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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » Are people naturally inclined to believe in God(s)? (Page 2)

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Author Topic: Are people naturally inclined to believe in God(s)?
kmbboots
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KoM,

Why don't you tell me how they are the same? And you "tell" by choosing faith. (haven't we been over this?)

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King of Men
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'Connected to everything' does not require a god; gravity will do just fine, really. Or even electromagnetism. (I do assume that these are not what you mean by saying 'god'; if they are, then you are using a completely misleading terminology.) And affecting (not 'effecting') things in ways unexpected to you, wow, how profound. How does this need a god? Quite ordinary Newton will do for that, you don't even need chaos theory.

And choosing to believe, well, fine, but why bother? What's the point of believing in a god that doesn't make a difference? The way you describe it, it seems like a decision completely without consequence, as though you might say "I choose to believe" and "I choose to have some ice cream" in the same tone of voice. I don't know, maybe that's true, but if so, it doesn't exactly seem like something worth arguing over.

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TheGrimace
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KoM said: "Indeed, it seems to me that you have defined your god into complete uselessness."

by this definition it seems you have defined Newtonian physics to be useless to a 5-year-old. I think we can safely say that the toddler is incapable of fully understanding every facet of Newtonian Physics. Does that mean that Physics is useless to him? tell that to him after he's jumped off the roof of the house and died because of that physics.

and going back to the "burrito so large it can't be microwaved" argument: you say that an omnipotent God would have to go against logic in order to do so, and in a certain light you may be correct. But this is in the same way that Newtonian physics states that light cannot be sped up or slowed down, despite the fact that Relatavistic physics says otherwise. Perhaps the subset of logic that we see as the whole picture is in fact just a concentrated subset of what is truly out there. Perhaps given this greater Logic 2+2 can = 5, and a stone so large it can't be lifted isn't contradictory.

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King of Men
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Yes, Newtonian physics is useless to a five-year-old. An instruction not to go on the roof, now, that might be of some use. I would note that relativistic physics says exactly the opposite of what you claim, to wit, light has the same speed in all frames of reference. But apart from that, if you're going to postulate a god capable of breaking the laws of logic, why not just come out and do so? This about 'maybe in a larger logic' is just hand-waving. Have some courage, man. If you really think that your god can make A, B and C such that all the B are C, one particular A is a B, but that A is not a C, then say so. It is totally non-sensical, indeed it makes meaningful discussion impossible, but if you want to assert it, fine. But don't wave your hands with vague metaphysics.
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Boothby171
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kmbboots,

What you do has a larger purpose as long as you believe that what you do has a larger purpose.

Religious philosophy has redefined "purpose" to mean "possible purpose, not necessarily now (or ever) realized"

Think about it: you've got some bum, living out on the street, sitting in a corner all by himself and never interacting with anyone. Eventually, he dies, and is cremated by the city. Someone looking back at his life will surely say, "But he had a purpose! We just aren't smart enough to be aware of what it is!" It gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling, but is (at its core) a meaningless statement.

I have a purpose because I say I have a purpose.


And BTW, "Being one with everything" is quite different from "being interdependent with a lot of things."

So, there's this Buddhist in the park, and he walks up to the Soy-Dog vendor and says, "Please make me one with everything!"

[ May 16, 2006, 06:47 PM: Message edited by: Boothby171 ]

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TheGrimace
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I was certainly not attempting at vague metaphysics, I was trying to draw a direct comparison to the discrepancies between simple newtonian physics and more advanced/modern additions to our understanding of the physical universe.

A better example than the light one (admittedly I probably didnt use that one correctly, and was likely flat out wrong with my particular wording)

gravitational acceleration is 9.8 m/s2. forgiving rounding this is effectively true where I am currently sitting, and was the understanding of physics back in year X. Now if you zoom out a bit we realize that it just happens that this is the numerical value of gravity very near the earth's surface with respect to something much much less massive than the earth. however, the greater understanding is that gravity follows the inverse-square law with respect to the masses of all objects involved and the squares of their distances from each other. using this understanding I can say under different circumstances that gravitational acceleration is only 2 m/s2 or what have you.

