheist. While I pretty much reject the silly view that atheism is a "faith" (in the sense that it is an organized belief structure: something it patently isn't), I have finally come to admit that atheism does require faith (in the trusting of something you can't prove sense... they are frankly two different words). It was hard for me to admit this, it took a long time, but I feel comfortable with the idea now. Yes, it does take a leap of faith to say flatly that no gods exist, but for me (and, I would argue, objectively) that leap is shorter than the chasm-crossing jump required to believe that gods exist, because to be honest, there is nothing solid to back up such existence while there are explanations for nearly all phenomena in the universe that don't require a god.


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Jacare Sorridente
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DB- it's that "nearly" part that is the kicker.
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MrSquicky
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I wrote this whole long thing about the misconceptions of science and religion, but it was really boring. Here's what I thought was most important or interesting.

In the psychology of personality, there's a important distinction between what is called nomothetic versus idiographic descriptions of personality. I think that this division is very applicable to the ideas of science and religion.

Nomothetic is a fancy way of saying that we take common elements from a collection of individual experiences and form general rules out of them and that we then use these rules to predict the behavior of individuals. Using nomothetic methods, we reduce people to objects in order to gain some handle on predicting their behacior. In this, we use analysis to cut apart the unity of a person and say that this part means that they will do this and this part means that they will do that.

Idiographic is pretty much the exact opposite. The main idea of this way of looking at things is the gestalt idea that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. An idiographic view of a person is that to understand them, you have to see them as a unique, unified individual.

Both views are valid. However, if we're going to be doing something in a scienctific vein, we're going to need to use the nomothetic methods. The idiographic ones, although they yield greater understanding of that one person, don't give us any way to transfer this learning to any other situation.

In my view, this is a good explanation of the different roles of science and religion. Science is great for taking the world apart and trying to figure out what's going to happen if things are like this or like that, whereas religion is the way of seeing the unity of the world and of exploring the questions that can only be understood if you don't cut everything up.


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Leto II
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The problem with one of those types of thinking without the other, Squick, is that they would always be incomplete if addressing human behavior in general, or sociological (or anthropological) patterns-- there are no given "A + B = C" patterns in human emotion, and even the slightest difference could change the overall picture greatly.

So, if you were implying that one should be only for sciences, and the other only for religion, then I'll have to disagree on both counts.

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Tieko
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TomDavidson, Ryan Hart (and anyone else who read my original post on this thread)...

Consider this my "newbie" inrto to Hatrack...I posted on the wrong thread... oops, ::shrugs with a slight smile:: Please forgive my abundant lack of attention. Leason learned and, hopefully, will not be repeated. (although I bet I'm not the only one who's done that)

I moved the original post to the correct thread - "Does a Perfect God Eliminate non-Deist Religions?"

Once again, sorry for the mix-up and Greetings! from an obvious new comer!!

-Tieko

[ September 18, 2003, 05:44 PM: Message edited by: Tieko ]

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TomDavidson
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It would have helped if you had read the entire thread, perhaps, but welcome. [Smile]
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Ryan Hart
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It seems to me he has good opinons Tom. Don't be too quick to dismiss him.
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