This is directly comparable to what COULD be possible of logic. I am indeeed asserting that perhaps God is capable of breaking what we currently understand to be the "Laws of Logic." there was no intention of masking that assertation, as it's exactly what I was trying to state. I'm saying that it's quite possible that the true understanding of logic is in fact not broken in all cases when you say that 2+2=5, even though in our limited field of view it is broken. just as the changing of gravity does not violate the greater physics witnessed in the universe despite the fact that it does break previous "laws" of physics that man had ascertained.

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TheGrimace
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boothby, are you saying that things do not have purpose if we don't understand them?

I don't understand the purpose of the key left in my cubicle by the previous occupant, but certainly it DOES have one... it opens a lock somewhere, and in a greater view perhaps it will be used by someone to open that lock, revealing some document and saving the company...

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Boothby171
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Grimace,

By the time Newton had figured out what the gravitational constant of acceleration was on the surface of the earth, he had also pretty much figured out the inverse-square law, as well. So he know, right off the bat, that a_c was different at different distances.

But your point: if you make enough exclusions, you're no longer in the realm of Newtonian Physics...or logic, and the concepts aer meaningless.

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TheGrimace
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if the concepts are meaningless it's only when addressing questions which are similarly meaningless
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Boothby171
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And if you leave the cubicle, and the "purpose" for the key is never discovered, do you still say it has/had a purpose? How many years does that key have to go without a known purpose before you recognize that it may have no purpose?
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Boothby171
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I agree--the whole "rock so huge" is silly. But so is talking about a being that is not bound by the rules of logic, or time, or space.
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King of Men
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Never mind 2+2=5, that's math. Let's go directly to logic.

All As are Bs.
X is an A.
Therefore, X is a B.

Are you seriously postulating a god capable of making this statement false? If so, how is it meaningful to assert that it exists, since it is plainly capable of existing and not existing at the same time? Indeed, it is capable of breaking and not breaking the laws of logic; being simultaneously good, evil, and a little purple duckling; and painting the giraffe orange while filling the bathtub with brightly coloured green dreams, sleeping furiously. You just cannot discuss such an entity in a meaningful way, neither languge nor brains are wired for it. And that includes the statement 'this entity exists'; this is not a meaningful assertion. You might as well say 'Orange duckness of the North Pole exists', the sentences are completely equivalent.

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TheGrimace
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perhaps the only purpose of that key was to have me write that post about it and inspire further discussion... I'm just saying that there are purposes that we will never know, and that doesnt mean that they dont exist. It's like saying that my never meeting anyone in China negates their existance.

KoM, I think I see what you're saying, but my view is that I HAVE seen "evidence" of God in the way the universe behaves and in various aspects of my life, so to the best of my understanding of logic and all else he exists. Is there any certainty in this? Am I stating with certainty that this existance is fully encompassed by what I currently understand to be existance? No. Does that make this belief/understanding meaningless? by your estimation it apparently does, but by my estimation it certainly doesnt. Even if the only way this wasn't meaningless was by how this understanding affects my actions it would have some meaning.

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TheGrimace
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additionally, I can discuss things that seeimngly defy the laws of physics as we understand them just fine (otherwise no one would have been able to come up with things like string theory, wormholes etc...)

you just have to take into account that they are being discussed through the possibly limited scope that we are capable of seeing/speaking through. Without having an intimate knowledge of X culture I can still meaningfully think about it and discuss it, with the understanding that said thoughts/discussions may be flawed or incomplete..

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King of Men
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quote:
KoM, I think I see what you're saying, but my view is that I HAVE seen "evidence" of God in the way the universe behaves and in various aspects of my life, so to the best of my understanding of logic and all else he exists.
This is completely irrelevant to what I was saying. The question is not the existence, but the qualities, of your god. Can it, or can it not, make un-true the third statement of a syllogism, given that the first two are true?

Your analogies of being able to discuss a culture, without having seen it firsthand, is flawed, because that ability depends on words having some agreed meaning. If logic does not apply, then you can prove (quite literally, from true axioms) that white is black, not in some metaphorical sense but in the literal sense that absorbing all wavelengths of light is equal to not absorbing them. And given that, you can no longer discuss things meaningfully, because your audience can never be sure what a given word means.

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King of Men
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Oh, and physics, pff. Physics has nothing to do with deductive logic. Its laws are temporary expedients. But a syllogism is true forever, or all language is meaningless.
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kaioshin00
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If believing in religion/God does indeed improve the health of the believer, as I have seen claimed, then I see a Darwinian explanation for a inclination to believe in God. While this could be because God helps those who believe in him, I think it could also be a sort of evolutionary placebo.
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Samprimary
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quote:
I am happy that the author of that pice "Is God an Accident" is civil enough to take both sides seriously, rather then present a stark crazy religionist and a calculating, calm, happy scientist. [/QB]
That's why it's a worthwhile read, take it as what one will.

A nifty part is that it works well even in an agnostic viewpoint, be it either that God is ultimately unknowable, or that it is unknowable whether or not God exists. It would help with wondering where religion seems to stem from, why it is so fascinating from a microcosmic perspective, and why it can be artificially cultured and rigidly instilled, for ends both positive and negative, and used or forced so frighteningly in situations even where the religion can nigh-universally be seen as an untrue joke (e.g. Scientology, Heaven's Gate).

The whole fantasy-prone psyche and the timeless 'how could someone believe that' idea.

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Glenn Arnold
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I tend to think that there is a Darwinian reason why people believe in god, but not because it improves the health of believers.

I think that as man's brain evolved there was a point where we began to look for causes and effects. Being able to identify cause and effect allowed us the ability to invent, and thus to create tools that gave us better survival capabilities.

The concept of "God" is an artifact of our tendency to search for causes. God is the anthropomorphic cause of everything, which was necessary when human perspective was too limited to understand the true causes of what they observed.

I kind of like the irony in the idea that the concept of God was necessary to evolve human intelligence, which in turn lead to the development of formal rational thought.

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Angiomorphism
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quote:
Originally posted by kaioshin00:
If believing in religion/God does indeed improve the health of the believer, as I have seen claimed, then I see a Darwinian explanation for a inclination to believe in God. While this could be because God helps those who believe in him, I think it could also be a sort of evolutionary placebo.

You misinterpret the theory of evolution. If believing in God improves the health of believers, then this has very little evolutionary significance. Now, if you say that believing in God (and I'm talking about the belief alone, not being a part of some organized religion or anything else, but simply believing) improves your reproductive fitness, then you can assert an evolutionary argument for belief. Now I am willing to concede that in the past, being a part of a religion (the right one in your environment, for example, a christian during the inquisition) might have granted you a reproductive advantage over people who weren't a part of that institution, but I don't think that belief in god had anythign to do with it. You could be a seemingly perfect christian, but secretly not believe in god, and you would share all the benefits that other members of this group may have had. Also, I think that in recent times, the significance of religious ideology is small in terms of your advantages in a situation with differential reproduction.

I think it would be very hard to defend the thesis that believing in god grants you an evolutionary advantage.

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Teshi
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quote:
If believing in religion/God does indeed improve the health of the believer,
I take issue with this statement for a number of reasons... not because I think it is entirely untrue but because I think it is too narrow and there are far more facets than such a statement presents.

Stress and worry is (I should think) a major cause of illness... since the belief in a God/religion sometimes serves to release some of this stress by putting the power elsewhere (simplified, I know but you know what I mean). However, the same can be achieved without God, religion or indeed any kind of other belief, simply by learning to deal with stress on a purely human level. I'm not sure if medidation counts as belief or not.

Also, it could be argued that in many cases the fear instilled in people through a belief of retribution by a God or Gods actually often ends up increasing worry and becomes detrimental to health. Some religious practices are also probably not very good for the physical body. I don't imagine, lets say, that extreme fasting is very healthy.

In addition to this, I would say that religion/God/belief may have a worry-reducing side effect, but I [/i]wouldn't[/i] say that it is the reason for belief. In the past, bad health from worry was not so much of a concern- clean water, good food and hygiene were far more pressing. It is only longitevity, I think, that has made mental (and through that, physical) health such a worry.

Again, though, some religious laws do deal with the preparation of food and seem to (maybe at the time) cover this kind of direct physical-health instruction. (We should update these: "thou shalt eat seven servings of vegetables a day." Think how healthy everyone would be!)

------

In a completely seperate statement, I should add that although I believe that it is natural for humans to believe in God, Gods, or some other form of guiding figure or narrative, I do not thin that it is necessary.

I think human society can live without such a belief, at least on such a complex and supernatural level. I hestitate to say that I think that it will sometime in the future because, from my point of view and no offense intended beyond my single viewpoint conflicting with yours, it seems that humans have a large capacity for irrationality on this subject, tending, unfortunately, towards violence.

I'd like to believe that religion as we know it will wane and transform into something safer and less- defined.

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Nato
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In addition to being a possible stress-reliever, church is often a primary source of social interaction for seniors. I would say that is as likely to be the source for any positive effects as a possible religion-related stress reduction.
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MightyCow
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I'll jump in real quick just to say something on the possible evolution of a god gene.

Let's imagine that there were some early humans with a god gene (what I'll call a predisposition to be religious or believe in god for the purpose of this post) and another group which lacked a god gene.

As we see in religion today, it tends to form in-groups and out-groups. Those with the same religion are in-groups, anyone who believes differently is part of the out-group, from the standpoint of the religion.

If those with the god gene had a strong, built in desire to congregate with believers, their in-group, and work together, that gives them a strong evolutionary advantage. The community that forms is better able to nurture its members to childbearing age, and protect its fertile membership.

Those without the god gene have to come up with their own reasons to form a community. Again, if we look at today's religious groups for evidence, it seems possible, even likely, that those without the god gene may have been ostracized or even seen as enemies of the god gene group.

I would say that a strong case can be made that having a god gene is an evolutionary advantage. Especially in early periods of civilization, when survival would have been less sure.

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Samprimary
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Religious unity could translate into effective group cohabitation and organization.

The sort of cohesion that cult-level adherence to a religion would bring is certainly something that could be advantageous against both other man and the elements.

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kmbboots
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quote:
I agree--the whole "rock so huge" is silly. But so is talking about a being that is not bound by the rules of logic, or time, or space.
But that is the only way to talk about God. And, again, even by saying "a being" you are shrinking God. Of course when you shrink God (which we have to do to talk about God) the parts don't fit - you are mixing metaphors (so to speak).

Logic and even language are tools. Good tools and useful tools that help us understand reality. They describe reality but reality is not determined by them.

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Omega M.
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quote:
Originally posted by Glenn Arnold:

I think that as man's brain evolved there was a point where we began to look for causes and effects. Being able to identify cause and effect allowed us the ability to invent, and thus to create tools that gave us better survival capabilities.

The concept of "God" is an artifact of our tendency to search for causes. God is the anthropomorphic cause of everything, which was necessary when human perspective was too limited to understand the true causes of what they observed.

Daniel Dennett said something like this whe I heard him speak a little while ago about his new book on religion, Breaking the Spell. He said that it's been found that people have evolved to assume that anything they don't know is a person rather than an inanimate object (he called this the "intentional stance"), because assuming the reverse could easily lead to death. For instance, if an early man was in the woods and heard a stick crack behind him, it would be better for him to assume that another man made that noise because if so he might be in danger of being attacked, and if not he'd only be startled for a second. Obviously as you learn that certain things are not likely to be people, you adjust your expectations; but in prehistoric times when less as known about the world, many of these anthropomorphic beliefs could have persisted long enough to have rituals built around them.
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BlackBlade
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this discussion is all over the place,

I am afraid that I have to agree with KOM in that "A god that is everything" is not useful. I have already made my points that I believe God is bound by laws both moral and physical. He can do "All that can be done."

This all reminds me of Socrates question as to whether virtues were virtuous of their own accord or because the God's made them so. Were the laws of logic,physics, etc laws in of themselves or because God made them such?

I personally feel that virtues existed before our God who created us (a very Mormon view) and that physical laws also existed before our God, I conclude that God will not break laws of morality as he would then cease to be the source of righteousness in this universe. He cannot break the laws of science though man can scarce say at all what those laws are as their understanding is just like a 5 year old lecturing Isaac Newton.

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Boothby171
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kmbboots,

That's the problem I have with most/all discussions about God:

"God is the thing that exists that we can't understand"

"How do you know it exists?"

"Well, that's one of the things we can't understand!"


And then it pretty much becomes exactly what you want it to be, nothing more, nothing less (to quote Lewis Carroll)

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kmbboots
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That is pretty much true. It doesn't make God any less true.

I think that discussions on God or even "what you want God to be" though are very important and say a great deal about humanity in general, societies in particular and individuals in very particular. Just bearing in mind that the tools we use for these discussions are imperfect.

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Boothby171
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kmbboots,

No offense, but in my mind, "It doesn't make God any less true" really equates to something less than or equal to zero.

And I think I fully understand (as well as most, at least), the "God as a Rorsharch test of our own hopes, dreams, and beliefs." But, to paraphrase you, it doesn't make God any more true...

And, as usual, wee're left with the following:

* God cannot be proven or disproven

* God cannot be defined

* God cannot be known

* God cannot be understood

And somewhere in all that, we have people who say

1) God exists (and then, you have all the sub-groups who say that their particular god is this, or that, or the other thing)

2) God does not exist

and

3) Who the heck can really know?

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King of Men
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Leaving aside the question of usefulness for a moment, it seems tome that kmbboots has defined herself out of any sort of rational discussion. How can you reasonably discuss something that cannot be defined, and that does not follow the laws of logic?

I would note that, if we are to take this seriously, then her god is plainly evil, in addition to being good, neutral, Scrooge, and Santa Claus. If it has no attribute that can be fixed by ordinary language, why worship it? What does it even mean to worship it? Satanism and the Holocaust are entirely reasonable responses to a belief in this god, because it is so completely undefined.

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Angiomorphism
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to answer a post a while ago about the possible evolution of a god gene. There's one huge problem with an evolutionary theory regarding belief in a deity: you can't tell if someone is telling the truth when they say they believe in god.

So, lets postulate that there is a society, and certain people have this so called god gene, and other don't, and in this primitive society, those with the gene survive better and produce more offspring because they are working together. In evolution, selfish individuals tend to prevail, so all you would need to do to ensure that you enoyed the same benefits as the "in group" would be to say that you also believed.

It is for that reason that I do not think evolution would have favored the conservation of a god gene, because having the gene or not having the gene would not make a huge difference in terms of reproduction, since anyone can join a group of believers who are enjoing a reproductive advantage. Now I do think that at some point, religion did help societies grow, but rather than saying it was genetic, I would argue that it was social, being passed down from generation to generation in the form of parents indoctrinating their children, much like what we see today

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King of Men
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Mmm. It's worth noting that humans are highly evolved to detect deceit among each other. One theory postulates that this is why we have such big brains in the first place. I do not think it obvious that such a deception could be kept up for a long time, in a small tribal group where you see everyone every day.

Against this, it should be noted that the first religions were probably not as strong on belief and faith as modern ones, leaning instead to ritual and magic. They didn't really have a need for faith, since they could point to the thunder as proof of the existence of gods. Don't believe in the Lion God? A hunting trip should convince you differently.

In short, I think you guys are projecting modern religions onto the early ones, which is extremely dubious, and then reasoning about evolutionary psychology from that projection, which is even more dubious.

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MightyCow
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quote:
Originally posted by kmbboots:
That is pretty much true. It doesn't make God any less true.

You just blew my mind. Now not only does God not have to follow any rules of logic, but we can also ignore them when we discuss God?

If I understand you correctly, this is what you're saying, and please correct me if I'm not getting it right:
"We cannot know anything about the nature of God, including the fact of God's existence, because the very definition of God's nature is that which is beyond our ability to understand."

At the same time, you know that God exists, and you know what many of the aspects, desires, and directives of this unknowable God are.

Is that right? How is it possible?

To me, you seem to be saying that we cannot actually have a real discussion about God, because our minds simply cannot grasp God, or anything about God, with any fidelity.

First of all, I don't see how it's possible to come to that belief. How does one postulate something which is beyond understanding?

Secondly, how can God be beyond all understanding, when people all over the world claim to know that God exists, and claim to know, understand, and live by the various rules God has set down for us?

Is everything in regards to God allowed to be contradictory and illogical?

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KarlEd
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BlackBlade wrote:
quote:
I personally feel that virtues existed before our God who created us (a very Mormon view) and that physical laws also existed before our God, I conclude that God will not break laws of morality as he would then cease to be the source of righteousness in this universe. He cannot break the laws of science though man can scarce say at all what those laws are as their understanding is just like a 5 year old lecturing Isaac Newton.
What does it mean that God is the "source of righteousness in this universe"? Do you mean that without God righteousness would be impossible? You couldn't love, be honest, faithful, caring, etc without God? In what way? Now, you'll have to set aside things like "well if God didn't exist we wouldn't have a universe to be righteous in" because those arguements also support the idea that God is the source of all Evil, too. After all, if he didn't exist, we wouldn't have a universe to be Evil in either.

Perhaps a better way to phrase the question would be, how would "righteousness" in the universe be affected if God abdicated his position as Source of Righteousness but kept up with all his other responsibilities, especially given that you believe "virtue" existed prior to God?

Further, if you believe that God cannot break the laws of science, and presumably get around all the seemingly science breaking "miracles" with the idea that we hardly know all the laws of science, does this apply to the laws of righteousness as well? You've said that God cannot break the laws of righteousness. God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son on an altar. By our limited understanding of the laws of righteousness, God either commanded Abraham to commit a grave sin, or he deceived Abraham by commanding him to do something that he never really intended Abraham to do. Both of those are generally violations of what we humans call righteousness. So, do those acts of righteousness become righteous when God does them, but otherwise are unrighteous? Or is God operating on some "higher righteousness" that we simply don't know about? Doesn't the first case bastardize the meaning of the word righteous, especially if it's something that existed prior to (and is therefore independent of) God? Doesn't the second case pretty much open the window to all manner of unrighteous behavior because God gets to hide behind the inscrutability clause? I mean, what's the difference really between 9/11 and God commanding the destruction of Old Testament peoples, including their women and children? How do you know that both aren't condoned by your God, operating within laws of "righteousness" beyond your human comprehension? Is there any seemingly deceptive or heinous act that couldn't be excused by the inscrutability clause?

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Angiomorphism
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quote:
Originally posted by King of Men:
Mmm. It's worth noting that humans are highly evolved to detect deceit among each other. One theory postulates that this is why we have such big brains in the first place. I do not think it obvious that such a deception could be kept up for a long time, in a small tribal group where you see everyone every day.

Against this, it should be noted that the first religions were probably not as strong on belief and faith as modern ones, leaning instead to ritual and magic. They didn't really have a need for faith, since they could point to the thunder as proof of the existence of gods. Don't believe in the Lion God? A hunting trip should convince you differently.

In short, I think you guys are projecting modern religions onto the early ones, which is extremely dubious, and then reasoning about evolutionary psychology from that projection, which is even more dubious.

I was just trying to use the scenario that the poster set up in trying to demonstrate the possible evolution of a god gene. I agree with you that ancient religion was much different than modern ones, and that tribal ideology was different in nature than modern religious belief.
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kmbboots
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I think you are taking what I say further than it is meant to go. That we cannot understand God entirely does not mean that that we cannot understand anything about God. That language and logic are imperfect tools for describing God (or anything really) does not mean that they are useless tools. Discussion about the existance and nature of God is good and useful regardless of its limitations, I just pointed out that there are limitations.

This should not be a tough concept. Are you really able to describe everything else entirely?

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KarlEd
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For what it's worth, I have to look very skeptically at the claim that humans are "highly evolved to detect deceit among each other." That might be true in some relative sense, but it's not a de-facto quality of all humans to be taken at face value. Humans also have an incredible capacity to deceive themselves, and to overlook that which they do not want to see. If we are such a highly evolved species at recognizing deceit in each other, how is there so much successful cheating and deception played out daily one against the other? I think it's very obvious that a deception -- such as a non-believer acting the part of a believer to fit in -- could be kept up pretty much indefinitely, especially since ritual is easy to mimic.
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suminonA
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Not only is "ritual easy to mimic", but it is easy to invent too. I mean, if one invented a new ritual (eventually for the worship of a "new" deity), how could the others know it is invented?

(Please read this in the context of tribal/ancient rituals/religions.)

A.

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Robin Kaczmarczyk
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Higher power is what drives us.

Breath is counted. God comes in each one.

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Ozymandias
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quote:
Originally posted by suminonA:
Not only is "ritual easy to mimic", but it is easy to invent too. I mean, if one invented a new ritual (eventually for the worship of a "new" deity), how could the others know it is invented?

(Please read this in the context of tribal/ancient rituals/religions.)

A.

hmmm...good point. For most of us, it's a personal decision that no one else can influence.

What you just described is a cult.

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enochville
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Inventing religion reminds me so much of little 10-year-old children using their imagination and sharing a superstition that one of them introduced to the group with authority and a display of sincerity. So, they all go along in this make believe world coming up with rituals to protect themselves from some evil from happening to them. They follow the leader in imitating the ritual as they pass a certain tree stump and this brings them closer as a group for they have been initiated into a shared secret. They also feel superior to those outside their group because they know something the others don't. Leaders and followers get reinforcement for acting in their roles. As time passes the fable grows as the leader tells the group about more rituals and "facts" about this superstition. The leader uses things that happen as signs and evidences that his story is real.

All the kids know at some level it is just make-believe, but they act like it is real so that they can share in this experience. Eventually, the group isn't able to meet as often and the magic dies and each member makes new friends, etc. Through a western education, the kids are taught to be skeptics and are discouraged from telling "lies" or imaginative tales, so the kids grow out of it. But, the adults in their lives still hold on to religious beliefs and tell them that this is not make believe, but real. So, the kids never bother to apply their skepticism to religious beliefs.

Disclaimer: I know that this is an over generalization and some religious people believe that they have turned their skepticism to their religious beliefs and found that their beliefs held up. Others see no value in being skeptical, but instead value faith.

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BlackBlade
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quote:
Originally posted by KarlEd:
Perhaps a better way to phrase the question would be, how would "righteousness" in the universe be affected if God abdicated his position as Source of Righteousness but kept up with all his other responsibilities, especially given that you believe "virtue" existed prior to God?

Further, if you believe that God cannot break the laws of science, and presumably get around all the seemingly science breaking "miracles" with the idea that we hardly know all the laws of science, does this apply to the laws of righteousness as well? You've said that God cannot break the laws of righteousness. God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son on an altar. By our limited understanding of the laws of righteousness, God either commanded Abraham to commit a grave sin, or he deceived Abraham by commanding him to do something that he never really intended Abraham to do. Both of those are generally violations of what we humans call righteousness.

It is not hard to reason as to why God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son. Indeed God commanded his own son to suffer for the sins of the world and go to an early grave. I am also wary of judging God based on "what we humans call righteousness." To me God is the source of all righteousness because he is the one that reveals what righteousness is to us. Be it designing us with a concience, or telling men/women his will concerning us.

quote:

So, do those acts of righteousness become righteous when God does them, but otherwise are unrighteous? Or is God operating on some "higher righteousness" that we simply don't know about?

I would favor the moral code God lives by is not identical to the one he gives us. Exceptional moral codes are not rare amongst us, we allow battle field commanders to shoot deserters without giving them a trial first. God killing a human being is not the same thing as a human killing humans. I could explain all the possibilities why that might be but that would take awhile.

quote:
Doesn't the first case bastardize the meaning of the word righteous, especially if it's something that existed prior to (and is therefore independent of) God?
Again I believe righteousness is greater than God, but human beings do not understand the moral codes God is bound by.


quote:
Doesn't the second case pretty much open the window to all manner of unrighteous behavior because God gets to hide behind the inscrutability clause?
the verb hide is deceptive as you are suggesting God would do something and guilty, thereore feeling the need to explain his actions to us. God rarely (as far as I understand him) explains his actions as a way to placate us, he may do it as a means of instructing us. Case and Point Abraham knew exactly afterwards why God had commanded him to sacrifice his only son. It was to test his faith and to instill in his mind an understanding that the very God who had commanded him to sacrifice his son would himself down the road sacrifice his own son.

quote:
I mean, what's the difference really between 9/11 and God commanding the destruction of Old Testament peoples, including their women and children? How do you know that both aren't condoned by your God, operating within laws of "righteousness" beyond your human comprehension? Is there any seemingly deceptive or heinous act that couldn't be excused by the inscrutability clause? [/QB]
I understand that it appears that this philosophy opens the door to people to do all manner of evil and say "But God commanded me to do it!" God did indeed commande Israelites to kill Cannanites including the women and children (as if killing the men was some sort of lesser evil) the only reasoning I have heard concerning the matter was that "The Cananites had had the gospel taught to them many times, and had chosen wickedness instead."

but ANYWAY, you are asking ME to tell you how we are supposed to know when God is in fact behind a man's actions (when they appear to be evil). Well I do not have a universal answer for that. All "I" know to do is pray concerning the matter with full confidence that God will validate the act for me.

If a man killed another man and was genuinely told to do it by God, I leave the handling of the aftermath to God, I do not pretend to be a prophet who could speak authoritively on the subject.

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TomDavidson
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quote:
It was to test his faith and to instill in his mind an understanding that the very God who had commanded him to sacrifice his son would himself down the road sacrifice his own son.

Why would God need to test Abraham's faith? Wouldn't God already know?
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KarlEd
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quote:
Again I believe righteousness is greater than God, but human beings do not understand the moral codes God is bound by.
So, as a human being, how do you know that God is bound by any moral code at all? After all, he can pretty much do anything at all without violating a code you admittedly don't understand. This is the same frustration I have with the "God is everything" mentality. If God's code is only understood by what God does and He doesn't deign to explain the (apparent) contradictions, then how can you know he has a code at all? How can you know he is a font of righteousness when he is unbound by the definition of righteousness that you understand for yourself?

quote:
The Cananites had had the gospel taught to them many times, and had chosen wickedness instead.
Is there scriptural evidence of this? Or is it a backward-looking justification?

quote:
If a man killed another man and was genuinely told to do it by God, I leave the handling of the aftermath to God, I do not pretend to be a prophet who could speak authoritively on the subject.
Which is a very compelling arguement in favor of purely secular law and law enforcement. [Wink]
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enochville
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Although I don't share those beliefs any longer. Let me attempt to answer them from a Mormon perspective.

Tom: Mormons would say that It was Abraham that needed to learn for himself just how far he was willing to go to follow God. You just don't know until you are put in the situation. God already knew that Abraham would pass the test.

Karl: Mormons would say that they know God has to follow rules of righteousness or he would cease to be God because a prophet of God said so. Remember they believe that God has a God and he in turn has a god, etc.

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TheGrimace
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Just a quick comment on the "secular law" comment by KarlEd:
I at least don't see the two statements at odds... If someone justifiably was told by God to kill another human being (which I find somewhat doubtful on a personal basis) then the difference is this: He should go to jail etc for violating secular law. But at the same time he may not be disbarred from heaven (or whatever his end goal is.)

i.e. legal != religiously moral, and religiously moral != legal though this is somewhat unfortunate it is the way of the world.

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KarlEd
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quote:
i.e. legal != religiously moral, and religiously moral != legal though this is somewhat unfortunate it is the way of the world.
Thank God for that! (irony intended). [Big Grin]
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camus
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quote:
If someone justifiably was told by God to kill another human being (which I find somewhat doubtful on a personal basis) then the difference is this: He should go to jail etc for violating secular law. But at the same time he may not be disbarred from heaven (or whatever his end goal is.)
So, why would God command humans to serve as executioners when 1) He could just do it himself, and 2) will punish people to eternal damnation anyway? It seems like a lot of unnecessary confusion and misunderstanding for a simple test of faith.
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BlackBlade
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quote:
Originally posted by TomDavidson:
quote:
It was to test his faith and to instill in his mind an understanding that the very God who had commanded him to sacrifice his son would himself down the road sacrifice his own son.

Why would God need to test Abraham's faith? Wouldn't God already know?
When God tests us, it is not to find out the outcome (he already knows it) its to give us an opportunity to grow. Abraham by demonstrating such strong faith and trust in God was rewarded for his faith. God certainly could not just throw everyone who would eventually make it into heaven into heaven, and conversely everyone else into hell without giving us the opportunity to make the choices ourselves that would lead us there.
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